On Tuesday 21 April, my friend and former colleague TK Mcopele of TK of Africa Change Convenor held an important conversation on Instagram Live titled “Jobs and Career Planning now and in the future”. TK was joined by the phenomenal Eva Gush, who also happens to be a former colleague of mine. Both ladies are passionate about bringing about change in society and paying it forward. The topic being discussed could not have been more relevant under these unprecedented times we are living in. 

Having extensive experience in identifying and nurturing talent, Eva boasts over 20 years of experience in HR at various financial institutions including Merrill Lynch, Barclays and Absa, Eva now runs her own career and coaching services firm.

 

TK is an International Analyst at Absa’s Investment Bank division and has also founded her own company in which she provides corporate and events conversation services.

The discussion touched on everything, in particular within the context of the impending fourth industrial revolution. With previous fears around automation replacing “human capital”, such fears have undoubtedly been heightened as the Coronavirus has expedited the pace at which automation will most likely take place. With this in mind Eva and TK unpacked a range of topics including what job seekers should be looking out for in the job market, how to keep yourself relevant in your current role, critical skills for the future, the gig economy and what it means to take up space as a woman in the corporate environment. If you missed the conversation, fear not, we will be sharing some highlights from that conversation below. 

Looking to make a career change or currently in the job market:

If you are looking to make a pivot in your career, whether it is outside of your current organisation, switching departments or a move outside of your field, the starting point should always be to identify what your strengths are and lead with those. Focusing on what you are naturally good at will help you thrive. Self-awareness is therefore so important. Take the time to assess if the values and culture of your current organisation or the organisation you wish to join are in line with your own. It is important to do your research and consider what your options are in order to make the desired change in your career, e.g. if you want to move within your current organisation you must understand what the internal processes are and where your strengths will be best utilised. Regardless of what your plans may be, proactivity and planning are crucial to carve your way out into the role most suited for you. It is also important to manage your expectations, specifically in terms of timelines, the results may not necessarily be immediate. 

Remaining relevant in your current role:

If you are concerned that your company may be gearing up for retrenchments after this confinement period ends, Eva shared some advice on how to keep yourself relevant. Eva advised that remaining focused and consistent delivery of high quality work  may help you avoid retrenchment. If you are indeed concerned that your role may be made redundant, reach out and have an honest conversation with your manager. By showing vulnerability this may create an opportunity to help you understand the situation from your manager’s perspective. Lifelong learning and constant upskilling throughout your career will keep you relevant in the market regardless of industry. If you have taken up courses to upskill yourself in the past but have not been able to use your new skills in your current role, find examples in your day to day responsibilities that may be linked to that training e.g. managing people to show your managers the ways in which you have been adding value. 

Critical skills for right now:

When asked about what skills employers will be looking for going forward, Eva recommended the following skills and constantly working towards this will help differentiate you from the competition:

    • Soft skills / interpersonal skills are going to be so important e.g. emotional intelligence which tech and robots can never have 
    • Resilience – Be able to show examples of where you have been knocked down but get up and what you were able to learn from that experience 
    • Flexibility and adaptability – It will become increasingly important for employees being open to different kinds of work, different methods of getting the job done etc. 
    • Creativity and critical thinking – The ability to create new ideas, how to do things differently, questioning ways to do things better 
    • Entrepreneurial skills – There will be less and less traditional corporate jobs 
    • Intrapreneurial skills – Linked to creativity and critical thinking, developing ways to add value within your current role/organisation

Being a lifelong student does not always have to be in the strict academic sense e.g. a Masters or PhD, it could be through constantly upskilling yourself through courses and training offered within your organisation or even online.  If you do decide to go the traditional academic route and pursue a Masters or PhD this can indeed give you an advantage because it shows you possess the resilience it takes to successfully complete them.

Taking the plunge and applying for that new job: 

Eva advised that your personal brand is so important, people will look at your LinkedIn profile before they even have a conversation with you, it is therefore super important to keep your profile updated. The old ways of job searching are not going to land you a job i.e. sending the same CV and cover letter to 20 different companies. You need to know how to sell yourself. Eva advises the following:

  • Customise your application to each company you are applying to – 
  • Your intro email/cover letter needs to have something personal to the company you are applying to showing them how you can add value and why you would be a good fit for the company
  • Your application needs to have the keywords for the job description or else the recruiting software will throw out your CV
  • Look at the job description and roles that are similar to that job, to find the keywords that you should incorporate into your application
  • When selling your soft skills prepare a story/example around your core skill and newly acquired skills to crystalize the skill in the mind of the recruiter 
  • Never talk about money in the beginning of the interview process, you only want to talk about money further into the process when you can sense that the company is moving towards the direction of “this is the person we want”
  • From a salary perspective, do your research and see what the market standard is so that when you do enter into salary negotiations you are speaking from a place of facts.

Gig Economy: 

With COVID 19 people are going to have to become more creative in terms of how they generate income. Looking at SA with its high unemployment rate, Eva agreed that it is beneficial to get into the gig economy and into freelancing activities. By starting small this will help you build up a repertoire of new skills through learning and exposure. If this is an avenue you would like to pursue full-time, you have to be clear about your “Why” upfront. Preparation and planning is key, specifically financial planning because there are no company benefits in order to cover medical aid, retirement savings, etc. you have to factor all those things in for yourself. You have to be purposeful in how you go about it and how you allocate your time because you will be sacrificing a lot of your time, finances, etc. Having a vision, self-awareness and a long term plan must be top of mind because that will help you stick it through and persevere. 

Taking up space:

We all watched with pride as Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi sent out an impassioned plea for all women who have been overlooked to take up space. In as much as the winds of change have been steadily blowing, taking up space in male-dominated spaces remains a challenge. We are all familiar with the misogynistic labels assertive women are too often subjected to. Eva advises that regardless of industry, the manner in which you show your assertiveness matters, we must all  have wisdom in how we apply our assertiveness. Emotional intelligence is important in order to be able to read people, some people will be more receptive to your assertiveness than others. Some people are prickly and you may not know what is driving their agendas. Unfortunately there will always be people that are just difficult, it may not be worth getting into an argument or proving your point with them, there are people who just love to argue or be disruptive and it may be a waste of energy to spend more time with those people. Very politely exit the conversation. Be purposeful about about the battles you choose to take part in.

This is a conversation we will most likely be returning to as we begin to see the impact of COVID 19 unfold. Share your perspective on your experiences with us in the comments below.

 

We are excited to announce that the Legal Werk is launching a podcast. For those that are new to our platform, the Legal Werk is a network for legal professionals with the goal of building a community for lawyers, advocates, judges, legal advisors, students, and educators. The aim of the platform is to create a space for legal professionals to open up conversations, learn and share insights on ways in which we can collectively enhance and improve the legal industry through collaboration and dialogue. 

Make the Shift

Based on our own career paths, we realised that a career in law is certainly not as linear as we imagined in law school. In fact, there are so many different paths that legal professionals can choose from, be it moving in-house after years in practice, answering the call to the bar, launching your own business or even moving to academia. Having made career pivots ourselves, we noted that outside of seeing the finished product, there wasn’t a lot of information around career changes as well as and the challenges that often remain unspoken. 

The Legal Werk hopes to disrupt the status quo. Through the podcast, we hope to shed light on what the journey of change looks like. We will be interviewing incredible women within the legal industry who have “Made the Shift” successfully. Through our three pillars, Work, Lifestyle and Journey, our aim is to uplift, inspire and encourage our community members who are looking to make some personal and professional life changes. 

Our first episode is available now on Spotify and iTunes where we introduce ourselves and share a bit about our own personal journeys, click on the links to get a taste of what is to come. Our interviews with our incredible guests will be available on Spotify from the beginning of May.   

Subscribe so that you do not miss out on any of the awesome conversations we will be having. 

 

Meet this week’s WCW, Zamaswazi Mokobi. Having worked with Zama in my previous life I can attest that her calm demeanour and quiet grace have a way of making the most chaotic situations completely manageable. Zama studied law at Rhodes University in South Africa and has been practicing law since 2013. She is a corporate lawyer and currently specializes in mergers and acquisitions at Bowmans in South Africa. Zama is an MBA Graduate at Wits Business School and has recently entered Mrs South Africa 2020 Competition.

 

1. Fun Fact about your work/ The best part of your job?

The best part about my job is that it gives me an opportunity to be part of the solution-finding process when companies and individuals are faced with complex legal issues. As a corporate lawyer, I love that this process involves my having to understand the business and commercial interests of my clients.

 

2. Something you wish you could change about the legal industry?

Accessibility! Legal services tend to be inaccessible to most South Africans due to the costs associated with getting legal assistance.

 

3. Tell us about a lawyer with a career that you admire and aspire towards? (Who is your Werk crush)

I love seeing women in law flourishing! The legal industry in South Africa is still so white male-dominated that as women in this industry we all ought to celebrate each other as we climb up the ladder, evolve and flourish in this industry. This for me is even more important when a black woman flourishes because representation is everything.

4. What role has mentorship played in your legal career, if any?

Mentorship has played an important role in my legal career whenever it has resulted from a relationship that developed naturally / organically with a mentor. I have had two mentors, each at different parts of my career, who I am still friends with and each of whom has at those points of my career contributed meaningfully to my growth by being my eyes and ears; offering different perspectives and sound advice; keeping me accountable, reminding me to think about what is important or to just step back and reassess things. Most importantly, through mentorship, I have benefited from the wisdom and experience of my mentors. It is invaluable to be guided by someone who has already gone through the same or a similar journey and is able to point out the errors that they made so that you do not have to experience them or to point out more efficient ways of achieving your goals. And even where they had not gone through a similar journey, mentorship also opened up an additional network for me to leverage from and has been an additional ear on the ground for any opportunities pertaining to my goals.

 

5. Describe your Werk style and do you have a “Go-To” beauty or grooming staple? (work fashion style)

Between Monday and Thursday, I am in my version of corporate wear (which is not rigidly formal but instead focuses on comfort, fit and looking professional). On these days you will always find me in heels and simple makeup. Casual Fridays are a real thing for me; the trick is always to keep it “smart casual” and not casual, so heels tend to be a staple for me.

 

6. A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted in the last 5 years (What self-care steps do you currently take?) (e.g. meditation, yoga, journal, eat clean, etc.)

I definitely spend more time in prayer, I work out at least 4 days a week, try to prioritize reading at least one book a month (audible has been instrumental in making this a reality!) drink lots of water and am mindful of what I eat. I also really enjoy solo dates and try to have them as often as possible to just listen to my thoughts and do some introspection.

 

7. The best or most worthwhile investment you have made in the last 5 years? (personal or professional life, e.g. marriage, children, studies, etc whatever you are proud of)

Marrying my best friend is the best decision I’ve made in the last few years and studying towards an MBA has been a really eye-opening value add to my growth and such a financial stretch (I cannot wait until we start to see our ROI!).

          • The role of a lawyer is listen and understand legal problems; help you to understand the law and how it applies to you and your problem, and provide sound legal advice
          • The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer For some strange reason, people then assume I have so much money!
          • In your quietest moments, what are you most grateful for… God, my husband, family (this includes my friends)
          • Expectation V Reality of a career in law since you left law school? Very little is as I expected it to be!
          • Where and how can people find you online or even offline? I am most active on Instagram (@zama_mok), you can also vote for Zama for the Mrs South Africa competition. Simply click in the link here and like Zama’s picture as well as the Mrs South Africa page (you have to like both in order for your vote to be counted.

Anna Radke is an attorney in the United States (admitted in the state of New York) assisting with issues related to business, social media, intellectual property, employment and immigration law. She advises clients primarily from the fashion, beauty, art, media, and tech industries.

 

She gained experience while at The Fashion Law Group (now Brand Counsel), Thomson Reuters, Dentons Poland, Coach (now Tapestry), The Legal Aid Society, Medenica Law, and Schlam Stone & Dolan. Anna  graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion merchandising management (2014), Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with a Juris Doctor degree (2017), and is currently pursuing her LLM degree in Law, Technology and Entrepreneurship at Cornell Tech (expected in May 2020).

 

1.What Was Your Motivation In Returning To School?

My goal has been to become a better lawyer. The LLM program at Cornell Tech offers a unique multidisciplinary experience in a growing field of law – technology transactions. It has prepared me to better serve my clients, as I have learned how to code, work in multicultural teams from various backgrounds, and generally expand my legal knowledge.

 

2.The best part of her job:

I get to speak at various industry events all over the world. I love meeting new people.

3. Change she wants to see in the legal industry:

I wish more lawyers were open to innovative approaches. Less bias, more diversity. It’s changing, though.

4. What’s the most unique thing have you learned in school?

I learned how to code.

5. The role of mentorship in her career:

I have had mentors who helped me choose the right path, and believed in me. They have played significant roles in my life.
6. Describe your Werk style and do you have a “Go-To” beauty or grooming staple? (work fashion style)
I like to start work early in the morning. I know how to manage my time, but I am (sometimes too) meticulous, which annoys my colleagues. As far as my work fashion style is concerned, I am a sneaker girl so I wear them as much as I can (whenever appropriate).
7. What she does for self care:
I drink lots of water, and I started practicing yoga last fall thanks to my friend Saho. It really helps!
8. The most worthwhile investment in the last 5 years:
Building my self-confidence. Step by step. It is a process.
9. Advice for someone thinking of returning to school:
It’s helpful, but do it only if you have a goal. Don’t do it because you don’t know what to do.
  • The role of a lawyer is to find solutions.
  • The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer That’s impressive!/That’s so boring!
  • In your quietest moments what are you most grateful for  my family.
  • Expectation V Reality of a career in law since you left law school I found there are too many lawyers!
  • Where and how can people find you online or even offline: Connect with me on my Instagram @aniaradke.

It goes without saying that the last few weeks have left the globe reeling with an unprecedented wave of anxiety given the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is almost serendipitous that as we all try to adjust to life under the lockdown or confinement measures, the month of April also happens to be Stress Awareness Month. 

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April, since 1992. During this annual thirty day period, health care professionals and health promotion experts across the globe join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for managing stress in these modern times.

What is stress?

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, stress was a frightening reality for many people as they battled various issues such as growing unemployment, family conflict, and personal illness. Not to mention the added stress that comes from social media. There are various factors in our day to day lives that can cause or trigger stress. Stress can be triggered by many things including work, deadlines, finances, traffic, and relationship issues. Stress is a natural reaction, as the body tries to deal with any negative pressures placed on it. In some instances, stress can actually be useful when dealing with high-pressured, demanding situations, e.g. it can help us perform optimally for big transaction negotiations or trial preparation. 

Stress can become a problem when these pressures become overwhelming, and in some cases, can be a precursor to more serious anxiety disorders and even depression. Some indicators of stress may include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Change in eating habits
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Unhealthy eating 

How to manage stress 

Undoubtedly given the current global health crisis stress levels are at an all-time high for many. The good news is stress can be managed through the use of various stress management techniques that equip you with the tools to handle stress triggers and stressful situations in a structured way. Techniques to help you manage stress in general, as well as COVID-19 stress, include the following:

  1. Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it. Instead, challenge yourself to drink more water – your body and your skin will thank you for it.
  2. Take part in physical activity as part of your daily routine. There are so many options be it working out at the gym, running, talking a walk or doing a dance class. While we observe lockdown there are plenty of online workouts to help you stay in shape in the comfort of your own home. Check out some of the best home workouts here.
  3. Get more sleep. Try to aim to go to bed at roughly the same time each day so that your mind and body get used to a predictable bedtime routine.
  4. Talk to someone. Talking things through with a friend, work colleague, or even a trained professional, can help you find solutions to your stress and put your problems into perspective. Just by virtue of the times we live in, everybody is encouraged to see a therapist, particularly people of color as we often carry generational trauma.
  5. Start a journaling practice. Writing about stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health. 
  6. Spend an hour doing something you love. The lockdown conditions have presented opportunities to spend time doing the things we love such as reading, cooking, listening to music, spending more time with our children. Whatever it may be, you can also carry that practice into your daily life even when the confinement restrictions have been relaxed.

Do not hesitate to seek professional help 

It is no secret that building a career within the legal profession is and can be a very stressful journey. Studies show that the suicide rate amongst lawyers is rising.  If you, or someone that you know, have been struggling with stress over a long period of time and feel overwhelmed we recommend getting some professional help. 

Here are some useful links.

Best Online Therapy Programs of 2020

South African Depression and Anxiety Group 

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

NHS Suicidal Thoughts Help Site 

The greatest weapon against our stress is our ability to choose one thought over another” 

 – William James 

I met Juan at the Cornell Entrepreneurship conference in Manhattan last year.  We sat at the same table for lunch and, since then he has been a great sounding board for ideas regarding products to develop for the legal industry.

 

Juan is a full time live music fan (wide spectrum from indie rock to the opera) who is also passionate about his work helping startup, tech and other growth companies and the people who invest in them (VCs/growth equity). He graduated from Cornell Law in 2011 and is currently Counsel in the Tech Group at Lowenstein Sandler LLP.

 

 1) The best part of his job:

“I love all my clients (alright, most of them) but my favourite part of my job is when you start working with a founder early on and then help them and their company grow from basically just an idea to a fully realised complex organisation, and then ideally to a good exit event. I also work with a lot of investors and sometimes you can get a similar perspective from the investor side, which can be very interesting as well.”

2) Change he wants to see in the legal industry:

Two of the big issues in the legal industry that have resonated with me in the last decade are diversity and work/life balance. The good news is that a lot of work has been done in the last few years in those two areas but we still have a ways to go.

3) The lawyers he admires (his Werk crush):

My current Werk crush are the partners in my group at Lowenstein.

4) The role of mentorship in her career:

Very important, and I would be surprised if any senior associate, counsel or partner responded that it was not. Nowadays, many of the big firms have formal mentorship programs and that was the case when I started at Goodwin Proctor in Boston back in 2011. I was lucky enough that I really enjoyed the type of work that my mentors were doing and that is really how I got started in the startup world. Eventually, I developed mentorship relationships that grew more organically and I found those to be incredibly helpful over the years.

5) Describe your Werk style and do you have a “Go-To” beauty or grooming staple? (work fashion style)

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit I do not have a well developed Werk style. Most days I put on some jeans or slacks with a button down.

 

6) What he does for self care:

I have done a lot of work these past few years on my sleep, specifically keeping a consistent sleeping schedule. I used to let work dictate my sleeping schedule but do not think that is sustainable in the long term.

**Full disclosure: I do not have kids, which I hear can complicate sleep-related matters.

 

7) The most worthwhile investment in the last 5 years:

I changed jobs twice in quick succession and, collectively, that is probably the best professional decisions I have ever made. Both places I left were great but, along with the type of work that I love, I was also doing a lot of work that I did not find particularly interesting or fulfilling.

 

  • The role of a lawyer is To listen. To advice. In that order.
  • The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer  They are not surprised.
  • In your quietest moments what are you most grateful for  How fortunate I have been.
  • Expectation V Reality of a career in law since you left law school Managing people gets more and more important.
  • Where and how can people find you online or even offline:  LinkedIn (Juan B Soto). I love meeting people offline that are involved with/interested in the startup world,  music or cinema.

*Featured image taken from Lowenstein Sandler homepage which owns the full copyright. 

To know Naomi Thompson, is to know what ambition and passion look like. From the minute you meet her in real-time, her energy is contagious and her vision for the future of law in Africa will blow your mind. She has been instrumental to both Tiyani and I’s higher education journeys so it goes without saying that she has been our WCW for quite a while.

 

Naomi holds an LLB from the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa as well as an MBA from Hult International Business School from the United States. She started her career as a corporate in-house legal counsel and worked for a Pan African investment company. After ten years as a corporate in-house lawyer, she was selected by the Chief Operating Officer (COO) to become his Chief of Staff. This position exposed her to the international business, with a focus on strategy implementation and business operations and provided her the opportunity to manage multiple large projects simultaneously.

Upon completing her MBA, Naomi joined Exigent, a global alternative services provider. In her current role, Vice President – Legal Solutions, she focuses on legal innovation; transforming the way legal services are offered by combining technology and data to deliver answers that impact every aspect of business performance.

 

1) The best part of her job:

The driving force behind my work is grounded in my determination to makes a difference and living a life of impact. I am driven by my purpose, a strong belief in leading by example and motivating others. Professionally, I am driven to be on the cutting edge of legal innovation. With Exigent’s mission to change the way legal services are provided with innovation and creativity as part of Exigent’s DNA, we translate this into finding solutions to challenges for our clients. Being part of such a dynamic global legal team always keeps me engaged. I am constantly driven to stay abreast of developments in the fourth industrial revolution and its impact on legal delivery. Legal technology is evolving, understanding the effect of artificial intelligence, data analytics, and automation to translate value to my clients and the legal profession is part of what motivates me.

My current role allows me to have a larger impact, not only in our organisation, but it also allows me to drive change in the legal industry. Combining both my legal and business experience as well as my master’s degree I can bring a fresh perspective to the challenges faced by the African legal industry. I am passionate about the digital transformation of the legal profession and I am a champion for innovation, process improvement, and technology.

 

2) Change she wants to see in the legal industry:

I want to change access to opportunities for women and in particular women of colour as this remains a barrier for women in South Africa. In so many ways the challenges faced by women in the legal industry are not very different from that of women in South Africa. There is a multitude of obstacles that their male counterparts probably don’t even consider. The lack of representation of women in top leadership positions is still one of the biggest challenges, with women of colour being even less represented. The slow pace of transformation and gender inequality with a lack of diversity is a tradition that persists and still thrives in the legal industry. The gender pay gap is also a huge challenge that females face. The profession is extremely rigid, with grueling working hours, women carry the additional role of family responsibility, perceived as career limiting. When a woman becomes a mother, in what is a very patriarchal system, promotion and remuneration are impacted as the women are away from practice due to having kids or tending to their children. The challenges facing women in the legal profession are not limited to lack of transformation and unequal pay but gender-biased in many of the industry bodies are male-dominated.

Women face unique challenges in accessing the law and by implication, justice which is often unattainable. Access to legal representation is not affordable due to several factors, including the high cost associated with legal services, lack of diversity in representation, the uneven geographical distribution of lawyers, little information about the availability of legal services, lawyers can be perceived as intimidating, and the legal profession traditionally being male-dominated.

 

3) The lawyer she admires (her Werk crush):

Justice Leona Theron a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa is a woman that I truly admire and look up to, not only because of her achievement but her humility and kindness struck me when I first met her. Leona was first appointed to the bench in 1999 at the age of 32, becoming the first black woman judge in Kwa Zulu Natal High Court the country’s youngest judge at the time. She was the first South African to receive the Commonwealth Foundation Fellowship award and won the Department of Justice’s Woman Achiever of the Year award in 2000.

Leona represents a woman who shattered all glass ceilings throughout her career – always leading the way for those who came after her, and once again her representation on the highest court of the land is changing some inherent bias that may exist in an all-male bench. Leona’s commitment to women’s rights and equality is demonstrated in her judgments. Her personal experience with inequality serves as the driving force that motivated her to fight for equal rights for all.

Much like my journey she was no stranger to adversity, growing up without financial opportunities she had three part-time jobs to finance her legal studies. Leona’s determination, drive and advocacy for women and being a true leader in our industry are only a handful of reasons I aspire to make a difference and live a life of impact like she does.

 

 

4) The role of mentorship in her career:

As a young lawyer and during my years as legal counsel I did not have a mentor, I did not have the benefit of someone guiding me and helping me navigate the challenges faced by young lawyers. Corporate was vastly different from the law firm environment and the adjustment was brutal. However, when I switched careers I was blessed to have leaders who made it their responsibility to mentor me. This was a privilege I do not take lightly, it resulted in my career taking off and finding the right fit for me. I now have a few mentors whose wisdom I treasure. Due to my lack of mentors earlier in my career, I make it my mission to mentor young women, not only in law but generally across the business. I use my story to motivate others to follow their dream, to fight for what they believe in to achieve their goals.

 

5) Describe your Werk style and do you have a “Go-To” beauty or grooming staple? (work fashion style)

My work style is classic – love a well-cut suit (when I can actually fit into all my suits) always paired with a beautiful heel, yes I love shoes – especially beautiful stilettos.

Grooming staple – Nails I have to have my bi-weekly nail appointment. I meet a lot of clients and speak with my hands, it’s important for me to be well-groomed and have pretty nails.

6) What she does for self care:

I meditate daily, this started during high-stress periods when I was unable to fall asleep, it has now become a way life. I do guided meditations and it varies daily, often it’s a gratitude meditation for the blessings I have in life.

Affirmations are also part of my daily routine, this is a great way to achieve all my goals and help me remain healthy.

7) The most worthwhile investment in the last 5 years:

The best investment was the investment I made in myself and my future when I chose to do an international MBA. I was determined to ensure I work toward that dream and make it a reality. I took the risk and gave up the Chief of Staff position at a prestigious investment company in pursuit of that dream. Like most candidates applying from the continent, unfavourable exchange rates, the cost of an international program and my personal circumstances were all challenges I had to overcome to turn that into a reality. I completed a Hult International Business School Global One-Year MBA, one of the most prestigious international business schools, allowed me to reach my dreams of studying with some of the world’s most influential thinkers and innovators. The wealth of diversity through cultural and practical experiences with experiential teaching techniques provided me the platform to expand my learning. I had the opportunity to build strong relationships and cultivate a global network with diverse class interactions and debates – challenging my perceptions and world views.

        • The role of a lawyer is to make the law more accessible to ordinary people and serving as a trusted advisor.
        • The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer It varies – men in a social setting are often intimidated, followed by the general jokes about lawyers. Others tend to box me as one dimensional and only focused on going to court or giving legal advice.
        • In your quietest moments what are you most grateful for My parents and their health in general – my parents are in their 80’s and live with me – I am grateful to have beautiful memories I am creating with them
        • Expectation V Reality of a career in law since you left law school? Law school can create the perception that there’s a direct career path. In reality, careers are like clay that you mold with experience. The important thing is to be open minded and flexible while driving ahead. I started as a litigator working on patent and technology contract cases. Now a lot of my work focuses on privacy.
        • Where and how can people find you online or even offline? LinkedIn (Naomi Thompson) And/Or Instagram @thompson_n77

 

 

I am so excited to finally interview my co-founder and partner at Lawgistics, her name is Zani! We met at the University of Pretoria in 2007 with chubby cheeks and eyes full of dreams. After working as associates in Big Law, we left to start Lawgistcs in 2015 and there is no one else I would rather have done this with than her.

Zani is super organised, studious and thorough; a proper and good lawyer by the highest standards. Therefore when the news that South Africa has announced a “National Shutdown”, similar to a “Stay in Shelter” we are having in New York – which would require us all to work from home, the first person I  contacted was Zani, because she is the WFH Queen! 

 

We have been working from our homes for the last 6 years and boot-strapped Lawgistics to a small business with a healthy turnover. Our practice areas also allow us to work from home with greater ease – we run a commercial and corporate law consulting firm therefore it’s unlike a litigation based practice where you would need to be meeting clients and advocates regularly.

The quarantine period is going to show firms exactly which teams can work remotely and which teams absolutely need to be in the office, what resources may have been unnecessary and how to collaborate better. For many of us working from home is a novel concept but fear not, we are here to help you adjust. In order to get going successfully, Zani recommends the following:

 

1. Have your Tech

 

In order to work from home, you need the right technology tools. The basic setup is a laptop/desktop, a reliable wifi connection and a printer (optional). Zani recommends that you have a great portable solution, by either having a data only simcard or a great data plan with your phone plan. 

You probably have been stockpiling writing pads, pens and highlighters from your office or other corporate events you attend so this is a good time to finally put them to use!

 

2. Set a Schedule

Zani’s advice is to “Have a holistic approach to your productivity, you want to eat properly, sleep enough and workout – so this energy can carry into the rest of the work day.” She recommends that you implement office hours – with a fixed start and stop time, which also include breaks. “It’s important to create disciplines that suit your personality and level of concentration” she suggests. For example, some people work for 2 hours and rest for 1 hour, in the beginning you can regulate this with an alarm so that can develop a structure. 

One thing that WFH allows you to do is to explore different work styles, so you can harness your productivity. Are you an early bird, or night owl?

 

3. Beware of Binge Breaks

Watch out for Binge Breaks, where you end up taking a 2 hour break after 30 minutes of work. Rather work your breaks into your work – e.g. you would like to get some meal preparations done – think ahead e.g. let your meat thaw in the morning, marinade at lunchtime and put it in the oven in the late afternoon. Therefore you work with the knowledge that there is something to look forward to – a yummy dinner after a long day of work. 

 

4. Fret Not

How Bosses Imagine “Work From Home” Will Look Like

 

Zani says “as a boss don’t spread the paranoia and anxiety of  feeling like people are not working  and you need to watch them. It’s your duty is to guide people through these uncertain times – not to be an enforcer or guard. You must trust your people and resist the urge to micromanage them, this may require that you change your performance metrics to be output based.”

 

5. Test Yourself

If you are harbouring thoughts of starting your own business, well this is perfect testing grounds to see how well you can work without supervision, and also to really understand your work style. Are you really a hard worker or a performer? You need to train the muscle of diligence, drive and focus in order to do well in running your business. 

T Harv- Eker says “The way you do anything, is the way you do everything”, so don’t think you can take shortcuts in your current job, then magically know how to be diligent and excellent in your business! 

 

6. Secure The Line

Your home internet may be set up for you to watch Netflix, and look at your high schools frenemies pictures on Facebook. However, it may not be secure enough to transmit client information- we discussed this in our article Is Your Clients’ Data Safe With You?   Find some additional information here.

 

Enough chilling – get back work!

What are some WFH tips and practices you are implementing? If you have children, we really want to hear from you!

Picture this scenario, it is 17h30 and as you check off items on your work to-do-list you realise something is amiss, your blood suddenly runs cold as you are gripped by sheer panic. Your heart drops as the realisation sets in that you have indeed missed something that may have near-catastrophic consequences for your deal, matter, case, insert whatever may be relevant to your practice area. Whether it is an incorrect filing of a notice or an oversight on a critical clause that has already been heavily negotiated, we are all familiar with that sinking feeling when you realise something is about to go horribly wrong. Typical responses might include plotting to pack up all your worldly belongings and disappearing off the face of the earth or curling yourself on to the floor in the fetal position until the situation miraculously fixes itself; both not very viable options in the real world. So the bad news is there is no saviour coming to rescue you out of the mess, however, the good news is you will get through it, somehow. 

In most professional environments there is this omnipresent fear that any mistake or failure will catapult you into the deep dark abyss that is “career-limiting move” with no prospects to ever return. Those three words, career-limiting move, are the bedrock on which many law careers have been built on. From the minute you are released from the utopia that is university/college and plunged into the perilous legal fraternity you quickly learn that mistakes are simply not welcomed in these spaces. This is further complicated by the myth around perfectionism, which is almost always heightened for women. At worst, this lethal combo can lead new entrants to becoming so crippled by fear that they come off as disengaged or on a one-way collision course to a point where they are constantly making mistakes.

What we all know for sure based on our own human experiences is that mistakes and failures are inevitable. They are part and parcel of how we learn and grow in any aspect of our lives. Because we are all different, this process will invariably look different from person to person. Here are a few tips to help you get through it. 

Acknowledgment

The key thing is to always acknowledge our mistakes, failures, and shortcomings. Once you do acknowledge the mistake it makes it much easier to do the introspective work and identify how you could have done things better or differently. Yes, it is true that mistakes on your employer’s time may often have a cost implication but once we know better it immediately places us in a position to do better. 

Be vulnerable

When you have screwed up you have to bite the bullet and speak to your manager or whoever you report to, the results may often surprise you. It is super important to be upfront with them and give them as much detail so that together you can work out how to fix the issue. It also helps to have a work buddy or confidant or better yet a mentor that you can trust and talk to about how to bounce back. Chances are they have probably experienced something similar and may even be able to share a few pearls of wisdom. Being vulnerable in the workplace is not easy but the alternative is far worse.  

Have compassion for others 

The one thing I learned from working in high-pressure environments is that everyone is going through the motions just like you… anxiety, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, wanting to be recognised… all of it. Knowing this positions you to be more patient and more thoughtful of others and whatever challenges or struggles they may be facing.

Have compassion for yourself 

If your compassion does not include yourself, then it is incomplete. I can tell you for free that beating yourself up over mistakes and failures does not move the dial one bit. In as much as it is important to take responsibility for your actions be careful not to spiral into a pit of self-blame. 

Be open to learning

No matter how far you advance in your career it is so important to have a teachable spirit. Keep yourself open to learning new things. A good friend of mine always drums into my head the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know”. If your firm or company offers training or courses that may help you improve or develop new skills, grab such opportunities with both hands. Take the initiative to identify courses or training that you think may add value not only for you but for the firm as well and propose it to management.

Failures and mistakes as we navigate the winding road that is “career development” is a conversation that definitely needs to be continued and openly discussed. Just like author Brené Brown, the Legal Werk also encourage vulnerability and courage, so if you would like to share your learnings from your experiences with failures and mistakes please share them with us in the comments below, on social media or drop us an email. We would love to hear from you.

I met Lebo at our first  The Legal Werk Brunch and she has been a super member ever since that meeting! I am encouraged to keep doing this because of people like Lebo and seeing her Work, Lifestyle and Journey thrive from Johannesburg to London! Lebo is currently participating in the International Lawyers For Africa (“ILFA”) secondment program in London she applied for after seeing the advert on The Legal Werk!

 

1) Your qualifications 

I hold and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand and an LLM in Commercial and Business Law from the University of the Witwatersrand.

I am an in-house lawyer, and my role is a Senior Legal Advisor at the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa Limited (‘IDC’).

2) Your practice areas:
Finance (Corporate Finance and Project Finance)

3) The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer:
They are surprised! Some people still think lawyers are supposed to be old men. I was once asked to come help with drafting an urgent agreement for a high-profile transaction. When I walked the lady said “How are you the lawyer? You look  like you are 12 years old.”

4) Why you chose to study law:

Growing up I wanted to be a Chartered Accountant because that is what was cool at that time. However, as time went by, I didn’t enjoy my accounting classes as much as I used to. On the other hand, when we started looking at South African history in my history classes, I started enjoying history a lot. The role of human rights lawyers during the apartheid era started attracting me to law. However, when I got to university, I didn’t enjoy the human rights law subjects as much as I enjoyed the commercial law subjects. When I was introduced to the law of contract and banking and finance law, it was love at first encounter and I have never looked back since.

5) Something you wish you could change about the legal industry:

Billable hours in private practice! I think billable hours deprive young lawyers of the opportunity to immerse themselves in all aspects of a transaction. Everyone is watching the bill so there isn’t time to for a young lawyer to get into the nitty gritty of a transaction outside the legal aspect. There isn’t time (because you are watching the clock) to learn and fully appreciate the commercial/business elements of a client’s business (i.e. financially how does the client’s company run and technically how does the client’s business work). An external commercial lawyer that understands the ins and outs of his/her client’s business beyond the legals, is a keeper.

6) What role has mentorship played in your career?
I haven’t had formal mentorship. However, I have had informal mentorship and a lot of ad hoc guidance has played an important role in my career. I don’t know everything and my career would not be where it is today had it not been for the guidance and support of others.

7) What’s your “Go-To” beauty staple and/or closet item?
It has to definitely be my 2 black dresses. I have had these 2 dresses since my law firm days (almost 6 years ago) and they have stood the test of time. If I gain 10kgs or lose 5kgs, they always fit.

8) Describe your Werk style
Formal dresses, pencil skirts, formal shirts and suits.

9) Do you shop online or in-store? 
I am an in-store dinosaur

10) The places I would like to go on vacation to are:
I want to visit each country in Africa, starting with the ones that are represented at the 2019 ILFA Programme. The countries represented at the 2019 ILFA Programme are Ethiopia,Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe!

11)A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted in the last 5 years:
Travelling.

12) If not law, what would you be doing:
Mentorship and career development.

13) Can you share something you are struggling with right now?
I struggle with networking but I am improving. A big part of the ILFA Programme is networking and working the network. That has been very helpful and I believe I am much better at it now than I was 1 month ago.

14) A major move in the last 5 years: 
Professionally, moving to IDC and joining the development finance space. Personally, definitely spoiling my mom.

15) Major goal for the next 5 years:

  • Lots of international experience through studies, work and leisure.
  • Coming into contact with and assisting at least 50 young people aspiring to join the legal profession and young lawyers already in the profession. The assistance will either be in the form of providing formal mentorship, providing guidance and job exposure/job shadowing across the different options available to lawyers.

16) When stressed or overwhelmed or lost focus temporarily, what do you do to refocus:
Take a break for 10 minutes or so and physically move away from what I am doing (it is usually a walk to the kitchen to make a cup of tea or coffee)

17) Complete the following statements:

  • I think legal tech will.. reduce the amount of reading that lawyers have to do and in turn free up their time to focus on other things.

  • The role of a lawyer is ..to help others.

  • In my quietest moments I am most grateful for….my mother.
  • What I know for sure, that I didn’t know when I left law school, is that there are so many other exciting alternatives to being in practice/ a practicing attorney. No one is born an expert on how to apply the law/the practical aspect of the law with exposure, practice, time and commitment, anyone can do it.

 

How can people get in touch with you:
LinkedIn: Lebogang Ramokone

Social media handles?
Instagram-@ldrams