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

One of the subjects I have as part of my LLM is Delivering Legal Services Through Technology, which has become one of my favourite modules because it exposes me to the most innovative lawyers and legal tech developments. Last week we had a presentation from Littler Mendelson, which is one of the top labour and employment firms globally. One of the presenters spoke about cybersecurity and he raised a number of points I had not considered before regarding how lawyers need to be more prudent how we keep clients’ information.

As legal practitioners we have access to clients’ extremely sensitive information, such as personal information of individuals in organisations from general labourers to the C-Suite executives (addresses, phone numbers, ID or social security numbers,  certified copies of identity documents, salaries etc), financial information of private companies, details on intellectual property- including trade secrets or applications that are still in draft, Wills, Trusts and critical information that relates to commercial transactions. Legal practitioners are ripe for hackers that want to attack either individuals or organisations for ransom or to find information to sell to rivals. Unfortunately legal practitioners are lagging behind in developing a security protocol from a digital perspective to ensure clients’ data is secure.

The Big Deal on Data

 

The General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into effect in 25 May 2018 and was adopted by the European Union Parliament with respect to the treatment of data that relates to any EU citizen. Personal data is considered to be “information relating to an identifiable person who can be directly or indirectly identified in particular by reference to an identifier. This definition provides for a wide range of personal identifiers to constitute personal data, including name, identification number, location data or online identifier, etc.

[Side note:If you are subscribed to any type of app, do you remember when there was a period where they all sent updates in line with the GDPR?]

As we have moved from the paper age to the digital age, the word on the street is that “Data is the new oil”, and we have seen the profitability of harnessing data with the rise of “unicorns” (companies with a valuation of more than $1 billion)  such as Facebook, Airbnb and Uber. This same information can also be used extremely maliciously from online banking fraud, creating deep fakes, stalking and crimes resulting in loss of life.

A number of countries globally have began to promulgate legislation to protect data and even some businesses will consider the data protection laws of the country before beginning operations. If you aren’t sure what laws your country has in place you can have a look here. This is very important, as failure to adhere to these laws could land you in a lot of legal trouble with fines or even jail time, eg failure to comply with the GDPR could lead to a fine of €20 million or 4% of the annual global turnover of the company.

Why You Should Care:

  1. This is the law.
  2. As a legal professional (and if you are a director of a firm, or company)  you have duty of ethics to your clients- which includes diligence, care and skill in the work you do.
  3. It makes you more competitive to clients. A number of clients have started to request that legal professionals show them their Governance, Risk and Compliance registers to see which service providers they use to provide data protection support and the protocols that occur in the event of a breach.
  4. It could happen to you. If a large law firm like DLA Piper could be the victim of an attack, just imagine how easy it would be for hackers to get into your system.

 

Who Let The Dogs In?  

 

In most instances someone in the company lets the hackers in, either by becoming a victim of Phishing Attacks, using a USB you randomly found in a conference room, losing a work laptop or phone, or visiting websites that are filled with viruses (hint: the sites with pop ups that say you just won something you didn’t apply for, or tell you how easy it is to make money working from home).

You also tell them who your clients are through your website on the section of “Our Clients”- you aren’t just marketing to other potential clients, but also to hackers. You are telling them who is home.

What You Can Do:

Come back next week because we talk to a Cybersecurity expert and he will give us tips on what to do regardless of the size of your practice. In the mean time, like your mom said, don’t talk to strangers!

A few days ago my left eye started to sting in the middle of the night, it felt as though something was in my eye. I woke up, looked at my reddening eye and rinsed it with warm water. The rinsing soothed it, but I as I blinked I kept feeling the foreign object. The thought of going to the emergency room at 1am crossed my mind, but like a reasonable person,  I decided to start by consulting a well trusted medical expert:

Dr Google, told me to tape my eye shut and check on it in a few hours and I took the doctors orders. As I was struggling to fall asleep I opened my Spotify gospel playlist and heard a popular Hillsong tune being sang by a voice I was unfamiliar with. It got me thinking about the Hillsong Music model, that looks free but ultimately is not.


The Hillsong Hustle

Hillsong Church was founded in Australia with over 80 church affiliates world wide and at least 100 000 people attending services weekly. Apart from the charismatic messages, hipster fashion and concert like production, the musical arm of the church which has been ubiquitous in the Christian scene for over 20 years.

Hillsong allows all churches worldwide to play or sing their songs, with lyrics included for free, without paying the church any royalty. According to a report by Fader , all Hillsong songs have 2 copyrights, which is the “mechanical” royalty for the music and lyrics (sheet music) and a “performance” royalty for the music you hear. Every time a song is played on Spotify, or Apple music, the song writers get paid the mechanical royalty and the performance royalty is paid to the church. It may raise an eyebrow that the money for the performance royalty is paid to the church and not the musicians singing the songs, however there may be background arrangements that aren’t public.

Therefore it is in Hillsong’s interest to distribute their music freely to all churches because, people hear it while having a spiritual experience and will want to buy the music to recreate that environment at home- which in turn will increase their profitability. Hillsong artists and other Christian musicians will also visit a YouTube show called New Songs Cafe to debut their new music, inspiration behind it and breakdown the musical chords. Hillsong features predominantly on this channel as they produce new albums every year.

The Terror of Templates 

Every lawyer has been asked to share a template or precedent document by another colleague, a client or even a family member. If you refuse to share the document out of intellectual property concerns and the need for customisation of each document, the response is usually annoyance followed by “so you want to charge me for a template?! As if you are going to draft it from scratch!” or some variation of this response. The question of form versus substance is what drives either side. A person without a legal degree may just want a piece of paper with the title “Contract” or “Summons” at the top so that they can proceed with their transaction or action at the lowest price possible.

So should we give the people what they want?

Legal tech start ups like Legal Zoom in the USA and Lenoma Legal in Bloemfontein provide templates to legal documents at fixed, affordable cost, but if the client wants the document to be customised or reviewed then the client will have to pay for a consultation and further drafting.

Providing templates for free or at a fixed cost would be a way to replicate the Hillsong model, because the clients will come back to pay more for the additional, personalised services. I also think a number of law firms would find that their colleagues are the ones downloading the templates and not lay people or clients. Lawyers are usually loathe to share templates, but it may be time to rethink this attitude and do something counterintuitive like giving away templates for free.

We’re curious on your views on the topic and ask that you take the poll the below.

Hello 2019!

Rather than kicking off the year with a list of resolutions, I would rather begin with reflections on things I learned in 2018. I want to learn from the L’s (losses) and turn them into Wins and eventually Millions.

 

1. Reference Letters

When we went to University, the only instructions many of us were told were “get good grades, so you can get a good job.” Thats exactly what I did, I got my good grades and thought after walking across the graduation stage, I wouldn’t ever need to see those lecturers again.

Until… I decided I wanted to go to Graduate School and apply for Academic Fellowships. Most of the applications required a reference letter from someone who knows your academic work. My mouth went dry, and stomach was twisting as I racked my mind thinking of who I could approach.

 

5 THINGS I LEARNED ABOUT ADULTING IN 2018

Hello 2019!

Rather than kicking off the year with a list of resolutions, I would rather begin with reflections on things I learned in 2018. I want to learn from the L’s (losses) and turn them into Wins and eventually Millions.

1. Reference Letters

When we went to University, the only instructions many of us were told were “get good grades, so you can get a good job.” Thats exactly what I did, I got my good grades and thought after walking across the graduation stage, I wouldn’t ever need to see those lecturers again.

Until… I decided I wanted to go to Graduate School and apply for Academic Fellowships. Most of the applications required a reference letter from someone who knows your academic work. My mouth went dry, and stomach was twisting as I racked my mind thinking of who I could approach.

If you, similarly to me, experienced this rude awakening and didn’t get the cheat code to make friends with your lecturers- don’t panic. Make sure you build relationships with your seniors and clients where you are right now to ensure you can get a solid reference letter in future.

2. LSAC!

If you are applying to a law school in the USA, get ready for the torture of LSAC. This is the Law School Admissions Council and they collate applications to 95% of the law schools in the USA. You need to give at least 3 months and at least $400 for your law school application to make it to its intended destination.

LSAC has centralized applications to law schools so, unless you apply to Harvard Law School or Cornell Tech, you will have to go through LSAC. The whole system is horrible and confusing- read the fine print or you will miss your application deadlines like I have.

3. Have A Plan B Country

As I have been speaking to my friends in South Africa and Zimbabwe,  I have learned that a number of them are working on a plan to leave their respective countries to seek better economic opportunities. Perhaps I am too ideological and I have sipped too much of the the “Africa is Rising” juice that I am too drunk to read the signs with my sepia coloured lenses.

Apparently to have access to the best resources and opportunities, you need to get rid of or supplement your green passport. I have started to browse through some countries, but to be honest I love living in South Africa. As a professional you get to live a first world lifestyle at third world prices. I am not really thinking of leaving South Africa for any time beyond 5 years to gain international exposure.

As a legal professional it may not be so easy to just pack up and go to another legal system. I think you would have to move to a country that is prominent in your practice area. Eg if you practiced mining law or construction, then a move to Australia or Canada may be more feasible.

4. Gym Is A Scam

Your favourite gyms don’t want you to show up. They just want you to sign on the dotted line and permit the debit order. They know in January you are all kinds of hype, but by March they know your commitment to after work drinks and Netflix will take over, leaving them with your cash in their hands.

According to The Hustle newsletter, “the nation’s largest gym chains often sign up20x the number of people who can actually fit in a given location. They are well aware that most won’t show up. AsPlanet Moneyreported, one Planet Fitness branch in NYC had a max capacity of about 300, but boasted more than6k members.”

Rather than falling into the vicious cycle, avoid it completely and explore new ways of working out. Set up a mini gym in your home with a yoga mat, a set of weights, resistance bands, a pull up bar and medicine ball. If you want to socialise, you can join a running club or take part in the weekend Parkruns. I have set up my small home gym and watch Popsugar on Youtube for workout routines.

5. Travel

Don’t just travel to take bikini pics, but rather to incorporate your work with play. When you are going to new destination, try to connect with local entrepreneurs or lawyers in that area so that you can exchange ideas and grow the network because you never know when you will need to refer a matter in Bolivia!

Meet people through co working spaces like WeWork, which has offices in every major city on each continent (except Africa). Send the desired office an email and explain you are visiting that city so you want to work there for a day and they could let you do so for free 🙂

Ps: Find out beforehand if you need a yellow fever shot for travel to some countries out there. I almost missed a trip to Lagos because of this!

There is still so much I am learning about being an adult like money management, growing a property portfolio, food combining, choosing a life partner and so much more. I am sure you know something I don’t, so please share it below.