This seasons final interview is Ilza Le Minnie! She has worked as a criminal defence lawyer and her passion for restorative justice has led to the start a foundation to rehabilitate offenders. I met her a year ago as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship and I was honestly intimated by her. She’s tall, vocal and no nonsense when you meet her. Yet, in actuality she is kind, gentle, friendly and the life of the party.
We all have our views on criminals and crime, this was very eye opening for me and a fantastic way to end this season on interviews!
I have a LLB from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and I have been employed at Rossouw & Du Plessis a boutique law firm in Malmesbury, Cape Town since January 2018. I was previously employed with Legal Aid South Africa 2012 to 2017.
Your practice areas:
I practiced mainly in criminal law from 2012 to 2015. I also work in civil litigation including divorces, civil claims, children’s court, family court and all other fields of litigation.
The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer:
Many people are excited and surprised because I look so young! A lot of young people are impressed and immediately want to connect with me about my journey.
A major move in the last 5 years:
Last year I was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow and attended the fellowship at Texas Tech University in Lubbock Texas which really opened doors for me. When I returned from the fellowship I started my own foundation “The Le Minnie Foundation” which will be the blanket organization for different projects. I left my job at Legal Aid SA to enable me to have more time to focus on my other projects.
Our first two projects are underway, firstly “Project Restore”which uses agricultural training and skills development to rehabilitate offenders. The second project is “I am Coloured”, this is a documentary about coloured people in a 2018 South Africa especially in relation to the current land issues.
Why you chose to study law:
My mother was a prison warden and I got to spend a lot of time around inmates. I got to know them as people and not has their crimes and it frustrated me that so many were just sent to jail whereas there was actually a problem with a more social aspect that needs to be addressed, however those without money do not have anyone to speak for them. My mother always went the extra mile to try and help the inmates and then I decided I would study law and stop them from going to jail in the first place.
Something you wish you could change about legal practice:
There needs to be a larger focus on restorative justice and rehabilitation in our criminal justice system and not just a system of punishment. There is so much paperwork – its definitely time we go digital!
What apps do you use to increase productivity OR apps you have to turn off to increase productivity:
There is a new legal software called HotDocs which is very helpful in drafting and I would be lost without my calendar and email.
How do you network:
Well I am learning to play golf for the purpose of networking, however I have found that having great relationships with the court staff and other attorneys, presiding officers and court role players have been the most beneficial. Most of my new clients have seen me in court or been referred by a client.
Whats your “Go-To” beauty staple and closet item:
Victoria Secret Perfume – Amber (I work in the court holding cells a lot and this provides a unique escape from the unsanitary conditions I find myself in).
Describe your Werk style:
I have a very unique style! I have completely moved away from the black, grey and blue for court and try to incorporate colours, patterns and textures into my usually boring court attire. I also try wearing more clothes that send a strong feminine message rather than attempt to interpret the masculine attire.
A time you made a mistake at work and how you bounced back:
I once put an accused into the witness box without fully preparing him and he was only asked one question by the prosecutor and confessed to the offence… this was after months of trial. I completely forgot to tell the client not to answer any self-incriminating questions. That has never happened again.
A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted:
I have learned to forgive. I work with what most would describe as the worst people on earth. The rapists, murderers and drug dealers of society and I have learned to not judge them and to forgive those who condemn them as if they are nothing.
If not law, what would you be doing:
Teaching English Literature – somewhere beautiful oh and writing poetry.
Bad recommendations or assumptions about law that you often hear:
People often assume that lawyers lie and manipulate the truth – that is so untrue as the cost of not being honest in the legal profession is too costly for an attorney. You could so easily be removed from the attorneys roll, which no-one want to do.
Can you share something you are struggling with right now:
I took a matter from a colleague which was way beyond my experience and information that lead to me having months of extra research and work. I eventually got the client acquitted, the time management skills and research techniques that taught me are invaluable. I also value all of the vacations I take, they make me want to work harder so I can take more vacations.
Major goal for the next 5 years:
I am going to have my own practice.
Quote you live your life by:
The true success of a servant leader is when you no longer see her own interests in her work, rather that of those she leads. – me 2017
Where can people find you say hi:
LinkedIn: Ilza Le Minnie