For Women in Law

v Aurelia Nxumalo is a Corporate Legal Counsel by profession who works for an Investment and Consulting boutique company. As the in-house legal counsel, her day to day work includes drafting and reviewing contracts as well as attending to any legal or governance matters for the company.Aurelia also describes herself as a budding Social Entrepreneur, bibliophile, student and self-proclaimed happiness ambassador.Aurelia is the founder of “The Professionista”, a platform aimed at creating a virtual space in which women in corporate can connect to impart, teach, inspire and unite. From those entering the corporate world to your seasoned corporate women. The platform aims to create a like-minded virtual community for women to share valuable information with each other.Below is the interview between For Women in Law (FWIL) and the beautiful Aurelia Nxumalo (AN), verbatim.

FWIL:As a legal counsel, what inspired you to get into the legal profession?AN:As romantic as it may be that there was a moment of inspiration, truth is there wasn’t one defining moment where I knew that this is what I wanted to do. We were luckily exposed to career fairs in high school as well as work experience in Grade 11 which was in a law firm and I loved legal drama’s, that’s when I can actually say the love for law was planted in me. I recall writing in my journal in Matric, that in 5 years I would be a successful Corporate Lawyer, although I wrote that with not much understanding then I now find myself 13 years later in the profession which I envisioned, having gone so many other directions in between. I have been an Anti-Money Laundering Officer, in the Corporate Governance and Compliance space and a Fraud and Risk specialist, but the core has always been law as they all intertwine.

FWIL:What has been your experience with regards to gender bias within the legal profession?AN:I am aware of the gender bias within the legal profession but more so in the corporate space. We have so many well and capable women who could be in executive positions but there is still an imbalance when compared to our male counterparts.

FWIL:What advice would you give to a young woman entering the work environment and who is facing black-balling and “hate” from older/senior women in the work place?AN:Always remember you are as capable as any other person. Remember what you are there for, be exemplary in your work ethic and don’t be bothered by the politics. Focus on developing yourself professionally and personally. Eventually, they may come around but even if they don’t, you wouldn’t have lost anything because you know what you there for, you know how you got there and you know what you doing in that space.

FWIL:The journey of most legal professionals is not always an easy one. What are some of the lessons you have learned along the way and how have they shaped your outlook on life?AN:Shuuuuu…its not easy at all. I didn’t finish my LLB in record time. I did 3 years in UKZN – Howard College, stopped studying and worked, then went back to studying whilst working via UNISA where I was only credited for 2 of the 3 years from UKZN. I completed my LLB through UNISA. Lessons…It has taught me that there are more ways than one to skin a cat, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for the next. It taught me more about the legal profession and how many other doors an LLB degree opens for you and not necessarily in just a law firm. I now value the timing of one’s life more, staying in your lane and grateful for my path, as difficult and directionless as it may have been at the time, I am where I am now because of ALL of it! I’ve since been a student of life.

FWIL:What is the best advice you would give to aspiring legal professionals?AN:Study and grab every learning opportunity you are presented with, I have been studying for 13 years…it doesn’t stop! Develop yourself professionally through courses, workshops or seminars related to the field you are in or interested in. Invest in yourself, in your career and life goals! Oh and do not settle for “this is the only way to do it” or “this is how it’s done”.

FWIL:As a legal professional, it is quite important to effectively use your network. How do you meet other legal professionals and what are some of your effective networking skills?AN:I believe that success comes from consistently making new contacts, following up and keeping in touch. Networking is an ongoing process of developing effective relationships to create a powerful, diverse and reliable network of contacts. I am a member of the Corporate Counsel Association of South Africa, which gives me an opportunity to meet with other legal professionals at events, seminars or workshops. I also subscribe to seminars or workshops in various law firms which I attend on the regular.Effective networking skills…perfect your elevator pitch; be clear on what you do and why and be authentic.

FWIL:You are a member of the book club Wanawake, how has that helped you in meeting and interacting other women?AN:Love love, the Wanawake Bookclub. We have created an unmatched sisterhood. I have found my side hustle business partners in the book club because we TALK and CONNECT on other levels besides books. I would have not otherwise been exposed to these women had it not been for the book club, which I am very grateful for.

FWIL:Tell us about your blog “The Professionista”AN:We all wear so many hats in life…I’m multi-passionate. I am passionate about helping and being a woman who wants to make a difference in the world. The Professionista is a platform to promote the professional progress of women and in turn inspire to get ahead in your career or in developing your business or to get to your next level.The Professionista aims to create a space in which Professionista’s can connect to impart, teach, inspire and unite from those entering the corporate world to your seasoned corporate women. Further, the aim is to create a like-minded community of women for women to share with each other valuable information to help every aspiring power woman chasing their dreams in heels, with style, grace and smile on your face!

FWIL:What does the term “role model” mean to you? Which phenomenal woman in law would you call your role model?AU:I personally don’t have one specific role model, as a multi-passionate person, I have a number of people I look up to. A role model is an exemplary individual whom you would like to emulate.The phenomenal woman in law would I call my role model is Hlengiwe Zondo-Kabini who is a Partner at Fasken Martineau.

We love women who share our values and passion for women empowerment. Visit Aurelia’s blog, The Professionista, on for everything about women entering the corporate space.

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