For Women in Law

It’s always wonderful meeting people in your chosen field, people you can learn from. Seeing young women anywhere in the world, succeeding in an ever increasing number of roles helps inspire other young women to raise their expectations for their own futures.When I created this platform I wanted to ensure that these succeeding women can be celebrated on a platform that can reach, inspire and empower other women.

Konani Rasengane is an admitted attorney and associate at Webber Wentzel. I attended high school with the young lady and this is how I know that she is a force. Smart and definitely a go-getter, Konani was voted Head Girl 2011 at Lyttelton Manor High School.

I was pleasantly surprised to see her again a few months ago when I attended a vacation programme at Webber Wentzel and although our chats were very brief, she agreed to an interview.Konani now holds a Bachelors of Law qualification (cum Laude)and a certificate in International Federation of Consulting Engineers (commonly known as “FIDIC”) contracts.Konani’s areas of expertise include Construction and commercial litigation (inclusive of disputes referred to arbitration) and quite recently, project finance.

On what inspired her to study law….Mine is not entirely an inspiring story to tell. I was simply a jack of all trades back in high school i.e. I did well in academics, hockey, arts (in particular visual arts) and public speaking. Naturally, I struggled when I had to make a career choice. Essentially, I wanted to do it all and desired a qualification which would afford me the opportunity to be easily flexible within my elected profession. At the same time, I always aspired to have a fulfilling career whereby I could make a direct or indirect impact in society. In these premises, I soon realised that obtaining a law degree would ultimately be the best tool for me to make a difference and prepare me for almost anything considering that the degree covers such a wide spectrum.”

On whether she has experienced gender bias, this is what Konani had to say:Definitely, especially as a black woman.  I was fortunate to rotate and be retained in relatively large departments where I gravitated more towards partner/s, senior associate/s and associate/s who were interested in my growth. However, this required me to basically identify the “no go areas” and focus my energy on those who saw potential in me. Ultimately, it’s not enough for women to compete just to show that they are capable. Attitudes of those encouraging have to change for there to be real progress.Even so, it is important to remember that within the gender bias struggles; there are racial bias/matters (I like to call this the elephant in the room) which must, in addition to gender bias, be overcome by black woman in the legal profession.”

More women are now venturing into male-dominated territories, and it’s beautiful to witness. In order to continue to witness more of these audacious and passionate women entering these fields, we need to support each other. This is not always the case, however.According to Konani, the key to dealing with black-balling and “hate” from senior women in the work place is to keep focusing on your end goals. In this sense, it will be easier to keep your head down and work smartly to produce results and demonstrate a work ethic that no one can ignore or hate on, collectively.  Unfortunately, there are woman who aspire to be the “better female” in the room even to the detriment of a young woman however keep it moving – for your own benefit and sanity.  Keep in mind that there is not much you can do to change people’s perceptions of you; you are however, only in control of YOU.

The journey of most legal professionals is not always an easy one. Konani recalls learning a few lessons along the way.Two things, she saysi) Do not be so anxious to ask questions from your seniors; and ii) always ask for feedback after producing a piece of work. This applies whilst you are still in varsity.“Everyone started somewhere, even the most brilliant lawyers were taught the very basics; let’s not even talk about complexed transactions. There is this myth that every young profession should know almost everything somehow…  I have learned to adopt the “be a sponge” approach. In terms of requesting feedback, part of learning and growing requires one to know their mistakes. Depending on how the feedback is given to you, do not take it personally but learn from it.”

Being an alpha female is…“Taking a seat at the table and empowering others to do the same through mentorship or sponsorship.When an alpha female takes a seat at the table, she does so by not compromising who she is and giving up her voice thus, she uses this as an opportunity to be heard and to make a difference.A woman who does not allow rejection to result in her downfall but is ambitious and determined to rise through upsets and disappointments.”

The best advice to aspiring legal professionals…“Do partake in extramural activities either sports, join charity organisation or lend a helping hand to one etc. Entities, in particular law firms are not just looking for the smartest legal minds but also those who are well-rounded.Now for the very practical advice, before applying to study law in varsity, attend a job shadowing programme. If you are already a student in law faculty remember to apply for vacation work at a law firm, legal organisation or other entities in order to understand the work culture, ultimately ascertaining whether that specific entity is the correct fit for you. Most importantly, apply for your articles/job timeously.”

How to survive your article years“Sadly, no one is going to monitor your learning process for you. You need to take charge of what you want to learn during your years of articles. Yes, I do admit that candidate attorneys do not know what they do not know so my advice is to always be curious and coachable.Take your board exams seriously; even when others who have long passed their exams tell you that all you require is a week to study and pass all your exams.”

Recent changes/amendments in the law that has caught your attention?“The passing of the National Minimum Wage Bill, although contentious, I truly believe that once finalized and promulgated by the President, it could be the solution to change the living conditions for millions of South Africans for the better. 

Some of the challenges that legal professionals will possibly face in future?With the world constantly changing and more international law firms opening their doors in South Africa, the legal profession has become more competitive. Legal professions will definitely need to overcome more changes/challenges, just to remain competitive and relevant in their respective areas of practice. Just to name a few, these challenges include:
·   technological advances have certainly raised client’s expectations in that deadlines have become and will continue to be tight;·       providing low cost legal services.

What are some of your effective networking skills?“Networking is a necessity as a legal professional. I simply cannot stress how important it is to develop this skill at an earlier stage of one’s career.  To be honest, your qualifications and networks operate in parallel. I take advantage of meetings that I attend, work functions, conferences which are either legally related or not and surprisingly my social networks. We often forget that professionals are integrated into our societies and social circles.When given a business card, do not just shove it away. Acknowledge the business card by reading it in their presence.  It is important to also know your story i.e. who you represent and what you do.I strongly believe that networking should not end at a specific event; however one should follow up by popping a courteous email to the individual/s you met, the following day. Build relationships and not merely collect business cards.”

What does the term “role model” mean to you? Which phenomenal woman in law would you call your role model?“A person whose attitude, values, comebacks from setbacks I admired and would mirror in my own life. Somebody who is not only steadfast in her profession, other business ventures but also someone who strives to achieve a work life balance.Pulane Kingston is that role model for me.  A partner at Webber Wentzel who not only co-founded Sphere Holdings [an empowerment company focusing on financial services, industrial services and infrastructure], but is also making a move in the art spaces. She is a true phenomenal woman in law, who I am blessed to call both a role model and mentor.”

Konani mentions that thus far, her greatest achievement has to be getting admitted as an attorney of the High Court, and that on a personal level, she is learning to celebrate her small accomplishments as they always count as well as learning to take credit of her progress. We look forward to keeping in touch with this phenomenal woman in law and wish her nothing but success for her next goals and ventures.

You can connect with or reach out to Konani on Instagram @Nani_Ras or Linkedin – Konani Rasengane.

#August #womensmonth #womenandinfluence #connecting #power #women #influence #impart #inspire

One Response

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