UKZN Law students had the privilege of engaging with prospective employers at the annual Law Professions Day which was hosted virtually by the School of Law. Established 13 years ago, the event provides a platform for Law students to learn about opportunities for vacation work, articles of clerkship, and graduate internship and bursary programmes. This enables them to make informed decisions on their choice of firm or branch of the legal profession.
Welcoming students and members of the legal profession, Dean and Head of the School of Law, Professor Managay Reddi said she was pleased that despite the pandemic, law students had not been denied the opportunity to prepare for the world of work.
Reddi thanked the members of the legal profession for their continued support and assured them of the School’s commitment to delivering quality legal education even during the pandemic. She said: ‘Online blended learning has not adversely affected our students’ skills set but they have acquired new skills to do consultations online which is useful for working remotely.’
The event was attended by 18 leading South African law firms that were represented by UKZN alumni who have established themselves in the legal profession and as talent specialists. Among them was Mr Ugendran Odayar, Director specialising in acquisitions at Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) South Africa Inc. who recalled attending Law Professions Day in a marquee 10 years ago. He said that NRF recruits candidates to become future partners rather than simply candidate attorneys for a short period as in his case. He advised them to ‘consider progression as a very important factor when selecting the firm for traineeship.’ He explained that NRF is a consortium of global law firms which leverages on international relationships and counterparts. Having been exposed to handling large business clients as a trainee, he encouraged students to consider NRF as their company of choice.
Senior Human Resources Business Partner at ENS Africa, Mr Thabang Ratau, shared statistics on UKZN alumni at ENS Africa and said that a substantial number of directors at this prestigious firm have come from UKZN and that they were hoping to grow their pool of candidate attorneys from the Law class of 2021. He encouraged students who are interested in Commercial Law to consider ENS Africa.
Mr Siya Ndlovu shared his experience as a candidate attorney at Livingston Leandy and advised students to get involved in as many departments of a law firm as possible and to treat the traineeship as two years of continuous learning and a two-year interview process.
It was heartwarming to hear UKZN alumnus and Associate at Werksmans Attorneys, Mr Dale Adams, talk about his transition from being a student to a candidate attorney. He joined Werksmans in 2019 and was exposed to labour and employment as well as competition and data privacy law. ‘Treat your traineeship in a professional manner and remember that while you are a junior, your input is valued by the firm! Come into the job with an open mind as there is no room for complacency,’ he advised.
Another UKZN alumnus and new candidate attorney at Werksmans Attorneys, Ms Lukrisha Ramadu, said it was fascinating seeing theory come to life, which proves that the UKZN School of Law prepares students well for the world of work.
Ms Hannah Szudrawski, Director at Venns Attorney told students that they look for trainees who are team players with a good attitude, and community driven people who understand the interconnectedness between the firm and its clients.
Ms Jennifer Anthoo of the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (NADEL) – a voluntary organisation of lawyers whose primary goal is a legal and judicial system that provides access to justice for disadvantaged people and the rule of law – informed students about plans to launch a Student Chapter of NADEL. She encouraged them to become members of NADEL and to advocate for Human Rights.
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr (CDH),one of Africa’s largest commercial law firms, was represented by Talent Optimisation Specialist Ms Boipelo Mathodlana who enlightened students about bursary opportunities even if trainees are not signed up with CDH.
Since staff recruitment is conducted virtually these days, Ms Zola Williams, Professional Development Manager at Adams & Adams provided useful tips on preparing for a virtual interview. These include having a load shedding schedule at hand, finding a quiet space, informing family about the interview and even ensuring that simple services such a grass cutting do not create distractions during one’s interview.
Provincial Human Resources Manager at Legal Aid SA, Mr Baboo Brijlal, informed students that they accept applications throughout the year as long as the LLB degree is complete.
Young Talent Specialist at Bowmans, Ms Bohlale Paile thanked the School of Law for ensuring that the event was held virtually. ‘We recruit to retain candidate attorneys; hence, we offer Legal English and Professional Legal Training in-house in order to build one to be the best legal practitioner,’ she said. She encouraged students to check out their fascinating Virtual Experience Programme.
Other law firms who found the engagement beneficial included Stowell & Co, Shepstone & Wylie, Miller Bosman Le Roux Attorneys, Phatshoane Henney Attorneys, Austen Smith Attorneys, Allen and Overy, MacRobert Attorneys and ProBono. Most firms that participated in Law Professions Day advertise opportunities for graduates on the Leap.ly platform and they encouraged students to visit this site for more information.
The event was well received by students who immediately applied for various offers for traineeship and bursaries. Academics from the School of Law Professor Warren Freedman and Ms Jacintha Toohey facilitated the interactive four-hour programme and commended students for their attendance, participating enthusiastically and posing relevant questions to recruiters. They also thanked Ms Robynne Louw who has successfully coordinated the event for the past 13 years.
Words: Hazel Langa