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Women in the profession

Women attorneys’ panel takes AGM discussion to the next level

The group of women attorneys who drafted an outcomes document from a panel discussion on ‘A better deal for women in practice’ at the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) annual general meeting on 2 April 2016, met with LSSA Co-Chairpersons Jan van Rensburg and Mvuso Notyesi to discuss taking the objectives document forward. The meeting was attended by Beverley Clarke, Reshotketsoe Malefo and Dr Jeanne-Mari Retief; Thina Siwendu and Seehaam Samaai joined by conference call.

LSSA Co-Chairpersons Mvuso Notyesi (back left) and Jan van Rensburg, with Dr Jeanne-Mari Retief (centre), and front, Reshotketsoe Malefo, LSSA Manco member Mimie Memka and Beverley Clarke at a meeting in June to discuss taking forward objectives identified to empower women lawyers in practice.


It was agreed at the meeting that the panel would draft an action plan focused on priority objectives identified during the AGM panel discussion (see below).

Outcomes from a panel discussion at the LSSA conference and AGM on 2 April 2016
Facilitator: Nolukhanyiso Gcilitshana (LSSA Council)
Panelists: Beverley Clark, Pulane Kingston, Reshotketsoe Malefo, Jeanne-Mari Retief, Seehaam Samaai, Thina Siwendu.

The leadership of the profession together with the panel members will form the Task Team to take the resolutions forward.

Download the PDF of the objectives document.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) hosted a panel discussion on achievable objectives for gender transformation in the legal profession during its 2016 conference and annual general meeting. The panel consisted of the above experienced women lawyers who are all leaders in their fields the following achievable objectives for the legal profession were identified by the panelists:

1. Practicalities relating to employment equity and transformation plans
It was acknowledged that large law firms have the capacity and infrastructure to develop plans and practices to level the playing field for women in the legal profession, but this is unfortunately not the case for small to medium-sized law firms. Therefore, it is important to formulate effective procedures that promote transformation throughout the profession. To do this it is necessary to assess how these transformation plans are being formulated, how the committees are being structured and how accountability and transparency will be ensured.
It is important to understand that women should not be seen as a group apart with special needs, but that plans should nonetheless be developed around maternity leave that will empower women and also ease their transition back into practice.
The new Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014 should include an appropriate that effectively deals with gender transformation in the legal profession. It should be co-developed by women who have proven to be brave and bold leaders.

2. Creating an enabling environment for tracking and monitoring young attorneys
Creating a good and nurturing environment for young lawyers is very important. Mentorship by women lawyers is encouraged and should be promoted. A monitoring and tracking system for this purpose needs to be developed to ensure that young attorneys receive the most out of their careers, and to assist in identifying the reasons why women lawyers opt out of practice.

3. Training in assertiveness and development of business skills
Many women lawyers may not have the necessary experience to run a practice. Preliminary investigations show that there are no real packages or business courses tailored to women attorneys. Although practice management training if offered, it is required that one should be a partner or hold a fidelity fund certificate before you can apply. Therefore, a much needs to be in place before you have access to a form of business management training.
Building a brand and finding networking strategies that work for women is key. Women are underrepresented at the moment and the development of better business relationships is vital. There should be more programmes in place that promote this form of self-empowerment.

4. Better representation of women in the organised legal profession
Women have power because they make important contributions to the legal profession through their unique views, and the profession should welcome this. The profession should work toward a more equal representation of women in the structures of the organised legal profession, not because they should be seen as a group deserving special treatment, but because they bring value and are able to make meaningful differences.

5. Monitoring and evaluation
It is proposed that the profession work toward 50% representivity for women in the organised legal profession, and there should be gender-sensitive decision making.
Leadership programmes for women lawyers must be properly assessed to determine if there is sufficient skills development.
Structural changes need to be implemented through proper monitoring and evaluation.
It is proposed that the LSSA draft a Gender Charter and Gender Strategies that can serve as a practical guideline to the profession and to put systems in place which will assist in the implementation processes of these policies.
It is further proposed that the LSSA also formulate a system to encourage transparency by the Government to ensure monitoring and evaluation of the briefing patterns by Government to women lawyers.

 

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