In the lead-up to the 2022 African Legal Awards, Africa Legal will be speaking to some of the winning personalities at last year’s awards to discover what makes them stand out from the crowd. We start with Johan Botes, partner and head of the Employment & Compensation Practice Group at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg.
In 2021 Botes’ team won the award for Employment Law Team of the Year. The firm’s global reach was instrumental in providing excellent legal advice to a Japanese multinational pharmaceutical company on the African elements of its multijurisdictional reorganisation.
A specific category win at the awards usually evidences a broader delivery of exceptional undertakings by the recipients. Botes says his team purposely aim not to think like lawyers, but like business owners who have legal and employee relations issues to address. “Using our legal expertise, we brainstorm the best business solutions and test those with our clients to ensure they meet their faced reality,” he said. “The attitudes we value in our teammates include ownership, critical thinking, caring widely for the team and client, and a ‘can do’ attitude.”
Not everyone has what it takes to get to the top and win awards, so what is it that Botes thinks gives him the necessary headspace or positive outlook to succeed? “For me, the physical and psychological benefits of exercise are critical to remaining a happy camper. Running and golf are great vehicles to get blood pumping, endorphins flowing and appreciating life on the other side of the window pane. We also value our team's social interaction – both planned and spontaneous lunches, or an early morning get-together.”
Working in Africa has unique challenges, but being part of a multinational company brings a different perspective. “Exposure to global employment law practice has taught us that many hurdles we face are not unique to our country or continent, and that our colleagues in other countries have been finding ways of managing such intricacies for years,” Botes said. “We benefit from sharing that knowledge so that we are able to manage cross-border projects better than anyone else.”
Each day the world becomes more like a global village and this brings enormous benefits if experiences are shared. “It excites me to think that there are so many companies who stand to benefit from a more global approach to managing workforce requirements,” Botes said. “In many instances, we fall into the trap of thinking that our situation in South Africa is unique, and that we need to find our own solutions to our own problems. As more companies become exposed to best global human capital practices, we can gain so much by reassessing our staffing models, employment practices and management tools. From adopting different collective bargaining strategies, to using a different menu, to considering how to staff a workplace. I get excited at the thought of the untapped potential that is locked up in many South African (and multinational) businesses.”
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