Although he acknowledges the importance of excellent technical legal skills and constantly sharpening those, Ashitiva emphasised it’s crucial that legal practitioners associate themselves with people who are ahead of them on the path they want to follow “because you will then begin to see the opportunities you're looking for”.
The workshop was chaired by Scott Cowan, CEO of Africa Legal, with a power-punching panel consisting of Nelson Ashitiva (senior partner at Ashitiva Advocates LLP and corporate governance expert with more than 15 years’ experience), Kananu Mutea (partner and head of the Dispute Resolution Department at Gikera & Vadgama Advocates) and James Leach (a lecturer at the University of Cape Town and Africa Legal’s Chief Learning Officer) sharing noteworthy insights and interacting with the audience.
Mutea highlighted the way education systems get students to focus intensively on mastering subject matter but don’t explain the value of getting to know people beyond the technical application of law. “Maximise and capitalise on the opportunity that you have exactly where you are, because that’s where you begin setting yourself up,” commented Mutea. She noted she was happy to see Africa Legal encouraging legal practitioners in Africa to network and build new skills rather than remaining static, and that participating in Africa Legal’s short courses and workshops is a great way for lawyers to expand their network.
Mutea also encouraged legal students and practising attorneys to join legal or law societies that can give them access to a wider network.
Ashitiva highlighted that legal practitioners should not underplay the importance of staying in touch with school friends too, however humble your beginnings. “Some of those who are now in decision making positions came from some of the poorest communities and families … don’t look down on anybody.”
Consistent upskilling, knowledge and awareness is critical for developing your personal brand, said Leach. He encouraged the participants not to remain static, reminding them there is always something new to learn, whatever your level of experience. “At any stage of your career you should be using the formal learning opportunities that you've got, even if they are online, asynchronous spaces, to develop and expand your network.”
In response to an audience question on how one can brand themselves in networking, Leach responded that the first thing you need to do is know yourself, your skill set and where the limits are of your skill set and technical knowledge base. “It’s about who you are as an individual and what you stand for.”
Ashitiva agreed: “Write a statement that best captures the narrative that you would want to be introduced by, three or four years from now.”
“Brand building is a factor of time,” commented Mutea. “It’s a question of being tested and going through situations where you can actually reduce the definitive words about your brand as an individual before you associate with an entity that perhaps already has a defined brand.”
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