In the lead-up to the 2022 African Legal Awards, Africa Legal spoke to Cwayita Vellem, Senior Legal Counsel at LIPCO – LAW FOR ALL, who won the In-House Most Promising Newcomer Award in 2021, to find out a bit more about this winning personality.
Q: A specific category win at the awards is often evidence of a broader delivery of exceptional undertakings by the recipient. What are the everyday attitudes and behaviours you strive for that you feel most closely align with your exceptional work delivery? A: I've always been passionate about making the law accessible and understandable for South Africans. My role as a legal professional is to show people that the law is not only for those with legal qualifications or money. I always make sure to use language that everyone can understand and tackle legal disputes collaboratively. No matter the problem, big or small, if it matters to my client, it matters to me.
Q: What aspects of your life outside of work do you find most fulfilling, and which grant the kind of “headspace” or positive outlook that are vital in taking professionals to the top of their industries? A: My family grounds me. I have a very close relationship with my mom and family. Growing up in the rural Eastern Cape has fostered an awareness of the impact of lack of access to justice. I’ve seen firsthand how people give up finding the legal support they need because they cannot afford it. They don’t know how to enforce their rights and are often unaware that they even have rights. The ties I have with my community and loved ones inspire and motivate me to make a difference, show up where it matters, and be the best legal professional I can be.
Q: Who within your working environment do you consider most essential to your ongoing success and stability? A: The leaders within my organisation, LAW FOR ALL, inspire me as their values not only align with mine, but they also afford me space, time and resources to drive impactful change. Our work environment is inclusive and collaborative and, what's more, transformation is always at the forefront of decisions. With an understanding that the legal industry still holds women back in their careers, LAW FOR ALL is shaping a new narrative.
Q: What most frustrates you about delivering legal services in Africa? A: While the law promises access to justice, it remains a reality of unfulfilled expectations. So many people on the continent still have unmet justice needs. One of the most significant barriers is that quality legal services are unaffordable. The “billable hour” system is not only outdated, but it is also failing people. We really need to start asking ourselves what clients really want and need so we can place people at the centre of what we do. The industry needs more creative thinking and transformative innovation to deliver access to justice.
Q: What are you most excited about for your own future growth and development in a working context? A: The exciting thing about the journey I’m on is that I’m always finding new opportunities that empower me to give the power of the law back to people. To play an active part in shaping a better future for South Africa.
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