Johannesburg-based Alternative Legal Services (ALT) specialist Plaxedes Makura has been recognised in the HERoes 50 Female Future Leaders list for championing diversity and equality. Tania Broughton reports.
Asked what statement sums her up, Zimbabwean-born Makura says simply: “I love people”.
“I would not be the person I am today without the influence of my network, whether it be friends, family, colleagues, members of my team, senior management, my mentors, clients – just people!.”
It’s not surprising she once toyed with becoming a psychologist. But after some wise words from her “very traditional” father, she decided to pursue law and after cutting her teeth at two other law firms, joined Herbert Smith Freehills two years ago as its international legal development programme manager in the newly established ALT department.
“I was attracted to ALT's new and innovative approach to legal service delivery, and particularly the use of technology, global resourcing, and collaboration across the firm’s international network.
Asked how tech plays a part in her working life, she responds: “Tech IS my working life.”
She explains that the generic term 'alternative legal services' refers to an enhanced delivery of legal services using technology and a flexible talent pool to enable a value-driven delivery of large volume legal processes.
“The ALT business at the firm is a fully-integrated part of the firm's international network and the fastest-growing practice group.
“It seamlessly delivers legal services for data-intensive, defined-process matters, such as those involved in major legal disputes.
“For example, during a typical legal dispute, each party must sort through and analyse the documents and data which they possess to determine what might be sensitive or otherwise relevant to the case.
“As a result of the growth in electronically-stored information (eg emails, word processing documents, spreadsheets), a complex dispute can now involve the review of millions of these documents. ALT's teams undertake the review and analysis of these documents – utilising cutting-edge technology to dramatically reduce the number of documents in issue with huge benefit to clients.”
Makura says the alternative legal services market on the continent is “still evolving” and advises young legal professionals to tap into it “not only to be exposed to technology and different legal processes but also to develop dynamic new skills and expertise and to assist in shaping the future of law on the continent”.
But back to those all-important people in her life.
She says she takes every opportunity to influence where she can, and that has involved some soul-searching.
“I have had to challenge some beliefs I used to hold that certain roles should be reserved for men and have had to be mindful of unconscious bias when conducting interviews.
“I aspire to offer my team an environment where they can bring their whole selves to work without the fear of being judged for being who they are.
“This means championing individual uniqueness - whether this be race, gender, religion, culture or sexual orientation - and celebrating, not only our similarities but also our individual characteristics, without one trait being perceived as superior to another.
“I am proud to work for a firm that places such great emphasis on diversity, inclusivity, and equality in the workplace.”
The HERoes Future Female Leaders lists are organised by INvolve and supported by Yahoo Finance. Lists are published annually and showcase 100 Women Executives, 50 Women Future Leaders and 50 Advocate Executives. The 50 Women Future Leaders list spotlights 50 inspirational women who are not yet senior leaders but making a major contribution to gender diversity. View the 2019 lists here
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