In the lead-up to the 2022 African Legal Awards, Africa Legal spoke to Angela Vigil and Lerisha Naidu of Baker McKenzie, which won the Children’s Advocate Award in 2021, to find out a bit more about the work and people who garnered this achievement.
The award was as a result of Baker McKenzie’s work with partner organisations to create the Youth Rights Resource Compass, a lifeline during the Covid-19 crisis, enabling those who needed help to find those who could provide it.
Angela is Pro Bono Partner and Executive Director of the Pro Bono Practice at Baker McKenzie, while Lerisha is Partner and Head of the Antitrust & Competition Practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg.
Q: What are the everyday attitudes and behaviours you strive for which you feel most closely align to your delivery of exceptional work?
Angela: Pro bono is part of our DNA at Baker McKenzie. We engage in projects locally, nationally, regionally and globally every day. A key focus of that work is in children’s rights.
Lerisha: We encourage the cultivation and expression of a social conscience, ensuring that our delivery of output originates from a place of authenticity and genuine care. By embedding this, our work product is intended to closely align with Baker McKenzie’s espoused and lived values.
Q: What aspects of your life outside of work do you find most fulfilling and which grant the kind of headspace or positive outlook which are often so vital in taking professionals to the top of their industries?
Angela: To be at the top of your game professionally, you need to have peace of mind about your life personally. For me, that means maximizing the time I spend with my family and friends to make sure everyone is connected and finding as much peace as modern life will allow. My four children and I work hard to have unplugged family time each day that removes everyone, even for just a short while, from school and exams, work and deadlines and stressors of family or health. Forgetting about the outside world for just a bit keeps us all healthy.
Lerisha: Making a difference, both within and outside of work brings me personal fulfilment. In a society that is divided and deeply fractured by a legacy of entrenched oppression, it is often the incremental gains that are a more realistic measure of progress. The headspace that keeps me going is my natural optimism that every day takes us marginally forward, and my deep desire to be part of the progress.
Q: What most frustrates you about the delivery of legal services in Africa to this day?
Angela: We work with outstanding organisations, individuals and government entities across Africa that are committed to justice for all. When those elected to these offices are committed to equity and equal access to justice, great things can happen. When they are not, they are barriers to justice for everyone and especially those most vulnerable. This also hinders our ability to help on a pro bono basis.
Q: What are you most excited about for your own future growth and development in a working context?
Lerisha: For us in Africa, we envision our role as a notable contributor to the journeys of our clients, the legal industry and our local communities, all the while making our mark from a place of authenticity and inspiration.
Q: How has this award win stimulated more work in this field?
Angela: It has resulted in such pride across our firm! We had so much interest in our child justice work after we won this award and it has had ripple effects across the year. So many people – inside and outside the firm – have shared their personal commitment to this work and have expressed wanting to do more. Because of the work, we have even more volunteers helping on our Real Rights effort to help empower young people around the world when they encounter police. This will lead to bigger and better efforts in pro bono for child rights.
Have you contributed towards the progression of future generations? Apply for this year’s award sponsored by Save the Children, the Future Generations Award!
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