Young women must go out into the world and exceed their own goals

August 1st, 2022
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In this month’s Women in Law article, De Rebus news reporter, Kgomotso Ramotsho, spoke to legal practitioner and Chairperson of the Legal Practitioners’ Fidelity Fund (LPFF), Peppy Kekana, about her life in the legal profession.

Ms Kekana was born and raised in Madidi in the North West Province. She said that she absolutely loves life and believes that one should continuously focus on the positive. As a wife, mother, entrepreneur and mentor, Ms Kekana said living a life that is balanced holistically is extremely important to her. ‘When I am not at work, I love spending time with my family and friends, I enjoy good food, exploring new and fun activities and celebrating life,’ Ms Kekana added.

Ms Kekana attended high school at Dr AT Moreosele High School in Mabopane in Pretoria. Her academic credentials include a BProc (Unin), LLB (Vista) and Certificate in Management of Petroleum Policy and Economics (Wits). She was admitted as an attorney in 1994, following which she was appointed as a legal advisor at the Health Profession Council of South Africa until 1996. She later joined Seriti, Mavundla and Partners as an associate and was made director in 1998. From 2000 to 2002, she served as a director at Huntley Kekana Seth.

Ms Kekana pointed out that the biggest highlight of that period for her, was her involvement in the restructuring of arms manufacturing giant Denel. ‘I was appointed as an Acting Judge of the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court in Pretoria from 2006 to 2018 and she was a Board Member of the South African Restructuring and Insolvency Practitioners Association and a Director at National Liquidators SA (Pty) Ltd,’ Ms Kekana said. She added that she was appointed by the Pretoria High Court, on application by the Financial Services Board as a Curator of the Municipal Councillors Pension Fund in December 2017. Her other areas of expertise include insolvency law; corporate and commercial litigation; litigation in personal injury matters; investigations and compliance reviews; insurance law; litigation in medical malpractice; corporate governance; and pension law.

 

KR: KHR Inc is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, how did you and your partners manage to successfully run your law firm for such a long time?

PK: From the onset, KHR Inc’s primary goal has always been to make legal representation accessible to as many people as possible across the board. That has always been our goal and in order to achieve this goal, KHR Inc has always applied a multiangled client centric approach when assessing matters, which assists our clients in making qualitative and cost-effective decisions. This ubuntu based approach that is infused with professionalism and competent staff, comes from the understanding that every client matters – from large corporates to individuals. This has been our mantra for the past 20 years and continues to be our core values. That is why our services are tailor-made to meet the unique requirements of every client. We are conscious of the need to produce favourable outcomes for our clients, while ensuring that the costs of legal proceedings are kept to a minimum. We also offer a wide range of services including commercial law, insolvency law, personal injury law and family law and this a big part of what kept us going. KHR Inc also has its very own Recoveries Department. This department is a call centre facilitating both inbound and outbound calls and is responsible for corporate and individual debt collections. Our Recoveries Department is committed to efficient turnaround times, and we place a high value on quality decision-making systems to generate an increased revenue return for our clients.

To summarise, our professional ubuntu based approach has kept us going and even when we decided to rebrand in order to celebrate our 20 years of existence; we ensured that these values that have always carried KHR Inc throughout the two decades are well illustrated in our new logo and new corporate identity. Simply put, our new logo tells a story of who KHR Inc is today. A story of integrity, Africanism, justice, ubuntu, professionalism and consistency. KHR Inc was built on this rock-solid foundation and that is how it has managed to not only endure but to thrive under difficult circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

KR: What is the one biggest lesson learned in running your own firm that changed your thinking or shaped you?

PK: The biggest lesson that I have learned from running my own firm is that there is always room to learn more and to do better. In essence, we must always be open towards learning and bettering ourselves in whichever space that we occupy in life. As a person, you must always keep it in mind that, just because you have succeeded, does not mean that you should stop trying to improve yourself as a person and as a leader. We must never stop being teachable in life. Furthermore, being in a challenging situation does not mean that you should be resigned to your fate. It is also very important to pause and celebrate the small wins along the way.

 

KR: What is the biggest challenge that the LPFF is currently dealing with, in regard to claims?

PK: One of the biggest challenges is that the attorneys that clients complain about, do not hold a Fidelity Fund Certificate (FFC). The public must be aware that all practising attorneys and advocates in South Africa must be registered on the practising roll at the Legal Practice Council. Therefore, this information needs to be readily available to the public.

The public also needs to know that it is the responsibility of the client to confirm that an attorney or advocate is on the practising roll, and that a legal practitioner is in possession of an FFC. Most importantly, the public needs to be educated regarding how to enquire as to whether a legal practitioner is certified or not. The process needs to be simple and easy to use to ensure that the information is available to everyone who needs it, regardless of their level of education or their socio-economic status. This is important because knowledge of the latter will determine whether the claim gets paid or not, should you lodge a complaint regarding the services of a legal practitioner whom you were aware did not possess the certificate at the time you entrusted money or property to.

 

KR: The numbers of claims at the LPFF are said to be rising fast compared to ten years ago, which measures are you as the LPFF putting in place to try and curb corruption that some legal practitioners commit?

PK: One of the measures that the LPFF has put in place, is to bring as much awareness of our services to the public, as well as to educate and empower the public regarding their rights when it comes to legal practitioners and the services that they provide to the public. Knowledge is power and once the public knows what to look out for, or what recourse is available to them, in case they fall victim to legal practitioners mishandling their funds; the quality of the legal services rendered as well as the integrity of this noble profession will maintain its high standards.

 

KR: Which generation of legal practitioners are claims being lodged against and why do you think this is happening?

PK: In the past two years, the LPFF has experienced a spike in the number of claims received. This is attributable to a combination of issues, namely, the economy that took a dive when COVID-19 hit our shores, lifestyle issues for some attorneys and lack of adequate training for other attorneys. Therefore, it cuts across all the generations of practising attorneys.

 

KR: As a female legal practitioner in a leadership position, how do you deal with people who are still of the view that women need to be in the background and not be as vocal as their male colleagues in the legal profession?

PK: I do not entertain that kind of backward thinking. For a very long time, women have proven that they can lead effectively in any industry. It has never made sense for society to think that women make weaker leaders based on their gender. Some of the most powerful, impactful, and successful leaders are women because they have used their voices and have refused to be in the background or play second best to men.

This backward thinking, together with the following two historical factors, hinders transformation in the legal sector:

Firstly, an economy that is not growing fast enough to be able to sustain the whole legal profession and black legal practitioners who are reduced to doing general legal work with very little rewards. Lucrative legal work seems to be the preserve of the historically economically advantaged.

Secondly, a failure on the part of business and society in general, to embrace and develop black female legal skills as it were. Big businesses continue to brief primarily male practitioners. The majority of the legal sector prefer to brief and to do business with either male or more prominent female legal practitioners, thus failing the majority who then do not acquire specialised skills that would make them visible and valuable to society in general. This is hopefully going to be cured by the Legal Services Charter which we hope will ensure an equitable briefing pattern which embraces every practitioner and in particular black females.

 

KR: Are you receiving support from male counterparts and how does it make you feel that there are men who are in support of women in the profession? Men who think women can be in leading positions and do a great job?

PK: Yes, I have always received support from my male colleagues, and this has led me to realise that there are wise men out there that do not discriminate against their women counterparts. Those who used to have sexist views are becoming wise and are waking up to reality. I am truly grateful to have worked with men such as Mr Mbusi Radebe who have always viewed me as their equal and have never second guessed my capabilities and expertise.

 

KR: The current state of the legal profession, is it that you had imagined it would be, when you were still a young legal practitioner?

PK: No, it has taken me far too long to be where I am today. I am also of the view that as women, we are still not anywhere near where we should be in terms of the number of women leading in the profession.

 

KR: It is women’s month, do you have women that you look up to, both in your personal and professional life? Please name two and briefly tell us how and why they inspire you?

PK: My principal, the late Ms Tshegofatso Monama. When I entered the legal profession as a candidate attorney, I was already a mother of a three-month old baby. Ms Monama assured me that I have what it takes to complete my articles of clerkship and that she will make sure that I pass and become an attorney. Ms Monama shared tips of how to navigate being a candidate attorney and a mother to my children with me.

My late grandmother, who celebrated our achievements, and believed in us as girl children. I saw her managing our household, while my grandfather was a migrant worker.

 

KR: What do you think about the calibre of the women that come after your generation, are they strong women? Do you think they can continue the fight, in making sure women occupy spaces, leadership roles, have a seat in the highest tables?

PK: The calibre of women today is different from when I was younger. Women today are very educated, which makes them more empowered to either demand or occupy spaces on existing tables, as well as to build their own tables. I see more and more young women being unapologetic about taking on leadership roles. They are outspoken, they set high goals for themselves, and they are bold and fight for what they believe in. Most importantly, I see young women fighting for each other and empowering each other. They definitely are continuing to fight the good fight.

 

KR: What kind of mentorship do you think the young women in the legal profession need?

PK: Young women need the kind of mentorship that opens up their minds to the many available legal career fields that they can choose to practice in, and their eyes need to be opened to the fact that they cannot fall for the fictitious narrative that the field of corporate law is for males, while females should follow the family law route. There is enough room for everybody, and women do equally great work to males in any legal field, if not better. This is what needs to be taught to our young women.

 

KR: If you would be given an opportunity to address a room full of young women, what would you say to them?

PK: I would tell young women that it is important for them to understand that their femininity is not a weakness and that a woman that does not allow herself to lose her identity as a woman, becomes a very powerful leader in every space that she occupies. They need to understand that they do not need to turn themselves into cheap imitations of men in order to be effective leaders. They must go out there and learn, empower themselves, set no limits and then go out into the world and exceed their own goals.

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2022 (Aug) DR 17.

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