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Law Professions Day has been Keeping Students Informed for 10 years

March 16, 2017

Law students engaging with their prospective employers during Law Professions Day.

Winning the annual Ellie Newman Moot Court competition, beating 320 participants by showcasing outstanding legal skills, is a sure sign that fourth-year Law student Mr Elisha Kunene is equipped for success in the legal profession.

Kunene competed in the Moot final - hosted by the School of Law in Durban - alongside finalists Ms Jolene Thompson, Mr Andile Mabaso and Mr Connor Alexander.

The finalists displayed their legal prowess in front of judges, Law School academics Professor Karthy Govender, Ms Lindiwe Maqutu, Professor Tanya Woker and Mr Vishal Surbun as well as family and friends.

A highlight at the final was third-year Law student Mr Andile Mcineka being awarded the Yunus Mohammed Public Interest Law Award by Madam Justice Dhaya Pillay for his article: “Winnie Getting the Short End of the Stick”, which was published in The Sunday Tribune.

The award recognises Mcineka’s valuable contribution to knowledge in the field of public law.

‘There was depth in his argument; he drew on judgments in a coherent manner; it was a pleasure interacting with him…’ these were some of the comments made by the judges on Kunene’s performance before his announcement as the winner which was greeted with resounding applause and a standing ovation from the audience.

‘Winning the Ellie Newman award means the world to me. It’s literally a dream come true. My time in ‘varsity has been quite difficult in a number of ways but I was determined to finish strongly and I sort of viewed this year as a rebuilding period,’ says Kunene.

‘Earlier in the year a good friend of mine and I won the Southern African National Debating Championships and I ranked first in the country. So I really feel like God is with me on this winning streak.’

The great debater who used his skills to coach school debating teams to generate funds for his university tuition got academic merit scholarships from UKZN for his first and second year. However, monetary challenges nearly saw Kunene being financially excluded in his second year.

‘In a remarkable turn of events I was able to stay and complete my studies thanks to a generous intervention by Norton Rose Fulbright. The firm and I parted ways this year but I will always be grateful to them and to everyone else who have contributed to keeping me going,’ he said.

Looking to the future, Kunene said: ‘I have been granted the great privilege of being accepted to clerk for Justice Raymond Zondo at the Constitutional Court next year.’  His long-term plans include becoming an advocate.

Thandiwe Jumo
Law students in Pietermaritzburg and Durban turned up in their numbers to benefit from information supplied by prospective employers at the annual Law Professions Day.

The annual event, hosted by the School of Law in Pietermaritzburg on 8 March and in Durban on 9 March, celebrated its 10th year anniversary this year and was bigger and better than ever before. Among the participants were some of South Africa’s leading law firms including Adams & Adams, Baker McKenzie, ENS and Bowmans as well as non-profit organisations such as Legal Aid and ProBono.

Addressing the gathering at Pietermaritzburg, the Academic Leader, Professor Warren Freedman, highlighted that while the Law School is largely responsible for academic aspects of legal education, it also has a role to play in the practical aspects and one of the ways in which it fulfils this role is by helping students enter the legal profession through events such as Law Professions Day.

In her opening address in Durban, the Acting Dean and Head of School, Professor Lienne Steyn, said that the School is proud of this long standing tradition as merging academic and the practical aspects of legal education is a priority.

Taking full advantage of the information-gathering opportunity, students carefully read the information pamphlets handed out by the law firms while listening to briefings as they stopped at each stand. Some even used the opportunity to apply for jobs at the legal firms by submitting their CVs to the recruiters.

‘Law Professions Day is very insightful because, instead of us relying on research we do on our own to get information, we have the firms coming to us and we ask these questions face to face to become informed about our options,’ said third-year student Mr Nitai Govender.

Fellow third-year student Ms Zesizwe Biyela added that planning ahead is a priority for her hence getting to be informed of the options available to her is very helpful. ‘Serving articles is crucial for Law graduates hence getting the chance to hear from these top firms and giving them my details is great because it gives me ample time to pick and choose when it comes to my future prospects,’ she said.

Thandiwe Jumo

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