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“Use every experience as an opportunity to learn and be better”

September 2022: "Why did I join White & Case?" Johannesburg local partner Lulama Selele says there were a combination of factors. "I have been very fortunate to have had a number of opportunities to live and work abroad, including in London, Paris and Nairobi, and these experiences have each been unique and presented a lot of opportunities to me."

She continues," I have met a range of diverse people and this has expanded my view of the world and the diverse ways in which I can apply my legal skillset. White & Case presents a platform which enables one to work across a number of jurisdictions with diverse individuals which makes me feel like I am part of a global community."

Lulama says that the Firm's longstanding presence in Africa was also a key deciding factor. "I am a proud African lawyer and I work mostly on projects on the continent. It is really important to me to be part of an organisation that is invested in the jurisdiction. White & Case is one of the first international law firms to have opened an office in South Africa, and continues to invest in its people in the jurisdiction in an inclusive and meaningful way."

The importance of diversity, especially diversity of thought

White & Case's commitment to diversity was also important to Lulama, and she explains what diversity means to her. "To me diversity means better opportunities for creativity and problem solving. Clients require agile lawyers. To achieve that, you need different perspectives from a diverse group of people. As the world becomes more globalized, and as White & Case does business in new jurisdictions, diversity of thought is key."

Lulama adds that working at White & Case constantly provides one with exposure to international business practices. "When you have worked in different jurisdictions, with people from diverse backgrounds, you get the opportunity to learn how to approach different problems from diverse points of view. You also learn to communicate the same or similar problems in diverse ways. This is exciting for me because it continuously challenges and stretches me to find different, and often better ways of engagement and working."

Curiosity, patience and resilience: Key attributes for young lawyers

Lulama reflects on what building blocks she put in place as a young lawyer that paid dividends later in her career. "I was always very curious. I always wanted to do more; I really wanted to be involved in every single transaction, and early on I wanted to get exposure to work in different jurisdictions and across different areas of law. My willingness to work in different jurisdictions opened up a lot of opportunities for me in my career. It was not easy at all, and I had to learn to be patient and resilient."

The power of patience—and showing up

She says that, "If I am honest. I think I could have been a little more patient in terms of my own progress. Sometimes I have made decisions sooner than I should have. A career in law is really rewarding but it requires patience and willingness to put in the time. You need to be patient with yourself in getting to know people and gaining more experience and exposure. You need to learn to get back up when faced with challenges and setbacks."

Finally, Lulama has some more pragmatic advice for aspiring lawyers. "The best advice I can give is to just show up—no matter the task, the person asking or your energy and mood at any given time. Be honest and open about what you do not know and remember that the learning never stops. There are many ways to get to the same destination, so be patient, stay humble and use every experience as an opportunity to learn and be better—be brave and take charge of your career."