“Corporate Lawyers are enablers and strategic business advisors that allow business risks to be taken and act as a guardrail when taking such risk.”- Larona Somolekae
Larona holds a Master of Science in Law and Finance from the University of Oxford, which she recently completed, and which is taught jointly by the Saïd Business School and the Faculty of Law (and is the first person from Botswana to do so). She was the recipient of the St Cross College Worldwide Scholarship at Oxford. She also graduated from Harvard Law School, Harvard University with a Master of Laws, and serves on the Board of the Harvard Law School Recent Graduates Network. She also holds a Bachelor of Laws (with distinction) from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. Larona Somolekae is a banking and finance lawyer. She has experience working at a leading pan-African corporate law firm in Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as a top tier corporate law firm in Botswana. Having on-the-ground experience of working in two adjacent but different African jurisdictions has given her a unique African experience. She has also gained experience while working as an International Visiting Lawyer on secondment to the London office of a global bank, as well as the London office of a global law firm. She has lived and/or worked in Botswana, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. She is qualified to practice law in Botswana.
1. What makes practice exciting for Larona and who is her role model?
Larona understands that corporate law, particularly complex transactions, require lawyers to have an understanding and work at the confluence of law, finance and economics and it is that intersection that she finds exciting. She knows that financial decisions are made in the presence of information asymmetries and for her, a corporate lawyer’s role is to provide advice that is actionable and practical to enable the financial and investment decision to be made. She enjoys the fact that being a transactional lawyer requires one to be innovative and to think laterally, as well as operate from a multidisciplinary skillset by understanding what drives business, business risks faced as well as commerce and the business environment. For her, it is also exciting to learn about different sectors, develop long term relationships with interesting people and become a trusted adviser.
Larona’s role model is Francisco Khoza, the Head of Legal, Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank Group. Larona thinks he has a genuine interest in the learning and development of people which is a hallmark of leadership for her. It has been a great learning experience for her to see what it means to acquire and master legal, business and leadership skills through his advice and guidance as well as his career trajectory from a partner, to the head of a practice group, management board member and senior executive within a pan-African business.
2. What is her philosophy of impacting the nation through the practice of law?
She believes that corporate lawyers are enablers and strategic business advisors that allow business risks to be taken and act as a guardrail when taking such risk. She knows it can be used when making investment decisions in new and innovative sectors and the development of the industry; thus, plays a critical role in economic development in that it facilitates private sector growth, economic activity, and ultimately economic development. Larona notes that lawyers in strategic corporate transactions can be catalysts for regional development. She knows that corporate finance and project finance in Africa, for instance, provide this opportunity and transactional lawyers play a critical role in transformative transactions coming to fruition. In addition, she notes that transactional lawyers manage complexity and scale which is required in supporting complex businesses, economic activity and growth, and ultimately nations.
3. What is the next big thing she is working on?
For Larona, the practice of law has transferrable skills which prepare one for various contributions to society. First, she recently co-authored a book chapter on the Covid19 pandemic and the importance of having an equality-sensitive approach in respect of vulnerable groups in Botswana, South Africa and Kenya.
Second, she is focused on a public policy initiative on Endometriosis centred on Botswana but also applicable to the rest of Africa. Endometriosis is a chronic medical condition that affects women and girls and requires a multidisciplinary approach to address it as it is often misdiagnosed because of the high costs of diagnosis and treatment and takes several years to obtain a diagnosis. At present, an endometriosis diagnosis can only be confirmed through invasive surgery. The initiative will seek policy positions for woman and girls to succeed. Larona understands that the success of women and girls in Africa is critical to Africa’s economic growth and success. She notes a McKinsey report, which states that Africa could add $316 Bn to GDP growth by 2025 if gender parity was improved, thus the importance of the success of women is latent. Thus, she states that it is crucial to create an inclusive and accessible environment for women and girls so that they can have an equal opportunity to achieve their potential, as enabling women to achieve their potential is inextricably linked to Africa’s growth.
4. What does she consider the millennials’ greatest strength?
For her, legal millennials saw the rise of the internet and digitisation, which makes them more open to change and innovation. Due to the interconnectedness that comes with a digital world, she also knows that millennials can understand and anticipate rapid change in the world. She also believes that legal Millennials have perspective as they can understand both Baby Boomers and Gen Z; and living within the context of the tensions between the two generations gives millennials a unique perspective that allows them to work with both generations and become leaders.
Larona also notes that legal millennials have also seen the rise of globalisation generally, and more importantly, the globalisation of legal services as companies’ operations have grown across sub-Saharan Africa and become global, and with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, legal millennials are well placed to enable the pan-continental economic activity that will follow.
The PALM considers Ms Larona Somolekae a budding legal millennial who has shown exceptional radiance in the field of legal practice.
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