Shathani Tapahiwa Somolekae is an attorney of the High Courts of Botswana who commenced practice at Collins Chilisa Consultants after obtaining her LLB from the University of Botswana. Her practice areas include Employment and Labour law, Insolvency Law as well as Administrative and Constitutional Law. Her job description entails rendering legal advice; drafting and reviewing legal instruments; legal research and attending to litigation in all Courts of Botswana. Shathani is the founder of the community “How to Survive Law School” (HTSLawS). This is a social initiative whose primary aim is to assist law school students to successfully navigate law school by providing regular motivation and conducting tutorial and workshop sessions. Featured on the online platform ‘She.Leads.Africa’; and “forwomeninlaw” instagram platform, HTSLawS is slowly gaining recognition on the African continent for its refreshing and pragmatic approach to providing mentorship to law students.
The PALM has taken conscious efforts to hear her story with 6 questions, please come along with us-
1) What makes practice exciting for Shathani Somolekae in Botswana?
As a young lawyer, practicing in Botswana, Shathani despite a significant number of antiquated laws dating back to her country’s colonial times, she believes that the opportunity to be involved in major legal reforms through litigation and shaping precedent to align these laws with the country’s present realities undoubtedly makes the practice of law exciting for her. Shathani is barely three years into the legal profession, but has been actively involved in a number of contentious public interest briefs. These include:
a. The Permanent Secretary to the President & Another v Botswana Public Employees Union & Another (CACGB – 150 – 17); this was a matter that bothered on the right of civil servants to vote in primary elections of political parties. The aim of instituting the case was to secure the civil servants’ right to freedom of association;
b. The President of the Republic of Botswana & 3 Others v the National Amalgamated Local Central Government and Parastatal Workers’ Union & 6 Others; the case was hinged on the constitutionality or otherwise of Parliament’s abdication of an inherently legislative function to the President i.e. the authority to determine the number of Court of Appeal Justices and the constitutionality of the practice of appointing a Court of Appeal Justice who has exceeded the retirement age of 70 (seventy) years for more than one fixed period of three years. The case aimed to enshrine and secure judicial independence.
However, Shathani believes that there are still a lot of emerging fields of law practice awaiting development in Botswana, particularly in the Employment and Labour law, which she is most interested in. So, for an attorney like herself passionate about development in jurisprudence, the prospect of being part of the team that is at the forefront of legal reform definitely fills her with heaps of excitement.
2) What is Shathani’s philosophy about impacting the nation through the practice of law?
For her, it is boldly challenging laws that have failed to take current trends of the times and are not in synergy with set international norms which lead to a deprivation of the Batswana’s constitutionally entrenched rights. Whatever it is, Shathani will rarely shy away from representing a client who seeks to protect or enforce their constitutionally entrenched rights; unpopular as it may be but because of what it means for her country’s democracy and the advancement of human rights. In particular reference to her sphere of practice, it is her ultimate aim to ensure that Botswana’s laws promote and uphold labour rights which lead to an empowered workforce.
3) The Peeress has volunteered for a program: How To Survive Law School. What exactly was her reason for doing so?
She explained that her personal experience in law school presented numerous challenges for her in virtually every facet of her life: academically, emotionally, financially, and socially. With the benefit of hindsight, she realized that she would have fared better if she had a mentor who understood the challenges unique to law students in this time.
She therefore decided to start an online mentorship programme geared at assisting law school students to successfully navigate law school; thus the birth of “How to Survive Law School”. Through the programme she provides regular motivation, runs workshops and assists law school students. She feels it is important she shares her knowledge and experience to give hope to students; equip them with the tools to enhance their law school experience; and most importantly, prepare them for their careers as legal professionals.
4) Who Knows the Next Big Thing Shathani is working on? Let us find out.
While speaking with us, she noted that she intends to expand the “How To Survive Law School” initiative which currently has presence on relevant online platforms.
5) Who encourages Shathani the most in this legal profession?
Mr. Mboki Chilisa, pupil master and Managing Partner of Collins Chilisa Consultants and Mr. Peter Collins who is a former judge of the High Court of Botswana and now Consultant at Collins Chilisa Consultants have been instrumental in shaping and mentoring her as a legal mind. From the outset, they exposed her to complex legal matters, trusted and allowed her to interact independently with clients and also ensured she gets hands-on experience in respect of the administrative and business aspect of running a thriving legal practice. In line with the aim of developing her, she was offered the enormous challenge of running the firm’s newly established branch in the second capital of Botswana, Francistown where she is now based and discharges overall administrative responsibility.
Her entire family encourages her too; they are all very supportive and are her number one fans. She specially appreciates her parents; aunt, Moyombuya Ngubula who is also a legal practitioner; cousin, Igamu Bonyongo who is on his final lap of law school as well as her little sister and best friend Dr. Wedu Somolekae.
6) Shathani’s words for millennials?
She knows that versatility and a passion for simplicity are definitely the millennials’ greatest strengths. In the past years, she described the profession as one specific rigid mould where pride was taken in presenting issues in an overly complex fashion as complexity and complication were in fact an attorney’s niche. However, she states that if the legal millennials can go out of their way to simplify issues to enable laymen comprehend.
She also noted that the millennials’ presence on social media is a great example of the generation’s versatility and passion for simplicity at play. As it makes the generation approachable which in turn aids in promoting a better understanding of the law in conjunction with everyday life and creates a culture of seeking legal assistance prior to taking any action that could have dire legal consequences.
Shathani is one major force to be reckoned with, and The PALM totally endorses her as one of the Top Legal Millennial of Afrocentric origin.
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