Law graduate makes top 200 young South Africans list
Lerisha Naidu, a University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) alumna and now a partner in Baker McKenzie's Antitrust & Competition Practice Group, was recently listed as one of the Mail & Guardian's 200 Young South Africans, in the Business and Law category. The list is published annually and comprises 200 exceptional young South Africans who are shaping the country's future.
Naidu graduated with an LLB degree cum laude in 2006 and began her career as a legal researcher for the former Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke. After her research internship in the Constitutional Court, Naidu pursued a career in corporate law. However, her love for engaging in work that has a broader public interest mandate, as well as for the interdisciplinary nature of competition law (involving a mix of transactional work, litigation and compliance as well as a combination of law and economics), made competition law the right fit. This path resulted in her being recommended for promotion to partner, making her one of the youngest partners to be appointed at Baker McKenzie globally.
"I head up the diversity and inclusion project at Baker McKenzie South Africa and I am extremely passionate about the topic of ensuring demographic representation and true inclusion in business. Ensuring environments in which people can thrive enhances the productivity of the space and contributes to the slow-moving vehicle of social change," says Naidu.
When she is not advising and representing international and domestic clients in mergers and acquisitions, prohibited practices (including cartel-related matters), compliance and risk mitigation, Naidu takes on pro bono cases and actively contributes to the firm's corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
"My legal education at UKZN fostered my social conscience and love of the law, having benefited from the tutelage of amazing lecturers who cared not only about their jobs but also about the society in which we live," says Naidu.
"I am a small claims commissioner on a pro bono basis and I also take on pro bono cases (such as on behalf of Johannesburg Pride, which has been admitted as a friend of the court in the case between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and AfriForum relating to the display of the old South African flag) and contribute to the firm's CSR initiatives. I have also contributed to the work of Corruption Watch and participate in a number of career guidance initiatives/mentorship programmes.
"I am blessed to enjoy the challenge and to continue on the daily journey of learning and developing as a practitioner. Being recognised as a top 200 young South African renews my vigour to continue contributing in the ways that I can," she adds.
Naidu's other achievements include her being recently named as a next generation lawyer in the Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Guide, as well as being listed as up and coming in competition law in the Chambers Global Guide 2019.
Her future aspirations include continuing to build her profile as a world-class competition lawyer and ensuring that she is listed in the local and global rankings.
"My aim is also to build a team of world-class lawyers who feel empowered to build their own teams and to lead, not because of a title but in terms of the true meaning of the word. I plan to contribute, not only through the implementation of deliberate strategies, but also by raising my voice on the topic of diversity and inclusion.
"Lastly, I want to always remain humble, giving back in all the ways that I can to our broader society, encouraging us all to continue to apply our social consciences, whether within the corporate sector or elsewhere," she says.
Words: Thandiwe Jumo