pro bono (def)

Free legal services that are offered to people who do not have the financial means to afford legal representation.

In South Africa, all attorneys are legally required to provide a certain number of hours of pro bono services each year in order to remain in practice.


 

Natasha Wagiet brings an immediate sense of calm to a room, her warmth of character is infectious and you can’t help but feel comfortable in her presence.

She currently works as the Pro Bono Coordinator at the Mitchells Plain Office (in Cape Town) for ENSafrica, Africa’s largest law firm.

Natasha’s family background ensured she would have a passion for education, given her parents being the first in their respective families to obtain tertiary qualifications and further obtaining postgraduate qualifications.

Natasha completed her Bachelor of Laws at the University of Cape Town followed by a Masters of Law at the University of the Western Cape majoring in corporate law. Her next educational pursuit is her Doctorate, with a possible focus on the role of the corporate sector and pro bono in facilitating access to justice.

There is no “typical day” at the pro bono office for Natasha and that is what she loves about it.

Some of what she attends to involves consulting with clients, both walk-in and those with appointments. The pro bono office also presents sessions as part of their enterprise development and legal education.

Natasha also assists and reviews corporate social investment proposals as well as mentors students to prepare for moots.

Find a mentor, preferably more than one, and learn as much as you can from them. Click To Tweet

Natasha is proudest of the simple feats that the pro bono office manages to achieve on a daily basis – assisting an 88-year-old woman to sign her will, helping her take ownership of her property and empowering her wishes through her will, going after an ex-husband who has been avoiding maintenance payments and managing to garnishee his wages to ensure the ex-wife receives the maintenance payment she is legally entitled to.

It is these “bread and butter” issues, what affects the daily lives of people that Natasha and the pro bono office manage to touch on and positively impact through their hard work. It is about using the law to empower communities, such as Mitchells Plain, that have so often been underserviced or felt as if the law was beyond their reach.

A further initiative to be celebrated is the Gogo Project, which Natasha spearheaded, whereby employees of ENSafrica were given the opportunity to donate blankets for the elderly in Mitchells Plain.

Instead of doing a handover of just the blankets, Natasha organized for a lunch that was catered for by a business from Mitchells Plain, further enforcing her support for community upliftment. The elderly were provided with a buffet lunch as well as a talk about dignity before they were handed the sponsored blankets.

One can imagine that working in this sector can be emotionally strenuous but Natasha has found key ways in which to equip herself to address this. She lives 30 kilometers from the pro bono office and uses this driving time to mentally prepare for the day on the way to work as well as to destress and process the day on her drive home.

Natasha also finds it important to truly focus and be present wherever you are – when spending time with family and friend, enjoy doing that and be there. It is also important to find other hobbies/ activities that fulfill you.

For Natasha, that is being created through makeup (she recently completed a course on it). I asked Natasha to describe herself in terms of a make-up item; she decided on deep gold eyeshadow because it is both bold and warm.

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Natasha’s advice to aspiring women who would want to work in a similar role is simple – find a mentor, preferably more than one, and learn as much as you can from them.

She further advocates job shadowing and volunteering to make sure that working in this sector really is for you. Natasha believes that this is definitely a “calling and not a job” and as such you must be sure that your passion is in the right place.

Natasha knows she is working in the right place for her because she is inspired by “the ordinary men and women who sacrifice in order to provide a better life for their children. I see them and am in awe of them every single day”.


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