Werk Crush Wednesday: Silindile Mbuli

We hear a lot of excuses around a lack of diversity in race and gender especially with complex commercial law transactions. Today, it is an absolute honour to chat with Silindile Mbuli who is a top tier commercial lawyer and is Legal Counsel for Thomson-Reuters in Sub-Saharan Africa.I met Silindile when we were both associates in a law firm, so its great to see her thriving beyond practice.   She is an avid traveler and her Instagram will leave you so envious! 

Tell Us:

Your qualifications 
I have an LLB from the University of KwaZulu Natal.

Your practice areas:
Corporate/Commercial law and Compliance.

The reaction when people find out you are a lawyer:
Most common is “So you lie for a living?!”

A major move in the last 5 years: 
Leaving practice to pursue a career in corporate.  There is sometimes a misconstrued perception that if you leave practice before making partner you failed to succeed in your career and that for me was my biggest worry – not knowing whether I had made the right decision or not. In the end I have no regrets and I am more fulfilled now with the work that I do than I ever was in practice.

Why you chose to study law:
I grew up witnessing a lot of hardship in my community and in my family. I was surrounded by people suffering from societal ills  like women abuse,  alcohol abuse, child neglect, unlawful arrests to poverty political wars. This was I call the after-shock of apartheid and it completely broke my heart. It affected me emotionally and mentally, and as an introvert I could not express myself. 

Law was a way for me to get an opportunity to make a difference in our society, even if it was small. I wanted to fight for something, for someone and justice became my opportunity to speak up and make a difference.

What apps do you use to increase productivity OR apps you have to turn off to increase productivity:
Wunderlist is my second brain. I use it to sort organize my professional and personal life. I found that without a second brain I would lie awake at night thinking about all the things I needed to do and things I forgot to do. 

I attended a Work Smarter Not Harder productivity workshop in 2017 hosted by CFO South Africa. Since then I have become so much better at knowing that once I have transferred my ideas or thoughts on to another brain they are safe and chances of me forgetting to execute on them are slim. It definitely keeps me focused on my blue chips.

How do you network:
My preferred platform is one on one coffee sessions - that way you have that person’s full attention and you can get real value out of the conversation.

I also have regular catch-up video conference meetings with lawyers outside of South Africa. I find that connecting with professionals in other jurisdictions really puts into perspective the type of work that other lawyers are exposed on a global scale. It helps me to think outside the box.

I also  attend the Boardwalk networking breakfast hosted by Business Engage. It’s an event created to nurture the development of aspiring directors who are currently in senior management positions within medium to large companies.

A beauty staple and closet item you can't live without: 

Beauty staples:  Smashbox matte lipstick and gold blush palette.

Closet items: I have too many shoes to pick a favourite , but if there was a fire the first two I’d grab are my over-the-knee boots from Steve Madden and my Puma sneakers

Describe your Werk style:
Depending on whether I am seeing clients or not I interchange between smart casual and formal, but high heels are a must every day.

When stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to refocus:
I’m usually the last one to stress especially about work. If I stress at work it usually transcends to home, which means I am not the best ME on that day to give my full attention to my almost 2 year old son. If I do reach that point though I put on my earphones and listen to Drake or Jay-Z for an hour or so.

A time you made a mistake at work and how you bounced back: 
I miscalculated a billing period for a key client and we ended up having to reverse the invoice that should not have been issued in the first place. It took me a long time to approach my Manager to tell him about it. But I learnt that everybody makes mistakes. People around you are more forgiving when you admit to your mistakes and own them.

A physical or spiritual practice you have adopted:
Being a new mom my sleeping patterns have changed so much. I used to have 8 hours of sleep before I had a baby but now its down to about 4 hours on a good night. I had to quickly learn to take care of my mind and body to avoid burning out in the day time.  

I spend 10 minutes first thing in the morning to plan my day and most importantly, count my blessings. Then I’m ready to tackle anything. I also am more focused now on eating clean and staying healthy whereas before I never hesitated to grab takeaways.

If not law, what would you be doing:
Interior Design! I love beautiful spaces. I’m always shopping for decor items and I can’t bring myself to stop. 

Bad recommendations or assumptions about law that you often hear?
People assume a lawyer is the jack of all trades. A good lawyer is excellent at two or three areas of law and is not afraid to admit it to clients/friends/family. You simply cannot be good at every area of law.

I am a commercial lawyer , so when friends and family always ask me for advice on things not related to corporate/commercial law,  I often find myself having to explain to them that you wouldn’t go to a neurosurgeon to treat a stomach ache.

The best or most worthwhile investment you have ever made? 
Investing in taking time off to celebrate ME. We don’t do that often enough. It becomes even harder when you’re a parent to just do something for yourself. I made a conscious decision to invest in travelling. I now make it a point to see a different country at least once a year. I’ve been fortunate enough to see so many places around the world. With each travel experience I come back home a different person. There is so much we can learn from different races, cultures and religions outside of our own.

Major goal for the next 5 years:
Start my legal consultancy business
Register an NGO to help abused women
Buy myself a house

Quote you live your life by:
 I recently came across this quote by Mahatma Gandhi which I find so relevant in today’s world:
There are seven sins in the world:
Wealth without Work
Pleasure with Conscience
Knowledge without Character
Commerce without Morality
Science without Humanity
Worship without Sacrifice
Politics without Principle

How can people get in touch with you to say hi:

LinkedIn:   Silindile Mbuli


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