Black Woman Starts Her Own Law Firm at 25: “My Ultimate Goal Is To Inspire Black Women”

Sne Mthembu. (Photo:Supplied to DRUM).

Many people don’t possess the heart to leave their job to start a new business. 25-year-old Sne Mthembu thought other wise and left her job to start her own law firm.

This 25-year-old was born and raised in Eshow in KwaZulu-Natal. She was a legal practitioner before she decided to start her own business.

This is her story.

“Initially, I wanted to be a doctor because that’s what most of us wanted to be while growing up and my dad and I were pushing the being a doctor narrative. I never imagined that I’d be a lawyer. But I got to a point where I realised that I actually didn’t like mathematics or any of the subjects that were a prerequisite to doing medicine. So, I then decided to take subjects that weren’t related like life sciences and business studies and told myself I’d decide what I wanted to do once I left school.

In grade 11 we had to shadow someone as part of a Life Orientation project. My mother suggested that I shadow a lady who was a Magistrate in Eshowe.  I spoke to her and she agreed to let me shadow her for a a day. After a day with her I realized law interested me. I saw that people had issues and I could help with.

I then finished Matric and studied law at UKZN where I studied for four years and completed my degree. I then choose to become an Attorney even though I knew I wanted to become an advocate later in life after I gained experience.

I did my Practical Legal Training for six months and applied to do my articles but I didn’t get accepted anywhere. I was applying for other jobs in the meantime because I didn’t want to sit around at home. Eventually I got a job at the municipality under a graduate program, I took that job because no internships or articles were coming up.

And while I was working there, I was still looking for articles and it got to a point where I started doubting that they’d ever come. I worked at the municipality in December 2017 and at the end of February 2018, I got a call from a law firm asking if I was still interested in doing my articles with them. I went for the interview and they gave me an offer.

Now I was in a predicament because my contract with the municipality was for two years and the articles internship was only for one year. I sat down with myself and with my parents and decided on doing the articles because this was my career at the end of the day and I needed to qualify as an attorney. I resigned and started at the law firm.
I did my year of articles and it was so challenging. Then I had to write my four board exams. I failed one of them and I felt like my world was ending, but I got a second chance and did an oral board exam. I passed the oral and applied to the high court and was admitted as a legal practitioner in October 2019.

My one-year contract had ended in March 2019 but my director kept me at the firm and I continued working. Eventually I got to a point where I realized that I was still earning an intern salary even though I was now fully qualified. I had been applying at other law firms with no success. I wanted to leave my job but I couldn’t without figuring out what to do next.

I had side hustles to sustain me such as a décor company and being a make-up artist but I knew there was more I had to do.

At the age of 25, I left my job and started my own firm and it was fully operational as of 2020. I named my firm after my 2nd name and I included ‘partners’ because I’m open to working with other people

The challenges I’ve faced in starting my practice was finances. If you don’t have a good financial standing, you it’s hard to open a law firm. My other challenges were my age – people would look at me and question whether I’d be able to represent them – and the mental strain having a business comes with.
I have to give my all and sometimes represent people who were accused of heinous crimes and then realise it’s the path I chose and I have to do it.

I overcame the financial challenge by saving some of the money from my salary which wasn’t a lot, my extra two companies also helped, and I saved that money. My loved ones and parents who saw potential also contributed financially. Not to say that I’m completely financially secure now, but that’s how I managed.
My ultimate goal is to inspire young, black women and show them that it’s possible to do your own thing. If women want to open their own medical practices or law firms or any other company, I want them to see that they can do it.

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