Bongi Dube and advocate Ronelle Ferguson envisage the virtual advocate chambers will be ready by November. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)
Bongi Dube and advocate Ronelle Ferguson envisage the virtual advocate chambers will be ready by November. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Covid-19: Girl power creates virtual advocate’s chambers

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Aug 11, 2020

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Pretoria - While the Covid-19 pandemic has meant economic and mental hardship for many, Pretoria advocate Ronel Ferguson and “the girls” are changing part of the legal profession like never seen before.

They have come up with a virtual advocate’s chambers, and to coincide with Women’s Month, it is a mostly a “girl-power” endeavour.

The initiative will see the light around November.

The concept will resemble real chambers, where legal eagles will work from and virtually interact as if they were still in the offices.

Ferguson said: “Women historically have been game changers each one of us is a wo-man game changer. Among us, there are no leagues. Every game is a win. We show up.”

Speaking about women at this time was not only humbling, but also brought about a responsibility, she said. “You are given a voice for a day, a voice larger than the one you shout every day when it’s just you.”

After being admitted as an attorney in 1989, she was the first female partner of Stegmanns Attorneys in those days. Today all five directors are women.

“How times have changed. Yes, times have changed. No one could ever have imagined when we were toasting our New Year’s champagne that we would be where we are today

“But the thing is, as Eleanor Roosevelt said about women, ‘you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water’. And the water is now boiling.

“This year has been difficult - all of it. Our children are home-schooled, our social lives are disrupted, we have nowhere to wear our shoes.”

Ferguson said being locked down, she got to reflect on things brought about by “girl power”, although the “muscle power” was often also present.

“The hands-on part of making social responsibility happen is not an all round man thing. In my experience it has been the women around me who physically create events and materialise them on ground zero. And that is where the wo-man comes in on ground zero.”

She said it was at the start of lockdown when she and her assistant Bongi Dube packed up and vacated their office at their advocate’s chambers on two days’ notice.

“She relocated to her house, and I to mine. We made sure we were ‘online’ and with the grace of fortune and prayer, we continued without a glitch to run the practice.

“We ran our first trial virtually without a single piece of paper, together with our attorney, expert witnesses and not one hand shake, hug or physical contact and we did it.”

Ferguson said she then realised that there was an opportunity, another way to do things.

And this did not include holding court as an emergency measure from her dining room table anymore.

And that is where virtual advocate’s chambers was born. “I realised that if we could do this under pressure on such short notice, how much better we could do this with a little bit more time and refinement?”

She realised that many of her young, unestablished colleagues would be left out in the cold if they could not afford rental for physical chambers.

“Virtual chambers became the obvious and financially viable solution, without the overheads of costly office space and other expenses.

“Bongi calls the shots on finance, admin and keeping the concept together.

“Rene Jansen van Rensburg does the artwork, marketing and site liaison with the platform developers, and I bring the colleagues, their decorum and true culture of advocacy to Virtual Chambers.

“The strength of a woman is not the same as the strength of a man. It is the subtle power of inner perseverance and kindness for others when faced with trials and hardships.

“To me it seems that our new reality calls on us to reinvent ourselves, to get on top of our new normal and to steer it, instead of letting it steer us.”

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Pretoria News

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