This personal journey is adapted from a LinkedIn article published by Cumesh, and he kindly agreed that we share it with you – we found his experiences inspiring, including how he originally approached his legal articles, and also his professional transition from attorney into the banking industry. Beyond his original university degrees (BA, LLB and LLM(Tax)), he’s also developed his skills further through programmes at WITS, Harvard and Said (Oxford) Business Schools and believes in actively managing our careers. We trust that his experiences will enthuse and motivate you too.
“I’m often asked about my career journey, especially by the young professionals in the accounting and legal fields. From studying a challenging degree, to ‘paying my dues’ during my [legal] articles, to working in a high-pressure career in banking today.
...My sister and uncle both worked in law and that was a contributing factor. I also wanted a career where I could add value and assist other people. It gives you a broader purpose than just earning a living. I wanted to make a difference.
[After my degrees I] wanted to get practical experience in a law firm. With my LLB I had great theory, but no practical insight yet. My two years of articles gave me the best grounding, even for the work that I do today.
You quickly learn how the legal system works. We went to the Magistrates Court and we realised that the clerk of the court could make or break your life. If you didn’t have their cooperation, they would not go out of their way to help you. If you took the time to build a relationship with them, respected them and they respected you, it was a different story. A level of arrogance because you have a qualification will not get you very far.
Working and studying at the same time
It was hard. At that time, we didn’t get much study leave for the Bar exam. So, you really had to make time and be disciplined to study at night and over weekends. Over time, this changed and now more study leave is given – which helps a lot!
If you want to complete your articles in the two-year period, you have to set your timelines. It means making sacrifices. You have to realise it is for a limited time [though]. We were told the candidate attorneys were the ones switching on the lights in the morning and switching them off at night. That has changed over time, but you have to put in extra hours if you want to build a career. Your days are definitely not normal office hours. People are working more remotely, but being present in the office and getting exposure to the people and culture is essential.
My transition from commercial law to banking
I enjoyed my role and the people I worked with, but after practicing law for 18 years and managing the law firm for six years, I started to contemplate a venture into the broader commercial world.
Investec was a client of the law firm and I got to know the team there as well as some of the clients. I was always intrigued by Investec’s entrepreneurial spirit and, as a client, I was impressed by the sense of ownership shown by the private bankers I engaged with.
In discussions with one of the Investec team, I became aware of an opportunity within the Private Bank and that was the start of my banking journey.
My top career suggestions for others
What motivates me
In all honesty, what gets me up in the morning is people. And then, energy for banking right now. I believe that the banking industry is in a very challenging and exciting time and the level of disruption is high. [As an industry] we also need to evolve into something that will look quite different in 10 years’ time. That’s the exciting part and it motivates me."
The original LinkedIn article, called “Surviving my articles” can be found here: