Cilna Steyn, MD of SSLR Inc, completed her LLB Degree at Unisa, after which she was admitted as an attorney in 2007. She co-founded Steyn & Steyn Attorneys, where she began specialising in evictions. As an entrepreneur and business owner Steyn’s main focus is not on the practice of law per se, with the majority of her time devoted to management of the firm. This includes marketing, general management tasks and most importantly leading the firm with passion in accordance with its core values.
How long have you been working in this position?
I have been here for eight and a half years.
Where did you study, and how long did it take?
To practice you need to have an LLB degree, complete two years of practical work, called articles with a law firm, be admitted as an attorney in a High Court, from there you can choose your field of specialisation, if you know that you want to specialise, it is obviously ideal to secure articles at a specialist firm.
I started my LLB degree at The University of Pretoria for the first few years, but started my articles and completed my degree with UNISA. An LLB is a 4 year degree, it is however wise to consider a B.Com or BA LLB, which will add a year to your studies.
What experience or qualification do you believe helped you most in getting to this position?
LLB degree and actual practice in the field- they don’t call it “practice” law for no reason, the more you do something the better you will get at it, to quote Gary Player “The more I practice, the luckier I get” – this is true for anything on the face of the earth.
What are the most challenging and most rewarding aspects of your job?
Most challenging: Keeping clients happy when they get frustrated with the legal process, and keeping staff motivated while clients get frustrated. Most rewarding: My whole job, I love what I do. To see the impact you have on the economy, knowing that you solved a client’s problem better than anybody can and knowing that you are actively involved in job creation is a type of satisfaction that is difficult to describe.
What advice do you have for a young person thinking of entering this field of business?
Work hard from the beginning, once you are comfortable in this field, it just gets better. Get the right mentors, start your career in the right firm, in law it is difficult to get into a field of specialisation if it is not done from the start of your articles.
Where do you think your industry is heading? In terms of compliance, qualification requirements and standards?
The study of law has been very much the same since the Romans decided on how the law will work, that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the actual degrees does not change much. The legal field however is very dynamic, especially now with the Legal Practice Act coming into operation. I would not say that law is ever a difficult field for a school leaver to get into. Getting in is not the challenge, being on top of your game, and staying there, as an attorney is the trick.
Are you doing now what you thought you would be doing at this stage of your life when you were 20 years old?
Very much, I did not know the specifics, for instance that I will specialise in Property Law, but I had a list of things that I wanted to achieve by 30. I am very grateful and pleased to say that I can tick every single one of them.
What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
I have two here; one from the ever-wise Johnny Walker “Keep Walking” and one that is very important “recognise what your fear is, face it, accept it and move with it, don’t dwell on it or get stuck in it”.
Did you have a mentor supporting you in your early career? How important do you think this was in you reaching your professional goals?
Yes, I am lucky enough to have a sister who motivate and encourage me, she is not in the legal field, though, but her business advice was worth more than anything else in my career. I also still have mentors and good friends in the legal field, who give advice and input, it is never a good idea to run alone, take advice and encouragement from reliable, trustworthy sources, who has your best interest at heart.
Any career move or mistake you wouldn’t make again? What was the impact of it on your career?
I have made my fair share of, let’s call it less than ideal career moves, but if I can go back in time I wouldn’t change it, you learn from your own mistakes and grow stronger. In all honesty looking back on my career I wouldn’t change a thing, with knowing what I know now, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.