In contrast to Grace Mugaviri, a veteran in her profession, TF caught up with Tjitja Harases who, two months ago, took steps towards independence by opening her own firm, Tjitja Harases Inc.
The biggest inspiration for this was the desire to be financially independent and to do so before the age of thirty and thus she provided all the capital for the business from her pocket owing to personal sacrifices. “As a result of my move, I had to sell most of my personal belongings. My promise to myself was to avoid debt at all costs. All the support from my family has made the transition much easier,” she says.
Many of us have difficulty parting with our television sets or mobile devices even just to go out for a jog, Harases’ sacrifice was doubly risky when she moved to a new town, Otjiwarongo, to set up her practice. And daily she navigates the challenges of making her influence felt in a male dominated industry. “The main challenge is creating awareness. Being that I am both new to Otjiwarongo and with a new firm, I must create awareness of the available services. Men have the ease of networking – those channels are not accessible for women. Things like a hunting weekend are just not platforms for business
that I have seen/heard my female colleagues be privy to. Also, there is a general perception that results are achieved by men wo aren’t afraid to take on different clients. I have seen female lawyers do justice to so many criminal matters that are commonly dealt with by our male counterparts,” she says.
Harases further notes that several of the female Lawyers across Namibia have formed a sisterhood known as the Namibia women Lawyers Association (NWLA), which provides a forum to mingle and at times, refer work.
The NWLA was founded in 2015 and was born out of an extensive survey conducted amongst the female lawyers regarding the status and needs of women in the legal fraternity in Namibia. The survey showed that there was a vacuum and that women in the profession needed support and guidance in pursing their careers in the legal sphere. “I have been so lucky to have received instructions from fellow female Lawyers. Together with the NWLA, we aim to identify and assist various cases in and around the Otjiwarongo area pro bono.”
She is a proud UNAM graduate, having obtained her LLB (Hons) in 2012 and thereafter completed her Justice Training Centre (JTC) during 2013. She was admitted as a Legal Practitioner in the High Court of Namibia in October 2014. Most recently, she received her Right of Audience in the Supreme Court of Namibia 22nd August 2018. Upon graduation, Harases did not specialise in a particular branch of law per se and as such practices all aspects of Law.
She is involved in labour disputes, conciliation and arbitration of matters; civil litigation i.e. debt collection, divorce, etc; drafting of contracts and criminal litigation. She starts each morning by reading emails and incoming correspondences just to make sure that anything urgent has her attention. “Court appearances are usually at 9 am daily, hence I prefer to schedule consultations in the afternoons. Owing to the various courts in the region and strategic location of my office, I tend to travel every Tuesday to attend to obligations in neighbouring towns. My work day generally ends at 5pm but I am available to attend to urgent matters after hours or on weekends. Most recently we had an arrest and bail matter that kept me at the station until 12am,” she says.
Outside of the courtroom, Harases is a self-confessed homebody that loves to spend time with family, her three god-children, nephews & nieces. She is an avid Sudoku enthusiast and has dabbled in a few local running events. During 2017, she participated in the Two Oceans 5km race and aims to tackle the Half marathon (21kms) in 2019.
She cautions young female lawyers who want to join her in the world of entrepreneurial law to guard their brand. “This business places high value on goodwill. A great work ethic, good client relations, respect to colleagues & success at Court all impact how people perceive you. You are your brand! Moreover, I believe in setting goals for yourself. Five and ten-year plans are a great start! ln the not so distant future, I would like to join the bench as a Judge. That’s why I need to start laying the groundwork to God willingly reach that goal.”