Sharon is an attorney with ten years’ experience and is currently a partner with leading Zimbabwean law firm, Mawere Sibanda Commercial Lawyers, where she advises financial institutions and corporates in their commercial transactions. Sharon has a fierce passion for the mental and societal emancipation of women & girls and the shattering of glass ceilings in all spheres. Within her work and beyond, she initiates and participates in programs aimed at advancing the causes of women and girls. Sharon sits on the board of the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), a not-for-profit organization that champions the rights of indigent women and girls and she also chairs the board of an education trust (Tugwi Trust) whose main objectives include promoting the education of girls in rural areas. She is an active Rotarian and a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow.
What made you want to become a lawyer?
Since I was about 4 years old, I wanted to grow up to be the president. As I started high school, the long term goal didn’t change. I just discovered that most presidents and world leaders had a law background and that’s how I elected to study law – as a path to the long term goal of serving my country in public office.
Could you describe one of your typical workdays?
A typical work day is about 11 to 12 hours spent in the office chasing deadlines, reviewing or drafting hundreds of pages of contracts, case law and pleadings. Since I became a mother, I try not to take any work home but sometimes, that is unavoidable and so my work day can stretch to 15hrs or start as early as 3am.
What skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
I’m a partner in our Corporate Advisory and Banking Law practice groups. The skills required include ability to work under immense pressure, excellent communication skills (both written & spoken) keeping up with current affairs, innovation, working knowledge of clients’ business, products & objectives so that we can tailor make appropriate legal solutions for each client’s unique needs, discretion and ability to adhere to strict ethical standards in all situations.
What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
Over the years, I have managed to devise effective mechanisms to cope with most of the initial challenges (immense pressure, insufficient understanding of certain technical aspects of clients’ products and services, work-life balance etc) but one of the challenges that remains and is likely to linger still is the constant battle to thrive in a male dominated profession that, in many respects, still makes it easier for a young male lawyer to advance further and faster than a young female lawyer. Sometimes, I still feel the unspoken but certainly present pressure to have to prove my competence in a boardroom whilst observing how my male counterpart of similar experience is simply assumed to be competent. I still have to assert and claim my place in the boardrooms as a legal solution provider and not the young lady taking the minutes (which is what is usually assumed when a woman is in a boardroom with male counterparts).
What do you find most enjoyable?
I enjoy conceptualizing effective legal structures through which corporates implement projects and roll out products: working for weeks and months behind the scene and then reading the media coverage of a transaction/project/ product and thinking “I was a part of that. I found a way to make that legally possible. I got a great deal for my client.” That feeling there, that is what I find most enjoyable. At the heart of it, I suppose I take pride in being part of the progress and being part of the solutions.
Are there any negatives to your job?
There aren’t any negatives to the job itself – negatives may arise depending on how one deals with the job. Usually it’s a skewed or non- existent work life balance that plagues most corporate and commercial lawyers.
How many hours do you work in a typical week?
The law is always changing with different rulings. How do you and how much time do you spend on research of the latest “case law” or whatever else changes in the legal system?
Our firm heavily invests in electronic and online legal resources which helps a great deal to keep up with changes and updates to legal instruments and case law. The lawyers in Zimbabwe also have an active forum on social media where we share real time updates of cases and legislation so it is much easier to now keep abreast with key developments in the law.
Do you find the job pressures are too great to have the ability to balance a healthy lifestyle between pleasure and work?
In the first 4 or 5 years at least, work was pretty much all consuming as there was still much to be learnt and I was yet to figure out how to balance it all. So there was indeed a time where there was nothing healthy or balanced about my work-life scales. However, in the past few years, I have started getting closer to that elusive work-life balance and a lot of that progress has to do with longer work experience, increased efficiency, a supportive work environment, reliable house help and an incredibly understanding and supportive spouse.