Lerisha Naidu, Partner in the Competition and Antitrust Practice at Baker McKenzie in Johannesburg, has been listed in Mail & Guardian’s (M&G) Top 200 Young South Africans 2019 in the Justice and Law category. The list is published annually and comprises 200 exceptional young South Africans who are shaping the future of the country.

As a lawyer in a democratic dispensation that is comparatively young, Lerisha says she has been privileged to engage in pioneering and precedent-setting legal cases.

“This is particularly the case as a competition lawyer, where the layers of jurisprudence are still  forming. Competition law, for me, is at the forefront of the national transformative project - it is core to the health of the economy and to the everyday consumer, whose socio-economic rights are of paramount importance in a deeply unequal society.  No matter the side that one represents in a case, the contribution is always to the outcome that the law seeks to achieve,” she says.

In her role as a Competition lawyer, Lerisha advises and represents international and domestic clients in mergers and acquisitions, prohibited practices (including cartel-related matters), and compliance and risk mitigation. She has appeared before the Competition Tribunal of South Africa in merger proceedings, and has also worked on matters relating to clients involved in Tribunal proceedings. She has acted in a number of high-profile matters involving industry-wide and global cartels, interim relief applications, contested mergers and dawn raids. She has also participated in a number of compliance initiatives, including training sessions for firms' employees related to competition risk mitigation.

Lerisha grew up in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), and achieved her legal degree cum laude from KZN University. She commenced her career as a legal researcher to Dikgang Moseneke, the-then Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court.  She describes the experience under the esteemed Judge's tutelage and mentorship as a profound honour.  Towards the end of her research internship at the Constitutional Court, Lerisha sought the guidance of both Moseneke and Yvonne Mokgoro, who also sat as a judge of the Constitutional Court at the time because was concerned about doing her articles at a corporate firm.  She was advised that having a social conscience did not automatically mean taking on a role in a non-profit - on the contrary -  having a social conscience in corporate South Africa was integral to the industry's transformative project.  It was against the background of this advice that Lerisha commenced a career in corporate law.

Since then, Lerisha has been employed at one of South Africa's largest law firms as an associate before moving to Baker McKenzie.  Within a few years of being at the global law firm, she was recommended for promotion to partner, one of the youngest partners to be appointed at the firm.  Since then, she has also been elected to head the Johannesburg office's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and invited to participate in Baker McKenzie’s global LIFT programme for high performing women partners. Lerisha was recently named as a Next Generation Lawyer in the Legal 500 Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Guide, as we as being listed as Up and Coming in Competition Law  in the Chambers Global Guide 2019.

Lerisha is a small claims commissioner and devotes time to this on a pro bono basis.  She also acts on various pro bono cases including one on behalf of Johannesburg Pride, who has been admitted as a friend of the court in the case between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Afriforum (relating to the display of the old South African Flag). Lerisha has worked a pro bono projects involving refugee rights issues and has contributed voluntarily to the work of Corruption Watch.  She has been involved in career guidance projects to inspire high school students interested in a career in law.  She acts as a mentor to lawyers and aspirant lawyers alike.  She has also been involved in corporate social responsibility projects for the firm.

““I am passionate about being part of an organisation in which I can participate in the mentorship and empowerment of junior lawyers, who in turn, are paying those efforts forward. Change takes place, not overnight, but through the incremental contributions of the collective.  Diversity, inclusion and transformation are part of a collective discourse, not just one for those that are or consider themselves to be on the fringes. I am proud to be part of the firm that takes this extremely seriously,” she adds.

Two other Baker McKenzie lawyers in Johannesburg, Bridgett Majola (senior associate) and Itumeleng Mukhovha (associate)  have also been included on the list of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200  Young South Africans in recent years. Bridgett made the list in 2014 and Itumeleng was included on the list in 2018.

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