Senior Associate, Hogan Lovells Attorneys
Megan Nicholas was raised on a sugarcane farm in Northern KwaZulu-Natal and from a fairly early age was exceptionally opinionated. Her grandfather realised that she could argue herself out of the most untenable situations, and although her parents attempted to write it off as backchat, he decided to cultivate her natural gift by giving her books about oppression, feminism, history and law.
While they may not have been the most suitable books for an eight-year-old, the books heightened Nicholas’s interest in the economic emancipation of people through legislative and judicial means.
“My father is a high school history teacher and his explanations of the Codesa process furthered my interest in understanding how divergent interests are aligned through negotiation and cleverly drafted legislation to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome,” she explains. “After obtaining my law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, my thirst for understanding this concept was not satisfied and I pursued a master’s in labour law to gain an understanding of the economic oppression that plagues South Africa in my generation.”
Nicholas is a Senior Associate at Hogan Lovells Attorneys, and is a legal fixer for mining companies, providing solutions and avoidance strategies for the inevitable legal compliance issues which arise as part of mining operations including labour, health and safety, the environment and the broader regulatory framework. “Initially my interest in mining was sparked during my research for my MA by insights into labour unrest and its impact on the economy.
In practice for a large law firm, I found that passion for empowering the victims of generational poverty does not necessarily correlate with the instructions we receive. That being said, it also provided me with a vital understanding of the amazing work our clients do for the community, the greed of those supposedly representing the previously disadvantaged, unionised corruption, and the aftershocks of the past that individuals living and working within these mining communities grapple with every day.” As a young, coloured, female attorney working not only within the male-dominated legal field but also specialising in mining, Nicholas’s greatest challenge is proving her skills and capability of fulfilling her role to a generation with preconceived notions of her intellectual capacity. “The top 10 law firms in the country do not court mediocre academic performance and even if it is your intention to go into a smaller firm, you will be your clients’ only hope and will have to understand every element of the law as it pertains to them,” she says.
“This requires the highest degree of commitment and dedication. The law is fluid, it’s your perspective that gives it meaning, and you have to cultivate your imagination while being cognisant of all the legal limitations to yourself and your client. It is one of the most challenging careers one can select, but it can also be the most rewarding.”
— Kerry Haggard