Bay beauty climbs ladder of success

Gillian McAinsh

MARCH will be memorable for former The Herald Miss Port Elizabeth Di-Anne Qoto. She started off the month with a promotion to director at legal firm BLC and will end it in style with an Easter weekend wedding. Qoto is one of seven directors at BLC (formerly Loon and Connellan) in Cape Road where four of the directors are women – Sonja Tifloen, Lizelle Oosthuizen, Karen Lee and Qoto.

Her fiancé, Zingisa January, also studied law and is a legal advisor at Sasol Mining in Secunda but a move to the small town is not immediately on the cards for the polished Qoto.

” I can’t see myself there …there is nothing there, not even a mall, and everybody is in Sasol overalls!” she said in an interview last week, hoping to remain in Port Elizabeth until the two of them can “compromise”.

Qoto also has many plans in the pipeline for BLC, such as strengthening the firm’s social responsibility initiatives.

“I really would like to make a difference in my work, there is a huge need out there and people want to help but they just do not know how to.”

In her year as Miss Port Elizabeth 2009, Qoto worked with Reach for a Dream, which helps fulfil the dreams of children living with a life-threatening or life-affecting illness. However, she is also hands-on when it comes to the activities of the Port Elizabeth NGO Nankumtwana, an educational outreach which sponsors children with school assistance.

“You need to be involved, and you need to give back,” she said, and was thrilled when her Grade 10 protégée was chosen to write the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls examination earlier this month (she has not yet heard if she has been selected).

When she was still at school herself, Qoto had no idea law was such a wide field: “I always thought it was about making a lot of money, and saying ‘objection!’ in court, but it is a service to the community.

“You need to serve your clients in any way you can, treat them all with dignity and the same way, whether it is a big corporation or a client who walks in off the street.”

She advises wannabe lawyers to research the field before they enrol for studies “because a career is a lifetime decision – and you have to love your job”.

Based in litigation, she works extensively with mediation and conciliation, generally with the aim of keeping clients out of the court room: “You don’t really want to go to court because it will cost your client a lot of money. Will it be worth it? You don’t want to go to court for R25000 because you want to get your client’s money back without it costing them that much in legal fees.” Since being made a director she also is branching out into new directions, such as medical protection.

Being made a director of BLC, which has a staff of 60, at the age of 27 is a fast-track to success, but Qoto is extremely focused. She did her articles in 2009, was admitted as an attorney in 2011 and was made an associate in 2012.

“BLC is investing in new blood. They look at the income you bring in and they look at your potential to grow. They need to look at someone who can potentially manage the firm in the long run, so you have to have those qualities.”

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