Hans Jurie Zietsman studied law at the University of Pretoria and obtained his LLB in 2006. He was admitted to the High Court of South Africa as attorney and conveyancer in 2007. He practiced law in Pretoria from 2007 until May 2009 at the firm Ross & Jacobsz.
Zietsman joined Foster Wheeler in 2009 in their Contracts department. He was promoted to Legal Counsel in August 2013 and assigned to their headquarters in Reading, United Kingdom for eight months. He returned to South Africa and was promoted by Amec Foster Wheeler to Senior Legal Counsel in April 2017.
In December 2017, Zietsman joined Qatar Chemical Company as senior legal counsel.
In 2010, Zietsman obtained a Masters in ContractLaw (LLM) from the University of Pretoria and another Masters in Construction Law and Practice (LLM) from the University of Salford, United Kingdom in 2017. He is a fellow member of the Association of Arbitrators and has acted as arbitrator and adjudicator in engineering and construction disputes in his native country.
Zietsman has proven experience in engineering and construction law, compliance, export controls, antitrust law, anti-bribery and corruption law, dispute resolution, and corporate governance.
How did you get started in the law?
I attended small claims court cases that my dad presided over as a small claims judge. The cases and the law interested me, which made me decide to study law. Looking back now, it was the right decision as I enjoyed my legal studies and still enjoy working with legal concepts and finding creative solutions for the complexities of the modern world.
What inspired you to join the legal profession?
The legal profession provides diverse practice areas and is also intellectually challenging and rewarding. It offers transferable skills such as problem-solving and analytical thinking that can be used in various other parts of life. These characteristics of the legal profession inspired me to join the legal profession.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted you would be a successful attorney? If so, how did you handle that?
In the beginning, I was inexperienced and that created some doubt when facing really complex situations. I have, however, realized early on that there is no problem that cannot be resolved through adequate research and collaboration with other great minds in the legal profession.
What made you decide to become an in-house counsel, as opposed to working in legal practice?
I enjoyed working in legal practice but wanted to work closer with the business in order to help resolve legal challenges even before they arise. I left legal practice and started working in the contracts department of a multinational company that specialized in engineering and construction projects, which allowed me to work “hands-on” with contractual matters and to protect the interest of the company by working with my colleagues in resolving issues and finding solutions. I was promoted to the legal department where the practical experience I gained in the contracts department was proven invaluable in providing better knowledge and insight into the operations of a business. This helped me to better understand the needs of the company and to provide more practical and goal orientated solutions.
How has your experience overseas impacted your outlook on the world?
I gained my first overseas experience when the corporation I was working for at the time, Foster Wheeler (now Wood) assigned me as Legal Counsel to its headquarters in the United Kingdom. This experience was invaluable and laid the basis for my continued involvement in international projects. When I returned to South Africa I participated in the negotiations of major FEED contracts for a project in the Middle East.
Shortly thereafter, the merger between Amec and Foster Wheeler followed. The merger expanded the company’s African footprint, which gave me exposure to a large number of other African countries, such as Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritania, Ghana, Zambia, and Ethiopia. I also worked with my legal collogues from other parts of the world. Through the exposure that I had on the international stage, I came to learn that no particular country or nationality has all the solutions to all the challenges in the world. If you want to be truly remarkable in what you do, you will have to leverage the widest possible network on the international stage.
I, therefore, expanded my network during the times I spent overseas and continue to do that on a daily basis.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last year or two?
The opportunity to work for a company in Qatar came up. I really enjoyed my work at a well-respected multinational corporation. Taking the opportunity would further have meant that I had to leave my home country. It was thus a tough decision to make. However, the chance to work for Qatar Chemical Company was a great opportunity. It would provide me with exposure to legal and compliance work in the Middle East, as the position required me to lead the compliance function as part of my role as Senior Legal Counsel. This, in addition to the fact that Qatar Chemical Company is part of a well-respected group of oil & gas and petrochemical companies.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I’m responsible for legal and compliance matters. There is no such thing as a “typical day”, as every day is different and present its own challenges. I ensure that I keep challenging myself and drive myself to greater heights by (i) setting and achieving objectives; (ii) creating timelines for myself; and (iii) measuring my performance.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I am an outdoors kind of person and therefore enjoy things like BBQ with friends and family and seawater fishing when I’m on holiday.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Diligence, dedication, and curiosity. My curiosity drives me to read increasingly more. The newly found knowledge then increases the curiosity that drives me to read even more and to reach out to my network in order to brainstorm the various new challenges that I discover through my reading.