What Position do you hold?
I am the managing partner at Manasses, Mwangi & Associates – MMAS
What does that entail?
It involves managing the day to day affairs of the firm and overseeing smooth running of the various departments within the firm. Managing partner is the overall head of all the departments of the Law firm. My areas of specialty are Civil and Criminal litigation, Public interest Litigation(Constitutional and public administration law) and intellectual property Rights. The latter entails, inter alia:- (Patents, Industrial designs, utility Models, technovations, trade secrets, trademarks, copy rights, sports and entertainment, etc) law.
What is the difference between a lawyer and an advocate?
A lawyer is someone who has studied the subject of law, and possesses a minimum of a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree. On the other hand, an advocate advances his studies and professional qualification by undertaking a Bar Course. He is called to the bar and he is licensed to render Legal services in exchange for consideration or remuneration. In Kenya, bar course is administered by Kenya School Law (KSL). The bar course is referred to as Advocates Training program (ATP)
How did you get here?
I resolved to be a lawyer from an early age. Partly, my resolve was fortified wind of change that was blowing across Africa in the clamour for multi-party democracy. I was inspired by the lawyers who were involved in the struggle for multi party democracy, and the agitation for respect and observance of human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Kenya. After an accelerated training for seven (7) years, I was admitted to the bar in 2010.
What academic qualifications do you hold?
I hold a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree from Kampala International University (KIU). I Also hold a diploma in legal practice (Advocates Training Program) from the Kenya School of Law.
What skillset is required for your job?
Like any other professional course, the foundation of success is intellectual abilities; one must be diligent with a keen eye for details. Courtroom advocates need to be eloquent and presentable. The brain power and the ability to construct logical, cogent and credible arguments is indispensable. One must also have the capacity to think on their feet as you may need to answer an unexpected question in court or to counter at the spur of the moment.
The training of law is an invitation to be an curious and inquisitive leaner. One must keep abreast with current affairs in and outside the law through continuous learning.
A famous Jurist once aptly, summarized the characterization of legal practice when he said:-
“The Law is a Jealous Mistress in need of Constant reminders
and re-assurances ….”
What challenges do you encounter?
In Kenya legal services are not considered essential. Many people only seek legal services when hell has broken lose or when the law require them to seek the legal service. This greatly reduces the clientele and subsequently the fees lawyers get. Sometimes it is difficult, or rather cumbersome to convince an individual that they require certain legal services when they feel that they do not need.
Sometimes the nature of our work is sensitive. The occupational hazards include bodily harm, political victimization, intimidation, threats and in extreme cases, death.
Thirdly, the market is saturated. While there are many lawyers it’s also a challenge for them to open up new frontiers of legal practice. Our society is not readily receptive to new ideas.
What would you tell a prospective job seeker who wants to be an advocate?
There is no law in class and outside of class. The law you learn at school is what you will apply when you begin your practice. So, dedicate every minute to learning and conceptualizing the principles of law. When you join practice you will only learn the methods and techniques of applying the legal principles.
Start thinking and planning about your career while you are still in undergraduate school. Attune your career to both employment and as well as private practice. Balance between undertaking technical subjects and academic or theoretical subjects. At an early stage, it may prudent to seek career guidance from your lecturers, practicing advocates or even reading career guidance books, in the area of Law.
Keep abreast of what is happening in the market by reading legal publications such as journals and periodicals; subscribe to law websites and follow legal blogs
Be specific as to where you want your career to go (your specialty) and work towards this from the beginning
Avoid being a classroom student. Work towards being visible to clients and other members of your profession to be. They may end up giving you work, giving you a good reference or even guiding you. You could achieve that by:
– attending and sitting court proceedings in open court ,offering voluntary services to established law firms or legal institutes such as being sent to different registries, assisting handling bulky cases among others.
It is in doing the above that you build experience and confidence, you get noticed.
What have you learned about life, education and career?
In life, I have come to learn that: In Life You do not get what you deserve, you get what you bargain for. My guiding star is Ecclesiastes 9:10 and 11. The good book commands us to make good use of the time and the chances we have in life; and to do well, what we undertake to do. For there is no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom in the grave.
Always strive to excel.