As I write this piece, I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. Last week, I was honoured with the “Best Male First-Year” award during the CB Madan Awards, an accolade that recognizes my hard work and dedication over my first year in law school. This was a tremendous honour and as I reflect on my experience during that award, on the radiance of my parents’ smiles, I am filled with gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose. However, I am also reminded that there is still much to learn and achieve in my journey as a law student.
The C.B Madan award is presented to an individual or group who has made a significant effort to advance the cause of constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in Kenya. The prize is awarded annually by The Platform for Law, Justice and Society, in partnership with Strathmore Law School. In addition, the award ceremony incorporates the Strathmore Law School Outstanding Student Awards, in collaboration with top law firms around the country.
This year’s CB Madam award was Professor Phoebe Nyawade Okowa, a Kenyan lawyer and Professor of Public International Law and Director of Graduate Studies at Queen Mary University of London. On 12th November 2021, Professor Okowa achieved a fete that was historic as it was resounding: being elected to the International Law Commission membership by a resounding 162 votes for a five-year term, beginning on 1st January 2023 until 31 December 2027, and thereby becoming the first lady of African descent to be elected to this highly influential body. She is also a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague and has appeared as Counsel before the ICJ. Her current research explores the systemic problems of accountability involved in the use and exploitation of natural resources in conflict zones.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the CB Madan Awards is the recognition given to seniors (members of the just recently graduating class) who have excelled in their academic pursuits, particularly certain legal courses, and in extracurricular activities such as mooting, law clinic-oriented activities, etc. It is a testament to their intellectual acuity, overall performance in law school, and more importantly, the calibre of individuals passing through Strathmore Law School.
If you aspire to follow in their footsteps, as I do, then certainly the world is your oyster and so long as there is a concerted effort, there’s a high likelihood that you will one day be recognized for your achievements as well. If that is not enough, you can always work hard to win the cash prize (s) and given the capitalistic world we live in and our current economic crisis, such motivation is apposite and, I dare say, excellent. So, the point here is that: there is money at the end of the line if you’re willing to work for it, or, in general terms, there is much to be achieved.
However, beyond the accolades and awards, my mentor has taught me a valuable lesson that will stay with me throughout my career: be self-critical, always. This means constantly evaluating your own performance, seeking feedback from others, and striving to improve in all aspects of your work. It also means recognizing your own limitations and weaknesses and working to overcome them through continuous learning and growth. For example, the way you study for exams, or more precisely, the method you utilize to prepare will likely alter or evolve after you take the initiative to appraise it. This could be through an analysis of, all other facts equal, why you excelled in certain courses and failed to do well in others. Self-appraisal is a continuous process. It is an affirmation and acknowledgment of the well-known aphorism, “No one is perfect,” and I suppose this will be true for a while– at least until just before humanity develops aligned artificial general intelligence. Therefore, the sooner one is humble and open to learning from those around them, open to admitting when they lose an argument, and open to being criticized, the better for them in the long run. But of course, you have to ensure you are getting rational feedback or criticism if you are to benefit at all.
As we look into the future, we should also be excited by the possibilities that lie ahead. Every day, there are new avenues of research and study to explore and as the legal fraternity, even for the sake of intellectual curiosity, we should be eager to continue pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding in these fields. It is equally important to commit to giving back to the community through pro bono work and volunteering, using our skills and expertise to make a positive impact on the world around us. In the end, there is a good case to be made that: what matters most is not the recognition or the awards, but the knowledge and experience one gains through their journey in law school and the utilization of this knowledge to make a positive impact in the world.
As I conclude this reflection, I am reminded of a quote by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” It is a powerful reminder that the path to success is not always easy or straightforward, but requires perseverance, hard work, and a willingness to learn from our mistakes. And so, we should continue to strive for excellence in all that we do, guided by our rationality, which for the purposes of this piece, I take to mean– in accordance with reason or logic. I wish you all the very best.
Mark Lenny Muchiri Gitau
SLS Outstanding Student Awards – List of winners
Coulson Harney Best Overall Finalist – Nduta Wanjiru Muhindi
Anjarwalla & Khanna Best Overall all-round female student in the graduating class – Nduta Wanjiru Muhindi
Anjarwalla & Khanna Best Overall all-round male student in the graduating class – Ryan Wamae Mwaniki
IKM Best Male First Year – Mark Lenny Muchiri Gitau
IKM Best Female First Year – Fiona Njeri Mwaura
IKM Best Female Finalist (Highest aggregate scores) – Nduta Wanjiru Muhindi
IKM Best Male Finalist (Highest aggregate scores) – Ryan Wamae Mwaniki
Muma & Kanjama Runner-up Best Overall Finalist (2nd best overall student finalist) – Tasneem Zoher Pirbhai
KN Law LLP Commercial Prize Winner – Nduta Wanjiru Muhindi
ENSAfrica Financial Services Law Prize – Ivy Chebet Aruasa
DENTONS HH&M Taxation Law Prize – Lilian Bochaberi Onyando
DENTONS HH&M Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law Prize – Aida Muthoni Mwangi
Nyiha Mukoma Legal Business Ethics Prize – Effie Okola Odhiambo
Anjarwalla & Khanna Commercial Law Prize – Ivy Chebet Aruasa
Muma & Kanjama “Jurist of the Year” Award – Lilian Bochaberi Onyando
TripleOKLaw Mooting Award – Irene Grace Kabura Muhoro
Anjarwalla & Khanna Law Clinics Prize – Elvis Lokuyu Cosmos
TripleOKLaw Dissertation Award – Kevin Mwangi Muchiri
Muma & Kanjama Criminal Law Prize – Bridget Wangui Kihara
IKM Civil Litigation Prize – Calvin Jacob Magulumaali Mulindwa
C.B Madan Student Award Winners
Miracle Okoth Okumu Mudeyi
Teddy Tabu Odira
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