Along the corridors of the Strathmore Law School, which was formerly housed at the Oval Building ( you did not know that, did you?), Dr. Francis Kariuki, addressed as Francis in those formative years, stands as a revered lecturer among the pioneers. Merely two years into the school’s inception, he made his entrance armed with just a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and a Master of Laws degree (LL.M), both from the University of Nairobi. He then became a lecturer, teaching Succession Law and Family Law to the passionate students.
Now adorned with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), and holding the titles: Advocate of the High Court, an Mediator, and a Chartered Arbitrator, just to mention a few of his accolades, he reflects on his journey, pondering the profound impact it has had thus far.
I wanted to be a lawyer
“From my earliest years, the calling to become a lawyer was deeply rooted within me. Witnessing the hurdles my family faced as we were riddled with legal challenges and complex issues, I harbored a fervent desire to be the catalyst for change, the problem solver capable of unraveling the legal intricacies that bedeviled us.”
With that spark, Francis began the academic ladder. In high school, he enjoyed the humanities, particularly history. Transitioning to university, he chose to pursue law at the University of Nairobi, driven by a curiosity to understand how to excel in his chosen field. His interest in mediation and arbitration became particularly pronounced during this period, shaping his academic and professional trajectory.
Following the completion of his LLB, he delved into the pursuit of an LLM, of which this time, his interest in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) was slowly growing. Graduation swiftly followed. The turning of the tassel opened a wide door for him to join Strathmore University in 2014 as a lecturer – a passion he still cherishes. Embracing the Strathmore values of lifelong learning, he seized the opportunity to undertake his bar exams at Kenya School of Law, gaining admission as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. Subsequently, he pursued his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, attributing his academic climb to the support he received along the way. Adding to that, he underwent numerous training sessions to be accredited as a mediator, learning the intricacies of mediation.
“Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) represents a paradigm shift in the legal landscape, offering alternative avenues as a way to amicably resolve disputes outside the traditional courtroom setting using arbitration, mediation, and negotiation mechanisms. ADR not only proves to be cost-effective but also provides an informal framework, promoting efficiency and preserving relationships.”
Currently, Dr. Kariuki is listed as an arbitrator and mediator with Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Nairobi Centre for International Arbitration (NCIA) in Kenya, and is a member of the Strathmore Dispute Resolution Centre (SDRC) where he is actively engaged in teaching mediation to professionals seeking expertise in the field.
Leading while making an impact
“Life unfolds like a continuous cycle. There was a time when I looked up to legal professionals as I navigated my early career. Now, I find myself walking in their footsteps. Simultaneously, I have students looking up to me, following my path.
Mentorship plays a pivotal role—not only in teaching law but also in all academic disciplines and life in general—as we have great influence over students’ learning experience on campus. Guiding and supporting them in their educational and personal development contributes to their holistic development. It helps them build confidence, resilience, and a sense of direction in their academic and professional pursuits. It is a reciprocal relationship where both mentors and mentees benefit from the exchange of ideas, experiences, and insights, creating a supportive and enriching academic environment.
Witnessing the success of your students is immensely gratifying. Some have served as Graduate Assistants, and have ended up becoming legal academics in their own right, while others are making significant contributions in legal practice out there. Others have ventured into various countries for their Masters and Doctoral studies, making notable contributions to the legal field and blossoming into their best selves.”
Beyond suit and tie
Striving for excellence is not confined to suits and ties. Dr. Kariuki believes in giving his best, echoing the sentiment of Martin Luther King Jr.: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry.”
In addition to his commitment to excellence, Dr. Kariuki possesses musical prowess, excelling in playing the piano and harboring a deep fondness for classical music. This passion traces back to his primary and high school years when the late Prof. Fr. Charles Nyamiti, his music teacher, imparted knowledge and inspiration through exceptional training both in the playing of the piano and composition of classical music.
On 3rd November 2023, he won in the “ LAW TEACHER OF THE YEAR” award category at the Nairobi Legal Awards. A true testament to excellence at its best.
Article written by Jemmy Kamau
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