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Dr. Luis Franceschi promoted to Associate Professor

Prof. Luis Franceschi (left) with David Maraga, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya at the launch of ‘The Constitution of Kenya: A Commentary’ (2nd Edition).

The 17th John H. Jackson Moot Court on World Trade Organisation (WTO) Law win in Geneva by the Strathmore Law School student trio caught the country’s attention and catapulted the Law School into the limelight. But behind this win have been other wins and also losses at various moot competitions. Prof. Luis Franceschi has felt the taste of both. Being the founding Dean of the School, he has seen it grow from a department made up of three employees to one that boasts of students making great strides in the legal space and of the best lecturers nurtured at top schools: Harvard, Cornell and Duke.

“We give a lot of importance to things that happen outside the classroom: the students take part in clinicals, some in Kibera, publish papers in the student-run Strathmore Law Review, and take part in moot courts. Because the students invest a lot of time for these activities, we have found a way to give them credit hours for their work. The students who won the John Jackson moot competition spent seven to eight months preparing for it. I can’t teach them trade law; they know it all.”

Beginnings of the Law School

The beginnings of Strathmore Law School go back to 2004 when the university held an ethics conference. “We had about 500 senior lawyers on campus. They put across the idea that we needed a new generation Law School, one that would take better care of the lawyer as a person; not only their knowledge but their dignity as a human being.”

This idea that was planted grew when in 2009 Prof. Patricia Kamere-Mbote came to the university for her sabbatical. “She did great work putting a curriculum together that would help start what would be the future Law School. I then become the Dean and I found myself in education, an area I had not ventured into before. But it was exciting because it was a new challenge.”

And so Strathmore Law School began with three staff members: Prof. Franceschi, and two students at the time, Jack Owino and George Kimotho.

The trio did the groundwork of staffing the department. “We had a little office in the Student Centre in 2011. On April 28, 2012, we launched the Law School. It was among the first law schools to be fully accredited by the Council of Legal Education.”

Pilot Laptop Project

The success of the law school can be credited to what Prof. Franceschi terms as “apps”. Using the mobile phone as an analogy, he explains, “The design of the school was like a mobile phone: we had good lecturers, facilities, and curriculum. What was needed were the applications to make it usable.  Those applications – laptops, international academic trips and faculty – are what made law attractive.”

The law school introduced the laptop project which would be used as the pilot project for the entire university. “We also started the international academic trips as part of the Public International Law subject.”

Following the model of the Strathmore University Business School, professors from prestigious universities such as Harvard University, Oxford University, New York University, and the University of Notre Dame would teach a modular course giving the students an ‘international experience in a local setting’.

“I think that is why the students have so much fun. They are now on long holidays but they keep coming to the university. You will find 10, 15, or 50 of them here at any one time. I never ever went to university during the holiday period. It never crossed my mind to go to campus, unless there was an exam or a supplementary.”

Prof. Franceschi, who writes a weekly column on law and leadership, for the Daily Nation, is easily identified with the Law School. But what did he do prior to joining? “I did plenty of consultancies. I also worked for the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) as the legal advisor to the President of the Governing Council. I currently sit on a number of boards of public and private institutions.”

Launch of ‘The Constitution of Kenya: A Commentary’

The recent launch of the second edition of the book he co-authored with Prof. PLO Lumumba, ‘The Constitution of Kenya: A Commentary’, crowned his literary work. In 2014, Prof. Franceschi and Prof. Lumumba sought to provide a pioneering and important guide to understanding the Constitution through the first edition of the book.

“The constitution was passed in 2010 and in 2014 we published the first edition. We wanted to make it easier for students, lecturers, judges, and practitioners to understand the origin, the constitutional thought and reasoning behind the articles that were passed in 2010.”

Becoming an Associate Professor

Now an Associate Professor, Prof. Franceschi holds a Bachelor of Laws from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, a Master of Laws from University of Nairobi and a Doctoral Degree from Navarre University.  “A time came in 2018 when everyone was calling me professor; and I said now is the time to apply. I was appointed a Senior Lecturer in 2012 so by 2015 I could have been a professor. Perhaps it was my fault it delayed because I had the publications, but I never really made the application. One, because I did not want to be the only professor in the law school and second, because, being a new law school, professorship is peer given.”

One among ten siblings, he credits the values he has acquired to his parents. “My father was an important general in the army and my mother was a bank director. She had the money and he had the power; she knew how to handle the situation gracefully. I think it is from them that we learnt the beauty of responsibility and education.”

 Plans for Sabbatical

Prof. Franceschi is due to go on sabbatical with effect from July 1, 2019. He has been admitted to Oxford University to carry out research and teach. “I leave behind a robust team which will carry the department forward. I want to focus on judicial reforms in Africa. I could also write a book drawn from the over 300 articles from my weekly column as well as continue with research and teaching at Berkeley University, Harvard University or Griffith University in Australia.”

Will he come back? “Yes. The purpose of the sabbatical is to get wider experience and to continue making a good contribution to Strathmore.”


The article was written by Wambui Gachari. 

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