Guest lecture by Elisha Zebedee Ongoya
An advocate of the High Court, Elisha Zebedee Ongoya and partner of Ongoya and Wambola Advocates, gave a talk on The Legal Profession in Kenya to the first-year Strathmore Law Students on 11 August 2020. The aim of the talk was to highlight the legal profession in the education system, its career choices, regulations, and ethical and practical guidelines that help students in the profession.
From the talk, we learnt that as aspiring lawyers, we should learn to be curious. The reasoning behind this is that curiosity leads to the acquisition of knowledge which is necessary for one to understand the cardinal logic in everything. Once we learn to question any assumption, we give ourselves a chance to learn something every day and deepen our understanding not only in areas that are related to the law but also in other areas that help us view situations from different points of view. Although being inquisitive is a fundamental habit that needs to be developed with time, Mr. Ongoya added with emphasis that one must always keep in mind that when questioning existing assumptions, they should not do so with the motive of displacing them but with the intention to understand them better.
Corruption is a choice
He spoke about how corruption can be overcome by the fact that it is a choice that one makes, and how we can deal with it. He stated that as lawyers, being forthright is a principle we should all uphold throughout our profession. He narrated an instance where our own Dr. John Ambani was arrested along the Prestige Plaza on his way to Catholic University. This was because of placing the duplicate of his insurance sticker on his car’s windscreen in place of the original. The police initiated legal action to be taken against him. He was taken to the Kibera courts where the case took four months and, in the end, the court ruled in favour. The court stated that the duplicate and original both play the same role. This is when Mr. Ambani and Mr. Ongoya made a pact to forever uphold the rule of law with the utmost integrity. This goes to show the importance of upholding our moral standing in society when it comes to matters dealing with corruption.
The legal profession is a very wide and constantly developing occupation. To begin with, it is a career that roots its origin in the past which is an essential ingredient in understanding and practicing it. Its prestige is also dependent on the knowledge of the past which opens the doors to the present and future. Without knowledge, how can one connect the past to the present to protect the unforeseen future? It is simply not possible and that is why those who choose the legal profession should accept the reality that for them to be trusted as doctors of the law, they must be well informed.
Every student took home more than they expected to learn but the points that stood out for us as budding lawyers were how we can curb corruption and how the acquisition of knowledge is the heart of the legal profession. Being upright earns us as lawyers the prestige that walks with us throughout our lifetime. What better way to uphold this than shunning corruption? It can start with the protection of funds within our institutions or ensuring candid individuals sit in the top seats of our offices. As an upcoming lawyer, the little you do is what amounts to the difference the future holds for generations to come.
This article was written by Rose Muoma and Adelaide Wanjiru.