Law School and the Legal System: Professor Patricia Kameri-Mbote
A quick introduction of Professor Patricia Kameri-Mbote by Mr Mukuki left most of us shocked and full of admiration for our guest speaker. Her accomplishments range from being a senior council, a law professor, a dean in the University of Nairobi law school, a founding research director of the International Environment Law Research Centre (IELRC) and various academic achievements such as graduating from the University of Stanford for her doctorate in property rights and environmental law. She had initially studied in Nairobi, Warwick, and Zimbabwe. As a renowned innovative thinker and researcher, we paid keen attention to the lecture to get the best from the best. This article will offer a glimpse of the lecture by looking into the history of the legal system, some key lessons, and takeaways.
The history of the legal system in Kenya is a crucial topic for all law students and we were privileged to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Professor Kameri-Mbote, having practised law for quite some time, explained to us the history of the legal practice and its growth in Kenya. It can be traced back to our colonial masters who used the Indians to establish the legal practice in East Africa where we had the University of Dar-es-salaam being the only university that offered law.
Growth of the legal practice
Professor Patricia went on to emphasize this immense growth that the Legal practice has undergone from when the law was learned through Apprenticeship as suggested by Lord Denning’s committee of 1961. From her account, working under an established legal practitioner came with its benefits; however, it limited them to jobs such as clerking and secretarial roles in courts and their choices were limited to those of their mentors. Interestingly, when the University of East African became three separate universities in 1971, Kenya sought to change the law curriculum which would offer students an all-rounded experience.
Despite the positive changes the legal practice has gone through, there have been numerous challenges. For instance, Professor Patricia referred to an article by the former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga who stated that some things from the colonial era are still adhered to such as the “Wig” worn by judges. Therefore, these conflicting issues require more cognitive skills that will help us tackle current challenges.
It calls for passion and consciousness
Professor Kameri-Mbote also emphasized the importance of studying law for ourselves. She correlated studying law and passion and how the latter is the drive. The opportunities that law school opens for students like us are immense and this just goes to show how important it is to not limit yourself and venture into your own space. Through her own story, we got to see the hurdles she had to go through having come from a humble background, and how she never let her gender limit her from aiming for the best. Her account of success is credited to the sacrifices she has had to make over time.
She went further to tell us how this career requires a high degree of consciousness. Therefore, our conduct and ethical manners are heightened as lawyers since we are called to a higher standard. On top of this, the professor emphasized the essence of having soft skills such as critical thinking, etiquette, and knowledge. With these skills, lawyers can understand their clients and empathize with them more. Lawyers, being the social engineers in our societies, require these people skills in abundance.
It is no surprise that as first years we are excited, curious, and frightened. The professor took it upon herself to prepare us mentally on how demanding first year is and we can attest to that so far. The drastic change from high school is one that cannot be ignored. But one that every student should be aware of and be ready to overcome. The benefits in these 4 years are immense and she assured us that it is all for a greater purpose. From knowledge to problem-solving skills and values to leadership positions, it is a process that cannot be disputed.
In short, the lesson was mind-blowing for all of us. We left the lecture with sheer determination to face this law school journey and impact the society at large. In general, Law school achieves excellence with a clear mission, plan, capacity, and willingness to excel.
This article was written by Joyce Karimi and Tabitha Munyaka, 1st Year Law students.
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