Personal Finance

Reforms needed to help raise the bar in law practice

Law is wide and one can diversify rather than focusing on mainstream practice. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Law is wide and one can diversify rather than focusing on mainstream practice. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The legal sector in Kenya is undergoing a number of reforms due to a number of issues. One is the high failure rate of students who seek admission to the bar.

The high failure rate has led to an audit and investigation of the causes through a taskforce comprising some senior members of the profession.

There is very high competition in the legal services sector. The benefit of this to the public is that they have wider pool from which to choose from and furthermore, high competition means that for lawyers to survive in practice then they have to be outstanding.

Nevertheless, the level of competition has also contributed to the rise in corruption within the sector.

Lawyers regularly deal with public offices and it is rumoured that a number of law firms do bribe their way through these offices in order to meet the strict deadlines demanded by clients.

One of the key determinants that set a law firm apart from others is the pace at which it is able to deliver key documentation registered at government offices.

I believe that the introduction of some of these services through the online platform of e-citizen may lead to a reduction in corruption and opportunity for fair play in the legal services sector, such that firms will not attain competitive edge over others through using unfair trade practices like corruption.

It is known that there are a number of delaying tactics that are employed especially when it comes to litigation. In some cases, files mysteriously go missing from registries and therefore it becomes difficult for a litigant to pursue his case to the end.

Such delaying tactics may be employed by defendants who believe that the claimants would get tired of pursuing their cases and abandon the claims altogether thus denying them access to justice.

Competition can be managed through use of fair play without necessarily using unfair trade practices for example, through diversification. There are many opportunities for lawyers, other than mainstream practice. There are opportunities for consultancy, lecturing, civil service, judiciary and corporate.

Law is wide and one can diversify into new areas rather than focusing on mainstream practice. Physical diversification would also assist lawyers beat high competition in some areas. The system of devolution presents lawyers with opportunities for diversification and serving needs of counties.

Specialisation would also assist in managing competition. There are some subjects of law that have little presence of qualified lawyers and if a lawyer attains the necessary qualification then he can practice in this discipline of law.

This is the current global trend where there is a shift from mainstream law, to specialised disciplines. In more developed jurisdictions, there are specialist bars, where one can gain membership on proof of qualification.

The benefit of joining a specialist bar is the prestige it accords a lawyer and it is a tool that can be used to attain competitive edge.

The LSK elections are soon coming up, where members are going to be electing a new chairperson amongst other officials. These are some of the issues contenders in the elections are addressing and a lot of them are taking a reformist approach.