A conversation with Wambui G. Muigai on choosing a career in Law and advice to aspiring lawyers

Q- Tell us about yourself and educational background

A- My name is Wambui G Muigai and I am a lawyer by profession. I undertook my LLB Law Undergraduate Degree at the University of Kent, Canterbury. Thereafter I completed my LPC-LLM program at the University of Law, Manchester. I later returned home to Kenya where I undertook both the Pre-Kenya School of Law Training Program and the Advocates Training Program (Diploma) at the Kenya School of Law. I have since been admitted as an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.  I am also a Mediator and an Arbitrator (MCIArb) (UK) (Kenya) Branch.

Q- What made you want to study law?

A- The truth is, I originally had no intention of studying law, I always wanted to become a journalist because I particularly enjoy writing. However, after doing a few journalism internships I realised that what I perceived journalism to be and what it actually was in practice were two very separate and distinct things and so I abandoned the thought altogether. 

Still, an idle summer vacation was never an option afforded to me so I interned at a law firm. I remember so vividly attending my first Court proceedings. It was a Constitutional Petition and everyone from the Judge to the Advocates to the Witnesses were so engrossed in bringing clarity to the matter. I was automatically consumed by a profession that establishes the rules and regulations that simultaneously reflect and govern our societies. Also being a self proclaimed word smith I was taken by the legal jargon. Much like the law, over time what continues to draw me to the profession is ever changing and evolving, however the passion to practice the law remains constant.

Q -How did you find the legal practice course in comparison to Kenya school of law? 

A- The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is very well structured and in a manner akin to that of a University degree. The LPC has a wide array of resources, set text books, and a range of modules, majority that are mandatory but a few that are elective which is great for specialisation purposes. 

The Kenya School of Law is different in the sense that international students must first take a bridging course known as the Pre-KSL Program to enable the students to familiarise themselves with the basics of Kenyan Law which they may not have been exposed to depending on where they undertook their LLB Degree. Secondly, the Kenya system is not divided into Solicitorship and Barristorship, in fact that two are combined and practitioners are solely known as Advocates. Accordingly the Kenya School of Law strictly has mandatory modules.

Two unique modules that stand out are (1) Legal Practice Management which essentially equips students with the knowledge of how to start your own law firm including accounting etc, (2) Legal Writing and Drafting which essentially teaches students how to draft pleadings including legislation. The course equips students for work in either the private or public sector. 

I would say that while the two courses are essential, they are molded to the National practice and therefore cannot be easily compared. 

Q- How important would you say it is to gain legal experience through internships before finishing legal studies? 

A- Many students tend to do legal internships before joining university (myself included) however I don’t think that at that stage you can fully internalise and appreciate the intricacies of the law. Internships during the vacation periods of your University Degree are more prudent for the simple reason that you would have begun to put theory to practice.

Still, in my own view, internships during your University degree mirror selective pieces of an incomplete puzzle because you are still learning the fundamentals of law. Once you graduate the picture comes full circle. The internships after this point are most valuable which is why many students tend to internship/work while pursuing solicitorship or barristership or Advocateship because they have a full understanding of the law and are able to comprehensively apply it. 

Q – What area of law are you specialising in and what drew you to that particular area? 

A- I specialise in Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Tax.  I was drawn to Litigation because I enjoy the drafting of pleadings and the presentation of the same in open court. There has been a global shift towards Alternative Dispute Resolution for its considerable benefits and as a litigator I had no alternative but to get ahead if not in between the curve in adapting to resolution of disputes outside the courtroom to satisfy the emerging market. I am particularly drawn to tax law simply because it challenges me. It is a very technical area of law with a lot of cross referencing between statutes but I believe you should always push yourself past your comfort zone and in doing so I have found tax law quite rewarding. 

Q- What advice would you give to undergraduate law students who want to go on to pursue a career in law? 

A- I would definitely say that the Law is very wide but also very accomodating. The Law by its very nature is ever evolving and reflective of the Climate of the day. For this reason I would encourage students not to pigeon hole themselves too early but rather read widely and explore several different practice areas including emerging areas before selecting an area of specialisation. The market is competitive but there is always room. I believe that it is easier to do work that you are passionate about and the same shall be evident to the market once you’re in it. 

Q – What do you like to do outside of law? 

A- I particularly enjoy Literature. Plays, Poetry and Fine Arts are my favorite pastimes.

Q-What is your life motto? 

A- My motto in life is always “Remember why you started”. Infact, I have it saved as the lock screen on my phone because I quite literally live by it.  I am a true believer that if you constantly remind yourself of why you started something or why you made a particular decision, then you constantly replenish the stamina and reassurance that you need to complete whatever it is that you started regardless of the obstacles that may have arisen along the way. 

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