A conversation with Daniel Gasaatura on his legal journey and tips on a career in law

Q- Tell us about yourself, where you studied and what you do

A- My name is Daniel Gasaatura, I am a Senior Associate with Trust Law Chambers, a Corporate Commercial Law firm in Kigali Rwanda. I studied my LLB at Uganda Christian University and hold a Msc. Law and Finance from Queen Mary University London. I also have a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Institute of Legal Practice and Development in Rwanda.

Q- What made you want to be a lawyer?

A- Law is one of those courses that opens you up to a multitude of opportunities. Initially, I wanted to be a diplomat and joined law school as the avenue for that, but as soon as I joined law school, I realised that I found the commercial courses way more interesting and appealing.

Q- Why did you pursue a masters and how did you go about choosing your course? Would you recommend it to our members?

A- I pursued a masters because after 4 years on the job, I was certain of what I wanted to do, but did not have the skills and knowledge required. I had worked in a corporate law firm and in a telecom company and felt that in order to give sound commercial and corporate law advice, I had to understand finance, accounting and law. This led me to search for a course that would have a mix of these, hence a Master of Science in Finance and Law.

After my masters, I was able to return to the firm where I started as a much more enlightened advisor. I still have a long way to go, and still learning every day, but the Masters really changed the type of advice I give. It is no longer myopic focusing only on the law, but I try to give the best legal advice that still ensures profitability for a client at the end of the day.

Q- How did you find the Chevening application process and what benefit was the scholarship?

A- I was introduced to the Chevening scholarship by a colleague in the firm who had just returned from his masters, when I joined in May 2013. From that time, I kept it in mind until I felt it was the right time. Every year I checked to see if the requirements had changed, and by the time I applied, I had all the requirements and just left the rest to God. (Yeah, I believe He played a BIG part in that!)

The scholarship was everything; I would not have been able to do my Masters for a number of years if it were not for Chevening.

Q- What are your top tips for making a Chevening application standout?

A- I believe it is about showing a specific problem in your community, and how the course you have chosen will enable you to be a solution to that problem. The more specific you are, the better for your application.

Q- What area of law do you specialise in, how and why did you choose this area?

A- Currently, I practice Tax Law, Banking and Finance, Capital Markets as well as Construction Law. I also do quite a bit of labour and general corporate law practice.

Due to my training in Finance and Law, I am able to practice in a wide range of specialties where these two meet. I also have a training on FIDIC (Construction Law Contracts) from the East African Law Society Academy, which has enabled me to advise on a number of construction projects.

Q- In your opinion, what makes an exceptional lawyer?

A- Details and Research.

The little things that you know, or the little things you miss while advising a client, make a great difference.

Q- Do you prefer working in-house or in a law firm? What are the differences?

A- I have personally had the privilege to work at both and decided that I prefer a law firm. The major difference for me is the dynamism of a law-firm as opposed to in-house. Firms ‘usually’ have different unknown commercial and legal cases and challenges each day, while in-house work can be less dynamic. Basically if you prefer predictability and order, in-house work may be for you. Regardless of this though, working as a both an in-house or external lawyer is a lot of work, and one just has to know where they fit best.

Q- What advice would you give to your younger self before starting your undergraduate studies?

A- Law is complimentary, every law is built upon another subject. So study the underlying subject and not just the law governing that area. For example, study the principles of tax, environment, finance etc and you’ll be a better tax, environment or finance lawyer.

Q- What advice would you give to our members applying for internships?

A- Don’t be afraid to knock and walk in. Eventually, a door will open.

Q- What advice do you have for our members who are going to start the post-graduate in legal practice?

A- This is the last hurdle, you’ve handled everything else and you’ll handle this as well. Believe in yourself even when it gets overwhelming.

Q- What is your best networking tip?

A- You never know when someone will need your services. Make that awkward first step, all you need is for them to know you.

Q- Who inspires you and why?

A- I am inspired by all four (4) Partners at the firm, but I’ll point out my boss Richard Mugisha. He is so knowledgeable on so many subjects, and mixes being a Partner with sitting on the boards of the biggest companies in the country. Every time I sit with him in a meeting I am reminded of how much more I have to learn.

Q- What is your life motto?

A- Gakyali Mabaga. My motto is Gakyali Mabaga which means ‘so little done so much more to do’’ because I feel like I still have a long way to go professionally, spiritually and generally really.

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