The Nairobi Legal Awards Trust in collaboration with LSK Nairobi Branch organised an in-house counsel webinar held in the month of June, which called on lawyers to identify their strong areas in practice and emphasised the need for them to seek to learn from lawyers that are ahead in the profession as they look towards embracing legal dynamism in in-house counsel practice.
The In-house counsel edition webinar seeks to empower the current crop of lawyers as well as the upcoming lawyers as in their journeys to determine where they fit in their career progression.
Dr Davidson Mwaisaka who heads the Legal department at the Standard Chartered Bank Kenya was one of the panellists, and he said lawyers have the privilege to work in the dynamic legal profession, which offers one the flexibility to choose to practice in the public service or corporate law. According to Mwaisaka, the idea is then to identify an area that one enjoys and consequently specialise in it, be it governance, NGO, corporate, bar or bench and excel at it.
Mwaisaka also said that it would be important for lawyers to keep learning in order to advance their profession, not only by enrolling in courses, but also identifying mentors to walk with in their practice. “We have individuals who have gone ahead of us,” said Mwaisaka, “identify these individuals with experiences and get to know what being a lawyer looks like”, he added. “In my case, one career talk when I was still at the University of Nairobi by the late Senator Mutula Kilonzo changed my life, he also became my mentor in this practice” Mwaisaka says.
Mwaisaka said the late senator taught him the importance of passion in the law, striving for excellence and being keen in identifying his strengths.
“The ability to be inquisitive and having an open mind to try new things will always be a rewarding experience”. Mwaisaka also said lawyers should not stop knocking on doors in their journey to settle at what they want to do in the wide field of law. He said he did not get discouraged in his initial stages of making applications, despite many corporate recruiters, looking for experience, which he did not have at the time.
“Eventually I was able to get an opportunity with the then Equatorial Commercial Bank, where I started my in-house practice”, says Mwaisaka, “Landing in the banking industry which is one of the heavily regulated industries in Kenya, he was lucky to find individuals who hand held him until he found his footing. He then moved on to head the legal department at the Britam Holdings Limited, where he handled mergers and acquisitions spanning through the East Africa region as well as the African continent. He eventually moved to Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Ltd, where is currently heading the legal department.
Mwaisaka was quick to note that traits a lawyer should have include humility, personal awareness, vulnerability and openness to receive feedback.
“Our ability to do the right thing, not at the exchange of anything is the ultimate calling,” noted Mwaisaka, “given that your name and values are your most valuable possessions, that cannot be traded for anything”, concluded Mwaisaka. He also called on lawyers to leverage on technology to continue learning and adding value to themselves and the spaces they find themselves.