Redefining the Legal Practice Landscape in the Region: East Africa Law Society from the Lens of an Insider
by Hanningtone Amol
There is a certainly a wave of change blowing across the legal profession in the region. Driven by digitization and regional policies, the conduct of commerce in the region continues to go borderless each day. Aided by modern technologies, what was previously “virtual” is now tactile and real. It is now quite possible to safely execute a multi-million dollar transaction with a client in another continent without stepping out of your office. Globalization calls upon lawyers to adapt to new ways of doing business. Those who embrace the new trends will flourish while those who remain inflexible will fade into oblivion. Globalization has taken competition to a new level.
This discourse is a caution against inflexible bureaucracies classical lawyers revere. The advantages of globalization are infinite. Many enterprises are now leveraging technology and globalization to attract business. A lawyer who embraces globalization necessarily expands his practice beyond the state borders. He is positioned to exploit cross-border links, integrated global economy, and international human networks.
In anticipation of and alive to the need for East African lawyers to operate beyond their borders, the East Africa Law Society has pioneered several innovative member-focused products aiming to spur competitiveness of East African lawyers. The products include business and personal support initiatives as well as professional development opportunities.
To start with, the East Africa Law Society Skill(s) Listing is a directory with no equal. The directory list members, not only by address of business but also by their set of skills, including listing of individuals within law firms. It places our members above their peers and shows the world what they are best at. The directory will be available to members both digitally (online) and in print format. By having a feature for account creation, listed members and law firms will have in their hands the power to update their profiles and manage their accounts from the comfort of their offices/homes.
We have also developed the EALS App in order to provide East African lawyers with an opportunity to access EALS digital content and communicate with the secretariat remotely. Members will also have the ability to create their profile, upload photos and update their accounts, among other features.
Standing out in the revolution is the new EALS + Affinity card. This product serves dual purposes – identification as well as reward card. Inside the card, which is chip-embedded and is issued on MasterCard platform are various discounts wallets for members’ comfort and experience. Members will access exclusive on retail shopping, at pump stations, with global airlines, hotels, medical care and other purchases. The card is a sure source of prestige among lawyers in East Africa.
We are also on course to producing the first edition of the periodic African Journal on Law and Governance. This journal is focused on developing legal scholarship on various areas of practice and governance. Backed by a board of eminent citizens of the region, the journal is poised to place East African legal community on the global map. It is based on open access on a dedicated webpage and shall only entertain highly researched publications.
To help East African advocates practice and access clients beyond their boundaries, the East Africa Law Society facilitated the negotiation of the “Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA)”. This agreement will allow for cross-border legal practice as provided for under the EAC common Market Protocol. This will facilitate growth of cross-border partnerships among lawyers in the region.
Noting the central role of continuous professional development, we have designed bespoke trainings for our members, most of which is available on free access basis. The East Africa Law Society Lecture Series Program is one such initiative. The inaugural lecture titled “A to Z of Complex Cross-Border Commercial Transactions” took place in Kigali in November 2017 and was delivered by Philip Coulson of Bowmans Kenya. Additional lectures have taken place in Kisumu (Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Legal Profession – Alice Namuli), Nairobi (the Future of the East African Community – Prof. Edward Ssempebwa), and Arusha (A to Z of International Arbitration – Thierry Ngoga), all in February 2018. The series is set to be more exciting as we roll out further lectures across East Africa.
Africa Legal Support Facility Academy
The Africa Legal Support Facility Academy (the ALSF Academy) was unveiled by H.E. President Yoweri Museveni in November 2017 during the 22nd EALS Annual Conference. The partnership with Africa Legal Support Facility is designed to offer competitive and world class training to members in the emerging areas like oil and gas, complex contracts, construction and international finance. The Academy is supported by our homegrown EALS Institute, the research and consultancy arm of EALS. The institute provides onsite and online training services for East African Lawyers and is also the regional good governance, rule of law and regional integration think tank, providing solutions to East Africa’s governance challenges.
In promoting members’ welfare in the face of globalization, we have designed insurance products which go beyond borders. These are aimed at supporting members’ enterprises and personal positions as they go about day to day management of their trade.
By access and enjoyment of these services, East Africa lawyers will not only be competitive out there, they will elevate their practice beyond their national boundaries. They will be able to enjoy through the support of the East Africa Law Society, the fruits that globalization brings to legal practice. They will access, retain and satisfactorily meet the needs of clients from any corner of the world.