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Home Africa Exclusive: Inside The Murky, Stressful Life Of Law Pupils In Kenya
Africa - Careers - January 10, 2019

Exclusive: Inside The Murky, Stressful Life Of Law Pupils In Kenya

Sexual harassment, low salaries, and long working hours make this the hardest phase of a lawyer in Kenya.

NAIROBI (Blacquire) – They keep seeking help from the Law Society of Kenya, the body that should fight for the rights of its members. Climbing the ladder is tough. You get a choice to compromise your morals or face the most trying moments of your career. Who do you turn to? Those at the helm are the same abusers that make your life a miserable hell. Welcome to the first feature on the life of law pupils in Kenya.

Law Pupillage

Law pupillage is a tough phase. After four years in college to get your law degree in Kenya, most proceed to the Kenya School of Law. Life quickly turns from the naivety and false expectations that many young students have at the start. They realize that to make it in this world, they have to read. A lot.

A year spent at the Kenya School of Law (KSL) flies by and ends. Only if you pass your exams. Then comes the most trying time of them all. Before admission to the bar, a student in law has to spend nine months in pupillage. As is common practice in most careers, you have to work under a senior member of the profession. In this case, students work under a senior advocate.

Abuse and Poor Pay

Armed with hope and expectation for a fantastic time, pupils meet their hell. It’s common to find a senior advocate who is bent on making your life difficult. Their reason? Toughen you for the legal field. They say law needs tough nuts. However, if you are a young woman, it gets worse. Sexual abuse and harassment is the order of the day. In the course of all this, the pay is not the most lucrative. You find yourself in a scorching crucible. Many do not make it.

A Cry For Help

We decided to write this article after reading a tweet from a concerned Kenyan.

Law Pupils Respond

User 1

This foolishness must end unfortunately nope! It’s coz of such behaviours that bullying will never end! Started right from school and carried forward to the market place! Everyone trying to bully coz they too were bullied!

User 2

I am currently undertaking my pupilage (week 1). I will not lie the Advocate I’m working for is humane in terms of character & behavior. But like any other student, my problem is working without pay, just an allowance & how you’re used. You are the office messenger. If someone has to go to Court, it’s you. Serving people it’s you. If something urgent has come up and someone needs to leave the office, it’s still the student. I can’t wait to get this over & done with. I’m doing it for the sake of school

User 3

I was there for a record 14 days. I never went back. He is verbally abusive, the wife who is also a partner is no better. To make it worse, the senior employers who are in charge of Juniors are so horrendous.

User 4

Ndio naona! The profession is definitely a scam. It’s comforting to know we aren’t the only victims but at the same time I hope we do better when we get to SC/employer level. Because something’s gotta give!!

User 5

So last year, we report for pupillage after receiving a call from the firm to start. Upon arrival, they say they’re conducting another interview as they couldn’t handle the number. A few days later they call me confirming that I was the chosen one… they never saw me again!

User 6

You’re right young professionals need to come together and protect our interests because i feel that this problem cuts across most corporate sectors.. they do most of the work for peanut pay.. and poor working conditions

It’s more common than we thought

User 7

SIS! last year I quit my job for this reason. If it’s not delayed salary payments, it’s sexual harassment from the senior partners. We all know the kind of boss the late SC Mutula Kilonzo was. And then some female bosses are just poisonous, throwing files at associates etc.

User 8

The male bosses very entitled over ladies with the mentality “Am the boss”, Some females too are dangerous

User 9

There’s one I worked at, the gf fired me cause I went to get water and apparently every time I’d go the boss was around, hence I was tempting him
The office politics in those offices!! If you gathered you’d be summoned for inciting gossip

User 10

I can never work in a law firm again. That space nearly had me enter into depression for sure.

User 11

I can relate so bad. My pupillage experience nearly broke me down mentally. Like I literally dreaded Mondays. Poor pay, intimidation, sexual harassment, overworking..

User 12

A colleague came to me crying that the pupil master had terminated her pupillage contract simply because she couldn’t agree to meet him in his hotel room at 11pm on a Friday.

The Pattern

It is clear that there is a pattern in all these. Unfortunately, women shared 90% of these cases. Over the years, those in positions of power within the legal field have fed the systemic manipulation and harassment of young professionals. Their argument is that if it happened to them, it should also happen to the newbies. But must it be like this?

2 Comments

  1. It’s unfortunate most of us pass through the same ordeal pupillage to me was a nightmare the pay not only little but I wasn’t paid on time to make it all worse I was given a petty cash book hahaha to write all my expenses that I a crude yet still I wasn’t paid. Its unfortunate that you can’t report this because who will believe you without evidence to make it worse if you ever fail CLE Exams you may be admitted quit late because all the time you have a retake you keep wondering how you can fail one paper three times yet unless you have a court Order you can’t see your results. We need a forum to speak up to barn this law firms from accepting students

  2. “KSL, CLE and law firms” hell is empty and all devils are here. You could die from depression and hopelessness from encountering this trio

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