The Uganda Law Society on Friday held its second virtual session of the Young Lawyers Mentorship Series on the topic, ‘Establishing yourself in the Legal Profession.’ The session featured Mr. Sim Katende, a partner at Katende Ssempebwa & Co. Advocates, (KATS) one of the oldest and most established law firms in Uganda as the guest speaker.
According to Mr Katende, the first step towards a lawyer establishing his or herself is to determine what their idea of success is and then work towards achieving it. For example, to him success is being able to do what you want and how you want to do it.
‘’ Unless you know what your definition of an established lawyer is, you’ll never get there.’’ He said.
Mr. Katende further stresses the need to distinguish oneself at job interviews by showing potential employers the value one will add to the organisation. Asking yourself questions like, ‘’if I were the one on the panel, is this what I’d like to hear?’’ ‘’Am I telling the panel what value I can add?’’ can go a long way to help.
Sim Katende, who heads the Corporate and Commercial Department at Katende Ssempebwa also encourages young lawyers to spend at least the first two years of their legal practice working for someone else so as to gain practical experience. He urges them to endeavor to learn their job description at the work place which according to him, is simply ‘’to make your boss look good.’’
You must learn to learn how to ‘’manage your boss’’ by anticipating what they need and saving them the trouble of looking for you to get it done, Mr. Sim said. Always ask your superiors what they would like you to do instead of assuming. Ask yourself these three fundamental questions;
‘’ Am I showing them a way to make more money, to cut their costs or to be promoted?’
The distinguished lawyer also urges young lawyers to strive to be either ‘intelligent and hardworking’ or ‘intelligent and lazy’, the latter being people who are intelligent but seek to have things done quickly and therefore find quick but smart solutions.
According to him, this could be achieved through having a ‘to-solve list’ rather than a ‘to-do list.’ He opined that networking- a key ingredient to establish oneself in the profession is more than just knowing people as many believe but rather doing something with the people you know.
‘When you are put in a room with a decision maker, do you have something valuable to say?’’ Availability, affability and ability are key ingredients clients desire in lawyers.
On the question of whether or not to specialise, Mr. Sim Katende encourages young lawyers to avoid specialization as the Ugandan market isn’t yet big enough. However, he did mention that if one was really interested in specialization, this could be in terms of either litigation or non-litigation or partnering with someone who likes the areas one may not be interested in.
Mr. Katende has practiced law not only in Uganda but also in South Africa and the U.S He also stresses the importance of undertaking the bar course since it’s a requirement most law firms and organisations seek while hiring employees.