Legal Mentorship

7 Things I Know With Certainty

Recently, I finished reading the book: What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey. The book gives insightful life lessons based on how Oprah has interacted with life. The lessons in the book inspired this article, to guide a young advocate who is uncertain of their career path. So here are the things I have realized and that you must know:

  1. Negotiating fees becomes easier with time

The art of negotiating, particularly fees, should be something taught in university. No one ever prepares you for the uncertainty surrounding how much to bill, the criteria to use and how to justify your fees. The good news is: almost every advocate has experienced this in their life so you are not alone. The bad news is: this is something you will have to figure out on your own, based on the value you bring, your negotiation skills and your bottom-line. So go easy on yourself; just like everything else in this profession, you’ll get the hang of things with time.

  • Use your most valuable assets to set yourself apart

There are over 20,000 registered advocates in Kenya. Therefore, the competition is stiff so working ten times harder to showcase your unique expertise is now a necessity and not a strategy. How then do you achieve this? Find what people value most about you, perfect that and amplify it.  Don’t duplicate what is already there and work on being uniquely you. That’s the only way you can stand out. After all, there can only be one of you.

  • No matter how good you are, visibility is important

Every advocate has a skill and an area of law that they are exceptional at. When people think of a skill or a realm of law, they are the first person everyone thinks of. Sadly, the reality of our legal profession is that since we are so many, a majority may never get to know of your expertise until you make them aware of that fact. As such, invest on being visible. Find out the medium that works for you and utilize it to make the world around you know how awesome you are.

  • Your friends, colleagues and classmates are an important part of your social capital

If someone had told me that my colleagues and classmates would be my most influential career progression engine, I would have spent most of my time in school networking than in my hostel catching up on the latest songs and movies. These people have interacted with you at a personal and professional level. They know your personality, capabilities, weaknesses and areas of expertise. As such, it’s easier for them to refer you to those whose needs match your portfolio. Word of advice: interact with them, treat them well and never underestimate them. Sometimes they are the link to your next legal brief.

  • Sometimes you are overlooked, denied opportunities and negotiated down simply because you are a woman

One thing they never prepare you for as a lady, are the glaring inequalities that you will paddle through as you progress in your career. If you are not careful, you might start questioning your capabilities and expertise because of the missed opportunities and the nearly insulting fees propositions. With time we all realize that patriarchy still exists and it will take a lot of unlearning, re-learning and learning before we reach the land of equality in opportunity in this profession. Keep trying, break those barriers; it’s one step towards unshackling yourself from the chains of gender inequality that is still prevalent.

  • Work-life balance is a myth

Work-life balance is the division of your time and focus between work and family or leisure activities. Why is it a myth? There will never be a time where this perfect balance is attained. You will have to prioritize what’s important while the others take a back seat or are acted upon moderately. It’s the humanly thing to do, or else, you will kill yourself with the pressure of doing everything at the same time. Sometimes, doing everything all at once doesn’t get the job done. When prioritizing, be guided by your “why and when” in order to focus on what needs your attention at that moment.

  • Reputation is everything

Your reputation will influence your next referral, will tell others the person you are before they meet you and it will be the building blocks of your career. Build it meticulously and guide it zealously. If you don’t, your house of cards might come tumbling down, sometimes never to be built back up.

These are the lessons I have learnt based on my own personal experiences. They don’t invalidate your perspective, if you have a different one. Nothing is cast on stone neither is one experience more valid than the other. These are pointers to equip those coming after me, with insights I wish I had when I navigated the profession for the first time. After all:

“By simple mathematics giving is key to the world you seek to live in. If I take, I alone gain. If I give or share then two at least are enriched.”

― Rasheed Ogunlaru

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