Law profession at crossroads

By Silver Kayondo

It is always disheartening to see Uganda Law Society (ULS) debates turning into peripheral issues like “big” law firms vs “small” law firms.

Every member is valuable in their own right. You can’t have “fat cats” in a third world practice. You can’t be a big fish in a small pond

When you take a big picture perspective, you realise how such peripheral talk is suicidal for a society that does not not even know how much we collectively contribute to the national GDP

We can’t be “big” when in some firms, one Partner makes our life savings in profit annually

We look to the “big” law firms to contribute generously to ULS activities, avail speakers, training facilities & conference rooms in their premises, tie up major partnerships & alliances, provide more clerkship & internship placements for LLB & Bar Course students, etc.

The irony of it all is that we want everything for FREE or subsidised to below market rate. When we are in need, we speak the language of “partnerships” & “collaboration”.

When we think we are self-sustaining, we speak the language of “fat cats” who want to “grab” the society!

The law profession is at cross-roads

1 Demand for legal services has almost been flat

2 Legal fees haven’t increased since the global financial crisis

3 Local demand base is thin. Too much supply amidst very low demand

4 Average revenue per lawyer is being eaten by inflation

Even in Africa, the play is really in South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria & Kenya as the primary markets.

We have to think deeper about our priorities and our economy. We can’t be running corrosive campaigns and still expect the pacesetters to provide most of the collective benefits.

The writer is a lawyer