Young lawyers working for senior advocates could be the most frustrated lot in the country, it has emerged.
According to a letter to the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) CEO Mercy Wambua by lawyer Levy Munyeri, the young advocates are working under extremely poor conditions characterized by monstrous workloads and thin timelines.
“They are forced to work overtime without allowances or any form of appreciation from their bosses. Human errors that are reasonably foreseeable at work are treated with vicious victimization and public dress downs. Some are unduly compelled to perform duties that fall far outside the scope of advocacy,” says Munyeri.
The Nairobi-based lawyer also reveals that his colleagues even go overboard to dictate personal lives of the young counsels, including forcing young female advocates to dress provocatively to attract clients.
“In another instance, an advocate tearfully narrated how she was dismissed for non adherence to the strict religious beliefs of her employer that disallowed the use of lipstick,” adds munyeri.
Munyeri further reveals that some law firms intentionally refuse to enter into written contracts with their associates. Lack of a written contract of service gives them the discretion to treat and pay an associate as they please.
Advocates end up working as casual labourers who are unsure of their wages and are at the mercies of their employer’s moods.
Also, what should be chambers of justice have now become dens of sexual predators who viciously prey on desperate female advocates.
“Some firms only employ on the basis of receipt of sexual favours which are expressly solicited after identification during interviews. In others, female advocates are constantly subjected to sexual harassment. Failure to give in to unwelcomed sexual advances often result in victimization, frustrations, demotion and ultimately dismissal,” he reveals.
As if that is not enough, the employees are poorly remunerated, with some receiving as low as Ksh8,000 in Nairobi, this writer learns. With such meager salaries, the advocates are expected to dress well, be on time at work and perform without divided attention.
“The sad fact is that some of these work place evils are perpetuated by senior and respected members of the profession. This has made it difficult for most of their victims to raise their voices in protest and file formal complaints for fear of victimization,” says Munyeri.
“Soon, when the crisis bursts into the corridors of justice, the Law Society may find itself listed as a respondent for doing little to perform their statutory mandate of protecting advocates from exploitation at the work place”.
The lawyer now wants the LSK to urgently constitute a task force to investigate these claims and establish a proper and confidential forum where affected members can lodge their complaints.
“On completion of the investigation and depending on the outcome, the Law Society should enact robust regulations on employment of advocates including a mandatory written contract. Punitive disciplinary measures should be taken against law firms and advocates that breach their contractual obligations and subject fellow advocates to deplorable working conditions,” he suggests.