One on One with Professor. Moni Wekesa

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Dean, Daystar University, School of Law and Author of ‘Legal Research, Writing and Drafting, Kenyan Perspective’

Interview by Lillian Wamuyu

Please tell us a little about yourself; education, work experience

I was born in a village in Kakamega, over 60 years ago. I went to schools in Kakamega and then proceeded to the University of Nairobi in 1978. In 1993, I went to a German University for Sports Science where I did a Masters and PhD in Sports Medicine. I studied law in 1999 at the University of Nairobi up to 2010, graduating with a Bachelors, Masters, and PhD. I have taught in various universities including Kenyatta University, University of Botswana, University of Namibia, Catholic University of Eastern Africa. I started the Law School at Mount Kenya University and now I am at Daystar University where I am starting a Law School.

Please give us a synopsis of your new book: Legal Research, Writing, and Drafting

The new book ‘Legal Research, Writing and Drafting’ is a book whose idea was borneout of the realization that the course on Legal Research, Writing and Drafting is compulsory both at the undergraduate levels and at the Kenya School of Law at the Advocates Training Program, yet we hardly have anything locally on the subject.

That’s why I decided to write a book to provide material for that. The book is divided into three main parts. Part onedeals with the basics of Legal Research, how to find resources, and an understanding of the sources of law; the primary and secondary sources of law and then how to search materials specifically for various topics and how to use the materials. I have tried to bring out the aspects of the Constitution, the aspects of the Statutes, the Regulations, the Rules, the Executive Orders, Case Law, and others.

Under Writing, I have tried to bring out the historical aspect of the legal language; otherwise known as legalese. This is a language that is a mixture of Latin, French, Archaic English, and modern languages. It’s a language that sets lawyers apart and makes people visiting the courts to follow the proceedings because the language used there is a special language; thus I have given the history of that language and tried to emphasis in which documents that the language can be better used and where it should not be used. I have also tried to identify between the spoken and the written legal language of legalese and identified the places where that is required. I have also tried to bring the reader up to speed on combined words that are common in law. We have what is called Compound words such as here-to-fore. That one has three words combined into one, we have hyphenated words like up-to-date; this are three words separated by a hyphen and yet referring to one word. It’s actually read as one word. We then have some open compound words common in law like title deed; they are two words with one meaning. These are some of special words that lawyers commonly use as if they were ordinary words yet to the common man this are not clearly understandable. I am trying to bring that to the fore so that a person looking at that can clearly understand where that comes from and how it can be used.

Under Drafting I have identified various documents that are normally drafted by lawyers. We have documents drafted for presentation in courts such as Plains, Affidavits; and this take certain forms. Then we have other documents presented in courts such as Submissions by Advocates; when they are trying to persuade the judge to rule in the favour of the case or other writings where an Advocate would be writing say to a client trying to explain a point. There are also other forms of writings where an Advocate maybe required to give a legal opinion in writing. I have tried to also specify what constitutes a legal opinion, how it is to be written and so on.

Specifically, then under drafting, there are some form of documents that need to be drafted for example Agreements, Wills and so on. I have tried using examples to explain how this should be written so that all in all; this is a book that will be very useful to both practicing advocates and students of law.

Is this your first book?

I have written very many books. As you know to be a Professor one must write and publish books, journals, and articles. My first book was published in 1989 and the title is in German ‘Sport und Asthma: Untersuchungen zum Erfolgsnachweis sport-therapeutischer Massnahmen bei stationaer behandelten asthmakranken Kindern und Jugendlichen’. (Sport und Buch Strauss Cologne 1989). The second book was on Intellectual Property Rights in Kenya (Konrad/Sportslink Nairobi 2009). The third book was on Research Methods for Lawyers and other Professionals. So this is my fourth book and besides this I have written about twenty book chapters in different books.

What inspired you to write this book?

First and foremost, I teach the course and I find it very cumbersome referring students to about 12 to15 books to look at. Then in such situations, one can never be too sure whether they have actually referred to them or not. Most of those materials are foreign in nature. The students in Kenya may not easily identify with them. I wanted to write something that students in Kenya and Africa can more readily identify with in addition to providing a quick and ready reference.

So you can say that the book has been contextualized for the local environment?

Yes. That is why the book is Title “A Kenyan Perspective” and the examples used there are actually Kenyan. I have used a lot of Kenyan cases, a lot of Kenyan materials just to help a Kenyan advocate, the Kenyan student identify with what he/she is reading.

Who is primarily your target audience?

The primary target audience for this book is practicing advocates as they need to refresh themselves on how to get material for their research; an advocate is constantly reading, and seeking for new materials and with the changing environment it’s important for one to know how to get new material. For the students of law, thisis a compulsory course more or less. The students need to be aware of this and to know all about this before one graduates. Those are the two main target; practising advocates and law students.

What are some of the challenges you faced in the process of writing and publishing your new book?

I wouldn’t talk of any challenges since I enjoy reading, I enjoy writing and I cannot talk of any challenges as it is something that comes easily and naturally. I love doing this and you will find that sometimes I wake up at 3.00am to put down my thoughts then go back to sleep.

Legal Training at Daystar University, School of Law

Please tell us briefly about the new school of law at Daystar University.

Daystar University School of Law was licensed on the 31st July, 2018. Prior to that, a lot of work went into the preparations. We held several meetings to design the curriculum, after that we held meetings to ask the stakeholders in the country on what kind of lawyers they wanted to see, we interviewed many people and from all that we got an idea on the complaints that people have against the current advocates. We also collected views from stakeholders on what we should include in the curriculum after we showed them what we had projected. Using the revised curriculum, the stakeholders’ inputs and the market survey, we then went to the Council of Legal Education seeking license and prior to that, we had to buy and import many books, set up a library and set up facilities. When the council came to inspect us last year in May to see whether we were ready to start the school of law or not; they inspected the facilities, the library, they had looked at the curriculum and made their comments. Following the inspection and on which we were ready to start, we were licensed on 31st July 2018, and we admitted our first students who started classes on 3rd September 2018.

How many law students do you currently have?

We have 14 students but we have capacity to admit up to 60 as that is the number we were restricted to by the letter; so we look forward to getting more students in the future. We have hired more staff. At the time we were being licensed we were 3 and we had conducted interviews so in January, we were supposed to be 7.

In your opinion, are our law students and graduates well equipped and trained to deal with practical issues in real practice?

This is a very difficult question in the sense that we have these 13 law schools; and a number have their own challenges especially those of public nature and one of the challenges is that they have been around a little longer so people know them and thus want to go there. But then on their part, they have challenges of numbers, they have classes ranging from 200-500, all students seated in one hall using public address system. They have challenges of facilities, examinations in terms of marking, grading and so on. That is coupled with the challenge of shortage of highly qualified staff.

I have to say that we have very few lawyers who have done PhDs and yet this are the people who are required to teach, research and enhance the teaching of the law.

So, specifically on whether they are or they are not; I cannot say that but there are indicators somewhere, mainly in that the moment we have 8000 lawyers who have not been able to pass the bar examination from the Kenya School of Law. Then this is an indicator that maybe they were not well prepared or taught at a certain level. At this point when we discuss about competencies, let us not forget something else. For the last 5 or 7 years, we cheated ourselves; we invited cheating in examinations so people got fake As, A-minus and found themselves studying law and in the process they had to suffer. Some ran away, some struggled with the course and some are still struggling to become advocates and so on. The entry grade or how one entered determines whether one can successfully go through it or not. It’s a topic that has too many variables around it. One cannot for certain say if they are well trained or not. I would say that the taste of the pudding is in the eating.

Moot court offers a great platform for students to practice law on broad issues. Please tell us some of the interpersonal skills that students gain during such interaction.

The interpersonal skills that students are expected to gain during moot court sessions is (1) Research; students must research on a case. (2) Public speaking, since one must present the case. (3) Knowing how to argue against an opposing argument. (4) Listen to both sides and make a decision for some are going to practice to be judges.Those are the interpersonal skills we want our students to learn from the moot court experience.

Advice to students aspiring to be lawyers and young advocates joining the profession.

My advice to law students and those aspiring to be lawyers is that law is an interesting and fulfilling profession but one must focus and read; do all the assignments, and aim to keep on the straight. There can be many temptations in the professions but one does better to keep one’s integrity, keep straight and focus on the administration of law and justice.