Ugandan-based lawyer Alice Namuli Blazevic wants to be part of the solution in shaping the future of the legal profession.
With fourteen years of experience under her belt - and presently a partner at Katende, Ssempebwa & Company Advocates - mentorship is her mantra.
And it’s paying off.
What was a fledgling mentorship programme that she began in 2013 has, since 2017, been branded “Coffee with Alice”.
It has a strong presence on social media and the campaign - through sponsorships and donations - has experienced remarkable growth from 40 young professionals attending the first session to a whopping 400-person audience at the last one in July this year.
One attendee wrote on Facebook: “Sometimes you need to meet people who cause you to hate mediocrity and all its siblings…..Coffee with Alice did that for me. Thank you Alice for your leadership and mentorship.”
It is this sort of response that makes Blazevic’s heart sing.
“It’s about nurturing young leaders in accountable leadership, self-governance and fostering a culture of giving back to any cause that serves humanity and builds our nation.
“During my early days as a lawyer I quickly learnt that lack of mentorship was the major cause of indiscipline in the profession. The impact of this - and corruption - was enormous because lawyers have a big influence on our community.
“How could lawyers, who were promoting the rule of law, at the same time be the worst violators of it?”
The result, she says, has been that young lawyers have begun to practise personal accountability, promote anti-corruption practices, engage in civic duties and start their own leadership programmes.
Another spin off has been the creation of innovative solutions in the legal tech industry.
This is one of Blazevic’s other “pet” subjects.
“Lawyers have to embrace Artificial Intelligence solutions, they need training in the new technology, there must be space for young lawyers to innovate and find practical solutions for the legal profession in Africa.”
She is primarily a transactional lawyer who has advised on big deals in the telecommunication and aviation industry, multinational joint ventures within Uganda, across Africa and the UK and government and international development agencies.
But now she has become a “thought leader” in technology law, specialising in Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology and the Cryptocurrency industry.
She is regularly on the podium at local and international seminars and sees this has having major growth potential in Africa.
She is Uganda’s representative on the Africa LegalTech network which was set up to provide a safe space for lawyers and technologists to work together to find solutions for the “disruptions” caused by technology in the legal profession.
She is also the country’s leader for the Legal Business Women for Africa - a network of women transactional lawyers and corporate leaders in Africa and beyond - and has just finished two terms as the vice-president of the Uganda Law Society.
Blazevic says many countries in Africa are moving towards having the right legal framework to get the balance right between attracting investment and protecting the rights of the country and its people.
“My own Uganda is not there yet. But we are proactive in attracting investors and protecting our rights through our local content regulations.
“I think Kenya, South Africa and Ghana are doing well.
“Africa is a great continent with lots of untapped potential. But each country is unique.
“Business players need to study the specific country they wish to invest in, do their research, align themselves with key players and get local partners.
“Investors need to be indefatigable. There will be lots of times they will want to quit.”
Asked about the proverbial “glass ceiling”, Blazevic shrugs it off.
“I simply don’t believe it exists….I love to defy expectation and rise to the challenge. I quickly learnt that to stay in legal practice for the long haul I had to find a way of operating that works for me as a woman. To achieve results by bringing colour, love, empathy, compassion, inner happiness, peace and joy in everything I do.
“And to give back.”
Alice’s top tips for women in law or entering law:
Time blocking. Focus on one thing at a time. Give quality time to every task.
Think outside the box and create your own world through your own lens.
Create your own race where you define your own success and meaningful ways to pursue that success
Be part of the solution as opposed to blaming others for your failures. Do not play the pity me card. Bring along colour/ flair, love, empathy, compassion and happiness to work.
Do not wait to always be given work
Be the change! There is no other person to do it for me, not my leaders and not my government; that help should come as a bonus.
Take care of you. You can take care of everyone else better if you learn how to take care of yourself.
Just do it. Most times, we overthink things.
Read more articles from Africa Legal's "Women in Law" series here
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