Dr Fauz Twaib, a partner at Rex Advocates and a former High Court judge in Tanzania, has been elected to steer the affairs of the East Africa Law Society (EALS), the largest body of lawyers in the region, for the next two years. The new president succeeded Bernard Oundo, a senior lawyer from Uganda, who bowed out at the 27th annual conference of the society held in November.
In an exclusive interview with Africa Legal, Twaib highlighted the lack of enthusiasm among many lawyers in embracing the ideals of EALS as one of the challenges he has to face. “I believe that many lawyers do not see the benefit of the society. I, therefore, consider it as one of my responsibilities to sell the society to all lawyers in the region. Each and every lawyer in the region must be able to appreciate the benefits of membership and be active in EALS affairs,” he said.
Another challenge which the Twaib-led administration wants to tackle, is the difficulty in returning to in-person training. COVID-19 dealt a harsh blow to physical meetings and Oundo thus sought to maximise training opportunities through online courses. However, Twaib said while the society has done well in training members virtually, it is pertinent to embrace physical training.
“The fact that it has all been virtual has its own limitations,” he commented, adding that he is not oblivious to the financial implications that comes with it.
As part of efforts to facilitate the change, Twaib announced that a request for 10 hectares of land to build EALS headquarters including a training facility and a conference centre, has been made. “We are currently following up on the land, and once we get it we will organise ourselves for fundraising and construction. Very soon we will have our own place and we will be able to expand the scope and methodology of our training,” he asserted.
Commenting on the lawyering business in East Africa, the EALS President said the influx of international law firms poses a threat. “For any lawyer, finding business is important. With the increasing number of lawyers in East Africa, the market is becoming more saturated and the effect is felt more by young lawyers who have not yet established themselves. We also have the threat of international law firms with which we are competing in business,” he told Africa Legal.
He advised East African lawyers to chart out a path for themselves instead of remaining bystanders and spectators. “As EALS President, I want to bring institutional members and sit with other professional organisations in the civic society of Africa to get local lawyers more involved.” The ultimate aim of this, he said, is to encourage cross-border practice.
“We should encourage East Africa lawyers to team up; this is the only way we can compete with foreign law firms hunting for business,” he explained.
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