How to make EACJ lawyers protocol work

How to make EACJ lawyers protocol work

Chief Justice and President of Supreme Court Martha Koome receives and East Africa flag from the President of the East African Court of Justice Nestor Kayobera during a strategic plan validation meeting in Nairobi on July 21, 2021.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The East African Community (EAC) Common Market Protocol bears opportunities that will increase mobility, practice and income of lawyers. Pursuant to the EAC Treaty, the Committee on Legal Rules and Privileges on October12 tabled a report to the East African Parliament on an oversight activity that proposes the development of a harmonised legal sector in the region.

The committee worked with key stakeholders — such as the East African Court of Justice, the East African Law Society and the Office of the council to the Community — to come up with a set of recommendations.

Its report includes a call for harmonisation of legal training and certification curriculum; harmonisation of court judgments within the six EAC partner states; establishment of a common syllabus for the training of lawyers; and a common standard to be attained in examinations to be qualified to practise in court. It also calls for the revival of the publication of the East African law reports.

One-stop shop

Harmonisation of legal services comes with myriad benefits — including an upward trend in the provision of legal service; and expansion of the legal job market: A one-stop shop.

But in 2009, the Sectoral Council on Legal and Judicial Affairs undertook a similar activity but its recommendations were not implemened. Secondly, the Council to the Community must sign the advocate mutual recognition agreement, through which academic and professional qualifications granted, experience obtained, requirements met and licences or certifications granted in one state are recognised all over.

The community also needs a cross-border legal practice law to regulate establishment of one’s legal practice in a partner state. And there is a need for an oversight body akin to the East African Law Society to monitor and supervise the activities of lawyers in cross-border business.

Most importantly, political will must be deliberate and intentional amongst partner states.

Ms Odhiambo is a regional integration consultant. @donnetrose