Looking into the future of legal practice in Kenya

The legal market is one of the largest markets in the world. Day to day, whether one recognizes it or not, each of us operates against the backdrop of an implicit possibility of litigation however much we try to avoid it. Before the outbreak of COVID-19, legal practice and especially litigation was advanced through the traditional physical method. The virus outbreak resulted in a myriad of global changes, especially in how the legal practice was conducted, with Kenya being no exception. We have witnessed, inter alia, courts go virtual, the introduction of electronic filing and remote working which are attributed to the emergence of technology in the legal field.[1]

Firstly, more recently, more than any technology before it, Artificial Intelligence has taken root in the legal profession and will indeed transform the practice of law to unimaginable heights. The process to fit it as a supplementary to human power is already underway. Its success will be a determinant of the future of this high technology worldwide and particularly in Kenya. Be that as it may, technology has taken sway and with the rise in its usage in the practice of law, it is likely that a larger percentage of the legal manpower will be rendered redundant. At this rate, only persons with expertise in technology will find themselves being hired signaling a high rise of a fairly young lot gracing the courtrooms and chambers. This is because the younger generation is presumed to be more conversant with technology than their older counterparts. Ideally, the profession will be less about human resources but all about the knowledge of those human resources.

Secondly, while proceeding on the same hinge, we must appreciate the milestones achieved with introducing technology in the legal field. Indeed, most law firms if not all, have started going digital.With this, there is a high likelihood that many firms will opt to merge. This may be motivated by the urge to reduce the expenditure in terms of legal, to curb competition from other law firms, to reduce the amount of office space and also to have a diversified practice of law.

Thirdly, away from the technology, it is worthy to note that since the entrenchment of the alternative forms of dispute resolution such as reconciliation, mediation, arbitration and traditional dispute resolution mechanisms as guiding principles for the courts when exercising judicial authority under Article 159(2)(c) of the Constitution, many law firms always opt to go the ADR way when faced with legal matters. This is done through engagements between the conflicting parties with the sole aim of reaching an amicable out-of-court settlement before deciding to approach the Courts in situations where both parties cannot speak in congruence. It is no longer a secret that with the heightening of this, there is similarly a high likelihood that certain cases which will be concluded efficiently out of Court. Indeed, at times, the Courts have referred some cases back to the parties to resolve mutually through either mediation or arbitration, especially in contractual matters.

Finally, the introduction of specialized courts including the Environment and Land Court and the Employment and Labour Relations Court has made litigation a little bit easier since these Courts have adopted their own procedures which take into consideration the plight of all litigants. Additionally, and most recently, the Judiciary rolled out the first Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Court at Shanzu and intends to do so countrywide. This predicts the reduction of the backlog of cases in the Courts as they will be moved to these specific courts. In the new future, I believe judges will no longer have to battle with the long cause lists as currently being witnessed in the courtrooms.

As the research has pointed out, legal practice in Kenya has undergone an immense revolution. Even with the traditional method of physical attendance of Courts still being used, steps have been made to introduce into the profession electronic means to complement this already obsolete practice. Perhaps it is time to accept that change is really inevitable, and more transformation is yet to be witnessed in the Kenyan legal profession.

Law student at the University of Nairobi, Faculty of Law. Researcher with vast interests in Constitutional law, transformative constitutionalism and constitutional reforms, Human Rights law and Public International law. adamsllayton01@gmail.com

[1] Muigua Kariuki, “Embracing Technology for Enhanced Efficiency and Access to Justice in the Legal Profession” <http://kmco.co.ke/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/Embracing-Technology-for-Enhanced-Efficiency-and-Access-to-Justice-in-the-Legal-Profession-Dr.-Kariuki-Muigua-.pdf > Accessed on 25th January 2023.