Employed advocates are working under extremely poor conditions characterized by monstrous workloads and thin timelines, Nairobi-based lawyer Levy Munyeri has revealed.
In a letter to the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) CEO Mercy Wambua, Mr Munyeri says that the young lawyers are forced to work overtime without allowances or any form of appreciation from their bosses. Also, some are unduly compelled to perform duties that fall far outside the scope of advocacy.
The letter in our possession also reveals that there are also serious invasions to personal liberties at the work place.
“I have heard of cases where female advocates are unduly encouraged to dress in a certain style that their bosses considers attractive to clients. In another instance, an advocate tearfully narrated how she was dismissed for non adherence to the strict religious beliefs of her employer that disallowed the use of lipstick,” the letter reads in part.
The letter reveals that associates are subjected to summary dismissal for the flimsiest reasons and without regard to labour laws. Some law firms intentionally refuse to enter into written contracts with their associates.
“In their wisdom, the lack of a written contract of service gives them the discretion to treat and pay an associate as they please. Advocates end up working as casual labourers who are unsure of their wages and are at the mercies of their employer’s moods,” he adds.
Mr Munyeri also says that the chambers of justice have now become dens of sexual predators who viciously prey on desperate female advocates. Some firms are said to employ on the basis of receipt of sexual favours which are expressly solicited after identification during interviews. In others, female advocates are constantly subjected to sexual harassment.
“Failure to give in to unwelcomed sexual advances often result in victimization, frustrations, demotion and ultimately dismissal,” reveals Munyeri.
Some of the employees are underpaid, as low as Ksh8,000, but cannot complain since their employers are senior and influential persons in the society.
The lawyer now suggests investigations and prosecution of employers found culpable of the atrocities.
“I suggest that you urgently constitute a task force to investigate these claims. A proper and confidential forum where affected members can lodge their complaints should be established. On completion of the investigation and depending on the outcome, the Law Society should enact robust regulations on employment of advocates including a mandatory written contract,” he says.
“Punitive disciplinary measures should be taken against law firms and advocates that breach their contractual obligations and subject fellow advocates to deplorable working conditions. An effective complaint channel at the Law Society for lodging employment complaints is necessary. For cases that display blatant illegalities, the Law Society should promote their pursuit in Courts.”