Lawyer of the Week – Kenneth Muhangi
Meet Mr Kenneth Muhangi, a Partner at Signum Advocates; a Ugandan law firm with practice areas in Litigation, Arbitration & Dispute Resolution, Banking and Finance, Islamic Finance, Employment & Human Resource, Advertising and Marketing, Projects & Infrastructure, Domestic & International Tax Advisory, Energy & Power, Technology, Media & Telecommunications, Intellectual Property, Manufacturing & Industrial, Insurance & Reinsurance, International Trade, Oil & Gas, Capital Markets, Real Estate and Conveyancing, Debt Recovery, Restructuring & Insolvency, Film Television and Radio, Construction & Engineering, Estate Planning and Wealth Management, to mention but a few. He is also our Lawyer of the Week. Kindly follow our chat with him below.
Tell us about yourself, a brief history?
I don’t know where to start. I went to a number of schools in primary and secondary I did my Bachelors from Uganda Christian University(UCU) and my LLM in International Commercial Law from the University of South Wales, and a diploma in Legal practice from the Law Development Centre and really the rest of the learning has been through life.
What interested you in that branch of law and why?
I think sometimes when you start to focus on a particular subject, I believe the most times, every decision that we make is informed by what has happened to us in the past or things that shape who we are and what we stand for. So, I love to read a lot and I am purposeful on what enters my body in terms of what I read, so I try to pay attention to subtle things as opposed to seeing the bigger picture. That said, when I left UCU, I wasn’t sure of what I was going to do, but throughout school, I loved to write articles on a number of things, so throughout that time I got interested in Intellectual Property. I think I read a case that intrigued me and another and another and I realised the field was very interesting and that there was another aspect not taught in school, that went into tech, because the two are linked, then I realised that there is this new industry which is not common. So, at that time, I went for my masters, so I chose a university that was good in tech and found the University of South Wales and I did this course unit was perfect for me since it had elements of International Trade, Technology, Commercial Law. So, at the end of it, I ended up enjoying tech law. The thing is such law is not so developed here, problem is, as young lawyers, we are taken for granted, especially with the older lawyers, now because I am self-driven, I do not believe in that negative energy. I actually wrote an article about it. It really got to me and I set out to change the narrative, because tech is a new thing here, e.g. 4G, etc. all these things made me got interest in this field.
How difficult has it been?
Let me ask, when you are shopping online, where do you go? When you are online, how many businesses do you see and how many have attracted you to go to their webs? Technology now encompasses all these factors. Many businesses now have an element of online. Tech is kind of like IP, e.g. the name of the business. Now, because of where we are going, we may not have a very large number of online shoppers and many businesses are having an online presence, now how do you safeguard your information there and how people interact with your online presence. So, it is untrue that there is very little online presence and there is need to regulate such interactions. Now, the way this firm operates is that it is specialised, and every client has their need and there is need to synergize. There are however very few purely online based businesses in Africa today, e.g. Jumia. So there are very few businesses that can compete with them.
How difficult was it for you to start off particularly as a young lawyer?
Attitude: my attitude towards life and law. We had a work retreat a few days ago and one of the games played was Ludo, which I haven’t played since I was a child. So, as Ludo is, I was not getting lucky, then I hit something that I thought would be important, so told my mind can you roll sixes, roll sixes, but they were not coming, but finally they did. It was the power of the mind. So, I think it’s the mind and attitude thing towards life. Towards life, clients and the need to be exceptional because some of our clients have been to the older clients, and they also want a firm that shall give them the best. So, we have an attitude of winners and everyone knows where we are and where we are going. Our mission statement here is that we nurture growth and offer peace of mind. We nurture growth in that whoever comes here leaves when they have learned something and gains something, we make sure that we offer a solution. Now the peace of mind comes in that most people that come here come for answers, and our hope is that when they leave here, they have a peace of mind over the answers that we have given and that their problem is solved. We also purpose to mentor and nurture our associates. Even for them, we encourage them to grow their careers and specialise in an area of the law.
So what inspired you to start Signum and why the name?
When we started, we wanted to change something. The firm I was working for was a very good firm and I learned a lot from them but I wanted so much more and you can’t blame me for that. I wanted to focus on so much more and that may be impossible of you are working for someone else. I wanted a legacy and something I can call my own, which is why I left. When we started, we wanted to build a name that would stand above the individuals, because most firms are based on one partner and the clients may even leave when they do, so we chose a standard that may outlive us and leave Signum standing the test of time, which is why we chose a generic name: Signum, which stands for “standard”.
Is there some kind of pro bono work you have done?
As lawyers, we are mandated to do pro bono, and we have taken some cases like this, but the problem is the time, since I am also a teacher and so are most of us, because we are purposeful about giving back in one way or another. We also rep a few NGOs, e.g. Blessed Child.
So out of work, what do you do in free time?
I spend time with my wife, and I like reading and watching TV. I always try to learn something from the shows I watch. E.g. the hotel that ranked higher than all on trip advisor because it delivers lollipops to its clients and they focus on customer experiences. So, many times you may not know when you shall need this random info, but you shall need them. I am also interested in martial arts, hanging out and having a beer or whisky.
Who is your inspiration?
There are people I look up to in different spheres of life. The Principal Judge, Yokoramu Bamwine, when you hear his story, it is inspiring and his journey of education is very inspirational and his attitude. The other lawyers, may be lawyers such as Fredrick Karugire, Kiryowa Kiwanuka from my former firm, are people I look up to and also Oscar Kambona. But overall try to learn from everyone you interface with. I read Mike Orlando and his philosophies of life.