An Intern Abroad: Kenya

An Intern Abroad: Kenya

Tuesday 15 December 2015 - Lucy Hanson and Krushil Shah

Securing vacation schemes and internships is a difficulty for many undergraduate law students – and one we spend far too much time worrying about. Doing a legal internship abroad may not be something you have considered. Nonetheless, I recommend you stop monotonously filling out your GCSE grades on your vacation scheme application form for the thirty-seventh time this week. Gaining legal experience in another jurisdiction is a great way to differentiate yourself from your peers, whilst gaining a host of professional and personal benefits. Get out a world map and send an email to an overseas law firm that interests you.

For Lucy Hanson and Krushil Shah, this was in Kenya.

According to the World Bank, Kenya is emerging as one of Africa’s key growth centres and poised to be among the fastest growing economies in East Africa. A recent surge of foreign investment into the region has much to do with oil and gas exploration and the energy industry.  However, other sectors such as banking, real estate, agriculture and tourism continue to grab considerable attention. This all means new demands for legal services in the region. Any experience gained in such an environment is an exciting opportunity for students hoping to work in commercial law. Besides, where else can you spend your weekends with wild elephants and lions after a week at the office? 

Lucy and Krushil both spent part of the summer working as holiday trainees for Kaplan & Stratton Advocates in Nairobi. As the largest legal practice in Eastern Africa, the firm has a leading reputation for its international and cross-border work across a range of industries.

Have a read of their experiences below.

Krushil’s experience

During the summer holidays, I secured an internship in Kenya at Kaplan & Stratton. Apart from enjoying the beautiful Kenyan weather, and indulging my love for food at an array of local restaurants, the experience was surreal in several ways and hugely beneficial by way of gaining exposure in the legal field.

Like any first day at work, I was nervous and unaware of what to expect. Whilst I was waiting at the reception, I was approached by a friendly group of trainees who offered to show me around the numerous floors of the firm. Their cordial welcoming made me feel settled quicker than I had anticipated, and within a couple of hours, I found myself joking around with my new colleagues and no longer feeling awkward.

In light of the work the firm does, I was positively amazed by the enthusiasm and work ethos of everyone involved at the firm. In the course of my employment, I worked in the real estate, intellectual property, commercial and litigation departments. My work entailed legal research, preparing clauses in the Articles for incorporating a company, writing arguments for ongoing cases and much more. The highlight of the experience was attending the Milimani Court for a high profile case that was televised in the national news – within a month at the firm, I was on Kenyan TV!

Furthermore, I benefitted by the way that many Kenyan legal principles were either the same or similar to those of the UK given Kenya’s colonial past. However, the Kenyan legal system is also supported by its fairly recent constitutional provisions which gives it a unique transitionary legal nexus.

After a long week of having files piled on my desk, I would spend the weekend travelling to a host of beautiful locations in the country. I was booking cheap flights to Mombasa to enjoy the sunny beaches and water-sports, or enjoying a short ride to a lakeside hotel surrounded with wildlife.

On the whole, the experience was one I would highly recommend. The experience is invaluable, the people you work with are some of the best in their respective legal fields and the weather is scintillating to say the least.

Lucy’s experience

When it comes to incredible landscapes, safaris, white beaches and a laid back lifestyle – Kenya wins hands down for me. My father grew up in the outskirts of Nairobi, and visiting during my own childhood was like every Lion King lover’s dream. Needless to say, I was over the moon when I was able to return to the country to undertake an internship at a leading law firm.

Flying out to East Africa for a month on my own was an exciting but daunting prospect. Travelling alone can be scary even without the added nerves of starting an internship in a country 7000 miles away from home. Some safety concerns still exist, particularly given the increased intensity of Al-Shabaab’s terrorist attacks in recent years, but I soon found that many worries and speculations about working and travelling in Kenya are largely unfounded.

I did not know what to expect when I arrived at the office for the first day of my internship. Nairobi traffic in rush hour had been quite an experience in itself! However, I was soon introduced to a friendly trainee who showed me around and explained each department. The friendliness and professionalism of the office put me at ease in no time, (and I later learnt to pass time on the long commute to work by learning Swahili from my taxi driver – much to the amusement of my colleagues who I tried it out on!)

It was not long before calls and files were coming in from various departments, and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of responsibility I was given from the start. My work included legal research, drafting memorandums of understanding, letters to clients and assisting with due diligence involved in M&A. I also attended Nairobi’s Mililani Commercial Courts, Kenya Institute of Intellectual Property, and the Competition Authority of Kenya. The work was both challenging and interesting, and I learnt a huge amount about the Kenyan legal system and a career in commercial law more broadly.

My three short weeks with Kaplan & Stratton flew by far too quickly, and I was genuinely sad to say goodbye to the firm and the friends that I had made in Nairobi. Before flying home, I made a spontaneous short trip to the Masai Mara – just in time to see the Great Wildebeest Migration – which was an unreal way to top off my time in Kenya.

Be it Africa, elsewhere in Europe, or somewhere you have always been interested in travelling to, I would thoroughly recommend other Nottingham law students to think more broadly about where to apply for work experience. All it may take is one email.

About the author

Author: Lucy Hanson and Krushil Shah