Beyond its primary objective of competitively selecting a Chief Justice for the Republic of Kenya, recent interviews with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) have been punctuated with great lessons for the career development of young professionals.
The public interviews gave us the opportunity to benefit from the careers of high-level judges, eminent jurists and legal practitioners.
In terms of academic qualifications and professional experience, the 10 shortlisted and interviewed candidates reached the constitutional threshold provided for in article 166 of the Constitution.
However, beyond gleaming resumes capturing applicants’ academic qualifications and experience, an avid interviewer may have noticed that a combination of soft skills, individual discipline, and other traits remains crucial to success or achievement. failure of our career.
After watching the interviews, I took a number of lessons that can be crucial for the career growth of some of the candidates interviewed and even JSC Commissioners.
The grades and qualifications we get in schools and colleges go a long way in securing entry level jobs in the private sector, government and other organizations, but they are not enough to be successful. in our career.
Professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, among others, must constantly read and educate themselves in order to be updated in their respective fields.
Speaking as a lawyer, litigation attorneys (attorneys who deal with court work) are known to persuade judges based on previous rulings from courts of higher or concurrent jurisdictions.
A number of previous judgments of higher courts interpret and clarify gray areas of the law. There are also new laws and amendments that continue to come from Parliament and county assemblies.
Lawyers and bailiffs are expected to keep constantly abreast of these developments.
From the interviews, one could tell candidates who are familiar with recent developments and interoperations in the law. This went particularly well during the interrogation session of Commissioner David Majanja, also a judge of the High Court.
The questions revolved around a number of landmark recent Supreme Court decisions that the applicants were believed to have followed.
In addition to earning salaries, allowances and professional fees through their work, lawyers and judges have the opportunity to deal with cases whose resolution has a considerable impact on the country and the individual lives of litigants.
We have heard from some of the claimants interviewed about cases they have dealt with which affected the fundamental rights and freedoms of some Kenyans, property disputes, university student disciplines and elections, international border disputes and disputes over land. employment and work, sexual offenses, among others.
While the candidates were ready to understand their philosophy, skills and judicial capacity, some of the past assignments illustrating them could have been marred by examples of questionable integrity issues.
When the candidate performed his professional duty diligently, the answers given were convincing even to the ordinary citizen at the end of the procedure. Again, where real mistakes were made in these past professional assignments, this could also be said from the answers given.
For the avoidance of doubt, judges can make mistakes. But that is why the courts have an appeal structure so that the errors of the lower courts can be referred to the courts of appeal and possibly corrected.
It is always said that lawyers practice their profession – they can make real mistakes in carrying out their professional duties. Many complaints from professional bodies and members of the public about past assignments alleged to have been handled inappropriately can also impede career progression.
From interviews, we learn that professional duties performed with ulterior motives, marred by questions of integrity to achieve selfishness or to arrive at politically expedient solutions can, later, come to haunt a professional.
The views and opinions of your professional colleagues about your technical abilities, your soft skills and your integrity will always count in your career progression.
You may have followed some one-on-one analysis in mainstream and social media prior to the interviews. Some of the candidates would have been pioneers because they were “highly appreciated” practitioners, academics and judicial officers.
Looking at the Commission itself, one will notice that a number of Commissioners have had the distinguished honor of serving on the JSC because of the confidence that their professional colleagues have in them.
Commissioners Mohammed Warsame, David Majanja and Evelyne Olwande are judicial officers elected by their peers to sit on the Commission. Commissioner Macharia Njeru is an elected representative of the Law Society of Kenya.
The opinions of your peers are an important consideration in making decisions about whether to make certain career changes. It is very likely that if they had intended to solicit such opinions, some of the candidates would not have applied despite being qualified.
Be in good standing with your professional association (s), proof of Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) clearance and debt repayment, including Helb loan, tax compliance and declarations assets are now mandatory requirements before entering the civil service.
Indeed, under the 2003 Law on Public Officials and Ethics, serving public officials are required to file declarations of their income, assets and liabilities, as well as those of their spouse (s). and dependent children under 18. The income declaration of spouses and children is crucial because ill-gotten wealth can be hidden through the accounts of these people.
During the interviews, it should be noted that a number of candidates, if not all, had difficulty answering questions relating to the declaration of assets of their spouses and children and tax compliance.
It appears that issues with tax compliance and asset reporting could have prompted a good number of other qualified candidates not to apply for this position.
Wanga is a partner, Waweru Gatonye Advocates