When Lord Denning came to Kenya to look into the possibility of establishing a local institution to train lawyers, he collected various views from the leaders of the profession and upon return to England, he published the Report of the Denning Committee on Legal Education for Students from Africa.
The report contained suggestions on how Africans could become managers of the legal systems in their respective territories. One splendid result of the intervention of Lord Denning in law teaching was the inauguration of a law faculty in the University of East Africa in Dar-es-Salaam. This faculty became the foundation of African law practice in Africa. Today, the major names in the legal profession in Kenya came from Dar-es-Salaam.
The Law Society of Kenya hated the law faculty in Dar-es-Salaam mainly because Dar was the centre of African revolutionary ideas and the English barristers dreaded the return of these revolutionary lawyers. Philip Ochieng’ in his book “I accuse the Press”, says of the University of Dar-es-Salaam – “The University of Dar-es-Salaam became the intellectual Mecca of all Africa, attracting thinkers from all over the world. There were such celebrated names as Walter Rodney of Guyana, John Saul of Canada, Kwesi Botchwey of Ghana, Marga and John Holness and Clive Thomas of Jamaica, Giovanni Arrighi of Italy, Orton Chirwa and Kayama Chiuma of Malawi, Yoweri Museveni and Mahmoud Madani of Uganda, Manvel Gothlieb of the United States, Arnold Kettle, John Loxley, Lionel Cliffe and John Illifee of the United Kingdom… All contributed ideas freely and with relatively little fear of being victimised by the state.”
Dar-es-Salaam was also the headquarters of many revolutionary movements in Africa including the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (UPLA), the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the nationalist movement in Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde Islands (PAIGE), the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) etc. Any product of Dar-es-Salaam was therefore unacceptable to the Law Society of Kenya.
But the colonial government in Kenya was bound to accept the recommendations of Lord Denning and in 1961 put them into effect through the Advocates Act. The Act established the Kenya School of Law which became an alternative institution for the training lawyers. Through a system of articled clerkships, the school admitted students who were working in law firms and trained them on the practice of advocacy. One could therefore choose to join the school of law or to enrol for a new degree in Dar-es-Salaam.
The Law Society of Kenya as said earlier did not like the students in Dar-es-Salaam not only because of their political orientation but also because of the fact that their training was independent of the profession. With articled clerks, the legal profession had a lot of control since the clerk had to work with an established law firm as part of the training. In Dar-es-Salaam had short-circuited the system.
In an attempt to gain control over the students from Dar-es-Salaam, the LSK attempted to have put in the Advocates Act that the system of articled clerkship was the sole means of entering the profession. This would have mandated the graduates from Dar-es-Salaam to come back and apply to join the school of law as clerks. Few of them could have joined the school of law as clerks. Few of them could have been admitted then. The government refused to allow that provision and insisted that the two systems would be an alternative means.
In that case, the Law Society of Kenya argued, all graduates of Dar-es-Salaam should undergo a three-year practical course. Their intention was to frustrate the graduates and control their eligibility. The government refused and put the practical training period to one year. Then at least let us own and manage the Kenya School of Law, the LSK persisted. No, the government said, it shall be owned by the Council of Legal Education which shall take charge of supervision of the acquisition of legal qualifications in Kenya. We must therefore control the Council of Legal Education, the LSK declared.
The Law Society of Kenya put up a spirited battle to control the council by having a majority representation in its membership. But again the society lost. The government proposed that the council be composed of two judges, the Attorney-General, a law teacher appointed by the Attorney-General and three advocates nominated by the Law Society of Kenya.
The LSK reacted by openly attacking the government and using its members in the Legislative Council, brought pressure to bear upon the Minister for Legal Affairs who himself was a member of LSK. The society importunately urged the Minister to consider the feelings of the other lawyers on the matter and pointed out that the Minister was the sole voice of dissent among all lawyers.
The Law Society of Kenya also solicited support from foreign human rights groups particularly the group Justice in England arguing that the government was interfering with the independence of the Bar and violating the rule of law. To quieten the Society, the government offered to increase its representation by one thus granting it an equal number of votes as the government.
The Law Society of Kenya refused to accept the compromise. When the council was finally legislated, the society refused to nominate its representatives and boycotted all the meetings of the council. For more than six months the council conducted its business without the representation from the LSK. The government then succumbed and amended the clause and said that the member shall be nominated by the Law Society of Kenya and not the Attorney-General. The Society then called off the boycott.
And finally a local system for acquisition of legal training was set up. In 1970, the University of East Africa in Dar-es-Salaam was dissolved and each country established its own university. The University of Nairobi was set up and a faculty of law established. But unlike the faculty in Dar-es-Salaam, the one in Nairobi was and has been a mess.