The Attorney-General requested the Kenya Law Reform Commission to review the Advocates Act, with a view of reforming and updating it or making proposals for its repeal and re-enactment. A Committee, convened by the Kenya Law Reform Commission, was set up to undertake this exercise. The draft Bill the Committee has come up with seeks to resolve the new challenges in the training and regulation of the legal services sector.
The following are the highlights of the Advocates Bill, 2015:
- The Bill seeks to harmonize the interface between institutions involved in the academic and professional qualifications, admissions and training of advocates.
- It retains the fused system of practice in which legal practitioners would retain the title the title of “advocates” as opposed to the unfused system which has solicitors and barristers.
- It also seeks to ensure that advocates have adequate experience before they start their own law firms. The Bill therefore provides that an advocate has to work for two years under either an advocate with five years experience or the AG, the DPP or any other organization approved by the LSK Council before opening their own practice.
- The Bill conforms to the EAC Treaty by allowing cross-border practice within the East African states.
- It also introduces a category of foreign advocates but imposes certain restrictions when it comes to their practice in Kenya. These restrictions aim to safeguard local advocates’ practice.
- The principle of reciprocity is introduced in the Bill. It therefore follows that if a country allows Kenyan advocates practicing law in that country, their advocates will also be allowed to practice in Kenya.
- It updates the order of precedence among advocates in Kenya.
- The Bill seeks to introduce the Fidelity Fund which will compensate persons who suffer losses because of their advocate’s dishonesty or that of their advocate’s employee in connection with the advocate’s practice.
- Some of the penalties of various offences in the Bill have been enhanced.
- Finally, the Bill seeks to streamline the advocates’ disciplinary process and the institutions involved in this process. The proposed Advocates Complaints Commission will now be more independent and representative. This also applies to the Advocates Disciplinary Tribunal.
* The Advocates Bill, 2015 is a draft and therefore still a proposal by the Kenya Law Reform Commission together with key stakeholders. We have shared it with the membership of the Law Society of Kenya for purposes of review and input and are currently receiving comments up to 16 February 2016. After this deadline, our team of experts will finalize the collating of views for purposes of discussions with members in the various branches country wide.