22 Aug 2019

Interview - Rosa Nduati-Mutero

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Partner at Anjarwalla & Khanna in Nairobi, Kenya.

Rosa Nduati-Mutero

Tell us a bit about yourself and what attracted you to law?

My name is Rosa Nduati-Mutero. I will turn 40 this September [2019]. I have been married to Jeremy Mutero a fellow lawyer for the last 12 years and together we are blessed with two sons, Nathan nine years old and Chris who is four.

I have been at Anjarwalla & Khanna for the last 16 years. I joined as a trainee and have worked my way up through the ranks, and in 2008 I made partner. It was right after my secondment at Stephenson Harwood and I like to think that the secondment added to my qualifying for partnership!

I was initially attracted to law more from a dislike of sciences, but I later realised that my attraction to law is attributable to my strong attraction to negotiations and healthy debates. I derive a lot of satisfaction in seeing a transaction close after a process of negotiation and mediation between two parties who in most cases have very different goals. Getting them to agree is very fulfilling.

In terms of your career choice, who has had the biggest influence?

When my father was a young man, he wanted to be a lawyer. He applied and missed the opportunity by just one point! At that time, our single Kenyan university that offered law as a course would only take a handful of students, so he did not get a chance. Subsequently, he always wanted one of his children to become a lawyer. Looking back I believe I was influenced by his desire. As chance would have it, my dad joined law school later in his life, just as I was graduating from law school; now he is also a qualified lawyer.

What did you learn from your secondment?

I learnt a lot from my secondment! It was my first overseas working experience and it opened my mind up to the size of international law firms, in comparison to the smaller size of Kenyan law firms at the time. This, coupled with the concept of building teams and structures - and developing expertise in particular practice areas - had a huge impact on me.

In addition to the learning experience, the secondment gave me the opportunity to meet up with friends from other global organisations and enabled me to expand and enhance my worldview.

What is the greatest achievement, and the biggest challenge, of your career?

My greatest achievements so far have been making partner at age 29, and being named one of the ‘top 40 under 40’ women by Kenya’s leading business newspaper, Business Daily.

These accomplishments affirmed my dedication and what I believe was hard work and high performance. All this happened when I was in the middle of starting my family!

The biggest challenge has been striking a balance between my demanding work schedule and my family and ensuring that I’m spending enough time with my family, while dedicating sufficient time and attention to my work and its demands. This is a journey.

In the next five or ten years, what do you hope to achieve?

At our firm, Anjarwalla & Khanna, I have seen how a small law firm can increase its capacity and develop its expertise to become the largest corporate law firm in Eastern Africa, so I have very high expectations on what we can achieve. Therefore, in the next five to ten years, I hope to help our firm achieve its goal of developing and raising the bar of legal services across Africa. The implementation of sound legal frameworks and structures, and observing the rule of law, is key to helping countries develop faster economically, hence alleviating poverty.

Name one person who inspires you, and why?

Allow me to name two people who have inspired me. First, is my mother who raised three brilliant daughters under difficult personal circumstances including a meager teacher’s salary. Her tenacity and hard work are a must to emulate.

Second: Wangari Maathai. The Kenyan environmentalist, who founded the Green Belt movement, was among the first female presidential candidates and subsequently won the Noble Peace prize. The late Wangari Maathai inspires me to remember that nothing we put our minds to is impossible. Her story of the little humming bird and its retort to the rest of the animals who stood back and watched the little humming bird ferry water a drop at a time in an attempt to put off a huge forest fire continues to inspire me: ‘I am doing the best I can!’

What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers?

I would like aspiring lawyers to know that they are limited only by their imagination. If their head can think it and they can imagine it, they can achieve it. Nothing is impossible for anyone who works hard, expands their view of the world and is willing to think outside the box and move out of their comfort zone.

Given Kenya’s growth in the last 5 years, where do you see the most opportunities for the legal industry?

Kenya as a country has made great strides in its economic development; this is largely due to the private sector. Growth in areas like financial services and IT will continue to open up opportunities for the legal industry. It is important that the law continues to evolve at the same pace as these fast-growing sectors and lawyers have a key role in ensuring that they keep up with developments in these sectors.

How do you think the legal profession will develop in the next 10 years?

I think lawyers will need to move from a place where they help clients with the relevant documentation at the tail end of transactions, and instead start working with the clients earlier in the relevant matters. Lawyers will need to provide clients with all-rounded solutions to their problems, which means they need to provide clients with professional services on a wider platform. The legal profession will, in my view, have to move away from providing traditional legal services to being a trusted advisor on a wider professional services platform.

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