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Here’s why opportunity is a great pathway to a professional career

Young lawyers have been incessantly posting on X (formerly Twitter) about the poor pay they receive once they finish their long courses at university and the Law Development Centre.

Apparently, they are being paid peanuts yet they have spent nearly five years learning. They claimed that their employers “force” them to take loans to buy suits and cars to keep up appearances. Of course, nobody expects a lawyer in a round-neck T-shirt and ripped jeans. Until further notice, that is for tech entrepreneurs and impresarios.

Although many of the complaining tweeting counsels, as they prefer to be called these days, acknowledged to receiving regular salaries, one of their contentious issues is that once they win cases in court, the senior lawyers and partners of the law firms don’t give them a percentage of the money they have won.

Some senior (read older) lawyers argued that young lawyers needed to be more concerned about their personal professional development than the money they are being paid. They should be lucky enough to have an address, a desk where they can report to experience their profession in real life and practice in the hallowed walls of judges’ chambers while enjoying perks such as WiFi and spiced black tea that some law firms offer.

One day, the senior lawyers argued, their hefty pay day will come. The younglings counter argued that they don’t eat experience and WiFi.

The spiced tea won’t pay for their fancy apartments in Najjeera and impress the members of the fairer sex. They want money. They want to earn big even when they have little or no experience.

I must admit that I have no idea how law firms operate but I have been hustling for a while. Over the years, I have realized that many young people who walk into businesses begging to be employed cease being serious about their jobs once they get employed. They get so illusioned about what they call little pay and start paying little attention.

Many even leave the jobs unceremoniously only to beg for the same jobs back they were despising when they had them. Money, I learnt a long time ago, is usually little when you have it. When you don’t have that money, it ceases being little.

It is unrealistic for a young person who gets employed and is assigned a project to expect to receive the same amount of pay as the partners who have been working for 30 or 40 years. Even when those partners, as young lawyers claimed, may not have done most of the work. Setting up the firms enables them to do that.

Also, gross payments don’t mean there are no expenses. Otherwise, where do law firms get money to pay their young lawyers a monthly salary when there are no cases being won? Where does money to pay for rent, the despised WiFi, marketing, networking and other expenses come from?

Many entrepreneurs in Uganda, if you scratch beyond the surface, go through a lot to keep their business working. Many have no days off, work longer hours and under pressure to keep the businesses afloat. Many clients such as the government of Uganda take years to settle invoices for services and goods rendered.

If you are a regular reader of  Uganda’s newspapers, you will see several pages on a daily basis of properties being auctioned by financial
institutions. Many such properties belong to entrepreneurs who invested in businesses that didn’t materialize. The pressure of a person losing their home and their family being evicted from their home is enormous.

It can lead to death by suicide, heart attacks or cause irreversible mental health challenges. This doesn’t mean that entrepreneurs should not renumerate their employees better. They should but there is need for young workers to be realistic of the environment in which they work.

There are more people graduating today than jobs available. Demand and supply forces still exist. Our economy is too small to absorb all graduates. Our annual budget is just Shs 70 trillion, approximately $18.4 billion, not even a half of what Amazon makes in a month. And businesses are being taxed to extinction.

Emerging technologies are changing the way we work. Many jobs will evolve. Work that was done by a few people may be done by one person today, who may not even be in the country where the work is being performed.

Artificial intelligence bots will, for example, write a land sales agreement that needs a few edits in seconds and a buyer may prefer not to engage the services of a lawyer for this particular work. A lawyer who appreciates how artificial intelligence works will be better, though. A young one who accepts that pay comes with experience will live a better life.


The writer is a communication and visibility consultant

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