Ms. Christine Oseke wears a demeanor of ease. Literally, from her style of dressing to the way she ushers you into her office – a corner office with white leather seats, a slightly imposing executive glass working table and a neatly arranged shelve of books, mostly about law. Her fifth-floor office allows her a breathtaking view of the larger Westlands commercial district. At 32, the Leicester and Boston-educated lawyer is a managing partner at Oseke Ouma Advocates, a law firm specializing in general commercial law, intellectual property law and corporate law.
Gulf African Bank’s Annisaa team met her at her office.
What did you have in mind when you went straight into banking when you came back to the country from the USA?
(Reflecting) I really fancied banking then. Especially corporate banking. I had a stint at two regional banks but my conviction to foray into the world of business was strong so when the opportunity came knocking, I knew it was about time.
I guess that meant going fully into your area of specialty – law?
Indeed. I joined Oseke Ouma advocates in 2015 as a managing partner – a challenging but interesting and fulfilling role. It has been aa riveting 3-year journey into this fast paced practice thus far, and yes, I have enjoyed the ride!
Why the legal field?
Well, my parents are lawyers. My father (deceased) founded this law firm hence that played a part in reinforcing my career choice. I wanted a degree that allowed me to be open minded and successively embrace diversity. A career field that empowered me as a woman and molded me into a wholly and well-rounded personality who appreciated different world views. The legal field came up as a good fit.
As a person who has practiced in different jurisdictions, are there any structural differences between Kenya and the US?
The practice in the US is far ahead compared to Kenya. In the US, where I practiced for a year and a half, the underlying tenets are drawn from civil law. This means that there are codified statutes that predominate in these jurisdictions Kenya, on the other hand, is guided by common law. This type of law uses case laws, mostly previous and published judicial opinions. Locally, we draw from statutes laid down well back in 1948 while in the US, they draw from those laid down as recent as 2015.
How has the ride been? Any special challenges that you face as a leader?
Nothing that cannot be surmounted, however, I have had to make a lot of adjustments when it comes to managing people. I have had to make a lot of adjustments to learn to accommodate different people’s points of view. I have over time learned to build personal relationships with my team and clients as well – keeping communication lines open, being receptive to ideas, understanding each person’s aspirations and supporting them. Financial challenges are inevitable. As a business, we have our highs and lows. Luckily, I ‘am a strong woman. A woman who can take in high-stress levels, with a level head and still deliver according to plan.
Do you have any biases towards women when seeking new talent?
Not at all. I am keen on rewarding talent, irrespective of gender. However, from experience, I tend to find women more reliable.
Any legal pioneer you look up to in your career?
Well, it might surprise you, but I don’t have one. I have had the opportunity to diverse into other business avenues as well. As such, I tend to look up to different authorities from varied fields. I love the business mantra that Oprah lives by. International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Christine Lagarde's leadership ideologies are amazing. Joel Osteen’s positivity and world view are worth resonating with...varied amazing successful personalities. Locally, I find Judith Omollo, a fellow legal mind very fascinating.
You have mentioned that you have a broad portfolio of businesses and other engagements.
Yes. I run a fashion outlet at the Lavington Mall. It is christened (name of the shop). I have a passion for fashion. My expressive personality allowed for this as it is a passion I also hold dear. I am also a lecturer at the Catholic University of East Africa, currently tutoring more than 300 students.
With all these duties, I highly doubt that you have any time for yourself!
(Laughs) Well, I try to, but rarely do I get to. Well, didn’t TD Jakes opine that ‘If you can’t handle the mantle, don’t take it?’ I live by this mantra. I have an innate push and self-motivation, drawing inspiration from within as well. However, when I get an opportunity, I travel a lot. In particular, beach travel. I also like listening to music a lot and socializing. New experiences similarly breathe new life into me now and then!
Any advice for aspiring female lawyers?
Most critical is the ability to know oneself very well. Understand your interests and carve out a clear value system that defines you, aside from mapping out your key drivers. After defining this clearly, look for good institutions that that will help you meet your goals. In the work sphere, join organizations that fit well into your goals and aspirations. Aspire to always meet people – that is how one’s sphere expands. Be your best and work smart. Persevere in times of adversity and always remember to amplify greatness as you give your best! Most importantly, check what you feed your mind – this is a powerful organ. Isn’t it oft said that input determines output?