Maria Mbeneka is vice- president of the East African Law Society and a director at Ghetto Radio.
Tell us about yourself?
I am an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. I’m serving as the secretary to the Athletics Kenya Disciplinary Committee which was constituted in 2015.
I’m also a member of the Kenya Red Cross Grievances Committee, which is the final appeals body within the organisation that deals with election disputes that may arise following the body’s elections.
What does your job as the vice- chairperson of EALS entail?
I deputise the president of the EALS in the council and AGM. As a council member together with the rest of the council, we supervise the CEO who runs the EALS secretariat based in Arusha, Tanzania.
How long have you held the position?
What is your ideal day like?
An ordinary day starts early. I generally have court matters from 9 am to midday or earlier. Whenever possible, I’ll put in an hour of exercise early morning or after work. I prefer to work in silence so often I’ll be the first one in the office at 6.30 am or I’ll stay and work late.
If you were not a lawyer, what would you have become?
I would have been in public relations or corporate marketing.
What drives you?
Growth. I’m a huge believer in growth and development whether personal, career or in my business.
Did you always want to be a lawyer?
Absolutely – I was hooked to LA Law, the TV series in the 80s.
How long have you been practising law?
I’m in my 14th year.
Three lawyers you admire most?
Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Elizabeth Mrema, Unep; Director of Division of Environmental Law and Conventions.
What qualities are needed to be a good lawyer?
Attention to detail and focus. In my line of work where one has to prepare and scrutinise documents, attention to what one is doing is paramount. The ability to listen to and understand your client’s needs is important. A good lawyer is firm without being rude and courteous to his/her colleagues.
What advice would you give to those who want to pursue a career in law?
Passion and drive. If you are driven, that means you will have the mettle to stick it out. The passion for the profession is necessary because without it, it is easy to become jaded. It is not as glamorous as many people think. One has to put in long hard hours for the payoff and it is also demanding.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Running and owning a successful law firm with my partners and Ghetto Radio. I’m very proud of this business because of the impact and social change we have engineered in the industry and society at large.
What did you do before joining EALS?
I have been a member and vice-chair of the Industrial Property Tribunal, the court of first instance in matters related to intellectual property, specifically patents, utility models and industrial designs.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Whenever I get a call or feedback from a happy client whose matter I have handled.
And what do you find most challenging?
Managing clients’ expectations; especially when handling children’s matters.
Tell us about your family?
I’m a mother of two: A 15-year-son and a daughter, 10. They are a source of pride and joy.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Leading within the Pan-African/Commonwealth legal field.
I’ll pursue further education – I have a keen interest in entertainment law which ties in with my favourite area of practice, intellectual property, as well as my area of business.