Dr Wilfred Mutubwa, 39

Chairman

Chartered Institute of Arbitrators
My Story

Dr Wilfred has been recognised as one of the top 50 arbitrators in Africa and as a future leader in arbitration.

The chartered arbitrator and founder of Dr Mutubwa Law is the current chairman of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (Kenya), leading a community of more than 2000 arbitrators.

He was one of the youngest lawyers to be admitted to the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of the UK and is listed in leading global arbitration organisations, including at the London Court of International Arbitration and in South Africa, Rwanda, and Mauritius.

He teaches arbitration across the world and locally at the Kenya School of Law, training thought leaders, magistrates, judges, and fellow arbitrators. He has trained more than 500 professionals, including a Chief Justice and judges.

"‘‘Going forward, lawyers must start to make conscious investment decisions. The challenge of the legal practice in the 21st century is to sustain it as a business.’’"

Popularising mediation as a way of dispute resolution in Kenya and the establishment of court-annexed mediation is one of the highlights of his career. In commercial, construction, and conveyancing disputes, Dr Mutubwa is at home.

The law graduate of Moi University, who attained his PhD in international economic law last year, credits his impatience and hunger for swift execution of projects for his success. ‘‘Sometimes I report to work at 5am just to deal with any pending assignments.”

His greatest investment, though, is in relationships. ‘‘I endeavour to build social capital and to treat people well.’’

Commitment to growing arbitration in Kenya and the region is his proudest contribution to law.’

‘‘I’m determined to [emulate] international practices of arbitration here. I look at Nairobi as the hub of arbitration in Africa in the next 10 years.’’

On lessons learned after 16 years of legal practice, he emphasises that reputation is the selling point of any legal practitioner and that half the job is to show up. ‘‘Be known for a particular quality. There’s something about giving your time to learn a particular skill; clients will always seek your services. You can’t be good at everything.’’

Besides work, Dr Mutubwa is the patron of Western Jaguars, a hockey team in the national league that he helped found. ‘‘I was an outstanding hockey striker in high school and university. One of my regrets is that I didn’t get to play the sport professionally.’’

Chasing money, he says, interferes with passion. If he weren’t a lawyer, he would be a musician or a teacher. ‘‘Some things give you more satisfaction even when you don’t earn from them. I’ve also written plays before.’’

His start was characterised by low income and few cases. But thanks to the changing landscape of dispute resolution in Kenya, his firm has about 30 arbitration cases going on at any given time.

‘‘Lawyers too suffer insecurities and anxieties,’’ Dr Mutubwa says on challenges, adding that law in Kenya is structured ‘‘in a way that exults seniority’’ which disadvantages young lawyers.

‘‘Going forward, lawyers must start to make conscious investment decisions. The challenge of the legal practice in the 21st century is to sustain it as a business.’’

JAMES KAHONGEH