African lawyers’ fellowship scheme secures top-level support

A scheme designed to support the work of young African lawyers in their own communities has gained the backing of lawyers from top firms and barristers’ chambers, as the City’s focus on the continent increases.

The Atticus Fellowship has been launched by lawyers’ charity Protimos, with the intention of supporting lawyers working on community projects on the ground in Africa. The scheme is intended to pay an annual salary, including health insurance and continued professional development, to qualified lawyers. 

Each fellowship is worth £25,000. Protimos board member and barrister Fiona Darroch said the aim was mainly to attract individuals to support the fellowships, with the intention that those helping to fund the African lawyers would take an active interest in their development – although she added that corporate supporters would also be welcome.

“Our aim is to turn this scheme into something which allows people to take a real serious interest in supporting the work of another lawyer,” she said.

Hogan Lovells’ London managing partner Susan Bright and Brick Court Chambers’ senior junior Alec Haydon are among the first supporters of the Atticus Fellowship. Bright told The Lawyer she liked the individual nature of becoming involved in the scheme.

“It enables me to support a lawyer doing legal work in a continent that I’m very interested in,” Bright said. “Sometimes an individual relationship can get lost within a firm.”

Haydon said lawyers working in their own communities would be better-placed to effect change than Western lawyers trying to do pro bono projects.

Protimos has identified three candidates for the first fellowships – Lesothan lawyers Lerato Rabatho and Nkoti Mosae, and Ugandan Isaac Kimaze – who are all working on projects supported by the charity. Rabatho and Mosae are both working on a project seeking damages for local people affected by a water project in the Lesotho Highlands, while Kimaze is helping develop a judicial advisory group in sub-Saharan Africa.

Meanwhile Clifford Chance has also turned its focus on the development of young African lawyers, announcing the launch of the Clifford Chance Africa Academy this week. The academy programme is designed to give African lawyers access to training on specific topics, with the first course on banking and capital markets held recently in Nigeria.

Edmund Boyo, co-head of the firm’s Africa practice, said the academy was formed after African colleagues said they lacked access to training, particularly for associates. It follows the firm’s first African Counsel Retreat for lawyers from 30 African countries held in July.

A number of firms are trying to develop their Africa practices at present, seeking to take a slice of the immense opportunity seen on the continent. For more, see our recent special reports on Angola and Mozambique, Power lions, and East Africa, Fuels paradise.