The 2nd AYA Mentoring Programme: The Reflections of a Mentee
“Better than a thousand days of diligent study is one day with a great mentor” – Japanese Proverb
This aptly describes how I reflect on every session with my mentor and buddy during this programme. I have been actively seeking to make progress in the field of arbitration for a couple of years now, dating back to my days as an undergraduate student of law at the University of Nairobi. I went into this programme hoping to add on to what I have already learnt. However, the things that I have learnt have given me immense clarity towards my ambitions in this field.
Together with my mentor and buddy, we were able to arrange frequent sessions online during which we had open and candid conversations around my budding career in arbitration. Sessions were well structured with clear objectives and agenda and a sufficient time allocation to go through them. The end of each session provided a clear idea of what is to be deliberated upon during the next one. During these sessions, I also received very generous feedback on my progress regarding various exercises that we set at the beginning of the programme. Under the guidance of the mentor, we also evaluated the progress of the programme at regular intervals.
I picked a lot of lessons throughout the programme. Through an eye-opening brainstorming session and guided personal reflections, I managed to gain clarity on my specific areas of interest in arbitration. Following extensive feedback on my sample writings in investment arbitration, I have gained massive knowledge in this area which will certainly form the foundation of my career in this sector. After a couple of discussions, I am happy to have developed a clear professional profile and career plan in arbitration for at least the next five years. These are just but some of the key lessons I picked.
The impact of the programme on my career is one that is still unfolding. As at the conclusion of the period for the mentoring programme, I can confidently report that my knowledge, skills, and ambitions in arbitration have moved from point A to point B. I now enjoy a wider understanding of my areas of focus in arbitration. This has given me the leverage to follow nuanced debates and developments in these areas. Additionally, I now have a much better appreciation of the contexts behind the various developments in international investment arbitration courtesy of picking my mentor and buddy’s brains on topical issues. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for me in investment arbitration as well arbitration & technology.
In addition to guidance in arbitration, I was lucky to gain insights into other areas of practice from my mentor and buddy. Being a bar candidate, I was just at the beginning of my legal career during the duration of this programme. This naturally meant that I was filled with many questions regarding my early years in practice, further studies, as well as the different paths that exist in the practice of arbitration and the law. I could not have been any luckier with the choice of mentor and buddy that was availed to me. My mentor is in academia and my buddy works with a reputable arbitral institution. Both are also experienced practitioners. The wealth of wisdom available to me at this nascent stage in my career has been immense. I now feel better equipped not just in pursuit of my arbitration ambitions, but also as I embark on pupillage and as I continue to ponder about further studies. Further, the fact that the programme partners one mentee with one mentor and one buddy provides a priceless one-on-one opportunity to sufficiently interact with an undivided attention. Due to this close interaction, a mentee can easily gain mentors for life who choose to continue committing to their growth even beyond the lifespan of the programme.
It is apparent that the programme has been of great benefit to me. However, I believe it could have even been better. Taking place in the middle of a global pandemic meant that the restrictions in place robbed the programme off some valuable activities. During our first session for example, one of the parameters identified by my mentor to report back on was my experiences sitting in and observing arbitration sessions. This was ultimately defeated by logistical circumstances related to the pandemic. This is an exercise that would have been very important towards enhancing my skills as a future arbitrator. The programme duration of six months also seemed rather short to collaborate on projects that would have required a longer period to perfect.
These notwithstanding, there are reasons why I believe that this programme has been especially helpful to me. Key among them was the stage in career development in which I was during the programme. In my jurisdiction, as I suspect is the case in several other jurisdictions, it is not particularly easy to gain meaningful knowledge and skills in a field like arbitration while still in school or in the first few years of practice. An exposure to a programme like this at this opportune moment, is likely to enable a young practitioner to hit the ground running and avoid many pitfalls that would have taken several years in practice to perfect. Recollecting from my experience, I believe many younger practitioners deserve a chance to be considered for such a programme earlier on in their careers.
The last six months have been the most significant for my ambitions of a career in arbitration so far. I owe a lot to my mentor and buddy for their selfless commitment towards developing my potential. And a hat tip towards the Association of Young Arbitrators for enabling the dreams and passion of young African arbitration enthusiasts and practitioners to find encouragement and support from accomplished arbitration giants on the continent and the world over. We are all better for it.
- Mentee in Team ‘J’. Mentor (Professor Emilia Onyema), Buddy (Dr. Mohamed Hafez). ↑