Profile: Edward Sakala
The executive director of the Law Association of Zambia has chosen Scotland and its Law Society for a three-week executive internship to learn how to build capacity in his home country
What motivated you to pursue a career in law?
It was the desire to serve, as the majority of our people have no access to legal services, and at the time I chose to pursue a legal career, very few people had an interest or understanding of the law.
Can you tell us a little bit about your career to date?
I work for the LAZ (Law Association of Zambia) as executive director. I have a Law degree and have served LAZ for 12 years now. My focus has been on the management side of LAZ and over the years I have built a strong background in management and leadership studies. Some of the academic programmes I have completed include a postgraduate diploma in leadership and management, advanced studies in human resources management, project management and monitoring, public relations and managing a non-governmental organisation.
I have been fortunate enough to have had my efforts recognised and rewarded with a Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship from the British Council and I am the recipient of the inaugural ILACE/ Lexis Award – which has led to my visit to the Law Society of Scotland. I would like to thank everyone at the Law Society of Scotland for making me so welcome here, the Council at LAZ for allowing me the time to take up this opportunity, and LexisNexis/Institute of Law Association Chief Executives whose sponsorship has made the experience possible. I would like to dedicate the award to LAZ members, many of whom I know will benefit greatly from this collaboration and the relationship we are building.
I am passionate about legal aid work and the rule of law, which is so fundamental to the advancement of democracy. Prior to my LAZ work, my work was concentrated mostly in legal aid for civic society organisations’ legal providers – I worked for Zambia Civic Education, Caritas Zambia and Paralegal Alliance Network.
I was very instrumental in the formulation of the draft National Legal Aid Policy which has since been reviewed and adopted. I am currently coordinating LAZ work touching both on legal aid and the rule of law, and I am very much involved in the South African Development Community Lawyers Association work, especially their legal aid work where I have often featured in their annual programmes as moderator and speaker.
My work has exposed me to a wide range of communities, both local and further afield. Internationally I have been fortunate enough to attend law conferences in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Italy, Canada, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Namibia, Uganda, South Africa, Britain, Mozambique and now Scotland.
What do you consider to be the main opportunities for the Law Association of Zambia?
LAZ is a professional corporate body established in 1973 by legislation and currently has a membership of more than 1,500 legal practitioners. We have many opportunities available to us due to recent growth in membership. LAZ must now rise to the challenge of meeting the growing diversity of our members’ requirements. Amongst these, we are expected to explore job opportunities for young lawyers, CPD and general welfare.
What made you choose the Law Society of Scotland as the organisation you wanted to spend your time with?
All the available information pointed towards the Law Society of Scotland. I was keen to be at a relatively small Commonwealth bar (like Zambia), so that I could have as personal an experience as possible, but above all the Law Society of Scotland is a well-developed bar and I am confident that I can learn a great deal from its best practices.
Most of what we are currently doing and plan for the future in Zambia, is at a different level and on a different scale here. This represents an excellent opportunity for comparative studies identifying key areas for development and improvement.
What do you hope to achieve during your visit? What are the key learnings you hope to gather?
I hope to create a mutually beneficial collaboration whereby long after my return to Zambia, members in both jurisdictions will benefit from the relationship we have built and hopefully an exchange programme by way of an MOU.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since your arrival?
I thought I would take time to settle in but Katie's (Katie Hay, head of International) warm reception at the airport worked wonders. Later the same evening my first meeting over drinks with Andrew (Alexander, head of Policy) and Katie confirmed that I was in the right place.
The first day at work was so good, it was like a continuation of that first orientation meeting. All the staff members were so welcoming – I already feel at home and all my worries are gone!
If you could change one thing for the Zambian legal profession, what would it be?
Currently, the secretariat is lean with about 12 staff and this limits what we are able to do. I would like to grow the organisation in order to serve the membership better and ensure that the various committees are supported in their work.
Do you plan to do any travel or sightseeing when you are in Scotland?
I intend to visit Edinburgh Castle and the museum to learn about Scottish culture and food. I also look forward to experiencing the hilly scenery of the city which I have just seen in books and movies, learning about Scottish customs and of course, sampling the Scottish whisky. I have found the people to be warm and friendly, which has made my visit so far, most enjoyable.
Edward Sakala is the recipient of the inaugural LexisNexis/Institute of Law Association Chief Executives CEO Bursary in support of the rule of law, which provides the opportunity to spend time with a law society in a developed jurisdiction.
Interview by Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society oif Scotland