Ribin Ondwari, Corporate & Commercial Lawyer

Ribin is an associate at Dentons Hamilton Harrison & Mathews. He is attached to the Corporate, Commercial Department but is also involved in the Banking and Finance, Energy, Oil and Gas, Restructuring Insolvency and Bankruptcy, and Real Estate practice groups.

He pretty much screams ‘I am a lawyer’ the moment you see him and no, not in the cocky stereotyped way but ‘the person you bring along to a negotiation table and trust you will leave with the best deal’ kind of way. After my afternoon with him, my assumption was spot on.

He was on Secondment as Legal Counsel at Standard Chartered Bank for 6 months this year (2019) and has been part of the team that has handled a number of matters in the corporate, banking and finance and energy, oil and gas including: The restructuring of the holding interest in a leading telecommunications entity in Kenya; the sale of Ahsan Manji’s stake in Weetabix Limited; and an in depth review of all government institutions involved in the petroleum sector in Kenya.

Ribin is circumspect but is trying to take more risks in life and one that was quite vivid for him was jumping off a 45ft cliff in Sagana, Kenya. Ribin is the poster boy for a guy who dreamed about it and worked hard and resiliently to make it happen.

Ribin applied to the firm while in his 4th year of Law school and came in as a Trainee Lawyer in

Ribin Ondwari during the interview with Diana Bichanga, a law student awaiting to graduate and join the Kenya School of Law.

2014 right after completing his Law Degree. The firm made it possible for him to work while undertaking the Advocates Training Program at Kenya School of Law as the Legal Assistant from 2015 to 2017. After KSL, he was absorbed by the firm as an associate.

He is no stranger to receiving honors and awards. While undertaking his undergraduate, he got the Moi University Shining Star Award for his active participation in moot competitions and also won an individual award as Best Oralist in the All Africa International Humanitarian Law Moot Competition in Arusha, Tanzania. In 2017, during the Nairobi Legal Awards that is held annually, he was named Young Lawyer of the Year 2017/2018. Just to mention a few.

He struggles a bit in picking out one specific moment as he has had a couple of proud moments in his career but manages to say the ones that stood out for him most were, being selected to be a Research Assistant for Justice Sila Munyao who was writing a Criminal Law Book back in his university days. Winning the All Africa International Humanitarian with his team and being singled out for an individual award, ‘Best Oralist’ in the same competition in 2013. Landing a spot in one of the biggest firms in Kenya, being selected by the firm to attend the Baker & McKenzie Associates Induction Course in the United Kingdom and seeing himself grow within and beyond the firm too makes the cut as a proud moment and he finishes off by stating that any time he gets a call and is trusted to handle client’s matters is a humbling and proud moment for him.

When asked what advice he would you give to young lawyers to thrive in the legal industry, Ribin went ahead and explained that young lawyers should learn to appreciate the practical aspect of law. It goes beyond just reading principles and laws for examinations. The market expects high standards and to some level, we do not understand that until we get into the market and we are required to provide real solutions, to real people, who have real problems. He went on further and talked about two aspects:

Globalization: The world is becoming a global village and clients have experienced the global standard when it comes to legal opinions and advice. So to thrive and be successful in this market, we need to familiarize ourselves with those standards so as to be able to compete at a leveled ground with the world.

Sophisticated Client: We are in an era where clients no longer want to just receive legal advice but want advice couched in a direction that enables them to achieve their strategic goals. So young lawyers should familiarize themselves with this and work towards not only giving legal advice, but also offering solutions that help clients achieve their strategic goals, for a successful legal career.

To his 20-year-old self, he uses the phrase ‘Play Harder and Work Harder’. He goes on further to point out that it is quite possible to live an exciting life and be great at your work simultaneously. On a follow up question on young lawyers being unsure about what path to take and uncertainty in regards to their future, Ribin opines that one should find their interest area and let the road lead you to where you meant to be. He further echoes words said by E.L. Doctorow, an American author that ‘’Life is like driving on the highway at night, you can only see as far as the headlights allow, and the further you go, the further you see.’’

Mentorship to him means giving his shoulders to those who come after him to stand on and see further than they see on their own, the same way those who are ahead of him have and continue to offer him.

Apart from being involved in mentoring young lawyers and law student, Ribin is involved with a charity organization called Tuwakuze Africa. It is an education-based initiative aimed at developing a reading culture, mentoring, and instilling sustainable skills among primary school pupils (Orphaned, vulnerable, and underprivileged) as well as youth within the community. The Vision of Tuwakuze Africa is to empower all underprivileged children in Africa to achieve a holistic education.

He is motivated by the desire to keep learning and growing every day to become a better person and to use this growth not only for his benefit but also for the society around him.

Favorite Quote: ‘’Make your life a masterpiece; imagine no limitations on what you can be, have or do’’ – Brian Tracy

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