International Lawyers for Africa: Nusula Nassuna

International Lawyers for Africa (ILFA) sees tens of young lawyers come to the UK every year to learn from over 20 UK firms. Lawyer2B will talk to one participant each week for the next month.

Launched in 2006 as a corporate social responsibility initiative, ILFA has now helped 64 African lawyers, mainly with three to five years’ post-qualification experience (PQE), from 17 countries contribute to the growth of legal expertise in their home nations.

Training is drawn from the most relevant parts of UK firms’ existing training schemes and includes placements on banking, project finance and capital markets.

Nusula Nassuna has an LLB from Makerere University, and an LLM from the University of Manchester.

She currently works as a compliance officer in the legal and compliance department of the Capital Markets Authority in Uganda.

She was seconded to Hogan Lovells from September to November last year.

Why were you so keen to be involved with ILFA?

ILFA provides an amazing opportunity to young African lawyers like me to develop skills and attain work experience in specialised areas like capital markets and project finance. Local lawyers usually lack such skills yet there is increasing legal work related to such areas. Participating in ILFA therefore gave me an edge to attain such specialised skills and expertise to handle such transactions.

Why did you choose to study in the UK?

Important in my search for postgraduate studies was academic excellence and exposure. The UK was the best option and the University of Manchester provided me both qualities. My studies therefore enriched me academically and socially due to the exposure it gave me to different people and cultures.

Did you always intend to work in Uganda or did relatively strong economic growth in the past 5 years make this a more viable option? 

My answer is mixed. On one hand, I always wanted to experience working outside Uganda because it exposes you to a different work culture and better work experience and skills which are usually lacking in many African countries.

On the other hand, the strong growth in Uganda attracted me to working at home. Uganda is undergoing exciting developments at the moment especially with the recent discovery of oil, gas and other natural resources. These developments make the role of lawyers more important, especially if they have the right skills and experience.

My participation in ILFA has enabled me to enjoy both worlds. The experience, exposure, skills and contacts made are invaluable to me as a lawyer and also for my contribution to the country’s development.

What skills do you feel you have learned that you can bring back to your job?

Through ILFA, I was seconded to Hogan Lovells’ debt capital markets and private equity departments. I attained specialised skills and knowledge in those areas of the law, was exposed to international best practice in financial matters and had a series of trainings on a wide range of issues like running a law firm.

Despite a healthy GDP, Uganda also has a fast-growing youth population – has finding employment ever been a problem for you there as it is for graduates in the UK? 

I was lucky to get a job in a small law firm soon after completing my bar course. I later joined the government in different capacities as an in-house lawyer. However on the whole, the situation remains challenging for recent graduates. To many, any job available is exciting regardless of whether they are qualified in a different field or not. It is therefore not surprising to find lawyers doing “non-legal” jobs, not because it’s their choice, but due to lack of jobs within the legal fraternity.

Why did you decide to work in-house after starting in private practice? 

In-house with the Capital Markets Authority provided me an opportunity to gain specialised knowledge in capital markets and related financial services, in which am keen to build a career. Unfortunately, private practice in Uganda at the time did not give me this option as it was, and still remains, largely general in nature.