Dar es Salaam. Neema Magimba is the managing partner of Extent Corporate Advisory law firm, and co-founder of Sheria Kiganjani, a platform that provides readily accessible and affordable legal services. The two were both founded in 2019.Speaking to The Citizen Rising Woman recently, Neema shared the story of her career journey.After she finished a Bachelor of Laws programme at Mzumbe University in 2016, Ms Magimba went to the Law School of Tanzania where she passed. This enabled her to be admitted to practise law in 2018.“I and my two partners first started Extent Corporate Advisory immediately after our admission to the bar; right after we became advocates. This was also influenced by noticing a justice gap in the country,” says Ms Magimba - adding that they had corporate clients who could afford the fees. On the other hand, there were so many other people who needed legal services, but could not afford them.
“We came to realise that the problem was even bigger, people could not only afford the fees, there are people who do not know their rights, they do not know their position in legal services arena like seeking a lawyer within their residency,” says Ms Magimba. She revealed that people - especially people in the rural areas - do not know the right person to approach on legal services. Also, the fact that 90 percent of laws in Tanzania are in English poses as another challenge. “All these facts led to the establishment of ‘Sheria Kiganjani.’ We teamed up with an IT and tech company called Bluefin Solutions Limited and, together, we co-founded Sheria Kiganjani, which now serves people who cannot readily access legal services,” she says.Ms Magimba talks of the societal stereotypes that are set up, whereas youth startups are considered ‘not mature enough’. She reveals that the law platform is currently serving about 29,000 people in Tanzania.
“It was even more difficult with the law firm, because there is a narrative that a person cannot start their own law firm immediately after finishing law school. You have to first be an intern - or work at someone else’s law firm,” says Ms Magimba.This posed problems because clients do not easily trust a person fresh from school to work on their legal needs.“It was very difficult for us to get clients in Tanzania, and up until now 90 percent of our clients are foreigners,” Ms Magimba says.From the relatively young age of 10, Ms Magimba looked up to her three aunties who were lawyers - and admired their lifestyles: independent, financially free and oozing confidence.She says her passion to become a lawyer grew even more when she realised that a lawyer plays a big role in society.
Being the only woman at her law firm and platform made her even bolder. However, she says,her fellow cofounders and managing partners have never treated her any different but just a colleague.“We are equal when it comes to making decisions,” she says. They have also agreed that I lead them because they know that I am good at what I do because of my knowledge and experience,” says Ms Magimba.She recalls that there were difficult times during the transition from being employed as a lawyer to being one of the co-founders of their law firm that almost made her abandon her dreams.
“The culture in the places I worked at as an intern to gain experience made me realise that I had to have my own organisation to practise law, I did not have a voice as I could not be recognised for my work. Neither could I question anything because I was not even in senior management levels,” Ms Magimba explains. “Most of the work in the law firms I worked with were done by interns, who were barely appreciated, anyway! This made me ask myself whether I was really ready to work for four to five years in someone else’s law firm before I finally establish something of my own,” Ms Magimba says. She was in a fix, as she did not have any funds... Until the idea to cofound the law firm the Sheria Kiganjani platform came to mind.
“Women are not told that they can do more than just take care of others. This does not expose them to the reality that they can actually be anything they want in life,” she says. “It is time women learn to put themselves first, prioritize their careers and decisions that they are certain will fasten them to their life goals,” explans Ms Magimba.