The operation of mutual recognition agreements vis-à-vis an East African legislation on cross border legal practice : the Ugandan perspective
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The study examines the operation of Mutual Recognition Agreements vis-à-vis having a single legislation to govern cross-border legal practice to wit, the East African Community Cross Border Legal Practice Bill of 2014. The general objective of this study was to evaluate the strategy of using Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) or opting for an East African legislation on cross-border legal practice in the liberalization of trade in legal services within the East African Community. In this regard, the researcher embarked on examining the pros and cons of employing each of the mechanisms; the existing framework in partner states pertaining cross-border legal practice; the hindrances to the intended free mobility of lawyers in the EAC partner states and how they will be solved by choosing a mode of operation and making viable proposals for reforms towards the realization of free movement of legal services in the EAC drawing lessons from the European Union and other blocks. This was across sectional study and the researcher adopted the qualitative method of data collection because the data majorly entailed non numeric futures. To appropriately answer the research questions, the inquiry was phenomenological in nature using a detailed, rich, and thick or emphatic description. Purposive sampling technique was also adopted in selecting the key informants due to their perceived knowledge about cross border exchange of legal services. The study population comprised of lawyers, practicing advocates working under the verein structure mode of cross border legal practice, other advocates who deal with EAC integration cases and inhouse counsel from the Legal Department of the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. Efforts to access some officials from the Ministry of East African Community Affairs (MEACA) and EAC Secretariat turned very futile for the researcher although that setback could not frustrate the entire study. This research methodology made data collection easier, with high levels of reliability due to experts involved and this helped me to accomplish the study. Primary data was collected using an interview guide to explore and produce the data to use in this study, focus on the topics that were important to explore, maintain consistency across interviews with different key informants and to stay on track while conducting an in depth interview whereas secondary data was collected through review of relevant documents in the libraries and the internet. I examined empirical studies, essays, theses, reports, books and journals mainly on regional economic integration. Utmost confidentiality was observed while handling the data given the sensitivity of the topic under investigation in terms of the relationship of partner states and since the EAC is just being revamped. A descriptive and xiii qualification method of data analysis qualification method of data analysis and a qualitative content analysis which Bryman defines to mean searching out of underlying themes in the material being analyzed using a brief quotation to illustrate the relevant points that were used. The key findings of this study reveal that Mutual Recognition Agreements are more preferred compared to having a single legislation to govern the EAC cross-border legal practice simply because the advantages of employing MRAs advanced were workable as well as achievable considering the existing challenges. It was a finding of this study that the eminent hindrances to the intended free mobility of lawyers in the EAC partner states can be solved by choosing a mode of operation. There is already an existing though not fully utilized framework in the laws of partner states on the regulation of the legal practice embedded in the provisions of law in those respective states. The finding further reveal that there are viable proposals for reforms towards the realization of free movement of legal services in the EAC if lessons are drawn from the European Union.