A Profile of Benson C. Mayanja

Benson C. Mayanja is a 4th year Bachelor of Laws student at Makerere University, School of Law. He has won awards as best oralist at various moot competitions where he has represented Makerere University. We talked to him about his inspiration and future plans.

Q: Introduce yourself

A: My name is Benson C. Mayanja. I am the last of six children to Eng. Bbaale Benon and I am currently in my 4th year of study at Makerere University, School of Law. I serve as the Ugandan Ambassador to BaseLine Law International, President of the National Bwera-Ntare Fraternity, President of the Western Uganda Debate Society, Justice of the Makerere University Guild Tribunal and the Rt. Hon. Speaker Emeritus of the Makerere Law Society.

Q: Share your life before joining School of Law, Makerere University

A: That’s a broad question. However, I could start with my academic background; I went to Mbarara Preparatory School for my primary education and served as Head prefect 2011. I then joined Ntare School for all my six years of High School and served as head Prefect in 2017. I believe my greatest honor at the time was winning various debate Championships for the School under the patronage of Mr. Eric Batura. That was really a special year for me.

Q: What was the inspiration to study law, was it your first choice programme during application to join University?

A: Yes, it was my first choice. At the start of my Senior Five at Ntare School, I was convinced that I had only one choice; Law School. I used to intimate that irrespective of where I did my Law degree, I was convicted that I my destiny was engraved in the Law profession.

My inspiration to study law stems from a diversity of experiences. Notably is the insatiable pursuit of justice through leadership positions. Leadership presented conflict and conflict required recourse to established rules to ensure amicable resolution.  Throughout my childhood, I was at the center of conflict resolution as a student leader. I grew the desire and ambition to get better at conflict resolution by arguing for and against my friends on what is right, fair and just.

This fell in tandem with the manner in which famous lawyers used the law as a tool to achieve justice. That too, became my goal; to wield the art of advocacy and brandish it to make the world a better place.

Q: Experience at Makerere and School of Law, how to survive the experience?

A: I joined Makerere School of Law in August 2018. My life has never been the same ever since then.  It has been an exhilarating experience with one outstanding challenge; achieving the perfect balance between academic excellence and a healthy social life.

While at Law School, I believe I have engaged in more co-curricular activities than I have in academics. I quickly became passionate about Uni-Debate, Moot, Leadership, Sports and fraternizing with new persons. In each of these fields, I strived to thrive. This ultimately took a toll on my life and academics. However, this introduced me to the art of what is now coined as “firefighting.” It is not something to be proud of but it provides a pragmatic solution to multitasking my responsibilities.

Law School is a paradox. It is very tough yet very easy. It is tough for the reason that it is very demanding yet very easy for the essence that the principles of law are not alien to reason. It is like the jealous girlfriend that demands all the attention amid a midlife crisis. Balancing between academics and your other life is the greatest challenge at Law School. Huge Law reports, Multiple Cases, New jurisprudence, Missing Marks juxtaposed with the need to meet up with friends, do Moots, watch a movie etc. That is the real challenge,

So, how do you survive? 3 things: Identify your Law School Dream; Choose fidelity to your schedule; and Find a support system. Knowing your dream enables you to purpose your goals and objectives without peer pressure. It guides the creation of a suitable schedule aligned with your Law school goals and faithfulness to that schedule steers you through the course. Finally, the support system helps to keep you in synch with your goals as it constantly recalibrates you onto the right track.

Q: You have been awarded as best orator at various moot competitions, share insight on how you achieve this?

A: Indeed, I have ranked among the Top Oralists at all the 7 Moots I have done since Year One; ranking Overall Best in 4 of them. That is something I am grateful for to all my Teammates, Coaches and friends who supported me achieve this milestone. Thank you! There are quite a number of tips I would like to share but I will share just 3 salient ones.

Intensive Preparation is the ultimate task. You have to read extensively to appreciate both the moot problem as well as the supporting authority. Knowledge of the case, the authorities both for your case and your adversary is an art I have come to love while representing the Respondent. It gives you the opportunity to particularize your submission. Guiding the judges to exact cases relied on by the opponents, citing the page numbers, paragraph designations, judges and exact statements off-head comes at a heavy price. Intensive preparation, is that is the price.

I aim at making the submission as conversational as possible. This helps reduce the anxiety and provide a serene environment to be able to speak to the judges. When you treat the submission as a conversation, it enables you to avoid cognitive dissonance because then you can guide and be guided by the judges without fear of concessions. It also creates the impression of mastery. You are able to take the audience through a tour of your case with composure and poise. 

Needless to mention is the element of Experience. Experience is an invaluable asset in the arsenal of a great mooter. With the more Moot Court practice you do, you learn the implication of certain Panel questions, know when to make strategic concessions. More importantly, experience will teach you how to deal and rise up from losses, for you will have a couple before you can truly rise.  

Q: What is your drive in participating in the moots?

A: My goal is to traverse the terrain of the legal profession in all its aspects; legal writing, litigation and adjudication. Moot Court facilitates this goal by providing prior exposure and preparation. While researching, preparing written submissions and arguing in pseudo court sessions, you acquire training in these various aspects. This training is sufficient to prepare you for the field of practice. In what I could summarize as the Mottos of my former and current institutions of learning, I am Preparing for the Future and Bettering My Best.

Q: Any words of advice to students

A: children intending to study Law – Start Now. There are a number of things I wish I had started earlier than I did. Identify your passion, train yourself in reading oratory and writing skills. This will set you on course to improve the skill over time and enable you become the best at the trade at a young age. It is never too soon to start envisioning yourself as the best. Find a suitable mentor/role model. The right mentors will provide you with relevant guidance and direction that is important in keeping you focused on your ultimate goal and objective.

A: Peers (already in Law School) – Know your Law School Goal. Many of us at Law School are like lost sheep unaware of what our Law School goal is. You try so hard to live someone else’s Law School dream oblivious of their background and objectives. If you came to law School to get a First Class degree, go for it; burn the midnight oil. If you came to Law School to establish a brand name for a particular activity, go for it; put in the effort. If you came to law school to facilitate a job promotion or build social capital; go for it.

Write your story. Do not allow yourself to be engrossed in your friends’ dreams for an entire 4 years only to realize you didn’t even want that kind of life. This in no way means that you shouldn’t aim to excel in your academics; you might do this course for the rest of your life. I would advise you to find your niche and be the best at it. Be you and do not settle for less. Once you find something you are good at, pursue it passionately and zealously. Law School is a chapter in our life story for which we must write meaningful and beautiful stories.

Obviously, remember to stay alive. Take care of yourself every once in a while. This course can kill you.

Q: Any parting words?

A: Be a dreamer. I came to Law School with an insatiable dream. I believed that I would not leave this School the same person I joined it nor the same institution I found it. I am humbled by the fact that both dreams are achieved. You must dream and dream big to achieve big. 

I would like to appreciate the current Law School administration under Prof. Mbazira Christopher and student community under President Percy Mpindi for embracing the Moot Firm Project and The External Correspondence Initiative. These were products of the dream which I believe will be game changers in the quality of law students at Makerere University School of Law for years to come.

I look forward to the years when we shall reminiscence and be proud of our Law School story; when we shall raise a glass and toast to what will soon come to be known as our beautiful humble beginnings.