A few years ago, we had the opportunity to mentor Liz Lenjo, a young lawyer from Kenya. As with all of our international interns, we feel like we got more out of it than she did;. While she was here, I made sure to learn some Kiswahili, and Liz’s influence on all of us was overwhelmingly positive.
Now, this dynamic woman is really making a mark for herself internationally. I sincerely got emotional to see that she still considers me to be her mentor. Lucky me.
Taking a Front Row Seat
Author: Ife Ogunbufunmi | Website: Africa Legal www.africa-legal.com
Bridging the gap between African creatives and the law is a passion and profession for Liz Lenjo, the Kenyan founder and Managing Consultant of MYIP Legal Studio. She spoke to Ife Ogunbufunmi.
Not long after she was born in Taveta, on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, Lenjo and her parents moved to Nairobi. It is here she has stayed, making her mark as a lawyer in the Kenyan creative industry. Her firm, MYIP Legal Studio, is a boutique legal consultancy which specializes in Intellectual Property, Entertainment, Media and Fashion Law.
Lenjo is also a part-time lecturer at the Strathmore Law School, Nairobi, where she teaches Media & the Law and Business Law. She is also the Culture and Entertainment Lead of the Creative Commons, Kenya. Earlier this month, she was appointed a member of the Legal & Policy Committee in Kenya’s National Fashion Council.
Her journey into Fashion and Intellectual Property Law came about through personal experience.
“As I explored my love for entertainment and the arts, I discovered the disconnect between creatives and the law. Then one time, I needed help to pursue a legal matter after one of my images was wrongfully associated with a brand. To my utter dismay, there was no lawyer to assist me as many did not understand the concept of image rights. I knew I had to do something about this gap.”
She admits the role that being deliberate with acquiring knowledge, has played in her success story. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi and went on to the University of Turin, Italy to obtain her Master’s in Intellectual Property Law, in conjunction with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Academy. She has also taken multiple short courses on Intellectual Property Law and Fashion Law with the Harvard Law School, University of California (Berkeley) and Fordham Law School, all in the United States.
“I was also an apprentice at the Randazza Legal Group in Las Vegas during my LL.M programme, a company owned by my mentor and paper advisor, Marc Randazza. My LL.M research paper was titled, “Inspiration versus Exploitation: Traditional Cultural Expressions at the Hem of the Fashion Industry” and was published by the renowned Marquette Intellectual Property Law Review, thanks to my mentor”.
The passage of the Kenyan Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions Act in 2016, led to her chosen topic because “traditional and cultural knowledge play a vital role in how Kenyans and Africans generally approach their fashion businesses”.
On some recurring challenges in her industry in Kenya, she admits, “The greatest issue I would like to address is the sensitisation and under-utilisation of Intellectual Property Law in the creative industries. Legal services in most fashion and entertainment enterprises tend to take a back seat. All of these industries—fashion, music, arts, film and all other aspects of entertainment, feed from each other’s cultures. It is an area that Kenyan and African creatives have a blasé approach towards. Yet, it is the key to successful fashion and entertainment empires”.
For her next steps, Lenjo has a few exciting plans up her sleeves— taking up a full time consultancy role on fashion and entertainment with the Kenyan Government; working with some regional and international organisations like the African Union, WIPO or the WTO; and definitely a PhD.
On a personal level, Lenjo has converted her husband and her son into dancers, like herself. She looks forward to her three-month-old daughter joining the pack in due time. She admits that her love for all she does keeps her looking forward to Monday mornings.