“Legal professionals must be problem solvers. Through the practice of law, they ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that the government, its citizens and its companies have a clear framework within which to live and operate”- Jean-Marc Otenga
As the son of a lawyer, Jean-Marc has always had the law in his veins; it was a logical step when deciding which field to study at university, he chose law. Jean-Marc started a career in the banking industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before he switched to Law. To date, the law has remained an area he was very interested in and, as such, he decided to leave the financial world and take up a position as in-house counsel (in which he could devote himself permanently to law).
He has a bachelor’s degree in private and judicial law from the Protestant University in Kinshasa (DRC) and he holds a master’s degree in International and Commercial Law from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa (SA). He has also been admitted for a management course at Harvard Business School and looking forward to starting this course in October 2021.
He has also nurtured an interest in mining since a young age, he got his first position in the mining industry at Ivanhoe Mines DRC SARL, a subsidiary of the Canadian listed company Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. This provided him with the opportunity to work on several Ivanhoe Group projects, including the Kipushi project (DRC) and the Platreef project (SA). He subsequently moved the role to another company, Kamoa Copper S.A., where he is currently Senior Legal Counsel. His role at Kamoa has allowed him to assist in the development of the largest high-grade copper discovery in Africa and get valuable experience in the development phase as well as the production phase, of mining assets. Kamoa, a company that is positioned to become one of the world’s largest copper producers through its expansion phase.
|Through his work in the mining sector advising (whether as part of a team or as sole advisor managing the legal field of the company) the aforementioned mining companies, he has gained in-depth experience in mining law, environmental law, business law, company law, permitting and authorizations, negotiations of contractual arrangements with commercial partners and/or Governments, risk-management and prevention, incorporation of companies, due diligence management, Enterprise and Social Development, commercial agreements and regulatory & compliance.|
He has also had the opportunity to offer his legal services to several NGO projects, including in particular RASOD ONG (a relay of social animation for sustainable development), an NGO which undertakes a lot of works for an international mining company in the field of community development in the East of the DRC. He has also recently undertaken a work placement in a law firm based in South Africa which is ranked as one of the top five African law firms. Our parley with Jean-Marc reveals more about his personality, ambition and philosophies.
1. What makes legal practice exciting for Jean-Marc?
First of all, the fact that law is linked to all sectors of our life makes law particularly exciting for Jean-Marc. He believes that it results in being able to work on a wide variety of matters (including affecting both companies and individuals).
Secondly, in large corporate projects, he understands that knowing that lack of legal knowledge can cost a lot, financially and economically, makes the practice of law very thrilling. He also notes that it gives one the aspiration to always be on the lookout for new legislation, both nationally and internationally. “The legal world is a dynamic one, in which there is new legislation every day, which is a challenge for any practitioner of law”, Jean-Marc notes.
For him, being a practitioner of law also means being ready to encounter new challenges every day. He believes that it is this dynamism that he finds also makes the practice of law so fascinating. He understands that one must have a mind willing to keep learning and appreciate the challenges of jumping into the unknown to find a solution. He finds that these challenges, in particular the intellectual ones, make the legal profession a great one to practice. He believes that more problem solvers, innovative thinkers, systems focus individuals are needed in the legal field. He further understands that this is intellectually challenging and the variety of people working within it also makes it a great environment in which to work.
2. What is his philosophy of impacting the nation through the practice of the law?
From his point of view, the main purpose of the legal profession is to assist people to resolve their legal problems and to be within their rights. He believes there is nothing nobler than providing one’s services for this cause. “Legal professionals must be problem solvers. Through the practice of law, they ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that the government, its citizens and its companies have a clear framework within which to live and operate”, Jean-Marc notes.
He has always considered the law practitioner as “the salesman in a store who sees the client come in and ask for a tuxedo for a ceremony”. He understands that the salesman is the one who will first have to figure out which ceremony the customer wants to buy clothes for, because the customer may want to go to a football game but ask for a tuxedo. In practice, he finds that this is also the role of the law practitioner, in particular when advising companies.
Jean-Marc believes that a legal practitioner will always have a big role in the life of people and companies as they are empowered to counsel them on what to do, how to do it and also what not to do. He considers that giving his all to be of service to others is a great social challenge and not a trait of superiority. He finds the practice of law very noble.
Apart from dedicating his work to the well-being of others, he believes that the law has a very important role in the development of a country. Jean-Marc believes that law practitioners are instrumental to society; he thinks that the development of Africa depends on a strong implementation and respect of the law.
3. What is the next big thing he is working on?
Other than his course at Harvard Business School mentioned earlier, he is working on increasing his exposure as a legal practitioner. He believes that instead of only working on improving his technical skills, he is now also working on increasing his public relations expertise while still being an in-house counsel. He notes that the new structure already implemented by the management team of his company will also require skills in negotiation. With the Master’s Degree, he believes that the additional management skills that he will obtain will allow him to push forward and further develop his career.
4. What does he consider the millennials greatest strength?
Jean-Marc believes that the advancement of technology is the millennial’s greatest strength. He believes that millennials have the chance to be part of a generation where technology is at its highest level and it is something that the previous generations did not experience. He believes that today, one can have all the information that one wants on the Internet. He also understands that all the tools around allow the generation to fill respective knowledge gaps with the click of a button. Jean-Marc notes that the new generation does not have to walk for miles to get to a library where it was not even sure to find what one is looking for. He believes that this instant access to information wherever one is, is a game-changer for the millennial generation and, in particular, in the way, the millennial generation will be able to practice law and its interaction with the law.
With the internet, he believes one can meet new people, have business meetings remotely and interact with everyone around the world. He notes that we have seen the importance of technology during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, in particular concerning working remotely. Without such technology, the impact of the pandemic would have been much worse than it already has been, Jean-Marc notes.
5. Who, in the profession does Jean-Marc look up to, and what is currently reading?
He looks up to a lot of people in the profession, both in the DRC and abroad. Unfortunately, he notes that he had recently lost some people he looked up to in DRC.
He is currently reading not one book but two: (i) Power and (ii) Mastery, both written by Robert Greene. He considers both books complement very well and need to be read in conjunction to get the most out of them.
The PALM considers Jean-Marc OTENGA a legal millennial who has shown exceptional radiance in the field of legal practice.
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