Urban Lawyers celebrates five years

15 October 2015

 Tunde Okewale

Tunde Okewale, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and founder of the Urban Lawyers initiative, guest blogs for the Bar Council on the organisation celebrating its five year anniversary. The award winning organisation, which has supported over 5,000 people, aims to engage young people and stimulate discussion regarding their attitudes towards criminal law, policing and personal responsibility.     
 

Urban Lawyers has recently celebrated its 5th anniversary. In this article, we look back over what Urban Lawyers has achieved over the last five years, and consider what is next for the organisation.

The Beginning

As the original 'Urban Lawyer', I founded the Urban Lawyers 5 years ago. Having worked industriously for some years prior, I had the fortune of gaining a pupillage and embarked on my legal career. It was at this time I felt that I had a sense of duty to inspire and educate those who aspired to attain career goals similar to my own. 

Growing up on a Council estate in Hackney, by the time I enrolled to study Law at the University of East London, I was very aware that many of my fellow schoolmates had chosen a vastly different path in life. These differences became more evident by the time I was called to the Bar where it became clear that my academic background couldn't be farther from my public school and Oxbridge educated peers.

After considering what my main objectives were, I then went about putting this into practice. Originally, Urban Lawyers was a solo effort. However, I soon realised that for long-lasting effect, it had to be something that someone else could take over and that others could contribute to and be involved in. You have to go far and have a journey with people to really succeed.

I am now a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers; a committed defender with an extensive practice for my level of call, incorporating general crime, serious crime, and extradition. Most of the cases I defend encompass elements of human rights and commitment to issues of social justice and civil liberties. I still feel a duty to give back to the community and as such am involved in a number of pro bono projects and have worked hard to champion diversity within the legal profession. I am proud that the organization has awarded a number of scholarships in partnership with BPP Law School and hope that it encourages and enables more students from a variety of backgrounds to consider a career at the Bar.

Over the Years

Urban Lawyers evolved into a multifaceted organisation which achieves its goals in many ways. The opportunities and support we provide are mainly through events and online resources:

Events

Urban Lawyers hosts, facilitates and promotes legal career events,  providing students  with an opportunity to meet legal professionals and gain insights into the legal world. 

Workshops

Urban Lawyers deliver interactive workshops which engage and stimulate young people in discussions about their attitudes towards the law and the ever-changing policies in their local communities. The workshops we offer vary from legal career development workshops, to youth offenders workshops and tailored workshops on specific offences and procedures. The workshops provide the benefits of helping to deter young people from a life of crime, promoting self responsibility, empowering young people to develop their potential in society, and provide schools and institutions with a better understanding of the underlying reasons why young people commit crime and the consequences. 

Research

Each workshop allows participants to provide information about their views and/or experiences of the criminal justice system. The findings will be used as part of a research paper looking at the youth perspective of the criminal justice system which will be a collaborative project with a higher education institution. 

Curriculum

'Law in action' is a set of courses with legal content which is available to be taught at schools and universities. It provides a simple and undiluted overview of the legal principles and theories that govern our society. It is delivered using interactive teaching methods that allow students to understand the law in an everyday context. 

Merchandise

Urban Lawyers merchandise is a way of allowing the law to be integrated into the lives of young people and also is a visual outlet for relevant information. We do this via tshirts, mugs, key rings etc., all of which have slogans and references to the Urban Lawyers brand, and legislation. Information packs are also provided to both young people and individuals who work with them. 

Scholarships

Urban Lawyers, in conjunction with BPP Law School, awarded 4 scholarships to students who demonstrated a commitment to social justice and/ or who had insufficient funds to pursue a  higher education legal course. 

Social Media

Urban Lawyers have an exceptional Social Media team that maintains Urban Lawyers' online presence with informative posts on legal news, events, and useful information on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. Earlier this year Urban Lawyer's Instagram account was ranked as the best law-related Instagram account by Legal Cheek.

The Future

Over the past five years, it is evident that Urban Lawyers has clearly established itself as a firmly rooted organisation. However, we will not become complacent. Tunde's vision of Urban Lawyers becoming an international charity is moving closer to realisation as the organisation arranges to become a registered UK charity. Having recently secured funding from a top international law firm, the organisation's goals are bigger than ever before.
 

Tunde Okewale

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Tunde Okewale is a Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Founder of Urban Lawyers, a multi-media education and information organisation that engages young people and stimulates discussion regarding their attitudes towards criminal law, policing and personal responsibility. In just 5 years, the award winning organisation has supported over 5,000 young people and recently partnered with BPP Law School awarding scholarships to students from non-traditional backgrounds. Tunde advised the 'Citizen's Inquiry' into the Tottenham Riots and the resulting report ultimately influenced national policy and helped secure funding for Tottenham residents. Tunde was also part of Bar Human Rights Committee delegation to Nigeria, in partnership with UNICEF, developing the Child Protection Network. Tunde is currently patron to Hackney Law Centre and provides legal training to Youth Offending Teams, nationally.