Jun 10, 2016

Tunde Okewale, From GQ Cool list to Queen's Honours List”

Tunde Okewale awarded MBE in 2016 Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to the community and disadvantaged young people. The award was made in recognition of his "services to the community and disadvantaged young people".

Tunde Okewale, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and founder of Urban Lawyers, is a popular figure on social media and made GQ’s 2014 “cool” list.

Background and achievements

Tunde is 32 years of age and a Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. He was raised on a council estate in Hackney, East London. He is the eldest of four children and was the first person in my family to attend university and obtain a degree. During his studies, Tunde undertook numerous simultaneous part-time jobs in the food and retail industry, to enable him to contribute towards his household. Consequently, his academic studies suffered, and he obtained a 2.2 in his undergraduate degree. Career advisors and professionals told him that he would never make it. Despite this setback, Tunde ploughed on. He involved himself in community work and was eventually invited to conduct a workshop on behalf of the Greater London Authority. As a result of his performance on this project, he was asked to become a director of the charity, From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation, and was awarded a meritorious scholarship to attend bar school where he would excel academically to offset his undergraduate grades. 

The fact that Tunde managed to qualify as a barrister, and obtain tenancy at a major Chambers, is a demonstration of his sheer determination to prosper in spite of his socioeconomic background. His journey and remarkable accomplishments have inspired young people from backgrounds similar to his own to persevere and succeed against the odds.

In 2009, Tunde founded a charity organisation called Urban Lawyers which is a multi-media education and information centre designed to educate, engage and stimulate discussion amongst young people about their attitudes towards criminal law, policing and personal responsibility. Urban Lawyers also provides resources, information and opportunities for young people to secure work and/or experience in the legal profession. Through Urban Lawyers, Tunde has helped a minimum of 5 thousand students achieve and attain their career goals, and have educated at least 10 thousand people on their legal rights. This has been accomplished through a range of activities at multiple universities across the United Kingdom (such as Nottingham Trent University, London Metropolitan University, Kingston University, Cardiff University, UCL, King’s College London, University of Hertfordshire, BPP Law School, and Sheffield University, to name a few). The organisation has provided summer work placements, mock assessment days, interviewing and CV clinics, and soft skills training for thousands of students across these UK higher education institutions. The initiatives have given the students opportunities to meet professionals, obtain work experience, and gain insights into the legal profession. Although the projects target students from non-traditional backgrounds, its impact and benefits have been experienced by students from multiple backgrounds.

Through its increasing track record in nurturing young talent in the field of law, Urban Lawyers has won the support of firms such as Berwin Leighton Paisner, and Hogan Lovell’s pro bono unit. Urban Lawyers recently awarded 4 scholarships in partnership with BPP Law School. These awards provided financial assistance to students from non-traditional backgrounds who demonstrate academic potential and are actively involved in community outreach.

Tunde has worked pro-bono on several cases, one of these was a case referred by the Cardiff University Innocence Project which saw the overturn of the wrongful conviction of Dwaine George. This was the first ever case to be referred to the Court of Appeal by university students.
Tunde provides legal training to Youth Offending Teams across the country, particularly those that deal with high-risk offenders. This role highlights Tunde’s holistic involvement in the criminal justice system, working directly with those that come into contact with it at every juncture. This enables him to transfer knowledge and insights between organisations within the criminal justice system. Thus, empowering those organisations to provide a better service and to transform the lives of those who engage with them.

When Tunde is not in court, he is heavily involved in community outreach work. He has substantial public speaking experience and regularly participates in events for charitable bodies and runs educational workshops for community groups such as SE1 United and Elevation Networks; workshops on youth crime for the London Borough of Waltham Forrest and the London Borough of Southwark; workshops on employment and discrimination rights for people with disability at the Royal Institute for Blind; educational and inspirational seminars at Raynes Park School, Junior Chamber International, Free The Child Foundation, and Body and Soul, just to name a few. Tunde’s work with Body and Soul focused on enhancing and improving the self-confidence affected by HIV/Aids. He did this by volunteering at the centre and delivering workshops and motivational talks. Tunde’s engagement with the community has not only inspired and encouraged community cohesion but has also educated and empowered the disaffected. The cumulative effect of Tunde’s involvement in the community has inspired the younger generation and reminded an older generation of the relationship between success and service.

Tunde has also delivered a number of Stop-and-Search workshops in difficult schools and London boroughs (such as Hackney, Waltham Forrest, Southwark) working with at-risk youth and encouraging them to positively engage with legal enforcement agencies. As a result of his endeavours, he is frequently invited to repeat the workshops and also deliver them on a national level.

Tunde also supports grassroots organisations such as the campaign group, JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association). He delivered sessions at a weekend conference and provided legal advice and support to grassroots organisations on how to use legislation effectively. The impact of this is that organisational like JENGbA have been able to create a sustained awareness, not only with the general public but also among parliamentarians. Tunde’s enthusiasm for championing social justice has inspired individuals and grassroots organisations to increase the frequency of their knowledge-sharing conferences. He is often invited to speak and facilitate dialogue during these conferences.

Tunde was an advisor to ‘The Citizen’s Inquiry into the Tottenham Riot’ in 2011. He helped to produce and edit a report that looked into the causes, effects and solutions in relation to the public disturbances. Tunde was an integral part of the fact finding exercise and facilitated dialogue between the residents of Tottenham. This report influenced national policy and helped secure funding for the residents of Tottenham.

Tunde is regularly invited to speak at the Law Society in relation to diversity within the profession, and inspiring those from non-traditional backgrounds to consider entering the profession.

Tunde is also asked to make regular appearances on the BBC radio in recognition of his work within the community. In addition, he hosted the BBC (London) youth ‘London Speaks’ debate in aid of the 1,000 days until the 2012 Olympic Games celebration. Tunde featured as an expert on the BBC Radio 1 Xtra broadcast "GANGS ON FILM" alongside Noel Clarke, Ashley Walters and many others. Here he was asked to share his opinions on why young people join gangs and become entrenched in crime. He also featured as an expert on The London Live documentary “TRAPTOWN”, where he was asked to share his opinions on the how the criminal justice system impacts young people.
Tunde was invited to attend the Star Symposium in Stein am Rhein, a symposium for Leaders of the Next Generation. He is the only person to date, to have been awarded a full bursary to attend. The conference recognises individuals worldwide between the ages of 35-50, and he was recognised for his work and accomplishments in the community despite only being 28 years old at the time.

At the international level, Tunde was involved in the Griffiths Trust 'HUSH THE GUNS' Project in Kingston, Jamaica in 2009. Tunde was also commissioned by the Jamaican and Canadian Government to facilitate workshops for disaffected youths. He was selected as a UK ambassador to attend an international conference with China on 2009 where the focus was on social entrepreneurship and community cohesion (Sponsored by Cisco systems). He continues to share the knowledge acquired on these programmes with local groups and individuals in communities in the UK.

Tunde had the opportunity to share his knowledge of the law, as part of a delegation sent to Nigeria by the Bar Human Rights Committee in partnership with UNICEF. The project aimed to enhance the capacity of the Child Protection Network (CPN) set up across different states in Nigeria. This was achieved though conducting human rights monitoring and documentation, with a particular focus on case management, interviewing and statement taking from children. The project also worked by engaging regional and international mechanisms of redress. Tunde delivered training on the aforesaid issues to legal practitioners, social workers and government ministers.
In summary, Tunde’s efforts demonstrate continuous service to every facet of his profession; diversity, pro-bono, and representation of the disaffected. His contribution to wider community and his perseverance though adversity is a testimony of success, sacrifice and service.

Qualifications and Positions Held
Oct. 2014 – November 2015           Advisory Board Member - Police Now

Nov. 2013 – Present                         Patron - Hackney Community Law Centre

July 2013 – Present             Registered Lawyer under The FA Football Agents Regulations

April 2013- Present          Freeman at the Worshipful Company of World Traders

Dec. 2012 – Present             Consultant for Amber and Greene

Sept. 2011 - Feb. 2012         Legal Advisor - Citizens Inquiry into the Tottenham  Riots  

May 2011 - Present                 Barrister - Doughty Street Chambers    

Apr. 2008 - Mar. 2014         Trustee - From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation    
Nov. 2008 - May 2011        Barrister - 4 Breams Buildings Chambers

Sept. 2006 - Sept. 2007       Board Member - Southwark Youth Crime Prevention Board

Jun. 2006 - Present                         President and Founder - Urban Lawyers

Jun. 2005 - Mar. 2008         Director - From Boyhood to Manhood Foundation Charity

  • Winner - The Inaugural Chambers & Partners Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Diversity’
  • Finalist - The Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year 2015
  • Finalist - Black British Awards 2015 for Professional Services.
  • Ted X Tottenham 2015
  • Winner - Legal Diversity Award 2014 (Diversity Champion)
  • Finalist - National Diversity Awards 2014
  • Junior Chamber of International London Ten Outstanding Young People Award 2013
  • Shortlisted for Young Legal Aid Barrister of the Year 2012
  • Awarded O2 Think big award for my work with Urban Lawyers 2012
  • Lawyer monthly publication for the barrister awards as the young barrister of the year 2012
  • Runner up for Mayor of London’s Peace Awards 2011
  • Awarded Millennium by UnLtd for his work with Urban Lawyers 2010

Website – www.tundeokewale.com
Twitter - @urbnlawyer