Tunde Okewale

Tunde Okewale

An inspirational lawyer in Hackney has been hailed for his community work after turning his life around and turning it into a success story.

 Nigerian-born  Tunde Okewale was once an ‘ordinary’ Hackney youth working part-time in Dalston Sainsburys. However, now at the age of 30, he has gained a prestigious position at one of the country’s leading chambers.

He has just been appointed patron of the Hackney Community Legal Centre (HCLC) and was recently praised by KPMG executive and former BBC head of Public Affairs Lord Michael Hastings, who said: “Right at his core is a commitment to justice for the poorest people and those outside opportunity; and his life has been about building his legal strength and capacity so that he can give that energy to others and empower them to freedom.”

Okewale said he was committed to continuing his work with young people in his home community and added that he hoped to give something back to the people who had helped him along the way, through his new role.

He told the Voice: “The secret of my success is hard work, sheer determination and the fact that I have really supportive friends and family who truly believe I can do it,” he said.

“I can’t remember a time when I did not want to be a lawyer.”

He believes anyone could make it if they have the right attitude. He came to the UK when he was just a year old and grew up in Hackney with working-class parents, and faced many challenges along the way.

He said: “The turning point for me was the day I got my degree results from London Metropolitan University and discovered that I had received a 2:2. This meant I was going to really struggle, because the legal profession customarily takes Oxbridge graduates with very good grades.

“In their eyes I was this kid from Hackney that didn’t go to a good university and didn’t do well. I had to find a way to break past those barriers and to do that I needed help from someone who was doing what I wanted to do.”

But after being referred to a barrister by one of his workmates at Sainsbury’s, he received advice on how to reach his goals despite not achieving the highest grades. He now works at Doughty Street Chambers alongside high-profile legal professionals, such as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC and Keir Starmer, former Director of Public Prosecutions. He has also set up his own social enterprise, Urban Lawyers, an initiative with a strong social media reach of over 10,000.

The enterprise provides workshops and motivational projects aimed to help young people who are struggling to make it into the legal profession. His organisation has partnered with law schools and firms to offer scholarships and training contracts.

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