Many of you may have already come across some previous Urban Lawyers blog posts. Some of you may be avid followers of the Urban Lawyers blogs and always patiently anticipate the next. However, how many of you could describe what Urban Lawyers do? As a result, the purpose of this blog post is to not only explain what Urban Lawyers do, but to provoke discussion based around the challenges which are faced by such an organisation.
Urban Lawyers has grown into a multipurpose organisation over the last 24 months where it started out as a small group incorporating the visions of its founder Tunde Okewale (Doughty Street Chambers). Tunde’s motivation for starting Urban Lawyers was the desire to create an organisation which he didn’t have when he was growing up. He wanted to create an organisation which could reach out and empower disaffected young people and prevent them from starting a life entrenched in crime. Urban Lawyers started out as an education resource; Tunde wanted to create an organisation which would not only educate but also engage and stimulate discussion amongst young people about their attitudes towards criminal law, policing and personal responsibility.
This is done in many different ways and spans wider than that of what would be expected at first glance.
The project provides information to disaffected young people and communities who would not otherwise have access to it or be able to comprehend it. This is done by delivering workshops at local community centres, schools and colleges. Urban Lawyers also make use of social media to engage with as many people as possible; Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and this WordPress blog all facilitate Urban Lawyer’s goals of educating and informing not only disaffected young people, but anyone that wants to listen.
Tunde has recently developed Urban Lawyers further, by providing young people with information and opportunities about how to secure work and/ or experience in the legal profession. Tunde believes the legal profession should be open to anyone with the desire, passion, strength and ability to make it. These qualities are not dependent upon one’s race, ethnicity, sex, or any other attribute which can be discriminated against. Tunde believes the legal profession should be open to all and as a result is expanding Urban Lawyers to facilitate this, the second limb of the project. Furthermore, Tunde recently entered into agreement with BPP Law School to provide 4 Urban Lawyers Scholarships; with the aim of making the LPC and BPTC more affordable to those coming into the profession.
So what challenges are faced by Urban Lawyers? First, that of acomplising the goal in which it set out to achieve; to create an organisation which could reach out and empower disaffected young people and prevent them from starting a life entrenched in crime. This proposition may be easily dismissed by many as unachievable, however, Urban Lawyers does achieve this goal; not necessarily across the board, but pragmatically, step by step. The goal is not to start out by saying one is going to build the best wall ever built, but to say one is going to place a brick the best it can be placed, and so forth. The end result will be that the biggest and best wall would be produced. Urban Lawyers believes that if its resource can help people one by one, then eventually the initial goal looks more much achievable.
What about access to justice and the rule of law? Previous Urban Lawyers blogs have discussed these topics in more detail. These can be found here and here. However as many will undoubtedly have realised by now, the current Coalition government, headed by David Cameron, seem hell-bent on eroding the rule of law, reducing access to justice and sowing the seeds of a tyranny; with a blatant disregard to the consequences of such actions. This is a challenge going to the root of Urban Lawyers’ goals. How is it possible to prevent young people becoming entrenched in crime, when the government look set on making it more likely and easier to ‘fall into’. Many examples can be cited: Legal aid cuts and Judicial Review cuts both go to the crux of the matter and both could see a marked increase in the already unacceptable number of miscarriage of justice cases taking place. This would lead to more people becoming entrenched in crime. This is what Urban Lawyers aims to prevent and discourage. Urban Lawyers firmly believes that through educating and engaging, providing a greater awareness, and as a result provoking discussion and debate; these are the first steps towards change and in order to get anyone the first step must be taken boldly, confidently and with assurance. A charge in which Urban Lawyers must continue to uphold.
Another challenge relating to the second and most recent limb of the Urban Lawyers project is that of access to the legal profession. This is something in which the whole of the legal profession is attempting to facilitate and Urban Lawyers are looking to assist in this. Entry to the legal profession in highly competitive. In fact, highly competitive is probably a huge understatement to say the least. Both the Solicitor and Barrister route are becoming more competitive than ever as firms and chambers reduce their intake, whilst at the same time more people become intent on a career in law. Urban lawyers hopes to aid access to the legal profession by holding events which not only educate and engage in relation to their specific purpose but also provide an ideal opportunity for networking; an often overlooked yet essential tool in any potential lawyers toolkit.
Urban Lawyers are currently looking to work with universities and societies to promote its aims. Futhermore, Urban Lawyers are looking to recruit new volunteers which hold the same values as the project. Urban Lawyers is entirely volunteer run, mainly by law students, however applications are open to anyone.
Please get involved and remember:
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”
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LLB (Honours) Student & Aspiring Barrister