News

Student backlash as top Doughty Street barrister offers UNPAID three-month internship

By on

Exclusive: Celeb barrister who works alongside Amal Clooney accused of “staggering hypocrisy” — and his ad may be in breach of the rules

tunde

Doughty Street barrister and social mobility advocate Tunde Okewale is on the hunt for a grad student to work with him for three months over the summer.

But don’t expect big bucks for a stint at the hip human rights set. Perhaps surprisingly — given Okewale’s open commitment to social mobility in the profession — the advertised internship is unpaid. Moreover, an internship like this which is unpaid may also be in breach of national minimum wage rules, warns a leading employment lawyer.

Okewale, who is at the same chambers as world famous human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, told his 7,000 Instagram followers that he is offering a three-month internship over the summer.

I am offering a 3-month internship, starting 1st June 2016. The job involves, legal research and working on legally related books and/or materials as well as keeping my diary, and office administration. This internship would be an ideal opportunity for an ambitious barrister, solicitor and or executive assistant. Work-related expenses will be covered. Please see below an outline of the person specification: Education Graduate or Post Graduate Knowledge • Working knowledge of Windows, Microsoft office, PowerPoint, Word, Outlook and case management systems; • Working knowledge of digital dictation systems Person requirement • Excellent oral and written communication skills • Excellent organisational skills • Ability to relate to a wide range of clients and manage their expectations • Ability to handle difficult clients • Good prioritisation and time management • Ability to work calmly under pressure • Good telephone manner Please send CV’s and Covering letters to Tunde@urbanlawyers.co.uk

A photo posted by Tunde Okewale (@tundeokewale) on

There is no mention of salary in the ad, though it does specify “work-related expenses will be covered”.

This caused some confusion among the barrister’s dedicated student following. One curious commenter asked Okewale, via his Facebook page “Whats [sic] the salary?” The criminal law advocate did not answer the question.

LEad1

So we decided to reach out to the man behind the ad to allay this confusion, and find out a little bit more about the planned internship.

Okewale confirmed to Legal Cheek that the three-month stint is indeed “unpaid”. When asked if there is a maximum expenses limit, he told us “travel (travel zone 1-6) and food expenses. £100 week approx.” This could mean further personal expense for candidates from outside of the capital.

The fact that the internship is unpaid has raised a few eyebrows. Okewale is a big advocate for social mobility: he himself grew up on a Hackney council estate, obtained a 2:2 from London Metropolitan University and now works for one of London’s top sets. One disgruntled student who contacted Legal Cheek about the ad commented:

Staggering hypocrisy from someone who’s made social mobility and promoting those from working class and minority and immigrant background part of their brand and career.

But there could also be other implications for Okewale, who is the most-followed barrister on Instagram. Dan Chapman, head of employment at Leathes Prior Solicitors, explained:

I believe the barrister in question is taking a considerable risk. At least national minimum wage (or living wage) needs to be paid to any person who is performing work.

Though the law surrounding internships is a notorious grey area, the lawyer continued:

The distinction between ‘work experience’ (or, the more American term, an internship) and ‘work’ is a very fine one, but given this barrister (who will be in business on his own account) is suggesting that legal research will be undertaken, office administration and indeed that it is a ‘job’, I feel that he would struggle to defend his position and, accordingly, would risk being held to be an employer that needs to be paying the appropriate level of wages and taxes for this employee.

When we put this information to Okewale, he had this to say:

The role relates to volunteering for my charity Urban Lawyers and my understanding is that the internship won’t be covered by the national minimum wage regulations as there is no legally enforceable contract and the person will not be allocated specific duties.

Further confusion reigned over to what extent the internship will involve any work experience at Doughty Street Chambers with aspiring Amals desperate for such exposure. The criminal law barrister told Legal Cheek that the intern — who is expected to work 16-20 hours per week — will “not solely” be based there but that his or her work will in fact be “mainly in relation to Urban Lawyers”, a project fronted by Okewale which helps wannabe lawyers from marginalised groups in society.

Doughty Street Chambers has confirmed that it is not involved with the internship he is offering. The human rights set does not currently offer mini-pupillages placements, and has not advertised Okewale’s internship on its official website though the set has pointed out to us that it makes financial contributions to external organisations which support paid internships in the field of human rights.