Natasha Shotunde is a barrister who accepts instructions in landlord and tenant, civil, family, crime, regulatory and extradition.
Natasha has been selected as one of the Bar Council's Social Mobility Advocates and is part of the Bar Council's 'I Am The Bar' campaign, designed to open the legal profession up to anyone interested in a career in the law, regardless of their background.
Read Natasha's passionate piece on the current state of the Bar, social mobility, speaking out and changes that need to take place in order to modernise the Bar, as featured in the Times:
Natasha Shotunde: “Providing a voice to those in need makes the late nights and working weekends worth it”
Natasha Shotunde, 29, British-born, of Nigerian and Kenyan descent
Five St Andrew’s Hill
Year of call: 2013
Practice: mixed, including family, landlord and tenant, general civil, previously crime, extradition and some professional discipline work
The financial cuts to publicly funded work have had a devastating effect on access to justice and life as a barrister. The criminal justice system is at breaking point, which has resulted in the collapse of cases due to disclosure issues and strike action by barristers. Cuts to legal aid in family proceedings has resulted in an inequality of arms due to the rise in litigants-in-person and the cross-examination of victims of domestic abuse by the perpetrators.
A change in the perception of the Bar is one way in which we can increase diversity. It is seen as an elitist profession for the privileged few. The Bar has been working on social mobility through the Bar Council’s #IAmTheBar campaign and through events such as The Different Faces of the Bar – Four Journeys into Law, which will be a live-streamed panel discussion on December 5 for those aspiring to become barristers.
Discrimination against barristers due to a protected characteristic should be challenged by all branches of the legal profession. Discussions between barristers, clerks and solicitors should take place and a commitment to eliminate the issue needs to be made all parties.
Almost everybody at the Bar, including myself, would be able to tell you of a story when a judge has been rude, condescending and aggressive towards them in court. Courtesy and respect should be provided by both barristers and judges to ensure the smooth running of the justice system and for our own personal wellbeing.
Harassment will always be considered as an important issue and it is taken seriously at the Bar. I have personally been subjected to inappropriate behaviour in the past, but did not have the confidence to report it. Initiatives such as Behind the Gown have made me more confident about speaking up against this type of behaviour.
One of the most difficult aspects of my job is trying to maintain a work-life balance. However, I view my job as a privilege. I often deal with cases involving some of the most vulnerable people in society. Providing a voice to those in need makes the late nights and working weekends worth it.
As for the future of the Bar, in terms of those who are already in the profession, the problem of retention of women at the Bar needs to be dealt with. And fair allocation of work needs to be addressed, chambers needs to be transparent on which barristers are being taken out to meet solicitors on a more individual basis rather than at formal chambers events - and ensure that everybody has that opportunity; mentoring schemes to support people in maintaining their practices should be implemented, and there should be diversity on panels who select candidates for QC appointments and the judiciary.
This article was originally published in the Times on 22nd November 2018 and can be viewed on the Times website here.
Join the #IAmTheBar panel
The Secret Barrister, Chris Daw, QC, and two of the Bar Council’s social mobility advocates, Rachel Spearing and Natasha Shotunde, will join a live-streamed panel discussion on social mobility and access to the Bar on December 5 at 6.30pm.
The event takes place at the Bar Council in London, but anyone interested in the law or a legal career, at any level of education, can submit questions in advance, or on the night via Twitter. It will be live-streamed on the Bar Council’s social media channels. For more information follow @thebarcouncil on Twitter.