Homerton student wins place on prestigious law scheme

Photo: Jelani Okoruwa

Second-year Homertonian Jelani Okoruwa is one of only seven students in the country to be awarded a place on a prestigious law scheme designed to tackle the under-representation of black males from less privileged backgrounds in the large commercial law firms.

Two years ago the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partnered with Baroness Doreen Lawrence and invited exceptionally talented black men from low income, state school backgrounds to participate in various skills-based assessments at Freshfields’ London office. As a result of this process, they offered seven scholarships to those who excelled across the two-day testing period. Jelani was selected as part of that cohort.

“I originally heard about the scheme from my Director of Studies at Homerton, Veronika Fikfak, and coming from a modest background and state school I satisfied all of the conditions for the application”, says Jelani, “so in the end I just went for it. Growing up in London I knew all about the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence.  He was a promising architect and I was happy to see organisations creating opportunities for students like me to fulfil their talents in top professions.”

The scholarship has been described as an extended development and mentoring scheme, with successful candidates visiting the office frequently in the course of the year. During this period, there are opportunities to sit in various departments across the firm, as well as training, including commercial awareness. Each scholar is given three mentors – a partner, a trainee or associate and a lawyer from Goldman Sachs - who help with career advice and to prepare them for a Freshfields training contract interview.

“Since being selected as part of the scheme, I have been in the office four times,” says Jelani. “Usually we will meet with our mentors in the day to discuss any news since the last time we met and also to go over our CVs. We then engage in different exercises that are designed to help train us in the skills necessary to be solicitors at top law firms.”  Already Jelani has found himself following the research for a real case, and  discussing training contracts with the in-house legal team at Goldman Sachs. “I’m really excited with the programme”, he says, “and I’m certainly not disappointed with my decision to apply.”