Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Natasha Shotunde for the award of Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Natasha Shotunde is an award-winning barrister, co-founder of the Black Barristers’ Network, and a fearless advocate for social mobility and individual rights.
Natasha grew up in a single-parent family in modest surroundings in Tottenham, which some might be tempted to consider a less-than-ideal foundation for a stellar career as a barrister. But the influence of Natasha’s mother proved decisive, and her parental guidance - on the importance of a good education and a traditional profession - was to prove sound wisdom.
Although Natasha flirted with the idea of a career in medicine, ultimately, she was dissuaded by an episode of Casualty on television. Medicine’s loss was to be the legal profession’s gain.
Of course, the path to the Bar was never going to be straightforward for someone of Natasha’s background. Yet “the right connections” are not a prerequisite when you have such a wealth of talent and resilience… and a fierce determination.
Natasha graduated from the University of Reading with her LLB in 2011, but as any aspiring lawyer knows, that’s just the first step. And for someone in Natasha’s position, the barriers to entry can seem insurmountable – like finding the £15,000 she needed to fund her Bar training.
So yes, the challenges were colossal, and her application for a scholarship at Lincoln’s Inn was quickly rejected. But Natasha’s tenacity came to the fore - she applied again the following year, and went on to win the Lord Denning Scholarship, together with the Hardwicke Entrance Award.
Next obstacle – obtaining pupillage, the hurdle that sees so many aspiring barristers fall by the wayside. But again, Natasha persevered, and persevered, and after three long years of rejection and unanswered applications, she successfully secured pupillage. And once completed, she quickly obtained tenancy at chambers.
A new world was open to Natasha. And despite the arduous journey, she had arrived at her destination with her values intact, her passions unchanged, and her commitment to act as a force for good, as strong as ever.
After gaining experience in criminal law, extradition, and regulatory and civil matters, Natasha began to focus on family law, while working on inquiries and reviews such as the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and the Dame Linda Dobbs Review.
Over the next few years she became particularly skilled at supporting individuals with vulnerabilities, such as those with learning difficulties or mental health diagnoses. Having represented many victims of domestic abuse, including those at risk of FGM and Forced Marriage, she became particularly passionate about eradicating gender-based violence.
Natasha was recently appointed a Trustee of AVA, a leading UK charity dedicated to ending violence against women and girls. And she has worked to drive change within the family justice system, sitting on the JUSTICE Working Party for Access to Justice for Separating Families.
Natasha has devoted significant time to pro bono work, and in 2017 she received a Certificate of Recognition for her efforts, then in 2019 she was nominated Hero Barrister of the Week by Advocate, formerly the Bar Pro Bono Unit.
Natasha has been equally active in driving positive change within her profession. In addition to her role as Co-founder and Chair of the Black Barristers’ Network, Natasha serves on the Bar Council’s Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility Committee; on the Race Working Group; the Family Law Bar Association Committee; and Lincoln’s Inn Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
Natasha’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. At the 2020 Chambers UK Bar Awards, she received the Highly Commended award in the category of Future Leader, Diversity and Inclusion. And she received the Rising Star Award at the 2021 UK Diversity Legal Awards.
On her journey to professional success, Natasha has overcome diverse challenges – challenges shared by many of our own students. Which is why we’re so grateful for the time she has devoted in speaking at several Anglia Ruskin events.
Her passion, allied with her down-to-earth, human approach, has already provided invaluable help and guidance to our students. And her resilience and determination to overcome adversity will provide further inspiration.
Natasha is an outstanding barrister - a champion of individual rights, and the rights of vulnerable people. She will be a powerful role model for our aspiring lawyers, and we are delighted to welcome Natasha Shotunde to our Anglia Ruskin community.
Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present Natasha Shotunde for the award of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.