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Image Nigerian-born Dele Ogun talks about his first book ‘The Law, the Lawyers and the Lawless’ which chronicles his life in the UK and his career with the Law.


Born in Lagos in the early 1960’s into a newly independent Nigeria, Dele Ogun grew up in his father’s village of Aiyede on the south-west coast, where he lived until the age of seven, when he was sent to join his parents in London.

In his first book ‘The Law, the Lawyers and the Lawless’, Dele – born Akindele Ogunetimoju – tells the story of his early years in the UK and his efforts to assimilate into British culture without losing his own. It traces his journey from a Yoruba schoolboy newly arrived in London to his success in establishing the first black-led commercial law practice in England.

Struggling with dyslexia, yet with an unquenchable ambition to be a lawyer, Dele’s book offers a compelling insight into the challenges of breaking into the cloistered and often privileged world of lawyers, judges and the British legal profession and charts some of the lawful and lawless encounters he faces along the way.

ReConnect Africa spoke to Dele Ogun about his career and his new book.

RCA: What inspired you to write ‘The Law, the Lawyers & the Lawless’?

DO: I had an African-American law partner for many years who used to speak of the “first-black” syndrome which is a common theme in America where opportunities were only opened up to the black community in the 60’s. Our discussions caused me to reflect on the milestones of my own journey, from village life in Nigeria to professional life in Britain, and to realise that I was one of that transitional generation with a story to tell.

RCA: In the book it is clear that it is your understanding of your strengths that directs your career development. What steps do you think people can take to do the same for themselves?

DO: All of our potential is to be found in the genes that we inherit at birth and our achievements are simply the extent to which we understand our individual bequests and supplement them with acquired skills. I am of that school of thought that says that self-knowledge is the greatest education of all and from an early age I have been in dialogue with myself: seeking to understand my likes and my dislikes and critically assessing my strengths and my weaknesses. Once you have carried out this self-appraisal honestly, you can then begin to work on your weaknesses to produce an enhanced you.

RCA: How far do you think the legal profession in the UK has come in terms of opportunity and access for ethnic minorities?

DO: When I first started knocking on the doors of the profession in the mid 80’s it was very much a new phenomenon, especially in the field of commercial law. Though many others have since walked the walk, the pathway is still stony compared with , say, the U.S.A. Getting into commercial law practice in the UK is still hard and staying in is harder still.

However, the experience of different ethnic minority groups is not uniform: Caribbeans still get interviews more easily because of their inherited British names (other things being equal); Asians are making it through to partnership in the commercial practices more often for the simple reason that the Indian sub-continent has taken off commercially; the African lawyer still has the double burden of the name that doesn’t belong and the continent that is economically in decline.

'The Law, the Lawyers and the Lawless’ – A Review

A heavy workload, looming deadlines and a compelling case for catching up on lost sleep were all put aside to read this engaging, engrossing, enlightening and extremely entertaining account of Dele Ogun’s life.

Told with astonishing honesty in these times where image often reigns supreme, as well as a confidence that never crosses into smugness, ‘The Law, The Lawyers & The Lawless’ is the story of one man’s quest to understand his strengths and to push against those obstacles that stand between him and his goal.

In the course of so doing, he acquires new insights that open the door to fresh opportunities and reaches a sober and mature redefinition of success.

This book by Dele Ogun – born Akindele Ogunetimoju – showcases his natural talents as a legal advocate and his instincts as an entrepreneur unafraid to push against the boundaries of the status quo. It displays the wit and charm of this born orator as well as the grace and compassion of someone who must surely be ranked high on the list of role models for today’s African Diaspora youth.

This book is a ‘must read’ for anyone who appreciates these qualities!

Frances Williams
Editor, ReConnect Africa


RCA: You combined your legal skills and entrepreneurial flair when you set up your law firm. What advice do you have for other lawyers who might want to follow this route?

DO: There will be highs and there will be lows! It is a joy to have the freedom to be the kind of lawyer you want to be and, at the same time, to be a decision maker.

For example, I mix transactional work with advocacy which would have been impossible in my former life as an employed lawyer in a major City firm. I also recently decided to rebrand the firm from Ogun@Law to Akin & Law LLP which is the kind of judgment call that C.E.O.s in commercial establishments have to make.

The lows are when you see your business overdraft spiralling because the pay day you were looking forward to just didn’t go to plan.

RCA: How would you say your Nigerian origins contributed to developing the kind of person and lawyer you have become?

DO: It is hard work being a Nigerian, at least for those of us who cannot live by the value systems that are prevalent in the country at the moment: try as you might you Image cannot escape the bad odour generated by bad leadership and fanned by the international media. However, it is because the good Nigerian cannot count on any favours from home or abroad that accounts for our resilience.

Being ever mindful of my origins in Nigeria, I looked for opportunities whilst those who belonged looked for rights. My origins made me realise that I could not expect to walk into jobs like a native and this led me to think about the pathways where I would stand a better chance of progression.

RCA: Your book provides a fascinating commentary on events in Nigeria. As an African living and working in the UK, how do you view your personal responsibility to the development of Nigeria and of Africa as a whole?

DO: Africans at home often think that those of us who have been abroad for long do not understand the problems of the homeland because, as my people would say, “you are not on ground”. They fail to understand the two factors that mean that the view from abroad can be a lot clearer. The first factor is that since the trade routes tour homeland were first opened up, the events “on ground” have been umbilically conjoined with strategic calculations abroad.



The second factor is the greater access to a greater range of information that those of us abroad have. Whether we like it or not, by virtue of our vantage point, those of us abroad have the responsibility for the development of our homeland since the failings back home will continue to feed the prejudice of the racists and the arrogant claims of the supremacists in the foreign lands where we and our children may have taken refuge.

The problem with many of us at present is that we are using up all our energies trying to leave our children a financial legacy and putting nothing aside for the work that needs to be done to give them the more enduring legacy of membership of a race that is respected in the world.

RCA: How can readers buy a copy of ‘The Law, the Lawyers & the Lawless’?

DO: You can buy the book on www.amazon.co.uk or simply ask your local book shop to order it.

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