Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu

S2 E2    16 March 2022

The amazing life of a higher consciousness lawyer

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The amazing life of a higher consciousness lawyerMaureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu
00:00 / 48:56

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Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu 

Barrister, civil rights lawyer

Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu is a barrister with her own chambers in London, England.

 

Her life story shines with love and service. She is no mystic, guru, or sage. She is a practising lawyer who happens to function with higher awareness of her connection to spirit and lives and breathes it in all her dealings.

 

She experienced a harrowing childhood of under-privilege, prejudice and abuse growing up in 1960s England as a child of Nigerian migrants. She overcame all of it and today is a successful civil rights lawyer.

Her story is bound to amaze and inspire but, as she says herself, everyone has to find their own path and contribute their own unique gifts to the whole.

Bio

Show notes

Links

Transcript

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Bio:

Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu is a barrister with her own chambers in London, England.

Maureen offers holistic legal services to professional and lay clients in the law relating to children and families. She offers services in advice and advocacy, mediation and training workshops. She provides advice directly to the public through the Public Direct access scheme operated by the UK Bar Council.

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Show notes:

  • [2:30] Maureen's shares her early years as a child of Nigerian migrants in England, and her experiences of being placed in foster care at 6 weeks old. 

  • [5:06] Maureen returned to her mother at age 5, after her father departed for Nigeria for mental health reasons.

  • [8:34] Maureen's experiences as an intelligent and gifted child taught her the world insisted on conformance and passed judgment easily.

  • [13:00] How Maureen first encountered her natural affinity for law at secondary school.

  • [15:46] Maureen spread her knowledge into business and learned about the incredible power some people have over others.

  • [17:57] Maureen began work in a law office, but not as a lawyer - her journey to that was just beginning. 

  • [22:34] Maureen applies for the Access to Law course - an unconventional route to law practice which exposed her to social justice and civil rights issues in a remarkable way.

  • [26:08] Qualifying as a solicitor, Maureen embarks on 18 years of dealing with clients in a heart-centred way.

  • [34:01] Maureen fulfils her dream of becoming a barrister and secures a place with a prestigious civil rights barristers' chambers. 

  • [37:14] Maureen establishes her own chambers and truly sets about on her mission to be God's instrument in her work.

  • [40:27] Maureen's work is to help bring about the end of a need for lawyers, as humanity becomes self-governing. 

  • [43:20] Maureen shares her wisdom around learning to honour one's uniqueness and to preserve all of life and nature.

Links:

The Chambers of Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu (Family Matters): familymatters.uk.com

A BBC article on the history and influence of Nigerian migration to the UK. 

An overview of the Law degree at South Bank University, London where Maureen obtained her degree,

The Voice, Britain's Black newspaper, where Maureen read the ad that launched her journey to a law degree.

A Guardian story on Angela Davis, the American civil rights activist.

Tooks Chambers - a Law Gazette story of the demise of this high profile human rights and civil liberties barristers' chambers in 2013.

Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All.

 
 
 
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Transcript: 

Geraldine  0:12  
Hello everyone and welcome to the New Earth lawyer podcast, where we feature lawyers who are changing the practice of law to change the world. My name is Geraldine Johns-Putra, I am your host, I am coming to you from Melbourne, Australia, and this is Boonwurrung country so I wish to pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. Welcome to episode 2 of season 2 of the podcast. I'd like to introduce you today to Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu. She's a barrister at Family Matters, that's her own chambers in London. And I met Maureen on a course where we learned how to draft conscious contracts. That was run by Kim Wright whom I've had on this podcast before as a guest. Maureen offers holistic legal services to professional and lay clients in the law as it relates to children and families. Among the services she offers arr advice and advocacy, mediation and training workshops. She provides advice directly to the public through a public direct access scheme that's operated by the Bar Council in the UK. So from this, you can see that Maureen has an outlook on life and the law that supports the underprivileged and the most vulnerable in our society. She has a fascinating story. And I wanted to feature Maureen because of her story and her message. So welcome, Maureen.

 

Maureen  1:42  
Hello, thank you so much for asking me to do this is very, very humbling, that you think that I've got something to add. So yes, thanks very much.

Geraldine  1:56  
It started with the course when we had a moment together in a breakout and we exchanged stories. And so from when you told me about how you got into the law, about the background of your family, it just really enthralled me. It grabbed me. So this is, I actually thought then that I wanted to speak more to you, and this podcast is I think, a perfect vehicle to do that. So let's start there. Let's start with, you know, your background as you explained it to me.

Maureen  2:30  
All right, so, my parents are from Nigeria, in Africa, and they came to this country, England, in the 1960s. Oh, I'm giving away my age. I was born in 1964. So it is what it is. And so this is a different time, England. I mean, if you can just imagine. This was before the assassination of Martin Luther King in America and the whole issue of racial segregation and how people were treated, was very much in the fore. And it was also before the Biafran war in Nigeria. So my parents had escaped that. And they were in England, and so what's interesting is that that's the time that I came into the world. It was a very changing world at that point. But equally, it was a very sad, I'm going to say sad world, because racism and just inequality was the order of the day. So this is the background in which I was born. So I was born in England, and after... so, in Nigeria, we raise children in a community. So in that sense, it's not... the mother and the father are important, but so are other members of the family. And often they help to raise. So what my parents believed at the time was that when they came to the UK, they could replicate that, that community sense. So when I was born, I was placed with foster carers, that's what we called them. But essentially, they were white people, so not the same cultural background as my parents. And that both, well my dad, I think, thought this was a good thing. My mum, I'm not sure. She, you know, did and again in that time, women's roles and how they were able to, you know, to have a voice was very, very different. I don't think she had a voice because at six weeks, I was in this place foster placement. 

 

Geraldine  5:00  
Six weeks old? 

Maureen  5:03  
Yeah.

Geraldine  5:04  
Oh my, Maureen.

 

Maureen  5:06  
So, you know, there's so many things I could say about that. But this is the context in which I was born and how I was, what my early years were like. So, from those six weeks until I was about five, I was in this placement. I was with these people, who were meant to be my parents, you could call them foster parents, so, but actually, I experienced sexual abuse within that environment. Something that is very much not part of what my cultural, you know, where my cultural heritage. I mean, it was an anathema. My father, however, he became unwell shortly after coming to the UK, and ended up going into one of the mental health hospitals that existed at the time. I mean, they are no longer in existence and thankfully, that's the case because they didn't treat people particularly well and mental health was really much different than how it's discussed today. And so he went into that environment. And I did not... the last, the only time I saw him after that, before he died, was when we took him, my mother and I, my brother, to the airport, for him to board a plane to go back to Nigeria, because his health was not going to recover here. And it was felt by those that were treating him that it was best that he returned. 

My mother made a really important decision. And that is it. You can tell it was life-changing, because she had to decide whether she was going to return with her husband and her two very young children at that point, or whether she was going to remain here alone in the UK, and raise us herself in an environment that was hostile. Hostile to her because she was black and hostile because she was a woman and a woman with two single children. So my mother made that very, very important decision. And in 1971, oh again, giving away my age, she made that decision to remain here with us. And my father returned to Nigeria. And he subsequently died in 1984. So I never saw him again. And there was very little contact that I had with him. 

So that's the outward kind of picture. And then there's the inward picture. Because as I said to you, I was in foster placement, I returned to my mother's care around five. And that was a difficult transition, I think you need to, maybe people won't understand that when you've been away from your parents, and it's not a kind of, you know, you haven't seen them. So it's not like you were away and then you went there for the weekend or anything like that. No, this is a long period where, you know, there was no contact. 

 

Geraldine  8:03  
Yeah. 

Maureen  8:03  
And so my return was to my mum. 

Geraldine  8:07  
Yeah.

Maureen  8:08  
And my father was, he was unwell and in hospital. And so anyway, it was a difficult transition. So there were difficulties with that relationship and difficulties with behavioural issues with myself, like, I was wetting the bed and all sorts of those things that often spell emotional discord, you know, emotional... really important stuff.

Geraldine  8:34  
Disturbance.  Mmm. Deep disturbance.

 

Maureen  8:34  
Yeah. Disturbance. And something that, you know, at that time, people were really, they didn't really know, they wouldn't talk about that. You were just a difficult child and I was a difficult child. That's how it was kind of dealt with. So fast forward, you know, I just have this belief that from the very outset, you know, God or spirituality was in my life, because all of those things I experienced. And I'm, I could say, I'm still here now, but even then, when I was, you know, going through it and moving through it, there was a greater force that was in my life that was kind of keeping me safe. And the other thing, what was really interesting about my journey was, I was quite intelligent. I wasn't really, I didn't get taught to read or write. These are things that I was able to do. And I can remember a few school issues, where because I was intelligent, I wasn't really paying attention in the classroom because it was boring. So I took myself under the table and was, you know, happily playing and whatever with myself alone under this table. And I got a whack from the teacher. Smack! I mean, I remember it. I mean, even now I'm a big woman and I remember this smack, because it jolted me. Not in a pleasant way, it jolted me out of my little world that I was in, yeah, and then it brought me to this realisation that, you know, even then, I had to play by somebody else's rules. I wanted to stay under the table and play. But that wasn't permitted. And not was it not just permitted, I mean, it was seriously frowned upon because I was physically hit. 

 

Geraldine  8:37  
Yeah. 

 

Maureen  9:18  
In consequence of that behaviour. Anyway, it taught me something very early, not a pleasant teaching. I'm not going to say that. Which was, it was about compliance. You know, compliance was the order of the day. So I had a lesson, it was Home Economics. Again, this is stuff only girls do, at that point, Home Economics, it's all to do with cooking and sewing. And anyway, in this lesson, I was with a particular person. So again, I told you, I was quite intelligent. So I was in the top sets, for all the subjects English, Math, you know, all of the top sets. But in this Home Economics set, there was a mix of people. So it wasn't always from the same class. I wasn't in the same class as everyone that I was in classes with. They came from different classes. Anyway, one girl, and I, we found out, and it just so happened, I was part of a gang. I mean, even sounds funny to me calling it a gang. But we were a gang of girls. 

 

Geraldine  11:37  
Yeah. 

 

Maureen  11:37  
And we were really, we were quite formidable within the school, not because we were horrible, but because we were intelligent. And we were, you know, we were just this force. Anyway, so we were part of the same gang. Anyway, we fell out, I can't remember what the actual thing was. But what I learned from that was like, everyone in the gang stopped talking to me. So I was frozen out of this gang, because of what had happened. And no one asked me what had gone on, they had just taken what was told to them by the other person, the other gang member, I'll call her. And that was a massive lesson for me moving forward, because it was like, this can happen. People can just completely don't bother, not bother to talk to you and find out what's going on. But to judge you, and judge your behaviour, and then act in a way towards you, which says they don't like your behaviour, they don't like you they can't, you know, and it was a massive... and what I also learned at a very early age was, keep your counsel. So I never went and said, so-and-so was this and she did that. I did not speak, did not say anything. And so I learned that, at my teenage years. 

So fast forward. All of the things and experiences taught me, it was a natural kind of progression, I wanted to be the voice for those who could not speak for themselves at that time. Not that I wanted to be the voice of them forever. But during that time that they were unable to do so for whatever reason, I would be that voice, I would advocate for them, I would say what was required. So how was I going to do that. So this is how I came to do law. So I had not achieved all the things that I thought I was going to, supposedly earmarked for in my, you know, early years, in my secondary school years. And so I went into the sixth form. And then you had to choose the kind of different subjects. And to be honest, there wasn't anything that really made me, have me like burn inside, there was no passion. Except they had a law course. So it was, you could do this law, 'A' level law. No, I think it was 'O' level law, it doesn't matter anyway, it was really a qualification. 

 

Geraldine  14:16  
Yep. 

Maureen  14:16  
So I took it and that was my passion. And I then took that exam and I got the highest mark, not just within the school ever. So the exam board, you know, when I got the exam mark back it was said, you know, this is recorded as the highest exam record for the school, but even for that year, of those people taking the exam across the country, Maureen Obi got the highest grade. I mean, I can't even, now it sounds really fantastic, but at the time, it didn't mean anything to me. So I got an A. That's all I did, I got an A.

 

Geraldine  14:59  
You basically topped the country in this subject.

 

Maureen  15:03  
But that taught me. This was not, it told me, well, did it tell me it was my passion? I kind of knew it was my passion. So now it was about where do I go with that? And I was told by career advisors that you have no chance of becoming a lawyer, none. You're black, and you're a woman, go and become a secretary, or work in the local factory, can you imagine? I mean, for somebody like myself, that was like a rag to a bull, you're telling me I can't be a lawyer. What? Watch me. And so it was kind of a bit of a motivator. 

But then my life didn't go quite as planned. And I'm not going to get into it. But I ended up doing two further courses. I did a BTEC national in business, diploma in business, absolutely wonderful course because it gave me multiple different skills that I could use, not just law. And I got to go into Europe, and into the European courts of justice. And I also got to go on this fantastic exchange. I'm not going to, I don't know what to call it, an exchange. So there was lots of students who went into a house on the border of Germany, this is when the East and the West were separate. And so we were on the border, we were on the border of West Germany, where, you know, that's where this house was. 

 

Geraldine  16:36  
Yeah. 

 

Maureen  16:37  
And if we went outside the house, and we walked towards the back of the house, we could have stepped into the other, Eastern Germany. And we would have been in problems because, of course, that was not the done thing at the time. They were separate. But I got to experience this. I also got to not just, I mean, that in itself wasn't the thing. The thing was that we were in this house, with lots of other students from across the world. And what we were being asked to do, was to make decisions about who would be killed and who wouldn't be killed in situations where there was war or things of that nature. It was really, really revealing, and a bit scary. Scary because what you realised, or what I came away with, was that some people have got that power. They've got that power, which means that they can determine whether somebody lives or dies. I said to myself, I never want to be that person. I don't want to be in that position. And I don't think anyone should be in it. But I mean, again, this is the experience I got from going on this, you know, my, my whole kind of journey to law has been so interesting. 

Anyway, so that was all the things I explored. I ended up qualifying, I got my BTEC national diploma. And then it was like, what do I do now? Do I go to university? So at that point, I didn't really want to go to university. So I worked. I went, I applied for a job with a local firm of solicitors. So it was law-based. But I was working in the accounts department. So I had nothing to do with the practice of law. But I did see how, you know what a practice looked like. 

 

Geraldine  18:30  
Yeah.

Maureen  18:31  
It was a bit of an interesting experience. And again, I told you I was this really bright thing. I think youth, I don't know, maybe it's just generally youth, there is intelligence or there's sort of, certainly, lots of energy. But I could do anything.

 

Geraldine  18:31  
Yeah.

Maureen  18:40  
There wasn't anything that you could put in front of me that I couldn't do at that point. And I was fearless. I didn't feel that there was any real limitations. Although when I look back now, I think there were some limitations brought about by some of the things I experienced when I was a small child. But in terms of like, other aspects of myself, there was no limit to, I could do what I want. So I was in this environment, learning how to become this accountant for the solicitors. And so my passion for law again, I was seeing it through work, the work that I was doing. I wasn't a lawyer, I was an accountant. You know, I was in the accounts department. And for about a few, four or five months, I was running that department, because a woman who was in charge of it decided that she had had enough and she left and they didn't replace her. And it was me running this accounts department. And I was no more than 18 years of age. So anyway, that's that.

 

Geraldine  19:44  
Did you have a vision at that point that you were going to be a lawyer, you know you'd aced the law exam, the 'O' levels exam?

Maureen  19:54  
So all I knew at this point was that yeah, that law was something that I clearly naturally, you know, had a thing for. And so being in the solicitors' office, what it did for me was make me realise, I can't stay here. I can't do this accounting, because that's too small. Too small for me. I need to do something more. So anyway, this is what happened. I never do anything conventionally. So I was reading this magazines, a black paper, sorry, called The Voice. And it was the only paper in the whole country that was directed at people like me, people of colour, not even women. It took you through music, work, education, it was a really good paper. Still is. Because it's still in existence. Anyway, in it, I saw this advert, and it said: Access to Law. And it says, do you want to, you know, experience, or go on a journey to become a lawyer. And I was like, ooh, I'm going to apply for that! It was unconventional, it wasn't the traditional way to get into university. Just wasn't, you know. So I went along. And I have to say, there was two things in my mind. One was, you're probably going to be a little bit overqualified, because you're quite intelligent. But you didn't ace your exams. So maybe you're going to be able to get in because, you know. So anyway, you had to write this paper as to why, this stuff. So I got in, I'm telling you, sometimes, when the door is open to you, you walk through. Nothing, effortless. The whole thing is effortless. You don't have to struggle. And that's what it was like.

 

Geraldine  21:46  
Yeah, there's a feeling of flow.

 

Maureen  21:49  
That's it, the flow. And so that's exactly what happened. I went, I got an interview, there was somebody there who really did take a shine to me, just took a shine, saw something perhaps in me that I didn't see and said yes. And then I went on this fantastic journey into the law. And I knew every step of that journey, this is absolutely what I should be doing. There was not another thing, or another place to go. So I'm going to let you know the story that I'm telling is unusual. Because when you hear, for most people, they say, oh, I did my 'O' levels. So that's the basic degree, you know, education, then I did my 'A' levels, and then I went to university. That's not my journey. My journey was not that. 

 

Geraldine  22:33  
Yeah. 

Maureen  22:34  
And so I did this Access to Law course. The first in the world, not even in the country, again, now, this is the first Access to Law. And the thing that's really interesting about it is that in this country, remember law is so traditional. When you start to think about, you know, how it's been developed, the legal system, so traditional, so formal, and that means it excluded people, you could not get in there if you were like me. Normal, just natural, whatever. Just, I was not the stereotype.

 

Geraldine  23:10  
This was a path to the law course that would allow you to qualify as a lawyer without a university degree?

Maureen  23:19  
Nope, nope. So I'm going to speed it up. So it's access to a degree. 

Geraldine  23:25  
Okay. 

Maureen  23:25  
You did this preliminary course. And then you had if you pass the preliminary course, what it did was give you a place to...

 

Geraldine  23:35  
Okay, give you a place at university.

Maureen  23:37  
Yeah. So you then had to take the degree, so you had to get the degree doing this route. So I went on to the course. It again, was a course, it was untraditional. It was at the Southbank University, I'm telling you, they were doing innovative work with students because you know, they were not just, you know, after the Access to Law course, which they connected to, there is access to social work, social workers, access to all sorts of social work studies, all sorts of things. So it's a really good university. 

 

Geraldine  23:38  
Yeah, yeah.

Maureen  23:45  
So I got onto that. And I'm going to say I did, you know, I struggled. But in my second year, again, I was chosen to go on this American exchange. I'm telling you, the door is open to you, like I said to you, just keep walking through. I got on this course, and again, I was shocked. I was like ooh. And I went to the States. And I'm, somebody like me, coming from where I came from, you know, no money, we were not rich. This was like, whoa, this is like something else. So I go on this course. I'm living away from home now. So I'm independent. I'm not at home and, anyway, what an experience! I cannot, again, all these things that just made me realise I was going to be this civil rights lawyer. This was what I was going to do. This was what I was going to be. And I met Angela Davis.

 

Geraldine  25:16  
Yeah.

Maureen  25:17  
Right? We went on a civil rights march, we were protected by the police from the Klu Klux Klan. I sat in a courtroom with a judge, listening to how she deliberated. She! So that was the other thing, she was female, how she deliberated in a court, she had a dog underneath her desk, that she kept with her because this was her comfort. I went to a Night Court, where I saw people arraigned, or, you know, I don't know what the word is in English arraigned for things that they committed for acts, you know, criminal acts that they committed that very night. So you were seeing all of this. And I experienced this on my law degree that I've got, you know, through the Access to Law course, I then, obviously, I graduate, I get a 2:1, so that's a second class upper degree, which is great, 

 

Geraldine  26:07  
Yup.

Maureen  26:08  
You know, just missed out. No, did I just miss out on the first? Probably, I missed out on that. But so what? I then apply to, so I do the solicitors' finals, instead of going to the Bar, and I'm going to tell you the reason is that I was poor. If you went to the Bar, you had to have money, you had to have people that were backing you. And I didn't, that wasn't me. So anyway, do the solicitors' final exam, I go into practice. Again, like I said, I got a contract. I got a training contract. I did my training. I then was given, you know, applied, and I was given a job as a lawyer within this practice. And then I progressed from there. And then , you know, I had children, and you know, all of that. But I was in the law. And at that point, I couldn't believe it. I can remember the day. I went to Victoria Station, when they would, what they used to do, I'm not sure they do it now, but they used to publish, when you graduated, when you became a lawyer, when you passed your exams to become a solicitor, they published it. So it was public news. So this day, and it's all, it comes out quite late in the evening, so I travelled up to Victoria. So where was I living at the time? I think I was in West Northam. So it wasn't a long journey. But nevertheless, I travelled there, and it was really like (gasping) you know, stressing as to whether or not I had. And then I looked down the list, I've got the paper, you know, grab it like everyone else, because there's loads of us and we're sort of grabbing it, and I looked, I couldn't see my name and I went, oh, you know. And then I just kept looking because my name is a hyphenated name. So it wasn't in the place that I thought it was. Anyway, it was there! I was like, Oh, my gosh, I've arrived. This is great. 

 

Maureen  28:05  
But I then had quite a comedown. So it was like, is that it? So I've now achieved, you know, I've gone on this journey. I've got to this point and it was like oh no, this is not it. Because it didn't feel within myself, it didn't feel like I actually had arrived. So anyway, I do what you have to do, I think I'm going to call it like that, because I had children, I had a child. So I had to work and all of this. And there's lots of things I had to do, I felt, at that point, that I wouldn't now do if I had my time again, I just wouldn't, I would have done it my way. Anyway, by the time I had my second child, I began to right, no, draw back, I'm going to be this lawyer who... I set up on my own, freelance lawyer, working from home and instructed by solicitors locally, and I would do that. And I got a reputation. You know, I've got a reputation. That's how the work came to me because, you know, people thought I was very good at what I was doing. 

 

Geraldine  29:06  
Yeah. 

 

Maureen  29:07  
But I am very different, always been different. So the difference has always been, I've walked with my spirituality. It's just been right next to me, as I've been doing everything I do, it's just right there. It's not even a thing like, oh, you know, I'm having to drag it along. It's just there. And it's guided me because I knew all these times, I didn't quite fit. I'm not fitting and there was that. That was the reason. Something different. What I'm going to call the heart, and that's all I'm going call it. That's what I brought. Can you hear me?

 

Geraldine  29:42  
I can hear you. Absolutely. Yeah.

Maureen  29:45  
So the heart came to most of, it became part of everything that I did, in terms of how I dealt with clients, how I wrote my letters, how I communicated with the court. How I, you know, I was always mindful. I didn't, they were not the words that I was using at the time because I actually didn't know what it was, I was just doing what was naturally comfortable for me. Now you can label it and call it mindfulness or whatever. Emotional intelligence, even.

 

Geraldine  30:14  
Compassion. You know, the words that we use now. Yes.

Maureen  30:18  
Yeah. And all of those things. So my time as a solicitor, I, you know, I told you, I was moaning that I couldn't go to the Bar, cause I didn't have any money. And I spent these 18 years as a solicitor, yeah? But it was, again, the most massive, sort of, most growth, in my experience, because I was dealing with people directly, and the spirituality, connection with people, and how I helped them with their legal issues became, like, just woven into one. I just grew. And you know, often people would say, the client would say, you know, we really, I remember one client saying, you wrote a statement, but that statement was my statement, meaning I literally was in, I'd sat in their place, and had got it. And they were so happy that what they wanted to convey in their case was conveyed because I prepared the statement. And that's essentially what I do. I'm not you, but I stand for you, and I will, where you can't do, where you're not able to do it at that point, because life is so horrible.

 

Geraldine  31:35  
That's what being an advocate is all about, isn't it?

 

Maureen  31:38  
It's meant to be. But that's not what the tradition of law is. 

Geraldine  31:42  
Yes. 

Maureen  31:43  
The advocate doesn't take, doesn't do that compassion part. They may be saying I represent you, but actually, often they're to say what they want to say and they're doing what they want to do, irrespective of whether that impact is what is good for the client. Whereas I'm always looking at, you know, what's the highest good for everyone concerned in this situation. And not just, I'm going to win, you know.

Geraldine  32:12  
Which is so key when you're dealing with children and family matters.

 

Maureen  32:17  
Although that's what I ended up, what I have ended up doing. I don't call myself just a children's lawyer, I'm a civil rights lawyer so I represent who's got issues with the State or who has to interface with the State, and where you know, their rights, whether it be whatever it is, are being infringed. That's me, I come and I put myself in there like, on the mouthpiece. But I learned that in my 18 years as a solicitor. I learned, just working directly with attention to how people present. You know, not always... realising that people when they present to you, they are not presenting their true selves, you have to look beyond what you see and you need to touch them in the heart to really find the information and how you're going to work with them. So that's me. That's why I say, I'm just a different lawyer, you're not going to find another one like me anywhere. And because that's just not what's produced by the legal system, you know, law, application, law, application. And that's right. I do that. But I do law, application, mindfulness or connection, I don't know what, but there's an added element to what I do that makes the work that I do different. And also it makes the judges and lawyers, other lawyers, look at me. Often they look most incredulous. How on Earth is she challenging anything like this? Listen you can't challenge that, it's not possible. And there I am challenging. And my arguments are not fantastical, you know? And even if they are, it means that I'm using a part of my brain that they're not using. 

 

Geraldine  34:00  
Yes. 

Maureen  34:01  
And I'm bringing something to the table for them to consider. It's not a question of me being right, it's a question of bringing something that... anyway, I moved to the Bar in 2008. And again, I've just got to tell you that my journey from being a solicitor to the Bar was effortless. I took not one exam, which is what you're supposed to do. 

Geraldine  34:27  
Yes.

 

Maureen  34:27  
I did not spend six months in tenancy. 

Geraldine  34:32  
Pupillage.

Maureen  34:31  
As a pupil, yeah, that did not happen. I literally, when I made that decision that I was going to go to the Bar, you know, my mum, she gave me the money. I remember this, because, yeah, she gave me the money for this. I just have to mark that because she didn't have any money. And, you know, I've told you I've been independent for a very long time. So I've not relied on any kind of, right, parental thing. Not that one should, but I'm just saying I didn't. And then I said to Mum, I want to go to the Bar. And she gave me the 500 pound that I, I'm going to cry, she gave me the 500 pound that I needed. At that time, when I got the money, I made the application, the application was approved on paper, and then guess what I get to be? So I was like, who am I going to work with in chambers? Who am I going to go to, because there's loads of chambers? But again, it's like this really difficult thing that, you know, the chambers protocol and how it all works was just really rigid, and definitely racist or anti-colour, they didn't really... So anyway, I I made two decisions that I was going to apply only to two sets of chambers. And I did just apply to two. And in fact, I think, the first, one of those applications wasn't really an application. But the other one was Tooks chambers. Now, those that will know anything about the chambers in England, will know that out of this chambers came some very, very serious civil rights lawyers. They were renowned in the 80s for representing the miners in the miners' strike, and other such kind of really high profile. Guess what, where was I going? That's where I ended up. And in fact, I can remember after my interview, they said to me, they said go and wait outside, they said wait outside and then they said, they had to obviously, the panel had to discuss it. And they said yes, I don't know what the discussions were. But when I went back in they said, you just don't realise the reputation you have. You don't seem to have any idea.

And that's the truth. I wasn't, I'm not courting that. I was just doing the work. I'm here as an instrument, an instrument of God to do this work. It's God's work, it's not. you know, it's not ego driven. It's not that Maureen Obi kind of thing. Maureen Obi-Ezekpazu, it's not that. That was my practice at the Bar and work came in. I just, it was flowing in like, you know, I didn't ... everyone said how can you go to the Bar right now? This is midlife, your midlife, you can't go to the Bar, you know, it's going to be difficult. No, it just has not been and whilst I don't want to make out that it was like smooth, really easy, there are aspects of it where I've just said I'm walking through, you know, there's little effort that I'm having to make. But at the Bar, you know, it fast became clear to me that it didn't matter that I was in a chambers that was supposed to be renowned for these civil rights. It's so much ego-driven, you know, the nature of it, ego-driven. And so there was a discord between me and it and it closed. And that made me, forced me into a situation. Do I go to another chambers? Or do I set up my own? And you know what actually happened there was I went to bed one night woke up and I heard Maureen Ngozi, I heard it in my dream or I saw it, Maureen Ngozi Obi-Ezekpazu Chambers, the chambers of Maureen, and that was it! I didn't actually have a name. And then I can remember somebody said to me, I can't remember who I was talking to, but they said Family Matters. And that was it. I said that's it. That's the name. I became Family Matters or Family Matters are my chambers. And the idea was to get other people, like-minded, into the chambers, but I have never found any like-minded people it's really weird. I've got to say that.

 

Geraldine  39:14  
I just find that surprising Maureen because you, your story, I've barely had to ask you any questions because your story is is a living example. You are a living example of of living your truth. You're living your values. all of these expressions that we use, but you just breathe it. Live, walk, talk, breathe it.

Maureen  39:37  
Yeah, but there has been struggles. I have encountered so many things that would, I think, send you off path. I certainly experienced things where I didn't think I was good enough. I still think I've got something syndrome, what do they call it? 

Geraldine  39:58  
Imposter syndrome. 

Maureen  40:00  
Yeah, where, you know, you don't think you really should be there. But also, that's because people, it might, what I've experienced is that in some quarters, people don't want me there, they really don't want me there. And so, you know, I've been suspended from practice for a period of three months. I've had, and that's quite serious, because, you know, it's not like..

 

Geraldine  40:23  
Yes, because it's your livelihood so it was a serious step that was taken.

Maureen  40:27  
And to come back from that, or to even survive it, you know, you've got to have some sort of resilience. So I'm not, I don't want this to sound as though this has been easy. It hasn't. It's not been easy, and I'm not, I haven't finished. Yeah? This is not, the journey is not ended. This is, we're at a point in which we're discussing, you know, how I've arrived here. And so I'm now evolving as a person because I am evolving, not just as a person, because that is coming, so spiritually, I'm expanding more and more, to me. But the most part is that I am now desirous to be the instrument, this is God's work. We have a responsibility to end the legal systems across the globe. End them. We should not happen. Our job is in that sense, time-limited. We're not supposed to, it's not supposed to go on for infinitum, forever and ever, it's supposed to come to an end, because at some point, we govern, and we will be governing, ourselves. And it will not be necessary, for there to be people sitting as judges and lawyers talking about things and pontificating in the way that people do and expressing opinions. That time is coming to an end. And it comes to an end because there's going to be this kind of marrying up of the spiritual and the legal, and they will merge. And when they merge, there's no necessity any longer for there to be a system of law, where you're outwardly having to get justice from another individual. That's going to end. But it will require the lawyers to become more spiritual, more connected, more as-above-so-below, this kind of, like approach. And you know, what was really, one of the things that I just did want to say was that I'm starting to think and feel like, oh, there's only one way of doing that. And so feeling quite limited again, being like, oh, you can do it in one way. And therefore the way you're doing it, me the way I'm doing it, no, no, no, no, that's not, you know, you're going to have to merge with something else. You can't do it. But that's not true. We are all individuals, and what we bring, we bring it to the table, to the whole. And that you cannot, you can't really change that, and you shouldn't wish to.

 

Geraldine  43:10  
Yes, it's co-creation, it's a magical, second-by-second co-creation.

Maureen  43:16  
Absolutely. But the goal is the same. 

Geraldine  43:18  
Yes. 

Maureen  43:20  
That we end this system of law, the way in which it's practised, the way in which it creates inequalities, the way in which there is injustice. And that's the... so however, you as an individual, with all your particular gifts, because we all have our own gifts. So my story may inspire many people. And they may wish to aspire to how I've done it but they shouldn't, because they've got to find their own way. They must do it their way with the things that they've got. And yes, you can be inspired and you can, you know, look and see how someone else has done it. But you mustn't follow. I mean I love a song which is all about the children. I believe that children are the future, treat them well and let them lead the way. I absolutely love that. That is my, that's it for me. I can't. And then in that song, she also tells you or she gives you this massive gift. Everyone's searching for a hero, right? We all need someone to look up to. I have never found someone to fulfil that need. That's me. I know that. That's been my journey. There has not been any person who I've wanted to follow, right? That is... the lawyer is the title, it's not who I am. It's the job I do, but it's not who I am. I bring to it something that is different from many lawyers. Don't look at me and think, oh, Maureen, you know, the personality, I'm just an instrument. And I'm going to, you know, I'm going to do the things that I'm guided to do in order for this thing, which I've just talked about, about ending the legal, all legal systems. What else to say?

 

Geraldine  45:23  
Well there is nothing else to say. 

 

Maureen  45:26  
Thank you very much I think.

 

Geraldine  45:27  
It is sacred work this, what you've described, the transition ...

Maureen  45:32  
Yes. yes.

Geraldine  45:32  
To something new. And the lawyers, those of us who are working together, those of us who are connecting, those of us who understand it, you know, we have to do this with love. Because it's the kind of the gift, you know, and with it, we let go off this identity of being a lawyer and gift to humanity, a new way of doing things.

Maureen  46:01  
Well, it's a new way or the old way, traditional way. All I'm going to say is that it's not a way at all, because love is the only thing that matters. It's not, it's not a choice. When you apply love, and people say to me, what does that mean? Well, I'm not going to define it. Because then I'm putting it in some sort of box, which then you can pull apart or just whatever. But love, when it's manifest, is there, you know it, it's there. You don't even, nobody has to talk about it, and there is a flow, there is a flow that love brings, but you must bring it. And when you see injustice, there's no love. When you see inequality, there's no love. When you see war, there's no love. When you see killing, there's no love. When you see still children dying and starving and being abused, there's no love. So we have to bring that love. Because when you bring the love, there cannot be killing, there cannot be hardships, death, destruction, those things don't operate, where love operates. So that's what I say. That I represent love. Yeah, I'm not coming, and if you look on my website, it's not my saying, I have acquired it, but it's do no harm. Do. No. Harm. Either to yourself or anyone else or your environment. It's not just about people. It's the environment. No animals, no sentient beings that live on this planet. Do no harm. Okay.

 

Geraldine  47:48  
Maureen, I think we might wrap it up. But I really want to thank you so much for sharing your story, your life, your wisdom. There really is nothing more to add to everything that you've said. Incredible.

 

Maureen  48:07  
Thank you for allowing me to just chat. I can be really engaged, you know. And I hope that when people see, when I'm engaged, you're seeing the truth of me. And so thank you for allowing that to happen, and I hope it's helpful to someone

Geraldine  48:33  
Well, it's benefited me. So thank you. Thank you.

Maureen  48:37  
Yeah, same, it's benefited me as well. Thank you so much.

 

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