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LCN Says

Black History Month – spotlight on Pauline Campbell

updated on 19 October 2021

Reading time: three minutes

To celebrate Black History Month, LawCareers.Net interviews Pauline Campbell, a senior lawyer at London Borough of Waltham Forest. 

Pauline Campbell was born in East London to Jamaican parents. At just 15-years-old she was told she was not “A-level material” and subsequently dropped out of school. She worked 24-hour weeks alongside studying for her law degree – often driving from work to college and college to work. She qualified as a lawyer at 41 and now holds a senior legal position advising on race equality and provides free legal advice for victims of the Windrush scandal.  

She is also the author of the full-length memoir on race and identity called Rice & Peas and Fish & Chips, which was published in 2021. She wrote the book to create a sense of consciousness for anyone willing to open their eyes and see what is going on around us. 

Pauline’s inspiring success story serves as a reminder to Black aspiring solicitors (and mature students) that it is possible to break through the glass ceiling and it doesn’t matter when you qualify but just that you do. The world is your oyster. 

Pauline Campbell was born and bred in London. She worked as a senior lawyer for Hackney Borough for more than 14 years. She was an accredited legal trainer for Lawyers in Local Government, a role she held for five years, where she trained lawyers from all over the country on the preparation of criminal cases within the courts. 

Could you tell us about yourself and outline your area of expertise? 

I currently work as a senior litigation lawyer for Waltham Forest Council where until recently I was a supervising lawyer for third-year law students on The Windrush Justice Clinic, providing free legal advice and preparing Windrush Compensation claims for victims of the Windrush scandal. I am currently the legal adviser on the Windrush Reach programme and co-chair of the Race Equality Network for Waltham Forest Council.  

I am also a trustee and legal adviser of Liberty Hall. I chose local authority because I knew how councils worked and how a local authority functions. My area of expertise is local authority law, civil and criminal law and I deal with all aspects of debt recovery. In between all that, I also wrote a book! 

What attracted you to a career in law? 

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was a teenager. When I hit 16, I dropped out of school and gave up the lawyer dream for a while, until I found myself years later. 

What type of obstacles have you encountered in the legal profession? 

As a 30-something Black woman, with no legal experience and a cockney accent, it was obvious that many people thought these aspects would go against me. However, I believe they worked in my favour. For others in a similar position to me, it’s important to believe in yourself and pursue your dream.  

I’ve had days where I didn’t want to go into work. As a legal adviser running the court was difficult at times, as my advice would sometimes be questioned, it was hard as people lacked faith in my abilities, which I knew at times was down to me being the only Black woman in court. But I managed to find the courage to stand my ground, which was not easy, but thankfully made me stronger. Candidates must find the courage to go through those doors every day especially in a sector where there is not a lot of Black representation. 

What advice do you have for mature students who wish to still pursue a legal career? 

They must really want it because legal studies are tough as a young person but even tougher for mature students. That said, I found that as a mature student you tend to be more driven because there’s more at risk if you fail. Be driven and know the road ahead of you. 

What do you do to destress from work? 

I love dancing.  

Join Pauline Campbell on 26 October evening for a book reading of Rice & Peas and Fish & Chips. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.