Walking into Okunade Law, LLC, fatigued families are struck by a sense of home.
Decorated with plush seating, children's toys and bright lighting, the space defies the traditional stale office-look most would associate with a law firm. A watercolor elephant adorns the wall, a piece of Okunade Law’s logo and history.
Okunade Law is a boutique law office focusing on general and civil law with an emphasis on family law. As a solo practitioner, Yetunde Okunade Aird’s areas of reach include paternity, child support, child custody, divorce, business law, personal injury and more.
From the INCubator in the Hamilton County Business Development Center (BDC), Aird is working to build the second branch of the firm. The INCubator program helps entrepreneurs achieve success through a three-year progressive development program. As one of 50 startups in the building, Okunade Law works in close quarters with other business-minded people who share an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Even though we may not all work in the same field or industry, there are a lot of business skills and practices we can learn from one another. For me, that has been extremely resourceful,” Aird says.
After earning her law degree from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Aird founded Okunade Law (under her maiden name) in Indianapolis in 2014. Moving down south in 2019, she launched her Chattanooga location last January after applying for reciprocity with the TN Board of Law Examiners. Though, her law license remains active in Indiana where she continues to assist clients remotely.
“Getting started, some people may tell you it’s too early to hang out your shingle and start your own practice. But if you don't start, you will never know, so at least I can say I gave it my all,” Aird says.
A History of Putting Families First
As the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Aird inherited the same work ethic that carried her mom through pharmacy school and her dad through his Ph.D. in economics. Now fulfilling the roles of wife, mom and businesswoman, she continues to pass those traits to her own family.
“The Nigerian culture is all about family,” Aird says.
So when deciding which career path to take, it’s no surprise she put family first.
“Before me, there were no attorneys in my family. And I believe every family should have diversity in professions, so they can be there for each other and the community in times of need,” Aird says.
Aird also cultivates relationships with her clients and colleagues, inviting them into a judgment-free haven where they can learn and grow alongside her. A piece of advice she has for the next generation of attorneys – don’t be afraid to reach out to career mentors.
“I’ve wanted to be an attorney since middle school because attorneys influence communities in positive ways,” Aird says. “Also because when you work on a case, it sets a precedent for following cases.”
With a family-oriented mindset, forward-thinking initiatives and solid values, Okunade Law is changing the way people think about law.
Practicing Faith and Other Values
Okunade Law strives to raise the bar on the quality of work people can expect to receive in attorney-client relationships.
“Even outside of the legal side, I’m my clients’ advocate,” Aird says. “I ensure my clients know their legal rights as we look out for the best interests of their families. I pray that I make the right decisions in counseling them.”
Moving beyond paperwork, Aird gets to know the people and stories behind her cases. She takes a closer look, going as far as to ask separated couples if they have explored all avenues.
“I think I'm in the minority when it comes to legal consultations for potential clients seeking divorce because I usually ask if they’ve sought marital counseling,” Aird says. “Filing for a divorce should be the last resort for a couple. Usually, if a divorce case is frivolous or something outside of abuse, abandonment or adultery, I won’t take it.”
Custody Battles Amidst COVID-19
When it comes to the coronavirus outbreak, there is no historical precedent concerning custody rights in light of social distancing. Across the country, Aird and others like her are helping divorced and separated parents navigate ensuing custody battles.
Health care providers are at the forefront of this issue. Should frontline workers temporarily hand over their custody rights for safety reasons?
“Right now, I’m advising people to be smart by getting tested and doing what’s in the best interest of their children,” Aird says. “Depending on the situation, a parent who is a doctor or nurse may pose more of a concern than another parent who is working from home.”
Amidst the pandemic, Aird shifted her services to Zoom to stay in contact with families entering uncharted legal territory. She looks forward to resuming regular operations and in-person meetings.
“Unfortunately, some families have to deal with legal issues. Helping resolve them gives me a sense of satisfaction that they have a competent attorney who can try to minimize some of what they are going through.”