Black History Month | Dame Linda Dobbs

In honour of Black History Month, Xuan Tan, one of our Communication and Engagement Assistants, has about the amazing Dame Linda Dobbs. It is important to celebrate black achievement but also recognise how underrepresented careers are and what we can all do to make a change.

“When you think of successful black people, you tend to think of sports people and musicians, whereas we have successful black people across the whole country in a range of disciplines. There will be images of us in our professional lives so kids can see they are just like us.”

Linda Dobbs never wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps to be a High Court judge. Despite her family’s insistence, she pursued her degree in music at the University of Edinburgh. However, after a year, she realised that: “You have to be gifted plus.” That was when she reevaluated her education and decided to pursue a degree in Russian and Law. Dobbs was then called to the Bar in 1981, took silk in 1998, and was elected as a Bencher in 2002.

However, when Dobbs was originally offered the position as senior judiciary of England and Wales, she took a pause. “I looked at the Bench and I thought ‘I don’t really know anybody there, therefore it’s not an environment that will embrace me.’” But she felt a sense of duty to take on the job, she had rose above the systematic racism and sexism met, and now she has the opportunity to pave the way for BAME in the legal profession. Hence, Honorary Dame Linda Dobbs DBE became the first non-white, black High Court judge.

But it took another 7 years for the next BAME appointment, and since then there has only been two other BAME joining the senior judiciary, so Dobbs acknowledged that there is still a long way to go for black representation in court. There is a need for change and calls for diverse selection committees, but Dobbs remarked: “Then again, if there aren’t enough role models and there aren’t enough people to be put on the panel you are not going to have a diverse committee.”

So, this brings us back to how Dobbs felt in 2004, when faced with reluctancy in taking on the role of being a role model to her community due to the lack of sense of belonging in the senior judiciary community.

Upon Dobbs’ retirement from the High Court in 2013, she set off on being involved in multiple charities and initiatives, she is also the Director of Training at the Judicial Institute for Africa based at the University of Cape Town, where she holds an honorary professorship to train lawyers and judges. Linda Dobbs’ influence on the Black British people community has been profound, culminating in her being listed as “100 Great Black Britons” in a celebration of the lives, stories and contribution of Black British people.

King’s College London law students approaching their final year might have attended a speech that the Honorary Dame Linda Dobbs DBE gave at Bush House in 2019. Check out these other events at King’s happening throughout this month to give a boost to your career!

  • In conversation with… Rashida Abdulai, King’s Alumni and Founder & CEO of Strand Sahara.
    Rashida is an award-winning lawyer and founder of the Africa-focused legal platform, Strand Sahara. Rashida is a King’s Alumni, having graduated from the LLB course in 2005.
  • External Event: Diversity at the Commercial Chancery Bar
    Hear from silks, juniors and current pupils at the leading Commercial Chancery barristers’ Chambers as they discuss fair recruitment, life at the Bar and application tips. This event aims to challenge any preconceptions about barristers or our areas of work and to inspire students from all backgrounds and sections of society to consider a future at the Bar.
  • Black & Minority Ethnic Experiences in Higher Education
    King’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team invites you to join Professor Kalwant Bhopal and Professor ‘Funmi Olonisakin to talk about the experiences of people from Black and Minority Ethnic groups in higher education. Professor Bhopal will be discussing social justice, inclusion and white privilege, followed by a Q&A session chaired by Professor Olonisakin.

In addition, for students interested in the legal profession, King’s Law and Justice week is coming up from the 24th of October to the 28th of October!