Black History Month 2020

October is Black History Month in the UK, an event that has been celebrated nationwide for more than 30 years. The month was originally founded to recognise the contributions that people of African and Caribbean descent have made to the UK over many generations. Now, Black History Month has expanded to include the history of not just African and Caribbean people, but black people in general.

No journey through the legal profession is easy, but for some, including those from BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds, the challenges can be acute. Therefore, as junior lawyers, it is important to have role models and to see that others have successfully overcome the hurdles faced by many.

JLD BB&O are recognising Black History Month 2020 by celebrating some inspirational members of the profession, their achievements, their diversity, and their efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive profession for future generations of lawyers. Here are some individuals who inspire us, and hopefully you!

Stephanie Boyce

Stephanie Boyce was elected the deputy vice president of the Law Society in 2019. She will become its first BAME president when she takes up the presidency in 2021.

Stephanie studied for the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in Guildford from 1999-2000. She went on to train and qualify as a solicitor with Horwood and James solicitors.

Karl Brown

Karl Brown is a commercial property partner in the Bristol office of national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP.

He is also a Social Mobility Ambassador for the Law Society, founded the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter (to promote diversity and inclusion in the Bristol Property sector) in November 2019 and is chair of the Bristol Property Inclusion Commission.

Karl attended the University of Hertfordshire.

Olugbenga Dansu

Olugbenga Dansu is a partner in the global insurance team at DAC Beachcroft LLP.

He is British Nigerian, and heads ACCESS, DAC Beachcroft’s staff network for supporting and promoting the racial diversity of its employees.

Olugbenga completed his Bachelor of Laws at Coventry University before going on to complete a Master of Laws at UCL in London. He completed the Legal Practice Course with the College of Law in 2004.

Dame Linda Dobbs

Dame Linda Penelope Dobbs, DBE is a retired High Court judge, who served from 2004 to 2013. She was the first non-white person to be appointed to the senior judiciary of England and Wales.

Linda was educated at Moreton Hall School in Shropshire. She later attended the University of Surrey, where she studied Russian and law, graduating in 1976. She went on to the London School of Economics, where she obtained a master's degree and a doctorate.

Barbara Mensah

Barbara Mensah is a British judge of Ghanaian descent. She became the first circuit judge of African origin in England and Wales when she was appointed to the South Eastern Circuit in 2005. As of October 2016 she sits in the Crown Court at Luton, England.

Barbara studied Philosophy at the University of Wales in Swansea before training to be a barrister. She is also an alumna of City University London and Queen Mary University London, both in London.

Sandie Okoro

Sandie Okoro is a British lawyer, appointed in 2016 as senior vice president and general counsel at the World Bank Group. She is the first black woman to hold the World Bank position and has previously held senior positions at various financial organisations in the UK.

She attended Putney High School and then studied law and politics at the University of Birmingham. After university she studied at the Inns of Court School of Law, now part of City, University of London, and joined Lincoln's Inn, qualifying as a barrister in 1988. In a change of course she re-qualified as a solicitor and in 1990 joined Schroders as head of its trusts team.

Sandie is passionate about mentoring and promoting diversity and inclusion in the City.

Matthew Ryder

Matthew Ryder QC is a barrister at Matrix Chambers in London. He Specialises in complex crime and its interplay with civil law, including judicial review, police law and claims under the Human Rights Act. A top practitioner in his field, the leading law directories have described Matthew as "an incredible all-rounder".

In September 2016, Matthew was appointed Deputy Mayor of London to lead on social integration, social mobility and community engagement. He was also appointed a member of the panel working on the Prime Minister’s review of ‘Racial Bias and BAME representation in the criminal justice system’.

We are going to be recognising future events in the diversity and inclusion calendar with more articles, so keep an eye out!

This note was written by Jessica Smith. Jessica is Diversity and Inclusion Secretary for the Junior Lawyers Division for Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and a recently qualified solicitor.

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