Dame Linda Dobbs

Dame Linda Dobbs

The Honourable Mrs Justice Dobbs DBE became Britain’s first non-white High Court judge in 2004. She was appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division, which involves sitting in the Divisional and Administrative Courts and the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. Called to the Bar in 1981, she became a Queen’s Counsel in 1998. Amongst other appointments, she was chair of the Bar Race Relations and Professionals Standards Committees and Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association. She has been awarded five honorary doctorates.

Dame Linda is a contributing editor to a number of legal publications and has lectured extensively to university and Bar students, magistrates, police and other professionals. She undertakes pro bono work helping to train lawyers and judges in Africa and the Caribbean.  She is the Director of International training at the Judicial College. She is also the Senior Liaison Judge for Diversity and is involved in many initiatives to raise awareness about the judiciary and to encourage a wider pool of applicants to the bench.

She was voted as one of the 100 Great Black Britons and named as one of Britain’s 100 most influential people of African or African Caribbean heritage.



Baroness Verma

Baroness Verma

Baroness Verma became the Minister for Energy and Climate change at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Prior to this appointment she was the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Spokesperson on Universities in the House of Lords on 15 September 2011 and she led on all BIS business on universities in the House of Lords.

She was the Department for International Development Spokesperson in the House of Lords from 20 May 2010-15 September 2011 and was also the Lords Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office and for Women and Equalities, as well as being a Government Whip.

Baroness Verma became a Conservative Life Peer on 22 June 2006, as Baroness Verma of Leicester in the County of Leicestershire. She was an Opposition Whip in the Lords from 2006 until 2010, and during that time, was Opposition Spokesperson for various departments, including Health, Education, Children, Schools and Families, and Universities and Skills.

Baroness Verma has a strong interest in diversity, gender issues and international affairs, particularly in the South Asian Region and Africa.

She has received numerous awards including the following awards:

  • The President’s Award from the Government of India – Pravasi Bhartiya Samman
  • Distinguished Fellowship of the Institute of Directors, India
  • Honorary Doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton (UK)

She supports and is Patron of several charities and organisations including:

  • The DIL Trust (UK)
  • The World Council for Corporate Governance
  • Overseas Indian Association - School and Higher Education facility.
  • Indian Institute of Director





























Gifty Edila

Gifty Edila is the Corporate Director of Legal, HR and Regulatory Services at the London Borough of Hackney. She has a wealth of experience leading award winning teams in local government, including seven years as the first female and the first ethnic minority Director of Law and Administration at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and prior to that, she was the Head of Law for eight years at the London borough of Newham.

Gifty was named in The Lawyer magazine's Hot 100 for 2005 and 2010. She is a Solicitor-Advocate, a non-practising barrister and an accredited mediator.

She is a board member of the Council at Loughborough University and has written widely on legal issues. For many years, Gifty has personally and has also encouraged her teams,  to mentor and assist budding young professionals, including those on the BLD Foundation programmes. 





Joan Deslandes

Joan Deslandes

Joan Deslandes is the Head Teacher of Kingsford Community School in Newham. Under her leadership, Kingsford gained national and international recognition and her leadership has been recognised as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. Her school was the first school to introduce compulsory lessons of Mandarin to its curriculum in the United Kingdom to and became one of the first Confucius Classrooms in the world in 2007. In 2010, she was awarded the SSAT Confucius Institute Excellence Award for her ‘outstanding contribution’ to Chinese learning within the United Kingdom.

Joan has twice been named by the Evening Standard as one of London’s 1000 most influential people. She is the co-founder of The 100 Group, enabling leading state and independent schools to work together. 

Joan sits on a number of government forums and is a member of the 48 Group Club, an exclusive network committed to promoting positive relations with China. She is also a governor of the London Academy of Excellence in Newham. 






Joel Cohen

Joel Cohen

Joel is currently General Counsel of a swiss based capital markets and structured finance institution. Previously he was Legal Director of a film finance and production company.  Joel has worked at 2 major international law firms and was a partner at a headhunting business in London. He recently set up a venture with a senior partner at Freshfields which will aim to launch the first City focused social and professional network site. 
Joel is also on the board at Make A Wish for children with life threatening illnesses.

Shah Qureshi

Shah Qureshi

Shah Qureshi is a partner and head of the Employment Department at Bindmans, one of the UK’s top Human Rights law firms. He has developed a reputation for ground-breaking cases on religious beliefs and for successful discrimination and whistle-blowing cases against large corporations and public bodies. In 2012 Shah was named as one of The Lawyer magazine’s Hot 100 of 2011. His employment team was also a finalist in The Lawyer Awards for 2012 and he was featured as one of the top three in the Emerging Influence Section of the inaugural British Bangladeshi Power 100. Shah is a member the Muslim Council of Britain’s Legal Affairs Committee.




Judith Shepherd

Judith Shepherd is Managing Director and the Global General Counsel for the Corporate Investment Bank at Barclays. She is on the investment bank’s Executive Committee, sits on its Global Diversity Committee, is a member of its Global Partnership Committee and is an executive sponsor of its Women’s Initiatives Network in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  

Judith’s experience in the legal profession spans over 20 years including as a former corporate finance partner at a US law firm before joining the Barclays Group as a Deputy General Counsel in 2006.

Judith was named in the FT’s 100 Influential Women list. She is also a panel member of the UK Women in Law Advisory Board, she is an Honorary Fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies and on the advisory board of the Linklaters Law & Business School. 

Soloman Wifa

Solomon Wifa

Solomon Wifa is the London Managing Partner of O’Melveny & Myers, one of the world’s top 30 law firms. He is also one of the youngest-ever Managing Partners of such a global-sized firm in the City of London. Solomon specialism is Investment Funds, particularly - China, sub-Saharan Africa, India, Turkey and Central and Eastern Europe, building the firm’s private equity practice in the UK virtually from scratch. He is a member of the Investment Funds and Securitisation Practice. Solomon was named in the 2012 Powerlist, which profiles Britain’s 100 most influential people of African or African Caribbean heritage and in January 2013 was also named by The Lawyer Magazine as one of the Hot 100 Lawyers of 2012.

Tony Williams

Tony Williams is the founder and Principal of Jomati Consultants LLP, a UK-based international management consultancy for the legal industry.

Tony, a qualified lawyer in England and Wales, Hong Kong and Victoria, Australia has more than thirty years’ experience in the legal profession, including wide-ranging top management roles as the former Worldwide Managing Partner of Magic Circle law firm, Clifford Chance and the worldwide managing partner of Andersen Legal.

He is also a founder member of Halsbury’s Law Exchange, an independent and politically neutral legal think tank which contributes to the development of law and the legal sector and the Consultant Editor of Law Business Review. Tony is an expert on The Times law blogs.

He is the founder and Chair of the Jomati Foundation, which provides financial assistance in the area of legal education and access to Law. 




Debo Nwauzu

Debo Nwauzu

Debo is the Founder of BLD Foundation and it’s first Chair. She is a non-practising solicitor and the founder and Chair of Totally Management Ltd. She was called to the Bar (Inner Temple) in 1989 and was admitted as a solicitor in 1992. She has also been a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria since 1986.. She is the publisher and Editorial Director of the ground-breaking Black Letter Law publication which showcases the achievements of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals within the legal profession. The Legal Gateway Scheme, which includes the Today's Children, Tomorrow's Lawyers (TCTL) and the Legal Launch Pad (LLP) programmes was her brainchild

In 2009, The Lawyer magazine named Debo as one of its Hot 100 lawyers of 2008. She was named as Outstanding Solicitor of 2012 by the Black Solicitors Network (BSN).

Tricia Eghagha

Tricia Eghagha worked in investment banking and financial services for three years before obtaining a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management from Durham University. She provides administration and programme support to the foundation. She enjoys managing people in general and young people in particular, and has held several roles in HR and recruitment.  


Annabel Burrows

Annabel is the Legal Launch Pad Co-ordinator. A former senior manager in the financial services sector, Annabel has over 14 years’ experience as a qualified management trainer.  She is an experienced coach and mentor and a recruitment and selection specialist with extensive experience of interviewing and assessing (particularly graduate, senior manager and executive level appointments), use of competency frameworks, delivery and management of selection centres as well as market-leading expertise in the graduate recruitment and development arena for companies such as Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland Group and Fujitsu Services. 

An influential figure in the graduate recruitment arena, Annabel has appeared as guest speaker and panellist at numerous industry events and conferences, including the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ Conference and the UCAS Graduate Employability Conference. She was on the AGR Conference planning team from 2003 to 2005 and from 2005 to 2008 was on the judging panel of the TARGET National Graduate Recruitment Awards. 

Claire Boakes

Claire Boakes read Interactive Computer Game Design at the University of the Arts London. She provides the BLD Foundation's IT, Media and Administrative support. 

Onika Griffith-Elliott

Onika Griffith-Elliott provides periodical consultancy to the Foundation. She has 10 years of Project Management and Talent Management experience in particular, professional development and training. She is passionate about empowering and inspiring others through action and contribution. Onika has a BSc in Management Studies and is particularly interested in Leadership Development.





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