I am often asked who my role models are or who inspired me to get into law, and I sometimes find it difficult to whittle it down to one to two names. I have never had to look far for inspiration – my no-nonsense parents are my first heroes. Their never ending investment in my progress and development made me who I am today, and they taught me to always remain true to myself no matter the consequences.
As a young bright eyed and bushy tailed lawyer, I was encouraged to look for mentors to help me reach my potential in the legal sector and inspire my journey. I was lucky enough to secure three informal work placements with the eminent Hon. Dame Linda Dobbs DBE. Despite her long-term success as a barrister, she made history when she became the first non-white High Court Judge in 2004 (the year I qualified as a lawyer), a position she held until 2013. I was totally intimidated by her, but I needn’t have worried. She was softly spoken and insightful, and I was in awe as I watched her deliver her robust judgements in court. She was who I wanted to be: a first-class criminal and human rights lawyer, chair of several committees dedicated to improving race relations and social conduct for the Bar and the judiciary, and provider of training for lawyers in the UK, Caribbean and Africa. She faced injustice in her life and she used that to change experiences for future lawyers. In her own words, she loves nothing more than “seeing the people I’ve mentored go on to develop their careers and lead fulfilling lives.” She truly deserves her place as one of the 100 Great Black Britons and I’m grateful that she still has an open door policy when it comes to mentoring in the law.
I also take comfort in the fact that there are many young ‘heroes’ that serve to inspire the younger generation. I was in awe of Simone Biles when I watched her win a myriad of gold medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics. She remains one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time at the tender age of 24 years. I watched how she perfected difficult routines and made it all look so effortless. She often spoke about wanting to show young women that they could work hard and achieve great success, even though she did not have the easiest of upbringings. I watched how my daughter stared at the TV and tried to emulate Simone’s moves and she would often comment on how amazing it was to see a black gymnast being celebrated all around the world. But I was probably most inspired by Simone when she took the decision during the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympics to withdraw from the team finals due to feeling overwhelmed by pressure. She decided to focus on her mental health. Her comments on the importance of putting your wellbeing first in order to truly enjoy what you do really resonated with me, and it must have taken a lot of strength to do this in the face of global scrutiny.
Despite being a partner in a leading London law firm and being voted one of 2020’s 50 must-follow BAME female entrepreneurs, influencers and speakers, I still feel like I have so much more to do, both from a legal and diversity perspective. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by resilient and courageous black women (and male allies) who continue to make history, however small an achievement it may seem to them. I trust that their voices will continue to shape and inspire women like me, and those that follow after me.