Judges who have been part of the training offered by the Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa), will have been fortunate enough to meet Dame Linda Dobbs, Jifa's head of training. But few will know much more about her: though Dame Linda is outgoing and extremely helpful with her advice, she is not given to talking about herself. However, she is profiled in a recent edition of Counsel Magazine, the monthly journal of the Bar of England and Wales. And from the discussion between Dame Linda and her interviewer, barrister and diversity champion Desiree Artesi, readers will see that the UK suffers many of the same problems as certain African countries when it comes to diversity and the promotion of women to judicial office.
First session of a typical training week run by the Judicial Institute for Africa (Jifa) at the University of Cape Town law school, and after the initial house-keeping arrangements are sorted out, Dame Linda Dobbs takes the floor. She quickly puts everyone at ease, and then asks participants to introduce themselves and say, for example, where they are from, on which level of court they sit and how long they have been a judge. Soon everyone knows something about everyone else, and you can see that new friendships and good networking will come out of the course – along with all the new skills. The only trouble is that Dame Dobbs often forgets to introduce herself. And even when she does, the judges participating in the programme usually get just the briefest of glimpses into who she is. That is why we were delighted to find an interview with her that explains how she developed her passion for the law, how she came to be the first black judge in the UK and her continuing legal work in that country following her retirement from the High Court in 2013. Readers will also find that judicial skill training is not the only thing she is involved in during the months of the year when she is in South Africa overseeing courses offered by Jifa (hint: it involves education and training, though not necessarily of judges).