Justin Bickle and I are contemporaries. Subject to the same cultural and political forces, from the era of Margaret Thatcher and The Jam, we have both spent formative periods of our lives in Chester and we both understand how special Devonport High School for Boys is in developing the life chances of the most able young men in the Plymouth region. This is the second year that Justin has returned to award two £2,500 bursaries to Year 13 students about to enter higher education.
Students who have been able to demonstrate an exceptional level of personal enterprise and initiative are invited to apply for this substantial financial fillip.
“…find what you’re good at and pursue your dreams relentlessly.” Justin Bickle
Allow me a to give a brief biography; it is impressive and, as he describes it, “non-linear” in trajectory:
Justin grew up in Southway, Plymouth and attended Tamerton Vale Primary and Widey High Schools, before joining the Sixth Form at DHSB in 1987. After completing his A Levels, he read Law at the University of Exeter and undertook his solicitors’ professional examinations at the College of Law in Chester. Justin trained and qualified as a solicitor in two Plymouth based law firms, specialising in commercial litigation and insolvency matters. In 2001 he moved to the London office of leading Wall Street law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP where he was made a partner in 2005 and specialised in high value and complex cross-border restructurings and insolvency cases across Europe.
Justin was then recruited by Los Angeles based investment firm Oaktree Capital to help establish their private equity and distressed debt investing teams in London. Since late 2005 he has been an investment professional at Oaktree, responsible for executing Oaktree’s debt and equity investments in the UK, Western and Central Europe.
Twice named as one of the ‘Hot 100’ lawyers in the UK by ‘The Lawyer’ magazine for his legal and investing work, Justin is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, a Council Member of the Insolvency Lawyers Association and a Governor of English National Ballet. He lives in London with his wife and their four young children.
He returned from this stellar orbit on Friday as the annual interviews for the Justin Bickle bursaries took place at school. Four talented candidates gave presentations and were interviewed, in itself a daunting and developmental experience. The panel, which included Carolyn Bruce-Spencer (Chair of Governors) and Sharon Davidson (Assistant Head Post-16), was privileged to witness the interactions of such a successful individual with our students. His advice to them all was salient – find what you’re good at and pursue your dreams relentlessly.
Justin is motivated by gratitude for the school that encouraged him to go to University – his life-changing experience. I also detect the influence of his long term relationship with America in this genuine philanthropy and respect for his alma mater. Deploying resource and having a real impact with such altruism is truly impressive and will make a difference to the lives of the lucky recipients.
James Underhill (left), (reading Business and Economics at Cardiff) and Jon Allsop (reading Politics at LSE), were the first recipients of the Justin Bickle Bursary.