Virgil Roberts

Virgil Roberts
Legal Advisor

Virgil Roberts attended UCLA with the dream of becoming a Foreign Service officer, following in the footsteps of diplomat Ralph Bunche. Majoring in political science with an emphasis in international relations, Roberts was the co-creator of UCLA’s African American Studies Center, one of the first Black Studies programs in the United States. Prior to graduating from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Roberts passed the Foreign Service Office’s written and oral examinations and received an appointment to the U. S. Foreign Service.

Roberts’ interest in foreign affairs led to work as an intern for the Voice of America during the summer of 1967. He has described his experience that summer as a turning point in his life. More than 100 race riots exploded across the nation, and the “Black Consciousness” movement took root across the land. Profoundly affected by the historic shifts in the American body politic, Roberts began to reconsider his decision to be a career Foreign Service officer.

Upon graduation from UCLA, the Ford Foundation awarded Roberts a Foreign Affairs Scholar Fellowship. He spent a year pursuing graduate studies in international relations and Constitutional law, but eventually put aside his appointment to the Foreign Service, electing instead to attend Harvard Law School. Roberts received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in spring 1972. His new ambition was to become a civil rights attorney. Employment opportunities with civil rights organizations were limited, however, so he began his legal career as an associate with a prominent Los Angeles law firm: Pacht, Ross, Warne, Bernard & Sears. There, he worked primarily as a civil litigator.

In 1976, Roberts left Pacht Ross to form the law firm of Manning & Roberts, continuing his civil litigation practice and representation of entertainment clients primarily from the recording industry. Manning & Roberts represented a number of artists and companies in the music industry. The firm also was involved in civil rights and civil liberties matters. Notable among them was his representation of the NAACP in the Los Angeles school desegregation case (Crawford vs. Board of Education).

Roberts joined Solar Records as executive vice president and general counsel in 1981, became president of Dick Griffey Productions (DGP) in 1982 and president of Solar Records in 1990. One of the most successful African American-owned record companies in the 80’s, Solar had an impressive roster of gold and platinum-selling artists including Babyface, The Whispers, The Calloways, Shalamar, Midnight Star, The Deele, Lakeside, Dynasty, Klymaxx, Absolute, Jody Watley, Howard Hewett, Jeffrey Daniel, Vanity, and Richie Havens.

In 1996, Roberts left Solar/DGP to form the law firm of Bobbitt & Roberts. He is managing partner of the firm, which specializes in representing entertainment industry clients, concentrating on television, film, music, theater licensing, and merchandising. Mr. Roberts has represented clients such as Usher, Kanye West, Chaka Khan, Blackground Records, Slip ‘n’ Slide Records, the Ruff Ryders, the J. Walter Thompson Agency, and MTV.

Throughout his professional career, Roberts has been actively involved with the community and the legal profession. Currently, Roberts is Vice Chair of the Board and a member of the Audit Committee of Broadway Federal Bank, which is based in Los Angeles and trades on the NASDAQ exchange. He also serves as: Trustee and Audit Committee member of the Claremont Graduate School; Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of the Bridgespan Group; Chairman of Families In Schools; Director of Southern California Public Radio, the Community Foundation Land Trust, the Fedco Foundation, Community Build, and the Alliance for College Ready Public Schools.

Roberts also has served as Chairman of the Board of the California Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization with over one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) in assets; and Board Chair of the Los Angeles Annenberg Metropolitan Project (LAAMP), a public school reform organization formed with a $53,000,000 challenge grant from Ambassador Walter Annenberg, which under Roberts’ leadership, raised and spent more than $120,000,000 to reform public education in the Los Angeles basin.

Roberts has given innumerable lectures and speeches to lawyers and law students interested in the entertainment industry. He has lectured at the law schools of Harvard and UCLA, and has participated in panel discussions for such organizations as the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters, the Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association, the National Association of Securities Professionals, and the American Law Institute.

Biographical collections with listings on Roberts include Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, Who’s Who among Black Americans, and Southern California Super Lawyers. He has been honored for his service to the community by the Los Angeles Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the University of Southern California (USC) School of Education, the UCLA Black Alumni Association, Chaka Khan Foundation, and the California Legislative Black Caucus Foundation. At Harvard Law School, Roberts was a recipient of the Felix Frankfurter Scholarship.