Women in Law. On Inspirations

March 6, 2019

academic law, Author Articles

Rear view of Woman looking at city in Sunlight

“I have never been short of incredible women to hold up as role models.”

Elaine Fahey, is a Professor of Law at City Law School, City, University of London

I have been very fortunate to have always have had a lot of inspirational figures. As a young law student, I was fortunate to study in a jurisdiction where there was a female Chief Justice, Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions. The President of Ireland was continuously a woman throughout my childhood and studies and they have gone on to significant global positions. Being Irish and female and working on the EU, means that there have been an extraordinary number of inspirational role models for aspiring academics. I have never been short of incredible women to hold up as role models.

My elderly aunt is a nun but also a prolific historian and head of schools and educational boards all over Ireland (still going strong into her 80s). She was written about in the New York Times recently as a key figure in Ireland, similarly in Irish media and has won Person of the Year for her immense contributions to community and historical life. I have always been in awe of her incredible energy and vitality and her continuous production of books and contacts globally, which never stop. I have lived abroad quite a lot and missed a lot of occasions and ceremonies in her honour and I only wish I could have gone to them all.

I worked as a Judicial Research Assistant in the Irish Superior Courts when Chief Justice Susan Denham was in office and was always impressed by her significant efforts to engage in collaboration across the branches of Government, to change the nature of the office and to modernise the place of the judiciary within the Courts Service. There is an incredible book by Ruadhan McCormack on the Irish Supreme Court that contains a very rich and frank account of her pivotal role in engaging with the Government of the day in difficult constitutional moments in Ireland – a must-read for those understanding leadership styles and collaboration techniques.

My mother also had an incredible work ethic, working extraordinarily long hours in a hospital right up to the day of her retirement a few years ago. She regularly worked Christmas Day, bank holidays and weekends throughout her life and my childhood (as an only child!), often because it was necessary, required or impossible not to and to approach it all with energy and a sense of humour I think was quite inspirational. I happen to be married to someone whose mother was a politician in Germany and I am regularly inspired by her wisdom and understanding of the world and I feel very privileged to have such a mother in law!

I am very lucky to work in a workplace where there are so many fantastic colleagues of all genders, including transgender staff and I learn so much from those around me every time I chat with my colleagues. That is probably one of my favourite things about being an academic – there is a lot of inspiration regularly from the interdisciplinary and international mix of peoples and ideas all around.

If I were to think of the most inspirational man ever I would probably pluck for Peter Sutherland, who died recently. He has been labelled as the Irish father of globalisation. He was the Irish Attorney General, an EU Commissioner, director of the WTO, chairman of Goldman Sachs and UN Special Rapporteur for Migration later in life, to name his chief positions in his professional life. I invited him to Dublin to a seminar of the Irish Society for European Law on the Treaty of Lisbon, a referendum that had to be run twice because of its controversy (the Irish Brexit!).  He was an outstanding orator- perhaps like my own father- and I recall being incredibly overwhelmed by his address and his understanding of globalisation. I really wanted to study EU law and global governance after this. He was taken from this world before he had finished his work on migration, but it is very important that borders, movements of people and economics to not go on to being isolated studies. His career trajectory is important to place in this context and should inspire many future scholars going forward- be interdisciplinary and open and try to solve big challenges or at least, think hard about them, and differently.



Elaine’s book ‘Introduction to Law and Global Governance’ is available to view here.


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