Lucy Reed, international lawyer and professor

Lucy obtained her JD from the University of Chicago in 1977. She is currently the Director of the National University of Singapore (NUS) Centre for International Law and Professor on the NUS Law Faculty. She is also on the Singapore International Arbitration Centre Court and the International Chamber of Commerce Court of Arbitration.

She retired in 2016 from the international law firm Freshfields, where she represented private and public clients in commercial and investment treaty arbitrations, and led the global international arbitration and public international law groups. Lucy has had the good fortune of serving as a member of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (in the area of humanitarian law); as co-director of the Swiss Claims Resolution Tribunal (the first Holocaust tribunal); while with the US State Department, as the US Agent to the Iran-US Claims Tribunal; and as President of the American Society of International Law.

She comes from a family of four girls, where there was no expectation of having a professional career.

This Letter is addressed to her 22-year-old self, in her first year of law school after getting a BA from Brown University.

Dear Lucy

It is 1974, and you have just arrived at the University of Chicago Law School, an island of British university architecture amidst gang territory on the South Side.  It will soon be below freezing and snowing.  The library is warm and full of volumes of US court decisions (so they say, but you have not yet cracked the code of F.2nd and F.Supp. on the spines, and internet research awaits the internet).  There is also an intimidating air of intellectual energy and sparring.  So, yes, intense study is the best option. 

Like everyone, you wish you could catch glimpses of your future.  Writing from Singapore in 2017, I will tell you only that you graduate successfully, with critical analytical thinking a muscle you will never lose, and internet research a skill you will never master. Well, I guess I should also tell you that you become an international lawyer – working in law firms, the State Department, an IO, international courts and tribunals, law faculties – so you know to break family tradition and get a passport. 

I will not tell you more because, if I did, you would not get to do all the exciting things that your career has in store.  You would think you have to study, plan and choreograph your way forward, to be prepared for (initial-caps) International Law. And that would direct you away from your intense general study, the umpteen drafts of your Law Review note, the Legal Aid office.  You would not follow the (seemingly) unremarkable path of unremarkable roles – 2L summer at a Washington DC firm, law clerk to a federal trial judge (where, of all places, you are introduced to international law), associate at another DC law firm doing federal court litigation (and only then, courtesy of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, international arbitration) – that prepared you best for the remarkable legal roles you get to play.  Yes, you will worry in the early days that you’ve lost your creative streak.  Be patient.  Be the best law student and young common lawyer you can be.  International law will find you.

If I told you where you will end up, you would search for mentors to tell you exactly how to get there and open doors for you.  Instead, you will work with extraordinary senior colleagues who ask you, and trust you, to take on unusual assignments.  For better or worse, you will never have an (initial-cap) Mentor, and you will not be comfortable being one either.  Nor will you be an (initial-caps) Feminist Lawyer, but you will be a feminist and advance the careers of many young women. 

Maybe you deserve one peek at the future: on one birthday, you will stand alone in court representing a battered Ethiopian woman in DC court; on another, you will do the same for the Government of Egypt in New York federal court.  Most other years, you just have birthday cake – equitably alternating the traditional family recipes of your family and your husband’s.   

Speaking of family, you would like a hint about more than legal life, wouldn’t you?  Okay.  You will be married for 30 years (and counting) to a journalist and together raise a wonderful daughter and son. You have close friends around the world who always have your back.  You will all laugh a lot. You will stumble in the aftermath of two violent crimes, but you will get up and ever more value life, with all its risks as well as wonders.   

Get on with it.

Prof (another hint) Lucy

Lim Zhi Kang, strategic BD associate director

Sim Khadijah Binte Mohammed, legal skills trainer