Interview of Dr. Linda Spedding of Women in Law International and Statement on the inauguration of Women in Law Mediterranean

By Ms. Andrea Manoli, Research Scholar, School of Law, UCLan Cyprus

Prologue by Prof. Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou, Head of School of Law, UCLan Cyprus

Dear Readers, it is with great pleasure that I would like to introduce you to a new project of the School of Law of UCLan Cyprus (https://www.uclancyprus.ac.cy/school/school-of-law/) in collaboration with Women in Law International (http://www.womeninlawinternational.com/), called Women in Law Mediterranean, focussing on equality, balance and self-empowerment for all involved with Law in the Mediterranean region. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2020, I would like to announce the inauguration of Women in Law Mediterranean and mark the date with an interview of the inspirational founder of Women in Law International, Dr. Linda Spedding. Inaugural activities of Women in Law Mediterranean are planned in the near future, so stay connected to the UCLan Cyprus Law Blog (http://lawblog.uclancyprus.ac.cy/) and if you wish to contact us, please do so by sending an email to slaulhe-shaelou@uclan.ac.uk or e-mail Linda@spedding.org for any direct questions regarding WiL International.

Introduction: While undoubtedly both men and women have shaped societies for decades, empowering women constitutes an essential element to bring gender equality. In a historically male-dominated profession, such as the legal profession, pioneer women reformed a previously rigid profession. The shift from a home confined woman to a self-reliant and independent human being who is granted equal opportunities and rights is celebrated every year on 8th of March. The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) 2020 is, I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights. The theme is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Accordingly, this year’s theme constitutes a progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls everywhen, but at the same time it constitutes an all-inclusive initiative for equality between all beings. Thus, in appreciation of International Women’s Day, the Law Blog introduces Dr Linda Spedding.

AM: Can you introduce yourself in terms of professional/educational qualifications?

LS: I have always hoped to raise awareness of the message of self-empowerment whoever and wherever you are to realise your potential in your life. My parents inspired such values in me throughout my basic school education and beyond. I completed my LL.B. (Hons) at London University, selecting European and International Law options where possible. I pursued my LL.M. while also working part time, followed by a Ph.D. at the recommendation of my European and International Law Professor, who was a practising Barrister. My subject area was Freedom of Movement in the European Community with emphasis on the Legal Profession’s Right of Establishment and Freedom to Supply Services. I later expanded my Doctoral Thesis research to the USA which became published in the USA as my first book: “Transnational Legal Practice in the EEC and United States” and in the U.K. a loose-leaf guide on International Professional Practice. I won a stagière scholarship at the Service Juridique of the Commission in Brussels to obtain practical understanding of negotiation process of the rules and directives in this area. Meanwhile I qualified as (apparently) the youngest female solicitor and went on to qualify in the USA and India to realise the goal of becoming an International Lawyer and Adviser. Throughout my career I have worked in small and large international firms, as well as in house counsel and external consultant. For many years I have had my own practice with the main focus on International Environmental Law and Sustainability, as well as Risk Management and Responsible Business Practice – and matters of succession and responsible estate planning for individuals and families, especially from the perspectives of philanthropy. My published articles and books have reflected these topics. I have also trained, mentored and coached legal colleagues and others.

As I reviewed the professional priorities of my life for the short current discussion, I felt privileged to note the contribution that I am able to make as a woman both professionally and personally. Life has been good to me: my education has enabled me to open the horizons to a truly international lifestyle that encompasses Europe – particularly the UK – the USA and India. My qualifications have granted me a passport to a way of life that enables self-sufficiency, flexibility and fun; but the real basis for my life has been my interest in “practical spirituality”, to which I will return later. As a professional woman I have also the joy of a balanced home like.

AM: What do you mean by the joy of a balanced home like? Are you referring to the common stereotype between the balancing of work and a career which is particularly attached to women?

LS: According to the dictionary balance is usually defined as stability of mind and body. Balance has recently come to mean part of life/work balance according to which certain modern approaches are recommended. I will return to these later. For the purpose of today I would like to consider achieving the right balance through a much more traditional and profound methodology that you may not be familiar with. Also as regards the meaning of balance I would like to propose a definition based upon the acronym:

“Be always loving and naturally calm everywhere.”

I would like to consider this definition and highlight the importance of attitude of mind, to which I will return several times this morning. Significantly, this includes humour and positive thought. 

AM: The legal profession is hard as individuals entrust you their problems and expect resolutions. Thus, how do you keep a happy healthy life?

LS: I have found that the core is my values that I have implemented in my professional and personal life. This has enabled a resilience in the face of many demands, responsibilities and challenges. Not taking things personally, being positively detached to avoid emotional reaction and wear and tear have been disciplines learned through experience and Practice. I believe that an individual framework that encompasses health management, including relaxation, positive hobbies and interaction, silence for contemplation and restoration, thought control, breathing techniques and calm yoga can allow the resilience to be effective and assist others. I also train, mentor and coach or guide legal colleagues and others in this approach.

Inspiration for a happy healthy life:

For every individual the inspiration can be different.

In my life, this has largely come through my interest in the power of the mind and thought that has developed with my voluntary work with Adhyatmik Foundation, Inc and its associated organisations. The Foundation’s name is Sanskrit – often described as the world’s most ancient living language – and means all enhancement and advancement of body, mind and self. Sanskrit is known as the language that underlies almost all of the Indo-European languages. Many of the well-known tools that are available to us to try to go within in order to lead a more balanced life originate from Sanskrit and the Vedic lifestyle. I have also trained, mentored and coached legal colleagues and others to enable inner peace to achieve strength and outer peace, as well as a balanced approach that is immensely important in the unsettled daily world and life where – irrespective of age and stage of life – many responsibilities may seem overwhelming. 

When we talk about empowerment it goes beyond gender

AM: So, what are you trying to achieve through your voluntary work with Adhyatmik Foundation, Inc?

LS: The Foundation and associates was inspired by Professor Dr S.R.A.G. Purna, a Sanskrit Master and qualified also in Law and Medicine  (see www.adhyatmik.org). many of the activities are dedicated to the transcription and the publication of authentic Teachings and knowledge in the original Sanskrit. They are based upon the traditional Vedantic universal philosophy that embraces an understanding of Sanskrit, the Vedic texts, respect for nature and the environment, the Ayurvedic health tradition, meditation and yoga as part of everyday life. The activities of the Foundation include educational research and training, the publication of unique educational materials, discourses, retreats, seminars, courses on traditional educational curricula including medicine, as well as health, yoga, life management and balance, stress management, philosophy and spiritual awareness, education and responsibility for self with emphasis on a proactive and preventive approach. The overall objective of leading a happy, healthy and fulfilling life is a priority. As these activities reflect my values and priorities, I hope to raise awareness of the message of self-empowerment whoever and wherever you are to realise your potential in your life. Becoming fulfilled is the only way to become successful, if we develop through our life achieving, it should be done so through a holistic empowering manner rather that individualistic.

AM: As the founder of Women In Law International (WiL International), what do you think about creating a similar network regionally which will represent women and address regional issues of importance to WiL international? For example, Women in Law (WiL) Mediterranean could be introduced and discuss issues beleaguering prone to conflict regions, child soldiering, trafficking, migration, gender-related violence etc. to try to make regional change and be safe haven for people in an unsettled world.

LS: I believe that a regional network with key priorities to make positive practical change and offer support and solutions would be very constructive. The regional issues reflect the global concerns also in today’s world which is so interconnected. We can inaugurate with the WiL principles and regular interactions and activities including blogs and workshops: we can also train and mentor students, legal colleagues and others to realise their individual potential and be powered to make a positive contribution throughout their career wherever they are. My intention is that the Women in Law International and Regional Initiatives will provide a safe forum for mutual support and advice on these life-enhancing issues that affect us women in the interests of a fulfilled and balanced career and life. An inclusive endeavour as we find the personal and professional duties merged or overlapped and the gender debate evolves.

Image 1: Showing the Mediterranean region

AM: In light of Women’s Day what advice would you give to professional women or aspiring professional young women?

LS: This year the motto of Each for Equal very much reflects the importance of what I believe to be so important: be yourself, do not be too hard on yourself, have humour, reconcile any negativity, remember the positive and achievements, be grateful and look after your health always. (I have also trained, mentored and coached students and legal colleagues in these areas to achieve self-empowerment and develop resilient self-esteem).

There are tips for the professional woman: some of which follow:

·   Invest in Yourself:

As a daughter, sister, friend, wife and/or mother you may have instinctively put others first. Nevertheless, professional women are increasingly aware that to fulfil the needs of others your own must be attended to. Of course, if you do too much for those around you, this breeds dependence and it becomes a vicious circle. Start being more selfish at home and, once you’ve grown accustomed to the principle of putting yourself first there, you’ll find this notion has an uncanny way of creeping into other areas of your life.

·   Make Time for Yourself

Mothers, in particular, have had to get away from the idea that parenting is a role of self-sacrificing servitude. To offer the family the best of yourself, you have to look after yourself. Do not view time for relaxation or doing something for you as an indulgence. Rather, see it as an investment for you and your family. This is not just a thinly veiled justification for being selfish; it’s a fact. If you do what makes you feel good or fulfilled, then you will naturally feel better in yourself, have greater self-esteem and a healthier zest for life. While we can all say ‘but I just don’t have the time’, it’s a matter of prioritising and something has to give. Time for you is important and if it means that some chore doesn’t get done or that you have to enlist the help of family and friends then so be it.

·   What You Can Do:

You know better than anyone what it is that gives you the greatest pleasure or the best sense of fulfilment. You’ll almost certainly have your own ideas for ways to indulge yourself and to relax. However, here are a few suggestions garnered from other professional women to achieve that bit of extra time:

. Don’t try and pack domestic chores into your few free hours. Instead of food shopping, for example, have a massage – and order on-line from a supermarket home delivery service that night.

·   Relax your standards – sounds strange, doesn’t it. But that simply means that your house doesn’t have to be spotless the whole time. If it means getting to your pottery class, you can turn a blind eye to a bit of a mess, surely? There’s always time to tidy up before visitors arrive.

·   Have a sacred space or part of the day where nobody disturbs you and where you can relax temporarily. Even if it’s just a corner of your bedroom for five or ten minutes, get into the habit of making that space or that time sacrosanct.

·   Make time to talk to your partner. Between individual work, social and domestic commitments, you can become ships that pass in the night. Set aside a little time each day to exchange news and to talk, preferably without interference.

·   Consciously relax. Sometimes you may catch yourself on the way to work or while doing some chore and your shoulders are up around your ears. Make an effort to learn a breathing or relaxation technique and employ it regularly throughout the day.

·   We should all commit to giving loved ones a certain amount of time each day with your undivided attention. This is their time and it should be important to you both – and far better than begrudgingly giving half your attention for what seems like hours and hours on end.

There will also be a focus on achieving harmony in this notoriously difficult area pf self-empowerment. All of these priorities resonate with women around the world and they cross all cultures, boundaries and barriers. My intention is that the Women in Law International Initiative will provide a safe forum for mutual support, self-empowerment and advice on these life-enhancing issues that affect us women in the interests of balance and practical spirituality. I would like to hear more about how it has worked for others in their lives, as well as to discuss the meaning of my definition of balance – word by word – with alternatives.

I would like to ask ourselves a few pertinent questions:

  • What aspects of my life am I most passionate about?
  • What are my unique talents and my strengths?
  • Have I recognized what motivates me?
  • What does success mean to me?
  • What purpose would I like to give my life?
  • How can I prioritise my time more effectively?
  • How can I improve my life every day?
  • Do I live by the values I believe in?
  • Do I listen to my intuition when I make a decision?
  • Are my actions in tune with my values?
  • Do I show respect to myself and others?
  • How important is my family life?
  • Am I willing and able to take responsibility for myself?
  • Can I laugh at myself?
  • Have my values and priorities remained the same or are they changing?  
  • Do I regularly read inspirational books?
  • Who can give me valuable feedback or be a mentor?
  • What is balance to me?

Then please remember some of the stated effects of an unbalanced life:

  • Finding life a struggle, feeling of general fatigue;
  • Signs of physical wear and tear;
  • Neglecting basic health needs, sleep, nutrition, fitness;
  • Signs of unhealthy or excessive stress; and
  • Strain on personal relationships
  • Becoming dysfunctional or less effective in personal or professional activities

So, smile and begin to “be always loving and naturally calm everywhere”.

AM: Why did you choose the legal profession and how come you combined it with academia?

LS: This choice of the legal profession attracted me as a role in which I could serve others and make a positive difference (my WiL motto – helping the world in the ways that we can) and be self-sufficient without too much compromise of my purpose and values. My mentor and Ph.D. Supervisor was an international lawyer, arbitrator, mediator and Professor. He inspired and encouraged me to continue to pursue academic research and qualifications beyond professional endeavours – and to write and teach. This approach was endorsed by my experience of practice and research in the USA where the more obvious division in the U.K. and Europe was not so apparent. In India and the SAARC region my academic qualifications have been very respected and I have been invited as visiting Professor in various places to teach on interdisciplinary areas such as Reputation Risk. In this way I can broaden my expertise and assist others in a positive way, for which I am very grateful. In particular I can inspire some educational change and hope where this is feasible and practical.”

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