Tell us who you are!
I was educated in the Berkeley public school system and then attended the University of California at Berkeley where I received a BA and MA. My original fields of study were history and political philosophy.
In 1975 I went to Berlin, Germany where I taught at the John F. Kennedy Schule for three years, after which I returned to New York City. I took an interim job with Ken Mill Textiles where I managed their export division and was personal assistant to the President of the company. In 1981 I moved to London, England and started my law studies. In 1984 I joined Lawrence Graham, a London law firm, as an articled clerk. Once I qualified, I continued at that firm commencing what became a successful Family Law practice. In 1993 I became a partner in Lawrence Graham. In 1994 I had the great good fortune to become a partner in the prestigious (“Magic Circle”) Family Law department at Charles Russell. At Charles Russell I continued to develop a successful practice and to enjoy the next eight years of stimulating and challenging work. I retired in 2002 (although I spent most of 2003 finishing the outstanding litigation work) and have since been active with various charitable interests, some part-time study at the Open University reading art history, extensive travel (Antarctic, Silk Route, China, Russia, Japan, United States, Europe, etc.), learning to quilt, reading and enjoying the company of friends and family.
What made you successful in your professional life?
Hard work: One can never get away from that. I am also a good listener and as a family lawyer that is an essential quality. However, there was also luck and the guidance/help of others. My husband, Michael Summerskill, was a well-connected barrister who was a senior partner in the firm of Thos. Miller (managers of mutual insurance schemes). Through Michael I met and developed friendships with people at the peaks of their careers in law, politics and business. Through these contacts I obtained work and introductions that advanced my career. For example, it was through Hilary Browne-Wilkinson I got an introduction to Charles Russell and was able to secure a partnership there. It was through another contact I sat as a chair on the Legal Aid Appeal Committee. It was through an entire network of friends and colleagues I was able to attract an interesting and rewarding group of clients.
What is/has been your biggest achievement professionally and privately?
Oh dear, this is a very difficult question. I suppose my biggest professional achievement was to gain the respect and trust of my colleagues and clients. Personally, without question it was my successful marriage to Michael Summerskill, developing a warm and loving relationship with his children and also of great importance is the satisfaction of a number of intensely close and loving friendships some of which have been nurtured and built over more than 50 years.
What skills, experiences or incidence helped you to get to the highest point in your career? What helped? What hindered?
I have been helped by having excellent heath and good stamina. It was fortunate that I was born with intelligence, an ability to work hard and enjoyed a privileged and secure middle class childhood with intelligent, loving and open minded parents of liberal values. To a great extent I was allowed to make choices, having been given sensible guidance. I had a good education and was encouraged to develop intellectual curiosity and to discuss ideas. What hindered? I perhaps lacked a hunger which might have driven me to greater achievement.
What are your aspirations as a 1 World Mentor for the 1 World Social Programme?
I would very much like to help young people first to think beyond the scope of what they have to date experienced. I would like to facilitate an expansion of the Mentee’s horizons. If she has a specific goal, I would like to help a young person to realise that goal.
What can you offer your 1 World Mentee?
These days my offerings would be primarily that of interested listener, perhaps making suggestions derived my life time experiences and insights. I have kept contact with some of the younger people who remain professionally active in London legal circles so with their help I might be able to make some introductions. However, I think that you should be realistic and know that my contribution will be mainly intellectual support, and with time one would hope some emotional support.
What does your ideal 1 World Mentee look like?
I would hate to be able to give a single description of a person who would interest me in this way. I would prefer women of a liberal frame of mind who lead a secular life as I have little interest in blinkered or intolerant thinking. I would prefer someone who has professional ambitions.
What are your aspirations for your 1 World Mentee?
My aspirations for a mentee would be that she grows into the kind of professional person who takes a pride in their accomplishments. They would be a person who is emotionally and intellectually independent and who has the ambition and drive to reach the top of their chosen field. I would very much like my mentee to achieve a level of kindness and compassion that makes her an attractive person.
Do you believe there is a glass ceiling for (young) female professionals? If yes, how can it be broken?
I cannot say whether there is a ceiling in 2016 for women who want both a career of high achievement and children. There certainly was 20 years ago unless the woman made proper child care arrangements which ensured her freedom of action. It is neither attractive nor fair to pull less than your fair weight either at home or at the office. Ask no quarter and give no quarter: that is, I think, how any glass ceiling will be broken.
If you had to make a powerful statement about networking, what would it be?
Networking is an arrangement by which one can promote and advance an idea, a policy or a career. For one part the main purpose of the network is to help, for the other part the purpose is to enable that person to realise the full extent of their potential. Networking encourages one to develop strong inter-personal skills and to discover possibilities which might not otherwise be obvious.