December 2020 – On Wednesday, November 18th, Caline Mouawad served as a keynote speaker at “Stronger Together: Colloquy on Diversity and Perseverance” hosted by ArbitralWomen. During her presentation, Caline shared her professional and personal journey as a multicultural female in international arbitration. A full recording of the presentation is available here.
Dana MacGrath of Omni Bridgeway recently shared a summary of the presentation on Kluwer Arbitration Blog. An excerpt about Caline’s story follows:
Caline Mouawad began on a personal note, stating: ‘Everything I needed to know to build a career in international arbitration, I learned from my father.’ Caline described her father as an inspirational figure who ‘did not fear change or sacrifice’, safely moving the family out of Lebanon to Paris during the Lebanese Civil War and later at the height of the hostage crisis in Beirut to Houston, Texas. Caline observed that her father was ‘unsentimental’ about such difficult moves because ‘he knew it was necessary for his five daughters’ futures.’ She described her father as fiercely traditional and patriarchal, yet he raised five daughters who are all extraordinarily accomplished in their respective professions doing their best to balance personal and professional demands.
Her father distilled the sum of his life experiences into three key pieces of advice that have been instrumental and path-determinative in Caline’s personal and professional journey. First: ‘get your education.’ This encompassed not only formal academic education, but also the informal school of life. He instilled a desire to learn, a refusal to stagnate, and a willingness to take chances and embrace change. When Caline was accepted to Harvard Law School, he did everything he could to help, from organising her financial aid application documents to moving Caline’s personal items into her dormitory room. Caline derived inspiration from her father to have the courage to seek a 1L summer internship in Paris, where she ‘had the opportunity to work for Laurie Craig, one of the deans of international arbitration.’ Little did she know that this summer internship would decide the course of her career. After law school, she joined Simpson Thacher in New York. Later she moved to Salans in Paris and then New York, and eventually joined King & Spalding in New York, where she spent ten years before recently joining Chaffetz Lindsey in New York. These life experiences and the relationships she developed enriched her personally and professionally – a mix of the formal and informal ‘education’ to which her father referred.
Second, ‘be your full, complicated self.’ Caline struggled to reconcile her identity and sense of belonging – was she Lebanese, French, American, Texan? She asked her father for advice on how to prioritize these different allegiances and how he dealt with the different parts of his identity. Her father’s answer was simple: ‘I am a citizen of the world.’ He explained that Caline was privileged to belong to all these groups – that it was a strength and competitive advantage. It took time for Caline to fully appreciate this advice. Ultimately it became her license to be her ‘full, complicated self’ and an asset.
Being her ‘full, complicated self’ meant being a New York lawyer who is involved in her Lebanese Catholic Church, spends every Christmas in Texas with family and friends, is married to an American, speaks French to her children, Arabic to her mother, and feels at home in her 3,000-people hometown in the mountains of Lebanon. She described these as ‘but a few of the ways that I have the privilege, every day, of being multi-dimensional, of living out this global citizenship without having to choose an identity to the exclusion of others.’ She naturally gravitated to international arbitration.
Third, ‘follow your path with conviction’ and trust yourself and your chosen path. After having her first child, Caline chose to return to the practice of law on a reduced hours schedule, an ‘unconventional’ choice at the time. Her firm supported her and she found her rhythm. She maintained a reduced hours schedule as her career advanced, even though it meant she made partner later than her peers. It was not always easy to manage, but she was determined to follow her ‘path with conviction’ and ultimately prevailed.
Now Caline is a recognised leader in international arbitration. In addition to serving as counsel in arbitrations conducted in English and French administered by the leading institutions, she is on the ICDR and AAA panel of arbitrators, serves as Vice-Chair of the Steering Committee of the ICC Commission on Arbitration and ADR and is the former Chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association.
In closing, Caline noted that in all her personal and professional choices, she has tried to live up to her father’s expectations and hopes for her. His advice has been a beacon to her. She continues to follow his advice as ‘a guiding light’ in her continuing arbitration journey. She concluded, ‘my hope is that it may offer you some light as well.’
The full blog post is available here.
The ArbitralWomen is an international non-governmental organization bringing together women international dispute resolution practitioners. The event is part of New York Arbitration Week, of which Chaffetz Lindsey is a sponsor.
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