December 2013Volume 19Number 3PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Spotlight on Women in ISBA Leadership: A visit with ISBA Catalyst Co-Editor, Cindy Galway Buys

Although Cindy Galway Buys has more than enough to keep busy as a Professor of Law and Director of International Law Programs at Southern Illinois University’s School of Law, she makes time for her duties as Co-Editor of The Catalyst, the newsletter of the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law. A visit with Professor Buys netted a wealth of information regarding the many hats worn by this amazing woman. Some things became clear—her understanding of issues that touch women, her desire to support and advance causes that support women; and her impressive legal intellect.

Professor Buys, like many of us, is married with two children. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from the State University of New York at Albany; her law degree and a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations, simultaneously, at Syracuse University; and her LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from the Georgetown University Law Center.

Professor Buys is an authority on public and private international law. In addition to being a law professor, she currently serves as a NAFTA panelist for any anti-dumping disputes between the United States and Mexico.

Professor Buys studied abroad when an undergraduate student and during law school. Currently, she is Co-Director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Southern Illinois University School of Law Summer Study Abroad Program in Ireland and Wales. She was also a Fulbright Senior Specialist for the International Human Rights Summer Studies Program in Lithuania. Yet, she finds time to be Co-Editor of the American Bar Association’s INTERNATIONAL LAW YEAR IN REVIEW, has written chapters for three legal text books, written numerous articles, and served as speaker or panelists at numerous events.

Professor Buys was kind enough to answer a few questions so we can get to know her a little better.


Veronica:  Why choose to be active with the ISBA when there are so many other bar associations?

Professor Buys: I practiced law in Washington, DC for 10 years after law school before coming to Southern Illinois to teach. I wanted to get to know members of the bar in Illinois and to learn what the legal issues are here, so joining the ISBA seemed like a natural choice. I have also been fortunate enough to serve on the International and Immigration Law Section Council and the Diversity Leadership Council in addition to the Women and the Law Committee.


Veronica: Why did you decide to teach law school?

Professor Buys: I was both a teaching assistant and a research assistant in law school and really enjoyed those experiences.  However, I wanted to gain practical experience before entering academia.  So I had teaching in the back of my mind from the time I entered the profession.  Being a professor allows me to share my knowledge and experience, explore my intellectual curiosity, and have a good deal of control over how I spend my day.


Veronica: Why teach at SIUC?

Professor Buys: SIUC is a great fit for me.  The law school needed someone to teach international law-related courses and that is my area of expertise.  I liked the faculty and the smaller size of the school, which meant that I could really get to know the students.  I also had two small children when we moved to Carbondale and it’s a great place to raise a family.


Veronica: What is most rewarding about your work as a professor?

Professor Buys: The most rewarding part of being a professor is watching my students grow in knowledge, confidence, and skills.


Veronica: What changes, if any, do you see law schools making in response to the enrollment crisis which resulted from the shortage of jobs in the profession? Will any changes be temporary or permanent?

Professor Buys: We have already seen some law schools close their doors as a result of the recession. Others have reduced class sizes. These changes may be permanent. Law schools also are increasing their efforts to assist graduates in finding jobs and preparing students better during school with necessary skills as well as knowledge.


Veronica:  Do you believe you raise or parent girls any differently than boys?  Did your parents raise you differently from your brothers? If so, how did it affect you?

Professor Buys: I have one girl and one boy. Although I tried to parent my children the same, starting with giving them both balls, cars and dolls, I don’t know if I was always successful. 

Yes, my parents did raise me differently from my two brothers.  They were more permissive with my brothers than with me.  For example, I always had a curfew in high school when my brothers did not at the same age.  I felt they were being unfair and, like most kids, told myself I would not do that to my own children.


Veronica:  What do you think has been the greatest accomplishment made by women in the last 20 years?

Professor Buys: That’s a tough question.  Probably just the fact that women are in every field and professional imaginable.


Veronica: What do you see as your greatest challenge as a women in today’s society in general? In the legal profession? Why? Any thoughts on how to overcome these challenges?

Professor Buys: I believe one of the greatest challenges for women is that we are often socialized to behave in ways that are not always valued by professions like the legal profession. For example, research shows that women face the double-bind of being nice or being competent.  In other words, we are socialized to be nice, but the nicer we are, the less competent we are perceived to be.  Conversely, if we are smart and talented, but do not smile enough, we will not be liked.  Similarly, research tends to show that women don’t ask for what they deserve in terms of work assignments, raises and other benefits in life, partly because we fear that we will be perceived as too aggressive.  Much of this research can be found in the excellent book, Women Don’t Ask, by Linda Babcock.  That book has some good suggestions regarding how to overcome these issues.  For a woman who is hesitant to ask for herself, one suggestion is to think about how the desired benefits will also accrue to others, such as family and co-workers.    

Another huge issue for women is that we are the half of the human race who bear children and we have a limited time period during which we can bear children.  Many women reduce their participation in the profession or leave the profession all together, especially during their child-bearing years, and it is very hard to come back.  We need better programs to help parents re-enter the profession, including affordable, good quality child care.



Veronica: What trends do you anticipate on women in the legal profession in the next 10 years?

Professor Buys: Women are already affecting the profession in profound ways.  I think the growth in the number of women in the profession has contributed to the growth of alternative forms of dispute resolution.  I expect that trend to continue.  There is more of an emphasis on finding a balance between work and home for both men and women partly as a result of having more women in the profession. Having more women in the profession also brings more attention to women’s issues such as domestic violence.


Veronica: The proverbial work/family balance-have you found a way to have it all?  Or found a way to have your all?

Professor Buys: Actually, I think I am one of the lucky few who has found a reasonably good balance in my life.  I have a job that is intellectually challenging and rewarding, but over which I have enough autonomy to do other things I enjoy.  I have flexibility in my schedule to attend my kids’ events, to travel, to play tennis and to watch college sports with my husband.


Veronica:  Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Professor Buys: Five years from now, my husband and I will be “empty nesters.”  While I am sure we will miss our having our children at home, it also opens new possibilities for us.  However, I love teaching and can’t really see myself going into practice full time again.  I would like to continue to find ways to learn and grow and lead and help newer attorneys who come along behind me.


Veronica: What are your favorite food, hobby, vacation spot, TV show, Sport’s team, and musician?

Professor Buys: Do wine and chocolate count as food? Playing tennis and reading fiction. I love to travel to different places, so I could never pick one vacation spot. John Stewart Daily Show. Syracuse men’s basketball (though I am a big Saluki fan now too). Too tough to choose a favorite musician.


Veronica: Name one or two things people would likely not know or find difficult to believe about you.

Professor Buys: I was afraid of public speaking before entering law school.  I took a public speaking course at a local community college between undergrad and law school to increase my confidence.  Now I talk in front of groups every day!


Veronica: Thank you, Professor Buys. It has been a pleasure. ■

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