Peggy Ray: Righting wrongs

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The grounding Peggy Ray gained in Geneva drove this IB alumna to make her mark in family law

As Peggy Ray and 11 classmates collected their diplomas on September 1971 – “well done, my dear,” said Lord Mountbatten as they shook hands – they were at the forefront of a revolutionary, and epoch-defining, educational experiment that would change their lives for good.

“That ceremony marked the end of a full-on two years of the IB at the International School of Geneva, but an experience that reinforced my approach to thinking to this day,” she says.

Peggy has been a successful solicitor based in London, UK, for nearly 30 years and has won a number of awards for her pioneering work in family law, including UNICEF Child Rights Lawyer of the Year in 2001 and Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year in 2005. She believes her lateral approach to solving problems stemmed from her years studying the IB in Geneva, but admits it wasn’t easy once she had the diploma in her hand.

“A number of universities turned me down because they didn’t recognize the IB as a credible programme. It was an unknown qualification at that time and no one had heard of it. In fact, one institution in the UK told me that they didn’t believe I had a strong enough command of English.”

Born in South America, Peggy travelled the world as a child, following her father’s work as an economist. It was only after he landed a job at the UN’s International Labour Organization that Peggy ended up at the International School of Geneva.

“I have many fond memories from my time there – the range of nationalities and the enthusiastic teachers, particularly. I remember Mr Leach taught us history and as a special treat at the end of term he would read a chapter from The Lord of the Rings, which I thought was the most boring thing I’d ever heard!

“But what really attracted me about the IB was the breadth of the curriculum and I particularly enjoyed the philosophy and ethics-based subjects like Theory of Knowledge and Modern European Minds.”

Peggy wasn’t always on the path to a career in law; after gaining a history of art degree from Sussex University, she felt her career options were limited. Her involvement in town-planning campaigns sparked an interest in law and, after a short stint working with a lawyer at the Citizens Advice Bureau, she returned to Sussex University to get her postgraduate degree in law.

Thirteen years after receiving her IB diploma in Geneva, Peggy set up her own legal practice, Goodman Ray, in 1985. “I was very keen on providing excellence to the man on the street who might not be able to afford a lawyer,” she says.

“These days we are a specialist family law firm. Family law is the most discretionary jurisdiction so I have the opportunity to be quite creative with it – which gives the most satisfying results. “I’m looking forward to turning 60 next year and curtailing the workload a little,”

Peggy continues. “I’d love to do some more travelling and as my fellow IB peers have scattered across the globe, I’m sure I wouldn’t be short of a few places to visit.”