Dr Deborah Waxman is no stranger to the law. A qualified doctor, she has served as an expert witness for the Prosecution in trials concerning alleged sexual assault, and has worked with the New Zealand Police for fourteen years. Insights spoke to Deborah about what attracted her to the law, particularly her College of Law LLM (Applied Law) double major of family law and criminal law, what she does now, and what advice she might have for lawyers looking to move into these areas.
What caused you to study an LLM?
I wanted to further my qualifications in law. I love learning, having qualified in medicine with a BMed Sci(Hons) and Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS) in 1994 in Nottingham UK, my home town.
Having worked for NZ Police for many years as their Police Medical Officer and sexual assault examiner (MEDSAC), the law seemed a logical qualification.
In particular, what made you choose family law and criminal law as a double major?
As a survivor of family violence, I am very interested in advocating in the matter. I believe that my personal experience helps me appreciate where victims and offenders are placed. I have also completed several postgraduate papers for my undergraduate degree in both family and criminal law, and am keenly interested in and doing well in both areas. I currently work as a criminal defence lawyer, and double majoring in both disciplines made sense given my personal and professional experiences.
Where do you work now, and what kind of challenges does it involve?
I work for the Public Defence Service. My main challenges involve dealing with the lower socioeconomic spectrum of society and the associated challenges of communication, access to justice, health, lifestyle factors, etc.
I also work part-time as a General Practitioner (GP), a Fellow of the NZ Royal College of GPs (FRNZCGP).
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
It is an honour to provide access to justice for disadvantaged people in society.
I also continue to practice medicine throughout the week. Combined with practising law, this provides me with variety and a privileged position of helping individuals who face different challenges. However, the line between medicine and the law is fine, and I can draw upon my skills in both in my practice.
How did studying with the College help you in your career? Did it help you better advise your clients or progress your career?
It has provided me with skills for my entry into criminal law.
This included knowledge regarding appeal processes, interview techniques with clients, and networking with fellow students in the course, including the very approachable and friendly lecturers.
What advice would you have for LLM students looking to make the most of your study?
Consider enrolling in an LLM through The College of Law. The breadth of experience and topics taught are directly relevant to practice and will set you up to be that much more confident in your practice.
What advice would you have for lawyers looking to break into your area of law?
I have only just started my career in criminal law, but my advice would be to work in an area that interests you and you enjoy. In my situation, I am fortunate that I can now bring to the table my years of experience in medicine and experience as a doctor working in the forensic area.
I aim to broaden that experience to encompass medicolegal practice, drawing medicine and law together further.