Aspiring humanitarian lawyer takes first steps towards career in international law

For Melbourne JD student Maxine Radwan, choosing to study law was driven by the diversity of career paths – both in Australia and overseas – that a law degree would open.

Third year JD student Maxine Radwan has always known she wanted to work overseas.

With Egyptian parents, Maxine speaks Arabic and French in addition to English, and is attracted by the prospect of working in different cultures and languages.

Such was her desire to work abroad that after completing her undergraduate studies, she took a year off and worked at Disneyworld in Florida.

I worked as a front desk attendant at one of the resorts. It was great because I got to work with people from all over the world,” Maxine says.

But knowing that her true dream was to work in international humanitarian law, Maxine returned to Melbourne and began looking into Australian law schools.

“I knew that Melbourne Law School was a really prominent law school not just in Australia but also internationally,” she says.

“It also offered some interesting subjects in areas I am interested in like refugee law, so it seemed like the perfect fit.”

Nearly two and a half years into her degree, Maxine is confident that law will open exactly the kinds of career opportunities that she aspires to pursue.

One of the most formative experiences has been Institutions in International Law, a two-week intensive subject taught in Geneva, Switzerland.

“We went to a lot of international human rights institutions, like the UN and the ICRC [the International Committee of the Red Cross], and also to the World Trade Organisation,” she says.

“It reminded me why I wanted to do law and the variety of jobs out there.

“It made me think, “Wow, I can be here one day”.”

For Maxine, the attraction of international humanitarian law is not just that she would be able to work overseas, but also that she would be helping those in need.

“That’s why I think it’s great to have a law degree – it really equips you with the skills to be able to help others to be able to look after themselves,” she says.

Her time in Geneva has renewed her sentiment that the JD is a generalist degree that leads to more opportunities than just legal jobs – such as in policy and diplomacy.

“At all these international organisations, even though many people are not strictly providing legal advice, having a law degree really helps them undertake policy, reporting and advocacy work,” she says.

In addition, Maxine discovered even more possibilities in international humanitarian law than she knew existed.

“The organisations we visited are doing all these fascinating things around war and conflict zones,” she says.

“For example, they have created apps that help people figure out, as a matter of international humanitarian law, who can and can’t be targeted in a warzone,” she says.

Maxine is now looking to capitalise on her experience overseas with other international law experience offered at MLS. This year she is undertaking not one but two Public Interest Law Initiative subjects at MLS: Victoria Legal Aid Clinic and the International Criminal Justice Clinic.

And while she’s committed to finishing her law degree, Maxine admits that she still takes every opportunity she can to travel during university holidays.

“Most of my university breaks I’ve spent away, it gets me refreshed and ready for the next semester.”

By Blake Connell

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