Homicide cases, Donald Trump and earthquake-proofing

by Miklos Bolza11 Apr 2016
Wynn Williams partner Joshua Shaw talks to NZ Lawyer about how he came into the role and gives his thoughts about his time in the legal profession.
 
What made you decide to become a lawyer?
 
I came into the law more by fortunate happenstance than by design. Coming out of high school it came down to medicine, engineering or law. I was too squeamish for medicine and too abstract for engineering, so law was the default choice. The law grabbed me from year one of university and hasn’t let go since.
 
How did you come to be working at Wynn Williams?
 
Again, more by serendipity than through careful planning on my part. I made the move from Auckland to Christchurch to join Wynn Williams in December 2015. How that move came about is a long story. Suffice to say, six months ago I had visited the South Island only once and had never contemplated a move to Christchurch.  Now, I’d never look back.   
 
What’s the strangest case you’ve ever been involved with?
 
I once prosecuted a homicide trial where what appeared for all money to be a defence of provocation and/or self-defence abruptly changed tack midway through the trial when defence counsel put to an unsuspecting prosecution witness that it was in fact he (and not the accused) who had stabbed and killed the deceased. The reaction from the witness was priceless.  It’s always dangerous to make assumptions, no matter how obvious they may seem, in the context of litigation. 
 
If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
 
Abe Lincoln, George Washington and Donald Trump. One can only imagine the dismay of the former two as they become acquainted with the next great American statesman. 
 
What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
 
Don't take life too seriously or you’ll never make it out alive.
 
Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
 
Does raising four children count as a hobby? 
 
What do you think will be the single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand this year?
 
Striving to achieve just outcomes in a system with strained resources. The increased emphasis on settlement and resolution in the family and criminal context is laudable for many reasons, but expedience cannot be allowed to unseat justice as the ultimate ideal.
 
If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
 
Divert more resources to the justice system. 
 
What do you love about your job?
 
Working with people. Someone once told me that in my professional life I would have the opportunity to improve the lot of many people.  I'd like to think I’ve made a start on living up to that ideal, but there’s still plenty more to do.
 
What would you change about your job if you could?
 
As a post-earthquake build, Wynn Williams House sits on base isolators and is designed to move with any tremors. As it happens, it can also start to sway when a particularly large truck drives by or someone stomps down the office hallway. This can be a little unnerving for those not accustomed to the rhythm of aftershocks, so I think if I could I’d tweak the building’s sensitivity (or mine).
 

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