Many firsts for former Dean of Law

05 March 2014

Dr Julie Maxton’s illustrious career will be recognised with a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Auckland this month.

Dr Maxton is one of six University of Auckland Distinguished Alumni to receive the award at a gala dinner in Auckland next week.

At the University, Dr Maxton was Professor of Law from 1993 and Dean of the Faculty of Law from 2000.

She left Auckland in 2006 to become Registrar at the University of Oxford, where she is now an Honorary Fellow of University College.

Since 2011 Dr Maxton has been Executive Director of the Royal Society of London.

She was the first woman to hold each of these four roles - the first woman in 550 years in the case of Registrar at Oxford and the first woman director in 350 years at the Royal Society.

“I never set out to attain any institutional firsts, and I would certainly not like to be the last woman in any of the roles I have held,” she says.  “It’s important to do the very best you can and take opportunities as they come up. In a way it’s a bit like sport which has always been a big interest in my life. You keep doing your best in every part of the game, whether it is going well for you or not.”

Born in Scotland, Dr Maxton represented Scotland in lacrosse and hockey as a school girl. She won a scholarship to University College in London where she gained an LLB (Hons) and was admitted to the bar at Middle Temple.  Dr Maxton was appointed to a lectureship at Canterbury University, and after marrying a New Zealander moved to the University of Auckland. 

“I am delighted by the news of the Distinguished Alumni Award,” she says.  “As a member of the Faculty of Law for 20 years, I was privileged to have as colleagues, many outstanding lawyers.

They were always supportive, taught me a great deal, and kept teaching and research standards high.”

Professor Bernard Brown supervised her PhD and Dr Maxton says she was especially grateful to him for his guidance, advice and unfailing good humour.

“Any Law School benefits from a close relationship with the legal profession and Auckland has strong links of this type,” she says. “Many of us at the Faculty developed friendships with practitioners, learnt much from them and used what we learnt in our teaching, which I think the students enjoyed.”

Dr Maxton says she is also grateful for the administrative opportunities the University offered and she especially benefitted from having Raewyn Dalziel, the first woman to be a Deputy Vice Chancellor, as a colleague.

“But Universities are about students and the many students I have taught here have given me some of the most delightful and rewarding times of my life. I follow many of their careers with great interest and keep in touch as much as possible. All these reasons make this Award very special.”

Dr Maxton is also a Trustee of the UK Friends of the University of Auckland and is on the Board of the University’s Creative Thinking Project. 

For media enquiries email s.phillips@auckland.ac.nz