International Women's Day 2020 Spotlight: Laxmi Devi
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, for the week leading up to IWD (8th March) we will be spotlighting a different female colleague in the School of Law and Social Justice each day on our news stories page.
Today’s spotlight is Laxmi Devi, a Postgraduate Taught student at the Liverpool Law School, studying an LLM in Law, Medicine and Healthcare. Laxmi started studying at the University in 2018, arriving from Malaysia to complete her undergraduate Law degree. Alongside her studies, Laxmi is a Course Representative, a tutor for undergraduate Law students and part of the Women Breaking Barrier’s network.
1) Tell us about yourself, how long have you been a student here? What are you studying?
I have been a student at the University of Liverpool for two years now. I came to Liverpool in 2018 from Malaysia to complete my Law degree (LLB). I fell in love with the city, its people and the University of course, and decided to stay on to pursue my Masters here as well. Currently I am pursuing my LLM in Law, Medicine and Healthcare, and will be graduating this December 2020.
2) Tell us about your time here as a student, your studies and any specific projects you are working on?
Travelling 10,576km alone, from Malaysia to the UK was a daunting task but the travel was definitely worth it because being a student at the University has been a rewarding experience. In Malaysia, the classes are little, less hands-on and relied more on the lecturer feeding the students information. At the School of Law and Social Justice this element did exist via lectures, however, there was also room for group discussions through seminars. Here, the lecturers and tutors take a back seat while the students sit in the driver’s seat and express their views and takes on points of law.
It is here that I really found my voice. Coming from a conservative country, we were not really encouraged to assert our opinions or question the system. It was definitely refreshing to see that students here were encouraged to do the exact opposite and thought to not only critique everything they read but to also come up with solutions in relation to it. On its surface, it seems to be an easy task, sadly, that was not always the case for me.
Being a coloured, international woman in a classroom of white natives was definitely intimidating. It did not help that I also suffered from imposter syndrome which some might remember, is something Michelle Obama herself had to deal with. It essentially means that I always had this notion embedded in my head that not only could my white friends but more specifically my white male counterparts could perform the task better than I could. It is something I lived with from a very young age because of my weight.
Being a plus-sized woman meant I did not have much self-confidence and when I did voice my opinions, I was labelled as an attention seeker. The university has changed all that and taught me that there are no stupid questions and that only fools stay silent. There was no stigma here that if you were a certain size, your opinions did not matter. It also helped tremendously that half my lecturers were female and it was truly inspiring to see such intelligent women from various backgrounds with vast amounts of knowledge and years of experiences under their belt, conduct my lectures and seminars.
The University has also offered so many support systems including the ‘Women Breaking Barriers’ movement. Through this platform and various other law school platforms, I met powerful women who went through the same things I did and offered advice that helped me with my confidence.
After three years of law school, I finally had the courage to join the Speed Moot competition hosted by the Advocacy Society, and I won! Today, doing my Masters, I have gained so much courage to try new things and join more activities. I have applied as a translator for the in-house Law Clinic, joined several societal activities and have even become a Course Representative.
I also started tutoring undergraduate students and it is definitely a rewarding job especially when your ‘students’ have managed to achieve what they set out to achieve. I believe in teaching them not only the law but how to read and apply law generally throughout their degree. This means teaching them the importance of preparation and consistent work, as well as the need for a balanced life. My motto has always been ‘party hard and study harder’.
I am also now not afraid to voice my opinions and views in class even if it is one that is opposed by many. The thing I enjoy doing the most is working with the University’s recruitment department. Here, I get to give mini lectures for the school visits and discuss my work with the school students. Most importantly, I have the opportunity to also inspire young coloured school girls to not only take up a career in law but to also encourage them to complete their further studies as my mother did with me and my siblings.
3) What inspired you to study Law/the specific subject area?
My mother is a strong independent woman and has always advised my siblings and I that education is the key to success, teach a man to fish and all that. She truly is my inspiration and one of the strongest women I have ever met. When my family faced financial issues with some business deals going south, she single-handedly managed the household, worked three jobs and managed to put all three of her children through to higher education.
It was always ingrained in me to work equally as hard, so that one day she can sit back and relax. I was always determined to get a degree but my interest in law arose because of my need to protect the weak and my maternal grandfather. He was an amazing Barrister and everyone praised him for being a ‘walking law dictionary’ because that was how well-read he always was when it came to the law. To a little girl who loved comic books and superheroes, but sadly could not meet such an amazing man, he seemed like my own superman. As the first daughter of three, I felt it was up to me to take up his mantle and make him proud.
It was no surprise that medical law became my area of interest. Coming from a family full of doctors and dentists, and someone from a science background, it only seemed fitting that the intrinsic relationship between medical, legal and ethical dilemmas piqued my interest. Currently I am working on my dissertation plans to further explore this area with a heavy focus on the role of health professionals in patients’ decision-making process.
4) What are your plans after your complete your Masters?
I plan to take a year’s break and work with the Mental Health Tribunal or the General Medical Council, to truly widen my understanding of the health care system in the UK. I want to use this experience to aid me in my PhD in the future. In the meantime, I also plan to finish my Bar at BPP Manchester and join Gray’s Inn as my grandfather did. This way I can be a practising Barrister and a visiting lecturer because I truly wish to inspire more people especially women to take up a career in this field.
5) What is your message to women looking to study Law?
My message to all women would be to not be so afraid and to keep moving forward. There will be times when the fear gets the better of us and we fail but this does not mean we should stop there. We learn as much if not more from our failures than our successes. I urge women wishing to take up a career in law, to work smart, be persistent and be yourself. It is the uniqueness that makes you, you, that will make you stand out in your arguments and work. I also urge my fellow women to more importantly support one another. Law is no doubt a very competitive area, but this does not mean we as women should trip each other in order to win the race. We must remember we as women are fighting to break this industry and to make this change, we cannot be fighting internally among ourselves. Support is definitely key.
6) The theme for this years’ International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual – what does this mean to you?
It agrees with the #EachforEqual theme this year. To me, it means that each woman should have equal opportunities to donate their ideas, opinions and views in order to better the current legal system. I believe by supporting one another, we can create such a platform so that every woman is given an equal opportunity.