Senior associate Melissa Hammer looks back on helping a client to rebuild her confidence
Pursuing a career as an advocator and a problem solver came naturally to Melissa Hammer, who always knew that she was interested in the law. As a litigator, she has been able to practise her passion, guiding her clients through stressful periods in their lives to resolve matters.
Access to justice remains a vital issue in the profession for Hammer, and is something that she believes can only be addressed with the participation of the entire legal industry. In this interview, the Anderson Lloyd senior associate talks about representing a vulnerable young victim of sexual violation, and how obtaining justice helped the client to rebuild her confidence.
Hammer also talks the importance of taking proper holidays, sustainability in the legal profession and the three Anderson Lloyd initiatives she champions in particular.
What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?
From a young age, I was always interested in the law and it proved early on to be a natural fit for me – advocating, problem solving and a love for courtroom adrenaline.
My favourite part of being in litigation is stepping into the shoes of a client and becoming knowledgeable in areas and expertise outside of the law. I also enjoy connecting with clients and helping them resolve issues in what is often a really stressful time for them.
What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?
I prosecuted a sexual violation case with a very vulnerable young victim, who struggled to even be able to describe the acts committed on her and in circumstances where many in her life had given up on her and did not believe her. With the assistance of an experienced and committed police officer, we pulled together a case despite the hurdles it faced, and the defendant was found guilty by a jury. Knowing that others believed her was crucial to rebuilding her confidence and for her to move forward, and I was proud to have assisted with that.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
Anderson Lloyd has some really important initiatives it is involved in at the moment. There are three I'm particularly proud of:
- Staff are doing a cultural intelligence programme this year to gain a deeper understanding of Te Ao Māori and New Zealand history.
- We're the first law firm to be a Living Wage employer – paying not only our staff a minimum of the living wage but requiring it from all our contractors including dry cleaners, office cleaners etc. and therefore building stronger communities.
- Last year, we became one of the first law firms to become Toitū carbonzero accredited. We are also a member of the Climate Leaders coalition who require measurable environmental targets in line with the Paris Agreement to be a member.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?
Like many last year, my proudest accomplishment was getting to the end of 2020 and demonstrating resilience along the way. 2020 was a difficult year with COVID-19 – not only dealing with your own concerns and worries, but also dealing with stressed and anxious clients. I didn’t take a proper holiday last year, which I’ve realised is so important to do.
What should the profession and law firms focus more on?
Sustainability initiatives and electronic efficiencies. As responsible businesses, and as a profession, we all need to do our part in supporting sustainable initiatives.
What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?
One of the most pressing issues is access to justice, and it remains an open question how the entire legal profession can respond and play its part in addressing this. Our chief justice is passionate on the topic, but it will take the legal profession as a whole to address the systemic issue.
What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?
Adventuring around Aotearoa, New Zealand, and exploring more of our backyard!