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A legendary literary lunch not to be missed

14 May 2020 - By Jock Anderson

Wellington family lawyer Helen Tyree knows which historic lunch she would have liked to attend.

“In about 1893 a gentleman who ran a magazine in the United States was desperately looking for people to write for it.”

The publisher was JB Lippincott, of Philadelphia, and his magazine was Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.

Name Helen Louise (Helen) Tyree
Born Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England - on the edge of Sherwood Forest.
Age 41
Entry to law Graduated LLB from Otago University and LLM in Child Law and Policy (with distinction) from Brunel University, London.Admitted in 2003.
Workplace Senior Associate at McWilliam Rennie, Wellington.
Specialist area Family law

“He travelled to London and arranged to have a lunch with two gentlemen to discuss with them writing for his magazine. One was a fairly well-known writer at the time, the other was a young Irish guy no-one had heard of.

Helen Tyree

“They were Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. As a result of that lunch Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, his only novel, and Conan Doyle wrote The Sign of Four, the Sherlock Holmes story that made him famous. And they both wrote for Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine.

“That would have been the lunch to attend.”

A fan of murder mysteries, Helen was recently made senior associate at family law specialists McWilliam Rennie.

She has established her name in family law over the last 15 years, especially in complex international relationship property matters. She acts for children in the Family Court and undertakes appointments as lawyer for subject persons under the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act.

Here, there and then here again

Born in the English Midlands town of Worksop - once dubbed the fattest town in Britain by The Sun newspaper - Helen was two-and-half-years-old and her brother David six-months-old when her parents brought the family to New Zealand for overseas experience in the late 1970s.

After a year here the family returned to England where Helen’s father, a geriatrician, had more training to do. Her mother is a retired primary schoolteacher.

They returned to New Zealand in 1981, settling in Invercargill, and sister Jo -now a teacher in Nelson - was born in 1983. Their father died suddenly in 2003, aged 51.

“We grew up in Invercargill. It was intended as a starting-off point because my parents loved it there on the OE.

“Mum, with two small children, wanted to go somewhere that she knew where the supermarket was. It was intended as a stepping-off point but they settled there. We grew up there and went to Otago University. Mum moved to the Hutt Valley in 2005.

“I grew up thinking I would follow my Dad’s footsteps and be a doctor. Mum always said I would make a good lawyer, her sister was one and I’m quite like my aunt. She is retired and was head of the legal department for a local council in England and head of the child protection team.

“I had a teacher at school who thought I would make a good lawyer but I always said I would be a doctor. In my first year at university I had the opportunity to do a couple of law papers. I did them and it proved you should always listen to your Mum.

“I did a straight law degree and wanted something else. I wanted to travel but was also aware that if I had gone straight into practice after finishing my degree I would have been practising at 21.

“I didn’t feel ready to join the 9 to 5 crowd, I wanted to go overseas, and do more study, so why not combine them. I always knew I wanted to do family law.

“Why family law? I picked the family bit before I picked the law bit. Dad was a geriatrician and Mum a primary school teacher who always taught low-decile schools and children with special needs.

“I grew up in that environment with parents in people-centric jobs. That had always been a leaning. My brother and sister are the same.”

Before going overseas Helen researched which universities she could do a masters in family law at, eliminating Liverpool because it involved doing a thesis only and settling on Brunel University in London because is offered classes.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere I would be doing purely a solo study, so I went to Brunel because it had classes - much to my father’s horror when he found out because he was a staunch northerner.”

Bookworm

“I have been a reader my entire life. My Mum used to say she was worried about being the only parent in the world whose child read too much.

“I like murder mysteries and loved Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, but I will read just about anything, for example, the less taxing Cathy Wright and Patricia Cornwell. And I have just read IQ84 by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

“I also like fantasy novels and children’s stories. I have nieces and nephews and love introducing them to books I loved as a child. I like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, JK Rowling, Hilary Mantell, Terry Pratchett, and Margaret Atwood.

“I developed a passion for cricket during the 1992 World Cup. I played through high school with far more enthusiasm than talent. Our James Hargest team was quite successful and played in the South Island final of the secondary school one-day Gillette Cup in my fifth form year.

“l loved watching cricket. Dad was a big fan and took us to one-dayers at Carisbrook in Dunedin.

“We were blessed in that our parents were able and had the willingness to travel with their children. I travelled a lot in my teenage years, including a school trip to the US and another to Japan.

“When I was in third form, Mum and Dad decided to travel to Europe for 13 weeks in a campervan with three children, who at the time were 9, 11 and 13. It was fabulous, had its moments, and couldn’t be beaten as an experience.

“As an adult I took six weeks off with my partner Dan and went to Europe - travelling through Switzerland, Germany, Paris and UK - the longest I’ve had off since I started practising in 2003.

“I go through phases with films, sometimes seeing a lot then not going for a while. The last one I saw was JoJo Rabbit, I loved that.

“I’m a sucker for British murder mysteries - Midsomer Murders and Shetland, in particular, which is amazing.

“I started reading Agatha Christie when I was 11. Mum’s cousin used to live in the block of flats in London where they filmed David Suchet’s Poirot.

“Musical talent in the family completely passed me by and my singing is restricted to the car when I’m on my own. I’ve been to Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran concerts, and I like Mumford and Sons, and anything that can play in the background.

“Dad was a huge Dire Straits and Bob Dylan fan - that’s the soundtrack of my childhood - and Mum is a Beatles fan with a huge collection of LPs.

“I had two cats but both died, 18-year old Sophie just before the lockdown.’

Wilde times

“I have always had a soft spot for Queenstown, that was where we went for family holidays. I had a friend at high school whose grandparents had a house at Kelvin Heights. I like Fiordland and around Nelson, where my sister lives.

“When my partner Dan and I went to Paris we went to Pere Lachaise Cemetery so he could see Jim Morrison’s grave and I saw Oscar Wilde’s there too.

“My Dad and Oscar Wilde would be my dinner guests. For Dad there would be roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  Or fish and chips, but I don’t know how Wilde would feel about that.

“Dad loved cooking so I would ask him to cook. And there would have to be Guinness or Boddington’s beer.

“When we came to New Zealand, Dad said they should not chill beer because it kills the flavour - but having tasted New Zealand beer he said that’s not a bad thing.

“Being a family lawyer I have any number of good work stories but I’m not sure any are suitable for publication – I would have to change the names to protect the guilty.”

Before moving to Wellington to join McWilliam Rennie in 2014, Helen spent more than 10 years practising in Taranaki.

“I ended up there by accident. I went to the job interview for my first job, thinking I would get a bit of experience for a couple of years but I loved it and 10 years later I was still there.

“I always intended to end up in Wellington. But New Plymouth is a wonderful place to practice as a new lawyer and the Bar there is incredibly supportive.

“It was a good training ground. Like most lawyers, if you start in the provinces you tend to get your feet wet fairly early. I recommend it to any lawyer. I certainly had some memorable hearings.

“I would love to own a little bookshop somewhere but I would be terrible at it because I would be in the backroom spending more time reading books than selling them.

“I would probably let people stand around the shop reading the books instead of buying. But in law I guess I have found my niche in the world.”

Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. He can be contacted at jockanderson123@gmail.com

Last updated on the 14th May 2020