New Zealand Law Society - How serving coffee led to a legal career for crime barrister

How serving coffee led to a legal career for crime barrister

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Lucie Scott
Lucie Scott

Barrister and restaurant owner Lucie Scott’s first contact with the legal world was as a student serving Justice Stephen Kós – now President of the Court of Appeal – his daily coffee at Wellington’s Caffe Astoria.

That connection to the Judge and other legal regulars triggered Lucie’s interest, first in the social side of the law, with a BA in psychology and criminology, then – after some time off in Melbourne – finishing her law degree part-time while working at the Wellington court.

“Working at the Wellington district court with the criminal registrar developed my passion for being able to apply my interest in the law by helping people,” says Lucie, who worked with former Criminal Bar Association president Noel Sainsbury for several years until he was appointed a district court judge in 2017.

Lucie Anna (Lucie) Scott
Auckland, moved to Queenstown aged five.
Entry to law
Graduated BA (Criminology and Psychology) from Victoria University in 2004, and LLB in 2007. Admitted in 2008.
Quay Legal, Wellington.
Specialist area
Criminal defence barrister.

Lucie and Brett Crowley practice from Quay Legal chambers and were recently joined by Julia Robertson.

“I did psychology and criminology because I wanted to understand what makes people make the decisions they make, and to explore the social justice side of things.”

The only lawyer in her family, and away from the law, Lucie and her Samoan husband Rob Scott own Wellington’s Chow restaurant, the Library Bar, Motel Bar and the Little Waffle Shop.

The hospitality world has always been part of Lucie’s life. She grew up in Queenstown where her parents – both trained chefs - ran Speargrass Lodge, by Lake Hayes, and her mother Jenny Jenkins now runs Wellington’s Le Cordon Bleu Cuisine School.

“I’m not a very good skier but every year we had to ski with school for six weeks which I used to dread. But I did have a very idyllic childhood.”

Life in Italy

Taking time off after school and before university as an exchange student in Italy, she was fully immersed for a year in an Italian family who spoke no English. “I had to learn Italian pretty quickly. It is a fascinating culture and I had a ball.”

She lived in Saluggia, a small town halfway between Milan and Turin, where her host father was a stonemason and the family had “a very meagre apartment on the top floor.”

“It was so small my bed pulled out from underneath my host sister’s bed and that was the whole space of the room taken up. My clothes hung from the ceiling with a pole. I went to school every day with my host brother and because I had already finished school in New Zealand I didn’t have to sit any exams. I had fun, it’s something I would recommend.”

As the mother now of son Tomasi (6) and daughter Leilani (3), Lucie says the work/life balance is a constant struggle.

“Some days you don’t feel you are being a very good mum or a very good lawyer and other days it all just clicks and works.

“In criminal law, being self-employed on one hand, gives the flexibility to be able to block out a day and go to sports day. One the other hand you don’t know when your client is going to get arrested or how long the jury’s going to take. It can be extremely stressful.

“You need to surround yourself with people who care about you and support you, both in terms of family life and professional life. That’s why I was lucky working with Noel Sainsbury for so long … he couldn’t have supported me more with both.

Babies in the office

“There were days when he would be cradling my baby in the office while I popped over to court. I am also lucky to have my Mum in Wellington and she is an enormous support.

“The emotional aspect is the most difficult. I care about my clients and that’s what makes me good at what I do, and it is challenging when dealing with the emotion.

“I exercise at 5.50am three days a week with a fitness group at the Hutt River. My hobbies consist of Lego and Playdough. And I enjoy baking. My three-year old loves baking and chocolate chip cookies are the staple in school lunches. Anything chocolate and my little girl loves cupcakes.

“I grew up horse riding but sport now is touch practice on the deck with my six-year-old. I manage his touch team so our house is all about touch practise and positive reinforcement.”

Of the mindset that it takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to support a working mum as well, Lucie and Rob set up home in Normandale, near Petone, where they saw the community was strong.

Involved in the local play centre, she has one day off a week to spend with Leilani, does her parent duty on Tuesday, volunteers at the toy library and is the fund-raising officer for both.

“When my daughter was born I started a charity called Mums to Mums, collecting good quality second hand baby gear, clothes and equipment and distributing to people in need from my garage.

“People want to help people, it’s innate in us but you just need to make it easier for some people to make contact.”

My Little Pony

“I knew you would ask what I read so I looked at my dusty bedside table, went and got a book and read it - The Whole Intimate Mess, Motherhood, Politics and Women’s Writing, by former Green MP Holly Walker.

“I never watch television, but there is My Little Pony and Star Wars somewhere. Rob watches a lot of Netflix. I am normally reading a file or folding washing.

“We travelled a lot when I was a child, mostly back to the UK where my parents are from. We would go via Los Angeles to Disneyland and home by Rarotonga.”

“My grandparents are from Brora, in the Scottish Highlands on the way to John O’Groats. My Dad grew up in Aberdeen.

“My brother went to Lincoln and is a farmer in Scotland. His wife is from the UK. They have four children and moved there four years ago.

“Most of my travel now is with work, and we go to Martinborough a lot, where Mum has a holiday home. We went to Fiji this year with family – the first family holiday in six years.

“My car is a white one, we just upgraded to a seven seater, a Holden Captiva. A seven seater good to sit all the boxes of disclosure in the back.”

Fish fingers

“We have a cat called Bob, which we got him from Kitten Inn that takes in abandoned cats. He had been discarded in a rubbish bin. He chose us and climbed into my handbag. Tomasi got him for his third birthday.

“Dinner guests would be eating the fish fingers left on my six-year-old’s plate. I would have my grandfather John Low around. He lived in Scotland, died three months ago at 97 and never met my children.

“I would watch him play chess with Tomasi. Granddad would need a Glenfiddich after dinner. And there’s always a pinot gris open in my fridge and a half bottle of gin somewhere.”

Believing that everyone deserves access to good quality legal representation, she describes herself as a passionate duty lawyer, finding the role rewarding and now involved in training and assessing up-coming duty lawyers.

Giving back to the profession

“I was lucky enough to have four senior barristers take an interest in my career and support me over the last decade.

“With legal aid funding cuts and the implementation of the Public Defender Service there is a noticeable gap in senior lawyers mentoring and giving young lawyers experience, so I try hard to give back to the profession in that regard in whatever way I can.”

A member of the New Zealand Law Society Wellington branch criminal law committee, and hoping to begin her masters degree next year, Lucie has two law graduate mentees in the Victoria University mentoring scheme “who want a real lawyer to talk to”.

“There are a few memorable cases. One was a 17-year-old who had killed his cousin in a car accident and I was desperately trying to avoid him going to prison but we could not get below two years jail for home detention.

“I remember going down in the lift with him to the cells and he was about to be taken out to the prison. The judge in his decision had tears rolling down his cheeks delivering the term of imprisonment. The 17-year-old put his arms out to me to give him a hug, I guess in reassurance he was going to be ok.

“I didn’t feel he was going to be ok. It struck me I was the one there to support him, nobody else was. I always remember, it’s a reminder that what we do is a privilege.

“My husband says if I won Lotto I would still do what I do because I feel so passionate about it. But I always wanted to open a community drop-in centre. I don’t think it’s very profitable but I like the idea where especially young people can go and know there will be someone to talk to, have a cup of tea and something to eat.

“I’ve always imagined doing something like that, and utilise my baking skills as well.

“I often think I would love to go back to Queenstown and raise my children in the outdoors like I was but sadly there simply isn’t enough crime – not something that puts most mothers off a town.”

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