New Zealand Law Society - Mountain run favoured law for marathon mum

Mountain run favoured law for marathon mum

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Pauline-Jean Luyton
Pauline-Jean Luyton

Establishing herself in the Timaru legal profession was for Aoraki Legal director Pauline Luyten very much a case of the prodigal daughter coming home.

But it took a run around Mt Everest to convince her to stick with law.

As a 17-year-old law student – and born and bred Timaruvian - Pauline was placed with Aoraki Legal’s predecessor firm Petrie Mayman Clark for work experience.

Pauline-Jean Henrietta (Pauline) Luyten
Entry to law
Graduated BSc and LLB from Otago University in 2005, and Diploma of Sports Medicine in 2009. Admitted in 2005.
Director at Aoraki Legal, Timaru.
Speciality area
Employment, elder, relationship property, health and medical law.

And after qualifying in law, science and sports medicine at Otago University, Pauline worked in Australia, Invercargill, Matamata and as a legal adviser to the Medical Council in Wellington before coming home to Timaru to work for Quentin Hix.

Pauline and colleague Paul Tyler moved from Mr Hix’s firm to Aoraki Legal in 2015 and recently took over the firm on long-time partner Mark Clark’s semi-retirement.

Pauline’s career has seen her focus on employment law, elder law, governance and decision-making, relationship property, health and medical law.

In Wellington she worked at the Occupational Therapy Board, then at the Medical Council, where she was mentored by registrar David Dunbar, currently president of the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Law Society.

“I did registration for overseas doctors then started doing more legal advice and governance processes and as a legal adviser we would investigate doctors or provide information to professional conduct committees.”

Married to Welshman Steve Jones, a former national manager for EasyPay, a financial tech company, Pauline has three children – Alexandra (6), Francesca (4) and Thomas (nearly 2).

“Steve’s having a break at the moment after we moved here from Wellington and I had the kids. Now I’m back into my career.”

An ultra-marathon runner who has competed in tough races well in excess of the conventional 42km Olympic distance, she is planning to return to the gruelling sport.

She ran the Mt Everest marathon — the world’s highest marathon - in 2007.

“Seventy-five of us — including 15 from New Zealand — did it. You go to the first base camp, tramp there for three or four weeks then run from first base camp down to Namche Bazaar in Nepal, which is at a height of 3,440 metres.

Pauline-Jean Luyten at Mt Everest
Pauline-Jean Luyten at Mt Everest

“It was on the Everest run in my 20s — which I did in nine hours 52 minutes — I questioned whether I still wanted to be in the law, and I made the right decision.

“I tried the Mont Blanc 100km marathon in 2010 but only got part way through and ended up hurting my back — which was a bit of a bugger and the first time ever I did not finish.”

She has run many partial fund-raising marathons, including the Oxfam 100km marathon round Lake Taupo and on back tracks in 22 hours, with training help from the late Olympic runner Bernie Portenski.

“After five years of having kids I’m now getting back into running now. Beforehand it used to be three and four hour runs. There’s nothing hard out at the moment.”

Tongan heritage

Involved with Plunket in Timaru, Pauline is completing a Masters degree in Indigenous Studies at Otago University. “It’s about exploring my heritage, about being Tongan and growing up here.

“My Mum Ailine Seliuaine is from Tonga and came here in the 1970s. She met my Dad Henry, who is a New Zealand-born Dutchie. His parents moved out here in the 50s with the trade boom.”

Pauline’s twin sister Mary-Ellen is a teacher and International Dean at Timaru Girls’ High School.

“With me studying the Tongan stuff, three or four of us looked at creating a Tongan society in South Canterbury. I only know a little bit about being Tongan - I was raised here so I am very Kiwi.

“I wanted to learn more about Tongan values, heritage and the differences in culture. If I was asking these questions then others would be too, especially youth.

“How can we make it so everyone can start to understand? We created a Tongan Society to help them learn about living in New Zealand but also to open up and have anyone else understand about Tongan culture.

“It includes anyone who has any Tongan descent at all. There are at least 220 Tongans, including children, in Timaru. There’s a lot of families here.

“We meet every month or two. There are regular homework groups every week for primary and high school students. We perform at various events, promoting Tonga, and we are also working on anti-family harm issues.

“I played football the year before last and was intending to start back but we took over the firm so next year I will be playing football again.

“I played the piano for about 10 or 12 years — the late Mrs Rita Minehan taught me. She was a well-known Timaru music teacher and an iconic person in Timaru with bright red hair.

“Now it’s trying to fit everything in around other commitments. I like new age German musical project band Enigma, and some classical: baroque, Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

“And post-grunge British band Bush and the Smashing Pumpkins. I’m kind of grungy. And a whole lot of running tracks with beats to keep me going.

“I like crime novels … JD Robb’s (American author Nora Roberts) Leverage in Death, Lord of the Rings, sci-fi fantasy but nothing too serious. All escapism. We deal in such heavy stuff at work, I like reading stuff that’s semi-made up.

“US fantasy writer David Eddings – The Belgariad, The Elenium – is not as hard out as Tolkein.

“We watch what the kids like on TV. A favourite is the animated children’s series PJ Masks. And I recently re-watched The Accountant on Netflix, with Ben Affleck.”

Sink or swim in court

“I’m the first lawyer in our family. On the Dutch side they were farmers and tradies.

“I liked arguing as a teenager. My attraction to law was being able to advocate and have a say and try to analyse something and problem solve.

Pauline-Jean Luyten at Mt Everest
Pauline-Jean Luyten at Mt Everest

“I used to go a lot to Australia and went there after graduating, to a job in Canberra with Ashurst, formerly Blake Dawson Waldron.”

Pauline returned to New Zealand to work in a law centre in Invercargill and was in court within her first two weeks. “It was sink or swim.”

“I liked litigation at that time. We were doing traffic offences and minor criminal stuff — anything that wouldn’t have legal aid.

“I won’t forget going to court the very first time. It felt like I had finally achieved it and I was there.

“It was Invercargill District Court before Judge Dominic Flatley, and it may also have been his first time as a judge.

“That was the point where I felt good because I had made it through my first appearance unscathed. He treated me well – it was not a massive case. But when you are first starting out it was an achievement to get through it.

“I’ve driven a lot with work — especially working in Waikato and Wellington — and have been everywhere in New Zealand except the Far North.

“I love Wanaka and Papamoa and we go to Moeraki every now and then — it’s a hidden gem. Steve’s parents come out every Christmas. They have six months in Alderney [in the Channel Islands] and six months here and they usually go to those hidden places.”

Kofi and Cuba the cats

Pauline and Steve travelled widely before having children, including to Holland, Nepal, Thailand, England, Italy and France. “France is our favourite place, on the coast near La Rochelle.”

“Eventually, we will take the children along with us and open their eyes to the different ways of the world. And they have not been to Tonga yet.

“We have two cats. Kofi named after Kofi Annan and Cuba after Cuba Street. They were my husband’s before I met him so they have been adopted.

“With three kids I don’t have a car — it’s a family wagon, a Toyota Estima van. I haven’t had a normal car for a while.

“My dinner guest would be Rosalind Franklin. I have always had something about her.”

Rosalind Franklin was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who contributed to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, but whose contributions were not fully recognised until after her death in 1958.

“She was an amazing woman who didn’t get as much recognition as her colleagues. I remember in high school watching a video on science and it always seemed to resonate with me. She would be someone who would be interesting to speak to.

“And I make an amazing Tongan raw fish dish called ota ika. Gurnard chopped up and marinated with lemon; with coconut milk, tomato, and you can add chopped up peppers and red onion. It’s like a salad. I get fresh fish at the local market. With Midori splice cocktail and wine for everybody.

“The law profession feels like it is changing and I want to be the approachable lawyer. I want people to be able to talk to me and I can communicate in plain English.

“I want to be remembered as the approachable lawyer and explain something clients can understand and that they can communicate to me that they understand as well. So it doesn’t make law so distant or a mystery to people.

“Being a partner in my own law firm with Paul Tyler and building up this practice has part way achieved my ambition.”

In another life, Pauline says she would consider being a physiotherapist or maybe a doctor “if I could be committed that long to studying, but it sounds really hard”.

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