New Zealand Law Society - Daughter of the sea found law on her home patch

Daughter of the sea found law on her home patch

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From a heritage of farmers and seafarers, much-travelled former planner Antoinette Besier switched to law 11 years ago before returning to her Nelson home patch and starting her own practice.

She launched Tasman Law in 2015 after nearly five years with Nelson firm Fletcher Vautier Moore, a stint as a barrister in Wellington and earlier with Thomas Dewar Sziranyi Letts and Chapman Tripp.

Antoinette Caroline (Antoinette) Besier
Entry to law
Graduated BA (history and political science) from Victoria University in 1994, MA (regional and resource management, with distinction) from Otago University in 1996, LLB (First Class Honours) from Victoria University 2004. Admitted 2005. 
Principal at Tasman Law, Richmond, Nelson. 
Speciality area
Resource management, criminal and civil law.
Antoinette Besier
Antoinette Besier

Antoinette, who has two children, was recently joined by colleague Kate Mitchell, who returned to practice after a break to raise her family of three. Both Antoinette and Kate left Wellington firms to practice law where they grew up.

"It was a huge move setting up on my own but very rewarding." 

"Part of the reason I went out on my own was for a good work/life balance," says Antoinette.

"I have greater flexibility and can dictate my own working hours, which is often very early in morning so I have my work down when the boys – aged 9 and 7 - come home from school… It's important for them to have Mum around when they are young…

"It can be exhausting but rewarding, full on and life is busy… It is a juggle when I have to be in court but fortunately I have my parents close by who can help out…

"It was a huge move setting up on my own but very rewarding… Both Kate and I work from home offices and we have two contract typists…"

Married to Robert, an engineer with a local lines company and an enthusiastic craft beer brewer, Antoinette grew up in the Tasman area, left at 18 and returned 20 years later.

She was recently involved with a successful bid lead by law academic Claudia Geiringer to secure a New Zealand passport for suspended Nauru MP Ronald Kun, allowing him to flee political persecution and reunite with his family in Wellington in July.

Antoinette started studying law in the early 90s then got distracted by travel, finished her BA in history and political science, then her masters in resource management, worked for few years in Dunedin as a planner, then in planning in Britain.

"It was fascinating working on master planning and how green space is used in London… Improving people's access to outdoors areas in London… Everyone thinks the RMA is used as a political football here but in England things are even more tightly regulated…

"I enjoyed English and debating at school and my teacher suggested law would be a good course for me…

"I must admit when I did my first year law I was not so enamoured with it… It took me a while to come back to it… I went back to law in 2001 after a career in resource management…"

The first lawyer in her family, Antoinette's father was a seafarer, an uncle is a ship's captain, another uncle is a surgeon and her mother a teacher.

"My father's background is Dutch seafarers turned horticulturists…"

Having run the London and New York marathons she is planning another marathon next year, possibly Berlin or London again.

"It was a good way of seeing New York, especially at the pace I go… My time was embarrassingly slow but I finished before dark…"

When she's not running she helps exercise a friend's quarter horse with "social, gentle hacking… A good way of relaxing after a busy week…"

Reading "just about everything," she has just finished US author Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, (based on the 1996-97 Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Peru), "Which I have wanted to read for ages… And Jane Smiley's trilogy based on an Iowa family through the generations from the turn of the 19th century to modern day."

"I like the Scandanavian noire and am slowly getting through John and Hilary Mitchell's Te Tau Ihu O Te Waka – a history of Maori in Nelson and Marlborough

"I am also learning Te Reo at the moment… Something I wanted to do for years…

"I don't watch much TV but occasionally gorge on House of Cards, much preferring the original British series…

"I tried learning the piano before the kids born… But, nah… My life revolves getting up early and try to finish work by 3 then it's the kids after that and at weekends…

"Living at Brightwater I do parent teacher help in the mornings at school when I can and also do quite a bit of pro bono work specially with refugees Nelson takes…

"I drive a Subaru Outback… I think it's a 2013, I'm not that interested in cars but it's good for carting kids…

"If I wasn't a lawyer then scriptwriting drama for films would be interesting… As a seventh former I wrote a school project play – A Day in the Life of Giovanni - that was adapted and broadcast on National Radio…

"It was set in Florence about the life of an artist in the 1400s…

"Roald Dahl would be my first dinner guest choice… He is awesome and such an interesting person…

"Also my great grandmother Charlotte Clark who was a bit of a pioneer… She managed to bring up a large family by herself when her husband came back from WW1 suffering from aftershocks and became dysfunctional…

"She kicked him out and raised four children on her own…

"President Obama would be good company… And I would like a Beatle… John Lennon would be ideal and I'd quite like George to come too… And Martin Luther King… How many more???

"I'd slow cook Moroccan lamb and have plenty of Brightwater pinot noir…"

Timaru-based Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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