New Zealand Law Society - How skateboarding ex-GI re-enlisted in new life

How skateboarding ex-GI re-enlisted in new life

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Former United States army infantry officer Scott Wight likens his adopted Blenheim home to his native California – with an unconventional means of getting to work.

"We have a Mazda CX7 but I live about 1 km from work and ride a long board skateboard or a beach cruiser bike to the office in shorts and t-shirts," says Scott, who was recently made senior associate at Blenheim firm Gascoigne Wicks.

"I keep all my suits at work and also iron my shirts there…"

Scott Benton (Scott) Wight
San Luis Obispo, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. 
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Victoria University in 2005. Admitted 2006. 
Senior Associate at Gascoigne Wicks, Blenheim. 
Speciality area
Conveyancing and commercial law.
Scott Wight
Scott Wight

With a degree from Cal Poly University in his Californian hometown of San Luis Obispo (about halfway between Los Angeles and San Fransisco), Scott served six years in the US army, rising to the rank of captain in general staff, before leaving to work in telecommunications.

"I left a peace-time army in April 2001, just six months before the September 11 attacks on America…Things have changed since then…"

It was while managing construction of cell phone sites for a major communications carrier and negotiating through disputes with landlords, that Scott decided to study law.

"If I wasn't a lawyer I would try renovating houses..." 

Having met his Marlborough-born wife and landscape architect Kaara in the States, and with a son and another baby on the way, the family moved to Wellington.

Scott was eligible for a retraining stipend under the GI Bill so "enlisted" at Victoria University.

"By the time we moved from the US to Wellington the exchange rate had dropped to about 40 cents in the dollar so I had to work fast taking every course I could to get through law school in about two and a half years and support the family with a part-time job at the same time…

"But it was a great benefit…

"Kaara coaches our two sons Ben and Max and daughter Somerset in basketball and I help out when I'm not playing social touch rugby…"

He has been chairman of the board of trustees of 460-pupil Bohally Intermediate School, the only intermediate in Marlborough, for three years.

With a 20 handicap and a golf course next door to home, Scott is trying to get his oldest son into the sport.

"We have weekend family tennis tournaments and rotate who gets to win … My team usually wins although I get stuck with whoever is the least motivated…"

With a father who served in Vietnam and a grandfather in World War 2, Scott – who is currently working through his favourite author John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath - also enjoys reading US military history.

"Musically, I came of age in the 90s with a lot of grunge rock – Nirvana, Sound Garden and gangsta rapper Dr Dre…

"I don't play any instruments but for five years have forced my two boys to play the guitar … They wanted to quit but I said that's not happening, get used to it … Nobody ever said it was a waste of time learning how to play the guitar…

"Now my middle son Max is riffing a lot to Justin Beiber and the oldest Ben is playing the likes of Nirvana and White Stripes.

"Television is given over mostly to sports, American football, baseball, superball, the All Blacks and Sevens…

"I like commercial law, have no inclination to be a judge and never see the inside of a courtroom…

"If I wasn't a lawyer I would try renovating houses … I don't have much skill but I would try my hand at it…

"While I was at law school in Wellington we bought a house, painted it inside and house, did the roof, put in some shelves - and I enjoyed that…"

Footnote: The Wights brought the US Halloween tradition with them, decking out their home and garden in October with home-made headstones, fake blood and other "ghoullie" gear. 

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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