Fine wine and strange cases

by NZ Lawyer10 Oct 2016
Lowndes' first female partner Jacque Lethbridge reveals her love of fashion, why she would like to blog and what she sees as the biggest issue facing the legal space in NZ.

What made you decide to become a lawyer?

I was working at the Waitangi Tribunal in an in-house role and had the privilege of working with (now) Justice Williams but then the Chairperson of the Waitangi Tribunal and Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court on a daily basis who had come from being a Partner in Kensington Swan.  His ability as an advocate was inspiring. Seeing jurisprudence actually being developed and advocacy in motion I knew that I wanted to get admitted and practice in the litigation area.  I thought I would end up working in the Treaty sector but actually went into criminal law and have ended up practicing as a commercial litigator for most of my litigation career thus far. 
How long have you worked at Lowndes and what brought you to this position?
I have been at Lowndes only since 1 July 2016.  I came over at a partner level as a lateral hire from Grove Darlow & Partners, another specialist commercial litigation firm where I had been a partner for five years.  I was the first female partner at Grove Darlow and I am the first female partner at Lowndes.  I decided to move firms because I felt I had reached a new level in my career and Lowndes has been really innovative in creating a collaborative environment for working parents.  Additionally, Lowndes has built a team with fantastic experience in the Insolvency area that I practice in.

What’s the strangest case you’ve ever worked on/been involved with?
There have been more than a handful of strange cases over the years!!  Certainly the Kim Dotcom litigation is up there.  However the case that sticks in my mind with some vividness is a criminal jury trial that I did when I was a lawyer at the Public Defence Service.  We were acting for an Ethiopian woman who had been charged with grievous bodily harm for stabbing her husband in the back.  What made the case strange is that it was difficult to believe anyone other than her could have inflicted the injuries because they occurred in a security card accessed apartment, 15 floors up and only her, her husband and 8 year old daughter were inside.  It transpired that the injuries were self-inflicted which we proved by engaging a world leading pathologist who happened to be a leading authority on self-inflicted injuries.  In addition we called the Ethiopian Consul General from Australia to give evidence as the victim husband had made up this fantastical story about being a government minister in the Ethiopian government. 

If you could invite three people for dinner, dead or alive and excluding family and friends, who would they be and why?
Steve Jobs because of his intellectual and creative curiosity. 

Winston Churchill because of his innate charisma, boldness and courage, dry and charming wit and his taste for fine wine.

David Bowie because he was revolutionary and just because he was Bowie.
You’re based in Auckland – where’s the best place to go for a drink and/or dinner after work?
Ostro cannot be beaten for post work (or Court) drinks. Great wine list. Any restaurant on Federal Street for dinner. 

What’s the best piece of advice (work or personal) you’ve ever been given?
Being an advocate is a privilege. Always be respectful to the clients you represent, the colleagues opposing you and the judiciary for today’s foe will easily be tomorrow’s comrade in arms. 

Do you have any hobbies/interests outside of work?
I have developed a deep fascination with fine wine and have been on some fantastic wine “journeys” through Burgundy, the Southern Rhone Valley, Australia and throughout the wine growing regions of our own abundant country. Rugby. I love it and will take any chance to watch it at all levels of the game. Music, from festivals to back bar gigs, classical to hard rock.

Complete this sentence: If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would be…
A Fashion Blogger. Blogging was not even a word when I went to University which was (scarily) not that long ago and what is there not to love about fashion. 

What do you think will be single biggest issue facing the legal space in New Zealand in 2016?
Access to Justice.  It’s not just the marginalised of our society who are having difficulty accessing adequate legal representation and once the problem becomes bigger there will be a backlash against lawyers.  We must find ways from within the profession to address this and do all we can to influence parliament to make meaningful changes.  Diversity of our own profession (whether from a gender or cultural perspective) is as much a feature of access to justice as anything else.

If you had John Key’s job for one day, what would you do?
Call in sick – I could not do a better job!!

What do you love about your job?
The people which means that I am never bored, always challenged and constantly amazed.  
What would you change about your job right now if you could?
Less focus on time and more focus on outcomes.