Retiring lawyer Ainslie Hewton with a 1910 clock from her Aunty Cath, which helped make her rooms more homely. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
gianina.schwanecke@age.co.nz

After more than 20 years of serving the community at her Bannister St cottage, lawyer Ainslie Hewton is giving up her robes.

Hewton had been interested in law since she was at high school but listened to the advice of her school’s vocational guidance counsellor and studied economics instead.

“Very few women did law at the time,” she said.

In 1985, she came to Masterton to set up her own vocational guidance service.

It was then she decided to take her own advice and start legal studies at the University of Otago, completing them at Victoria University of Wellington, and graduating with a law degree aged 40.

She covered a range of legal practices but soon decided to specialise in more community-focused law like family law.

Hewton opened her own practice in 1998 working from town before catching sight of a run-down settler cottage on Bannister St in 2001.

“I was one of the first firms that decided to go into a little cottage,” she said. “It was to make it less stressful for my clients.

“I do a lot of work in protection orders, domestic violence, care of children, and legal aid.

“To go into an office that is reasonably impersonal can be stressful for them.”

Many didn’t understand her decision to buy the once-dilapidated structure, now a homely set of offices.

“It needed repiling, rewiring, reroofing, it needed to be gibbed. Walls had to be taken out and the odd one put in,” Hewton said.

“It’s a great compliment when client’s say it’s so homely in here.”

She also has a history of congratulating clients when they first come to her.

“When you’re working in family law people have a lot of emotions.

“They’ve never met me before, they’re telling me things they often block out and they have to lay it all out for me. I think they’re really brave.”

The region has its fair set of issues, she said, making it difficult but rewarding work.

The local court is one of the busiest in the country and she can count only a handful of Wairarapa-based family lawyers.

“There’s an enormous shortage of family lawyers.

“Masterton is a small court but it’s the busiest small court in the country. The courts have become extremely busy because they’re handling a lot more documentation that’s come from the applicants themselves.”

She made the decision to retire as she was starting to feel burnt out and began winding down her practice last year before finally shutting up shop last week.

She plans to rent out the Bannister St cottage.

Being visited by many of the clients who she has helped over the past two decades, Hewton was heartened to hear how she had helped them.

“You don’t always realise with all these people what a difference you can make. It’s that personal satisfaction.”