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Ain't no mountain high enough: Stephanie Pursley

Ain't no mountain high enough: Stephanie Pursley

It could be assumed that starting as a graduate lawyer at age 37 meant that Stephanie Pursley had entered into a career that would take her to retirement. She had qualified as a lawyer via the…

It could be assumed that starting as a graduate lawyer at age 37 meant that Stephanie Pursley had entered into a career that would take her to retirement. She had qualified as a lawyer via the Solicitor Admission Board, which allowed Pursley to work in the travel industry during the day and study at night.

But that was not the case, after 23 years of Freehills, Pursley made the decision to change careers - and establish and run an upmarket B&B called Tirtiri Lodge in New Zealand.

Pursley, who was made a partner at Freehills after only six years at the firm, made the decision after she fell in love with the mountains of the South Island of New Zealand and could not imagine slowing down from her life as a lawyer.

"I left Freehills when I was 60. It's high pressure. I did not want to hang in there and wind down. I wanted to keep working there while I was at the top and doing really well but I didn't want to phase out slowly. I thought 'I want to stop now and do something else'," she says.

At the firm, Pursley worked in major projects on redevelopments such as the Wooloomooloo Finger Wharf and Walsh Bay, was the first head of the funds management group in Sydney (which later went national), and had been involved in recruitment and redesigning the look of Freehills' documents.

When the time came to move countries and careers, she didn't waste a minute. She left Freehills on 15 December 2007, packed up her house in Sydney over the weekend while her partner, Dennis, was setting up the six-room lodge in Wanaka, collected her uncle for a visit to New Zealand, flew over and then welcomed their first guests on Chrismas Eve.

Two years on Pursley says not only does meeting fascinating people makes the career change enjoyable, but the natural surrounds are an added bonus.

"The chairman of Georg Jensen Silver in Denmark, who had also been a professor of design at a Danish university, stayed and had a lovely time with us. On the last day he said 'You and Dennis are very intelligent, literate people; why are you doing this?' And we said 'We're enjoying it, we love meeting really interesting people like you," she says.

For her, lifestyle choices are also a big factor: "I go walking in the mountains and in winter I go skiing, even when we have guests because we can go for a couple of hours. I love gardening and I've got a lovely cold climate garden."

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