Pippa was born and brought up in Zimbabwe. She qualified as a psychiatric social worker at the University of Cape Town in 1972 and worked for the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders. Following her emigration to the United Kingdom and marriage to Tony Smyth, she was employed by the Social Services Department and then the Panel of Guardians ad Litem in Suffolk. Aged 40 years she went back to university to study law and was called to the Bar at Lincolns Inn in 1994. She worked until her retirement as an advocate in the Family Courts in East Anglia.