New Zealand Law Society - Brother and sister in practice together for 23 years

Brother and sister in practice together for 23 years

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Keith Young and sister Carol Caulfield have been practising together in partnership as Young and Caulfield in Auckland’s Browns Bay since 1988. That, Keith says, makes them one of the few brother-sister partnerships that he knows of and possibly the oldest.

Keith and Carol come from a particularly strong family, Keith says, and although they were born 14 years apart and have different fathers they have always been close.

“No one ever thinks of Carol as being my half-sister. I was virtually brought up by her father anyway. Our family does everything together. Everybody’s birthdays are celebrated together and so on.”

Although their parents weren’t highly educated, they always encouraged their children to do well.

“In fact my mother, I think, left school when she was 13 and my step-father left school when he was about the same age. They were – as you can imagine for people coming out of the depression – both very keen on education.”

Keith says that he settled on a career in law almost by default.

“In those days when I came out of school if you were reasonably successful you either became a teacher, a doctor or a lawyer. I couldn’t imagine teaching people because I’d be too intolerant and the thought of touching someone else’s body didn’t really attract me a great deal so that left lawyers. I had a teacher at intermediate school who said to me ‘Young, you should be a lawyer – you’ve got the gift of the gab’ and I thought ‘that doesn’t sound too bad to me’.”

Later Carol followed the same path. “She qualified in 1981 and she’s worked with me since then.”

Their practice is a broad one that covers family law, conveyancing and trust law.

“It’s a bit unusual these days. People tend to specialise a lot more so I’m one of those dying breed that can do virtually anything that comes through the door. Carol does conveyancing and – for a small suburban firm – has a couple of very big commercial clients.”

Keith credits the breadth of their practice and charging reasonable rates as two factors which have enabled them “to survive quite well” even in tougher economic times.

“We’ve never been huge chargers. We’re not the cheapest in the world but we’re certainly not the dearest. I think when times get tough those sorts of things tend to filter back to you.”

Keith and Carol share interests outside of work too. “We both like to travel. When Carol was younger she did a lot of overseas travel and in recent years I’ve done a reasonable amount so we’ve been able to slot in and back each other up.

“We get on pretty well together, I have to say.”

Keith’s eldest daughter has recently returned to university to finish a law degree and Keith says that the option is there for her to join the family firm, too, if she wants to.

“If she does that’s great but if she doesn’t that’s great too. It doesn’t worry me really,” he says.

“So that’s us,” Keith says. “Oh, and swims at the beach at lunch time.”

This article was first published in LawTalk 770, 22 April 2011.

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