Injured out of the army at the lowest rank and not knowing what else to do, Toby Braun opted for law, embarked on an international career and is now a partner in his own firm.
However, “in the old days,” Toby did not enjoy being a lawyer.
“But I have come to terms with being a lawyer and don’t know what else I would do,” he says.
- Tobias Michael (Toby) Braun
- Entry to law
- Graduated BA (English) and LLB from Otago University in 2000. Admitted in 2001.
- Director at Braun Bond & Lomas, Hamilton.
- Speciality area
- All civil and commercial litigation.
“My parents were both secondary teachers and we moved from Kaikoura to Invercargill in 1986 so my mum, Linda, could become principal of Southland Girls’ High School, so for most of my growing up she was a school principal.
“Dad was a teacher too but he was less than enthusiastic about career progression, and worked with kids with behavioural issues in Invercargill.”
An only child, Toby left Invercargill in 1995 to join the army for officer training. “I started in Waiouru and spent a year doing that then got booted out after I fractured vertebrae in my back. When I left I was the lowest rank in the army - officer cadet.
“I have no idea what the attraction of the army was. I was pretty immature and didn’t know what else to do. The alternative at the time was to go to Otago and study law and I didn’t think I was ready for that, so I joined officer training.
“When I got booted out of the army I was at a low ebb and didn’t know what else to do. There was the prospect of going back into army as a lawyer, and that’s why I started doing law in the first place.
“I always had an English and arts focus at high school and when I went into the army it was the first year they had a university course based in New Zealand, at Massey University. I did the first year of my BA in English while in the army, and when I came down to Otago I carried on with that.”
Time in the UK
After a couple of years at Otago University, Toby was picked up by Russell McVeagh’s recruiting programme.
“It was all easy. I am proud of having worked at Russell McVeagh. It has got a bad rap but it’s a very good firm and great people have come out of it. It’s unfortunate it has been the target of so much interest for what is an industry-wide problem.”
After two years at Russell McVeagh, Toby switched to LeeSalmonLong (a boutique firm made up of former Russell McVeagh lawyers) in 2002 then headed to the UK in 2004.
A temporary job in London had him helping with document management for major United States litigation around the prescription of anti-depressants to teenagers. The US-based litigation was against a UK-based pharmaceutical company Toby worked for, alongside three other New Zealanders and an Australian, gathering documents at the company’s head office for a defence.
From there he worked in-house at Barclays Bank, then to the enforcement arm of the Financial Services Authority, which regulates all financial institutions in the UK, now called the Financial Conduct Authority.
“We looked at market abuse not on the main stock exchange but on an exchange to do with new technology. And spent a lot of time interviewing people to see if they were trying to skew prices, involved in insider trading, etc.”
Returning to New Zealand he became a litigation partner at Hamilton-based firm Harkness Henry, before joining with other Harkness Henry lawyers to form Braun Bond and Lomas.
Potential litigator in the family
Toby is married to Leigh, who is from Hamilton, and they have three children, Stella (10), Rosalind (8) and Leo (4). “Dad died earlier this year so mum moved up and lives just around the corner. Leigh has an identical twin who also lives close so we are well and truly Hamilton based.
“There are no other lawyers in the family other than my wife’s identical twin’s partner. Daughter Stella has the skills to be a litigator. She likes to argue, likes to be right and doesn’t like anyone else thinking she’s not right.”
The family have a four-year-old border terrier called Monty.
“I enjoy exercise and find it a good release from pressures of work. And probably social drinking, something lawyers and journalists share. Exercise and red wine would be the only things I would regard as hobbies.
“I have no notable sporting feats, no talent and I’m not playing any sport. There’s only so much time.
“There’s a lawyers’ golf tournament every year in Palmerston North - the Devils’ Own - I trot along to that. I’m a terrible golfer, but it’s good fun and a good chance to catch up with people, especially Russell McVeagh people.”
Toby has sat on the local Law Society standards committee for eight years, and before that was a costs assessor. “Staying in touch with family takes up enough time.”
“I’ve travelled reasonably extensively with Leigh through south-east Asia, Europe, and the west coast of America.
“In May next year we are taking the whole family for 12 weeks to France, and rather than go to the usual tourist spots in the south of France we are basing ourselves in Arras, which was on the frontline in World War I and close to the Normandy landings in World War II.
“Stella did a school project on Anne Frank and she is interested in first and second world war history, so there is enough history there for the kids.
“Being 100 years since Armistice has sparked the kids’ imagination as well. My kids are learning a lot more and are interested a lot earlier in this history than I ever was.
“I have no talent for being musical but enjoy listening - my favourites are the Beatles, R.E.M. and Californian band Cold War Kids.
“I watch a bit of TV, but prefer older films such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and I watched Point Break again recently.
“My reading is a mixture of mainstream and science fiction. I like Scottish writer Iain M Banks, and Americans Dan Simmons and Roger Zelazny.”
“We have a small lawyers’ book club in Hamilton - five people who used to work together. We get together every couple of months and that broadens the scope of books I have read.”
“Each director has a VW Golf firm car, and my weekend car is a Land Rover Discovery. We have a bit of recreational dirt - 11ha out near Raglan – where we like to go and shoot targets, camp and wander round.
“We don’t shoot anything living. I have a Winchester Model 1892 .44 magnum lever action rifle and a shotgun and .22 which the kids enjoy. We like to get out and away from it, there’s a stream running through the land and the kids can charge around.
“Our favourite holiday spot is the Pelorus Bridge camp ground, between Blenheim and Nelson, and near the Trout Hotel. The family holiday place is Whangamata.
“Golda Meir, my Mum – because she is an aggressive feminist – and Ursula K Leguin, one of my favourite sci-fi authors, would be good dinner guests. It would be nice to have a bunch of tough, intelligent women around, to tear me and everyone else apart.
“Because they are feminists I would not want to give them anything too effete or feminine so I’d go for a variation, an 80s meal of sirloin steak, jacket potato, rocket and parmesan salad. It would have to be something I can do and that’s a fairly limited range."
“Commercial litigation most of the time is a reasonably soulless job, mostly you are helping people either recover money or avoid losing money.
“At Harkness Henry a few years ago one of my co-directors and I got an instruction from the Waikato District Health Board about a child just born to Jehovah Witness parents and needed a blood transfusion.
“The medical evidence was the child would die imminently without one. The parents said they could not consent but they would not object if the DHB got an order from the court.
“We got instructions early one morning, prepared documents, didn’t have time to change so went to court in casual gear, were called into judge’s chambers, and he made the order on the spot that the blood transfusion could proceed.
“He anointed one of the medical staff at the hospital as the guardian for medical decisions for the child. The transfusion went ahead, parents happy because they effectively said it was God’s will it happened this way and the child survived. That was an out of the ordinary one that makes you feel a bit better about things than you normally would.
“In the old days I did not enjoy being a lawyer and I thought quite a lot about what else could I do, but I have come to terms with being a lawyer and I don’t know what else I would do.
“Maybe a primary school teacher, but even in my early days Robin Bain fucked that up for everyone.”