New Zealand Law Society - Spanish squash coach now baseball scorer

Spanish squash coach now baseball scorer

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Scuba-diving crime barrister and closet Coro Street fan Hugh Leabourn says that, historically, he played "a lot of squash".

So much so that he was national junior champion in various age groups through to colts level and represented New Zealand in the second ever world junior squash championships in Singapore – finished fourth.

Hugh Brian (Hugh) Leabourn
Entry to law
Graduated LLB from Auckland University. Admitted 1988. 
Co-founder of Guardian Chambers, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Criminal law.

From there Hugh made it to the New Zealand men's senior squad in 1985, when New Zealand came second in the world championship to a Pakistan team starring squash great Jahangir Khan.

"I didn't make the final team. New Zealand had Ross Norman and Stuart Davenport, who were second and third in the world so it was hard to crack the team in those days…

"Squash dominated my life…"

After his admission in 1988, Hugh worked at Crown solicitors Meredith Connell for about three years and was still playing a lot of squash before heading oversees.

"I was keen not to travel and be a lawyer living in London like everyone else.

"I wanted to learn a language, but initially I travelled through North America and played in a series of professional squash tournaments, starting in Los Angeles and ending up in Jamaica.

"I played my way across North America for about three months before moving to Spain and taking on a job as head coach in a big 20-court complex club in Barcelona for a couple of years."

That was followed by about nine months with a London borough council – "that was fun and a good way to get back into law" – before returning to New Zealand and Meredith Connell.

Having been involved in various levels of squash administration over the years, he pulled away from that recently after encountering a few health issues.

He had a hip operation and in 2013 lost sight in his right eye.

"My wife Tracey Eaton – a travel and tourism lecturer at the Manukau Institute of Technology - and I have four kids and much of my time has been chasing them around.

"Our 21-year-old is studying agricultural science at Massey in Palmerston North and our 19-year-old daughter is studying health science in Dunedin – considering dentistry.

"The 15 and 13 year-old boys at home are very busy squash players in winter. They play soccer for their school and are active competitive squash players.

"I coach their school team every week and then them individually. They both recently won Auckland regional C grade level titles, which is quite a feat when 15 and 13."

The boys' team heads for the national championships in September in Taumaranui, Hugh's hometown and where his father – the headmaster of a small country school - was based.

"In summer the boys are heavily involved in American baseball and I'm a scorer."

Both Hugh's boys played for a New Zealand championship-winning Bayside Westhaven under-15 side.

"Baseball is a sport that needs a lot of administration and one of the major roles is scorer. It's a huge statistics-based sport and the scorer has an important job.

"I operate a computer programme and make decisions in relation to aspects of how the play has unfolded. It's interesting and challenging."

A former keen road cyclist, Hugh gave that up when his sight deteriorated, switching to hour-long spin classes on stationary bikes in the gym.

"That and golf, at which I describe myself as enthusiastically awful, are my main exercises – until summer comes and we go scuba diving…

"Scuba is a big passion of mine, since a group of us went on a dive course in our early twenties.

"I know guys with their own boats and we get out as often as we can. I was diving in the Chathams in February and we holiday in Matapouri Bay, north of Tutukaka – which is my favourite dive spot and the crays are good…"

An avid newspaper reader, he is a fan of British thriller writer Lee Child and his Jack Reacher character.

"I watch sport on TV as well as being a closet Coronation Street fan but I'm not into crime dramas – they so poorly represent how things actually unfold I end up shouting at the telly…

"When we have time my wife and I enjoy a meal out…

"It's difficult to plan long trips away in private practice but we managed a family trip to Vietnam last year, which was incredibly interesting and well-priced for a larger family."

Like some others in the profession, Hugh came to law "more by accident".

"I intended to do commerce but put my name down for law intermediate because I didn't get into commerce school straight off. I've also always enjoyed public speaking and debating, so the use of spoken word is something I have always been interested in."

His cousin – now a referee in the Disputes Tribunal – was the first female lawyer employed by Meredith Connell and his niece is a junior staff solicitor at Russell McVeagh.

"I don't know what I would do if I wasn't a lawyer … I have interests in accountancy and economics but I always felt having a career that is constructive, such as a builder, is appealing … Building is a positive and rewarding career."

When Hugh left Meredith Connell he had completed more than 140 jury trials in both the District and High Courts, many of them involving serious homicide, drugs and assault cases, and remains on the Crown prosecution panel.

His trial experience at the defence bar includes murder, manslaughter, serious violence, aggravated robberies, sexual offences, major drug cases and fraud – much of which is funded by legal aid.

"I'm of the view that the way legal aid is funded you are doing a lot of community service law by basing your work around legal aid … It is time consuming and you are always doing levels of work beyond what you are funded for…"

With experience of both prosecution and defence work, he says he would consider judging if the opportunity came along.

"It would be an honour and, yes, it is something I would very seriously consider, but you can't get your hopes up…".

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for quite a while. He also writes the weekly Caseload column for the New Zealand Herald. Contact Jock at

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