By Jim Boyack
A former senior partner in the Auckland firm Bowen, Roche & Hill, Maurice Bowen, died peacefully in April 2002 after a long illness. He was 75.
He is remembered by the profession for his very dry sense of humour, unfailing courtesy and devotion both to the cause of his clients and golf.
Educated at Waitaki Boys’ High School and Auckland Grammar, Maurice initially worked as a journalist in Hawera before heading to Adelaide where he got a law degree and served as an articled clerk for five years. There he married the widow of a good friend and the couple returned to New Zealand in 1955, with Maurice becoming a solicitor to New Zealand Railways in Wellington.
After 10 years in the Capital, Maurice tried private practice in Putaruru but the bucolic countryside was not his cup of tea and he soon took a job in Auckland with the Ministry of Works. However, he found the bureaucracy too tame and he became a sole practitioner before forming Lyons, Bowen & Co with Ray Lyons in 1973. This partnership was dissolved amicably in the late 1970s and he and a former employee, Brian Hill, went into partnership, later merging their practice with that of Martin Roche to form Bowen, Roche and Hill, with offices in central Auckland and at Onehunga.
The city office shifted to Anzac Avenue in the early 90s but it was closed when Maurice’s health began to fail in the mid-90s, though Bowen Roche & Hill continues in Onehunga today.
Maurice was an old school general practitioner, able to respond usefully to any legal problem but, being a fighter, his preference was for litigation. He became a leader of the personal injury bar in the 1960s and 70s, acting for insurance companies, and continuing to act for them in respect of negligence claims once accident compensation legislation put an end to personal injury work. He also developed a thriving practice in civil litigation and debt collection, and he had fisheries and criminal legal aid clients. In the mid-80s he was appointed associate coroner.
For members of the profession who are now in their 40s and 50s, Maurice was a legendary character in the old Magistrate’s Court. One has called him the doyen of the civil court.
Maurice will be remembered by those of us at the bar who had the pleasure to meet him as droll, ethical, highly competent, very competitive, always committed to the cause of his client, whether an insurance company or a criminal client on legal aid.
Maurice is survived by his wife, Joyce, his two daughters, Katherine and Auckland barrister Helen Bowen, and five grandchildren.
This obituary was first published in LawTalk 583, 3 June 2002, page 29.