Kevin Osborne Celebrates 50 Years in Legal Practice

[Image Above: A sample of Kevin’s past achievements highlighted in The Otago Daily Times and Hawke’s Bay Today from the past couple of decades]


Written by Sophie Broome

In November 2023, our Director, Kevin Osborne, marked his fiftieth year as a lawyer.

Kevin has achieved first class legal expertise and a widely respected knowledge in the legal profession and is a beacon of expertise for both his clients and colleagues.

Our summer intern, Sophie, caught up with Kevin to ask him about his time practicing law on the East Coast of New Zealand.

Kevin’s biggest highlight in his career to date has been “Reaching the 50-year milestone with a feeling of satisfaction, achievement and still learning”.  He has practiced in both Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne and has learnt a lot from the natural disasters that have affected these regions during his time as a lawyer, namely Cyclone Bola and the recent Cyclone Gabrielle. Kevin was in Gisborne when Bola struck in 1988 and says that most of the damage was to the rural hinterland, whereas Gabrielle impacted both rural and urban communities alike. “I learnt quickly in such situations that the demands made of a lawyer extend beyond the legal domain into consoling and counselling, which requires patience and understanding.”

Just like the weather, the law is constantly changing, and Kevin points out that this is something lawyers must quickly get used to when practicing.

Three significant advancements in the law have stood out to Kevin during his career to date:

  1. Family Law: The Property Relationships Act 1976 introduced the general concept of equal sharing in a marriage, subsequently amended to include civil union partners and de facto couples. The Family Proceedings Act 1980 established the Family Court and provided no fault dissolution of marriage after two years.
  2. The Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 which gave the Treaty recognition within New Zealand laws and this led to the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal.
  3. The Employment Contracts Act 1991 was a significant advancement and later became what we know today as the Employment Relations Act. This represented a significant change from previous legislation governing labour relations by reducing legislation backing unions, and instead, introduced voluntary union membership which promoted direct relationships between employees and employers.

A further challenge Kevin acknowledges is what it takes to develop a successful law firm. Kevin considers the issue is that a firm needs to be of a certain size to be economical and to be able to administer and manage the firm on a business basis. This must be balanced with the need to offer first class professional legal services to the firm’s clients and to its community.

And it’s not all work for Kevin as many of you who know him are aware.

Outside of the office, Kevin has had some remarkable sporting accomplishments. Kevin’s proudest moment has been that he is a seven-time finisher in the Coast-to-Coast Multi-Sport Race (a 243km race from the West Coast to the East of the Southern Alps by bike, foot, and kayak). He very successfully gained one third place, two second places and one first-place finish in the Longest (one) Day event in his age group. He also took home a first place with his son, Toby, in the Two-Day Family Team section. In each individual One Day Race, he was awarded the accolade for being the eldest competitor in the entire race.

Given the achievement of reaching 50 years in the legal profession, the final question for Kevin was that if he could give one piece of advice to a student wanting to be a lawyer, what would it be? His answer was clear, “Choose an area of law that interests or excites you and specialise in it, but first start with a couple of years of general practice as a base.”

The Directors and the team at Bramwell Bate congratulate Kevin on the past 50 years and look forward to continuing to learn from his expertise into the future.