Toni Brown 1980- 1983
Toni Brown attended Trident High School in the early 1980’s and is now a Director of her law firm, practicing law in Auckland. Her time at Trident was when the school was “only a couple of blocks of buildings and a new gym” and she categories it as the Michael Jackson era, a time when students were intensely proud of their big hair and bright clothes (out of uniform) and practiced their moonwalk when they got a spare moment. While hairstyles and fashion come and go, the moonwalk is still occasionally seen being practiced around our school grounds today!
Most students seem to identify with something particularly special to them during their schooling and Toni has fond memories of various school productions that she was involved in. Perhaps it was this participation in school productions that helped Toni develop the self confidence that one undoubtedly needs in court as a lawyer. Having come from a small primary school, Toni found the transition to High School a big jump and she says she was very quiet to start with. We know taking the opportunity to be involved in school productions would have taken a lot of courage, one of Trident’s core values - Kia Manawa Nui - that she drew upon.
Like many people, Toni did not go immediately from school into her long time career in law. Coming from a home where attending university was not high on the list of discussion topics, Toni went to work as a travel agent and was administering at our local Whakatane Airport after she left school. From there she began working in Len Andersen’s law office as a secretary which is where her law career started. Her employer, Len Andersen, not only encouraged her, but really pushed her to go to university to study law. Having come from a family who had never gone to university we can appreciate that this was a huge step for Toni, and one she says the push to do leaves her eternally grateful for. Right from the start she knew she wanted to practice Family Court Law having been involved in a leading case with Len in the late 1980’s which was ground-breaking law.
Over Toni’s time as a lawyer she has been involved in many cases of interest - one of her career highlights is a very high profile case. She was one of the lawyers (for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) at the high profile Lecretia Seales right to die case. This high profile case in 2015 was unprecedented in New Zealand and is still being petitioned for today. Another highlight Toni shares with us is taking a Bill of Rights claim to the High Court on behalf of young children in the face of disagreements between their parents as to right to participation in religion. A case she is proud of was working on the right of a child to determine who should have control of his body and funeral arrangements when his own parents were responsible for his demise (there being no law anywhere in the world about this).
With a varied and interesting career in law, Toni says being a lawyer is not a career choice for shrinking wall-flowers. She says our young women who wish to follow her pathway must “develop a confidence in yourself, as there will always be people in this life who think they know more than you do. My experience in the cases I have run, is that there is always more than one pathway to resolution, therefore, it is not simply a matter of right versus wrong. Confidence can only come from preparation (lots of it) and the time to reflect on where you are heading and why. Once you know that, no one can knock you off your perch as you have a secure foundation. Pushing the boundaries is actually the fun part of law.” Toni is a director of her law firm and says her application of leadership revolves around her understanding of leadership meaning ‘inclusion’. She says it is crucial to have staff participate in decision making, providing a platform for “ownership” of business and therefore taking pride and dedication to its ongoing success. Loyalty and trust are also important to a successful business, but if a Director doesn’t trust and support their staff, it will not come back to them.
We thank Toni for sharing her story with us and look forward to a continuing relationship with her.