Nelson lawyer found dead in crashed car 'funny, charming, loyal and irreverent'

Nelson lawyer Alistair Bowers pictured in Nelson in 2010. He was found dead on March 6.
FAIRFAX NZ

Nelson lawyer Alistair Bowers pictured in Nelson in 2010. He was found dead on March 6.

Alistair Bowers was funny, charming, loyal and irreverent.

The kind of guy who would show up in your office to present you with a "prize" bottle of whisky on spurious grounds. According to his friends, many of the qualities we charitably use when describing each other really did apply to him. He was that sort of person.

Bowers, 52, was found dead in a damaged car on March 6 on State Highway 7 near Hurunui. The coroner is investigating. His death is being treated as a suspected suicide.

Bowers, a lawyer who lived in Nelson, was supposed to be in Christchurch representing a plaintiff in a civil case. He never arrived at the courthouse.

"[He] lit up the room and made us all laugh," Bowers' friend and fellow lawyer Steve Zindel​ said.

"He'll be remembered for his larger than life personality and his generosity and his loyalty to his friends."

Zindel knew that better than most. He had first-hand experience of his friend's unlikely largesse.

"He had this Facebook competition, I think I might have been the only person that entered it among his Facebook friends. I've forgotten what it was. It some kind of word game thing. All of a sudden he turns up in my office with a bottle of whisky. I'd won.

"Just those small kindnesses . . .  He was a generous man."

Zindel said he was shocked to hear of Bowers' death. He was handling his friend's practice affairs, mostly civil litigation cases, for now.

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It's understood that Bowers has five children.

According to his website, Bowers worked for Hamish Fletcher Lawyers in Nelson from 2007 to 2011.

He started practicing as a barrister sole in Nelson in 2012, specialising in civil litigation and relationship property matters.

He had worked in the District, High and Supreme courts of New Zealand, as well as the Environment Court. Bowers represented high-profile corporate clients, including ANZ and Pyne Gould Corporation.

His legal career began in Christchurch and included a four-year stint in Queenstown.

Law Society executive director Christine Grice said the legal profession had started to take mental health much more seriously in the past decade.

"We got concerned about whether we were doing enough as a profession. Law has always been one of those professions where you're really meant to be type A and hard and take it on the chin and never show any emotion or else you're weak. We all now know how dangerous that is because we're all human and we have to deal with emotions. 

"There have been cases [of suicide] in the profession. Probably the most high profile was [Wellington barrister] Greg King. Very highly-regarded and an absolute surprise to many."

The Law Society started its Practising Well initiative in 2009 after research on lawyers' mental health started emerging from Australia. A subsequent New Zealand study found more than half of all junior lawyers [up to five years' experience] found their jobs moderately stressful. 17 per cent found it highly stressful.

"Lawyers are often in conflict situations . . .  that they're acting for their clients on," Grice said.

"You do absorb a lot of that. It's often an adversarial process. Especially litigation. You're taking on the issue for your client and you're at the pointy end. So there's a lot of that transferred stress and tension."

WHERE TO GET HELP:

The Law Society has an arrangement with Lifeline to provide specialised counselling for lawyers. Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Lifeline: 0800 543 354 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling

Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234 - Provides 24 hour telephone and text counselling services for young people

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 - Provides 24 hour telephone counselling.

Tautoko: 0508 828 865 - provides support, information and resources to people at risk of suicide, and their family, whānau and friends.

Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (noon to 11pm)

Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm - 6pm weekdays)

The Lowdown: thelowdown.co.nz  - website for young people ages 12 to 19.

National Depression Initiative - depression.org.nz (for adults), 0800 111 757 - 24 hour service

If it is an emergency or you feel you or someone you know is at risk, please call 111

For information about suicide prevention, see http://www.spinz.org.nz.

 - Stuff

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