Lawyer Shan Inglis met Len Brown when he went to work at the Panmure branch of Wynyard Wood in the mid-1980s.

She was not overly impressed.

Recently separated and living in Howick, Brown says he was "enjoying myself" at that point. "I used to wear scarves and quite snazzy suits.

"I think she thought I was a yuppie.

"She was a flat-out spunk - quiet but elegant. She was very professional, a very good lawyer. We got on okay but nothing special."

Inglis' version differs somewhat.

"I was quite intense about my work and Len had a slightly different approach. I ... probably didn't have the broad sense of humour that Len has.

"We also shared a secretary and Len's work took precedence [he was senior].

"We didn't really get on that well in the early days."

Inglis departed to work in Papatoetoe and Brown went back to the city office before moving out to open Wynyard Wood's East Tamaki branch.

The pair met a few years later over a case and Brown says he worked up the courage to ask her out.

"I don't know what overcame me," says Inglis. "I agreed to go."

Brown took her to Bell House in Pakuranga where Simon Gault was the star chef. "It was quite funny," says Inglis.

"When Len came to collect me he was armed with various bottles of wine but I don't drink."

Brown says they talked until 4 in the morning and just "hit it off".

Inglis: "I think we just seemed to click. We share a lot of underlying values and we had various debates about things because we were both lawyers and we were both right.

"I think there was a sense of fairness and equity about Len. He's a good person.

"If he had something to say he said it, that was it and you moved on. He didn't hold a grudge. And he had stopped wearing the scarves."

Brown was then embarking on a council political career while building the business in East Tamaki. She needed to know how strongly I felt about community and being active."

Inglis brought Samantha, her three-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, into the relationship and they moved in together when Inglis bought a unit in Millhouse Drive in Botany.

After a few more moves, they bought a 2 acre block, heavily planted in native bush on the northern slopes of Manukau Heights, where the spacious, split-level family home was built to his instructions, following the contours of the land.

Brown planted hundreds more trees and has been pruning ever since.

The couple have two more children, Olivia, 13 and Victoria, 11.

Inglis' mother Shirley has lived with them for many years, helping them to pursue full-time careers. Inglis is a partner, with David Muller, in a Pakuranga law firm.

Samantha and partner Tim Colgan (the son of Employment Court judge Graeme Colgan) recently presented the couple with their first grandchild, Luca.

The children have inherited their mother's striking looks and poise and their father's political sense.

"Dad is more even tempered than Mum," says Samantha.

"Mum is who you go to if you need something; Dad if you've got a problem. He's always very positive, he looks at things in a good light."

Brown says he is the ceaseless optimist while Inglis keeps him grounded. "She is more cautious than me." Friends say she is a private person, but strong - and fiercely loyal.

Inglis: "He's a very even-tempered man - I tend to have fluctuations."