When Waikato man Fraser King joined the New Zealand Army Reserve Force in 2005 he didn’t expect his military training would make him a better lawyer.
King is an Army captain, but also a lawyer and partner at Hamilton-based litigation law firm McKenna King Dempster.
He says the military has given him the tools to “navigate complex problems” to achieve “the best outcome under often demanding conditions”.
“My approach to a case... is largely applying the military processes, leadership and problem-solving techniques that I’ve learnt in the Army,” King said.
“We are consistently challenged and encouraged to learn throughout our Army careers, and this has significantly and positively assisted my civilian career as a litigation lawyer over the last 15 years.”
Since joining the Reserve Force, King assisted with the response to Covid-19 and National Civil Defence emergencies including the Christchurch earthquakes, Cyclone Debbie in Edgecumbe, and Cyclone Gabrielle in Coromandel where he was the liaison officer in the Civil Defence office.
He said knowing his own and the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and having the ability to communicate clearly to superiors and subordinates, was paramount - not only in the army.
“One of the skills I’ve learnt is how to efficiently and pragmatically assess strengths and weaknesses of the opposition case in a courtroom environment, and more importantly, I am aware of my own strengths and weaknesses and how I manage these in a high pressure environment,” King said.
“I have also adapted a tailored methodology to my litigation process for cases that are proceeding to trial, which has evolved from the learnings of my military training.”
He also recently refined his problem-solving techniques on a 16-day course with the Army where King was tasked with planning to quell a theoretical armed rebellion in Taranaki, amongst other things.
As Officer Commanding of Hauraki Company, King is normally in charge of 60 personnel, their vehicles and equipment, but the course put him in theoretical charge of up to 3500 personnel.
For the course, King and his team developed options for responding to the insurgents while integrating local fledgling security forces, balancing tribal relations and reassuring locals of their safety.
They also had to deliver essential services and protect key infrastructure, alongside practical details such as ensuring enough equipment, food, and fuel was available.
King said especially for litigators and lawyers, military can be beneficial.
“If aspiring litigators were aware of the benefits of military training, I think many of them would enlist.”
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