He comes from an unconventional family - a famous, irreverent, libertarian father Erich and a grandfather, Tom Shand who once served as one of Rob Muldoon's lieutenants. Now Felix Geiringer is proving his worth as a barrister who is likely to rattle a few cages too.
Twenty-one years ago, when Felix Geiringer was 19, he lay down in front of a cabinet minister's limousine. The driver didn't see him and the hot-headed Otago University maths undergraduate ended up with abrasions, a couple of cracked ribs and a conviction for behaving in a disorderly manner.
His appeal to the High Court that he'd just been exercising his freedom of expression rights failed.
That was 1991. Now Geiringer's 40, and he's once more talking about rights. This time, though, he's the barrister presenting the Maori Council's case for delaying National's asset sales. He's just chalked up a partial win: last week the Waitangi Tribunal advised the Government to delay its partial sale of hydro generator Mighty River Power until September, to give the tribunal time to consider Maori claims to owning water in New Zealand's lakes and rivers.
Last week, as media turned to Geiringer for comment on the case, there was something naggingly familiar about that unusual Germanic surname. And sure enough, it turns out Felix is the son of the extraordinary doctor, pro-abortion activist, socialist, anti-nuclear campaigner, amateur dramatist and sometime Wellington talkback host Erich Geiringer. (Others remember Erich, who died in 1995, simply for his remarkable beard, pictured bottom left.)
Felix doubtless imbibed some of his politics and anti-authoritarian tendencies from Erich, but other familial strands pull in completely the other direction. On his mother Carol's side, Geiringer is grandson of Tom Shand, the staunchly right-wing and red-baiting National cabinet minister who, from the mid-50s till his death in 1969, hustled New Zealand along the path of material progress and modernisation.
Shand oversaw everything from the establishment of the Cook Strait rail ferries and forestry in the Marlborough Sounds, to expansion of petroleum exploration and mining and - in a cute historical coincidence - the establishment of New Zealand's hydroelectric schemes, the self-same watery assets whose sale Geiringer is challenging on behalf of the Maori Council.
Geiringer has a photo of granddad Shand on his wall, posing with one of those plunger things, moments before setting off an explosion to mark the commencement of construction on the first Clutha dam. What would Shand have made of Maori laying claim to water, and of a grandson doing battle with the National Government?
Geiringer's not sure. It's hard, he says, to compare the politics of now and then.
"The National Party of that era was not the New Right that we've got today on both sides of the house. The idea of selling state assets would have been quite foreign."
Remember too that the 1960s, when Shand was at his political height, was a "dark decade" for Maori.
"The Waitangi Tribunal hadn't started up. The programmes to revitalise the culture and the language hadn't started."
Getting run over by Bill Birch in 1991 (the National minister of labour was on the Otago campus to face down student protests over the draconian Employment Contracts Act), wasn't the first time Geiringer had made the papers.
A couple of years earlier there'd been a little piece in the Evening Post saying the Onslow College seventh-former had won top marks in an Australasian maths competition. Geiringer was a maths whiz and, after completing an Otago degree, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he grew his hair long and beard bushy and thought all day long about pure-math abstractions and cryptology.
Halfway through his doctorate, though, he quit and took an IT job in Berkshire. But after four years of geekily slogging in a basement with minimal social interaction, he decided to head home to Wellington and study law.
It wasn't just that practising law looked more convivial. It seemed to Geiringer that, as a lawyer, "I would be more directly influencing how we choose to arrange our society."