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Olympic champion-chasing rower’s ‘let’s do it’ motto

04 June 2020 - By Jock Anderson

Rower, boxer and world traveller Larna Jensen-McCloy didn’t know when she planned an Italian cruise holiday and set up her own practice what lay around the corner.

Formerly with Webb Farry in Dunedin for 15 years, and after some months establishing a home office, Larna opened her sole practice – LJM Law - in the middle of the Alert Level 4 lockdown.

She, her husband and their daughters were also supposed to be in Italy on a cruise ship from April 1st for a month, until travel bans were imposed. “It would have been a good pause between jobs, but it will wait.”

NameLarna Jensen-McCloy
BornDunedin
Age42
Entry to lawGraduated LLB from Otago University. Admitted in 2003.
WorkplaceSole practitioner at LJM Law, Dunedin.
Speciality areaRelationship property, including trusts and companies, estate disputes and related.

“I had some existing clients but they were pretty quiet. It was just the first week of May when any court appointments were made, and work is really cranking up a bit more now.”

Larna Jensen-McCloy

Working from a home office is a challenge and Larna says she has “a very amazing supportive husband, primarily a stay at home Dad, with a part-time morning job,” who looks after their five and seven-year-old daughters.

Her parents are from a racing and IT background.

Dad Frank Jensen - an IT specialist in Christchurch, brother Vinnie and mother Jane, all have strong associations with motorcycle racing. Twin sister Alissa is a health and disability advocate.

“Dad had quite a stint at Beachlands Speedway, Waldronville, south of Dunedin and also raced at Teretonga, in Invercargill.

“My mother Jane and step-father Barry Fleury moved to the UK when I was young and raced with sidecars internationally for about 20 years. My mother was the swinger in the sidecar.

“Barry and Jane Fleury were the only husband and wife team in the world racing sidecars. They followed the world superbike circuit and raced at a high level, placing consistently about 11th best in the world.

“My mother had a couple of horrific accidents, but was still racing competitively as recently as 2004.

“I have been on the back of a sidecar, when I was 16 in Belfast during a three-day IRA ceasefire in 1994. It was an interesting time politically.

“I was time-keeping for the races. It was exhilarating but utterly crazy. The fastest I had been before that was competitive rowing, which is a lot more sedate. But I do have a bit of a thirst for anything that goes fast - I will take it to full throttle. I have had an interesting life in that sense.”

During her time in the UK she lived and worked in Edinburgh, including time working in The Annfield Bar, in Leith - “where I had no idea what they were saying to me” – and at Malmaison Hotel. “I found Edinburgh a bit haunted.”

Non-conformist  

With no other lawyers in the family and the first in the family to attend university, Larna finished school at 16 with only a couple of school certificate subjects, not thinking she was destined for university. “I was a bit of a non-conformist so wasn’t paying that much attention at school.”

“I did a polytech course in business management when I came back from the UK, and had to study a practical consumer-based law paper.

“It was tangible and I found it challenging. There was a massive failure rate on that paper but I managed to pass it. And I liked how you could help people through consumer-based law.”

Moving to Australia for two years where she thought she might pursue a legal career, she sat in on a couple of murder trials to see whether she wanted to be a lawyer or not.

“I found them thoroughly fascinating, came back to New Zealand and decided to pursue my career despite the fact I did not want to go into criminal law. I had a bent towards working with children and being a lawyer for children, which I now am.”

Larna began her career with two years at AWS Legal in Invercargill, before moving to Dunedin.

In Australia, and before starting at Otago University when she was 21, she lived in Brisbane where she wrote folk/rock music and lyrics. She has also been involved in musical theatre for a number of years, including performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in Dunedin under the direction of Michael Andrewes.

“I was into Metallica and Iron Maiden, so it was a big change.” She also likes Cindy Lauper, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, U2 and Bruce Springsteen.

“I’m not an avid reader – I prefer to do other things. I am a TV binge watcher.

“I’m enjoying Spanish crime drama series Money Heist on Netflix - very clever, thrilling and an engaging story. Blacklist is another series I like. I like thriller series with some kind of criminal bent.

“I drive a slightly sporty-looking Honda Stream. I’m not very materialistic when it comes to cars, I would rather spend money going on travels.”

And travelled she has, visiting about 36 countries - her favourites being Turkey, Vietnam and parts of South America, including the Inca Trail in Peru. “Most of my travelling – which started when I was 16 - until ten years ago, has been by myself. I have travelled most of Europe and South America.”

“I like adventure. I say let’s do it, why not?

“My favourite new holiday spot in New Zealand is Hanmer Springs. We have only been there once, just for a quick getaway weekend with the kids before lockdown and we loved it.”

Up against the Olympic champs

“I never did sports when I was younger but took up rowing when I was with AWS Legal in a corporate eight. After that I got into racing for about seven years, racing against Olympic champions Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell – they were miles ahead.”

Larna rowed eights in Southland and doubles quads when she moved to Dunedin. “I loved it. I’m socially competitive and don’t care where I place as long as I have a good race.”

In 2018 – at 41 - she entered a charity fundraising boxing tournament and after a 10-week training programme climbed into the ring.

“It was a Las Vegas-style event, an enormous challenge and incredibly satisfying. I was punched a lot. It was a weird but exhilarating and uplifting experience. And I won all three rounds against a 25-year-old teacher.

“But for injury I would be back boxing now, but I won’t be getting back into the ring. I have an identical twin sister Alissa and it’s not conducive to me doing my boxing.

“Alissa is integral to my life and I am very close to her. I won’t step into the ring again because I don’t think my poor husband or sister would be able to suffer through that again. I box now to keep fit.

“My dinner guests would be Bill Gates and Richard Branson. I think they are both phenomenal. I think Bill Gates would be inspirational and is very philanthropic and has a high degree of social conscience.

“My husband does the majority of the cooking and we have an extremely close relationship with Nadia Lim. What would be served would be whatever comes in the bag.

“I enjoy a red wine and am more into Australia reds, although Central Otago pinots are amazing. I have served aristocrats in luxury hotels and hotdogs at stadiums so have a broad and varied experience in hospitality. I can drink beer or champagne. And I’m an Emerson’s beer girl.

“If I wasn’t a lawyer I would definitely be working with children in some form - probably in a social sector as a mentor for youth or children. Not much different to what I do now. I would be happy doing good for people.”

Long-time journalist Jock Anderson is on the hunt for practitioners with an interesting background for this regular feature. If you feel you would be worthy of inclusion or know of someone who would make an ideal participant, contact Jock at jockanderson123@gmail.com

Last updated on the 4th June 2020