Maria Clezy is gaining recognition the world over with her work in the world of tax law.
As a budding young lawyer, she initially wanted to be a litigator, but has now made a name for herself in the world of tax law, working with both domestic and international clients.
While she was born in New Zealand, Maria Clezy was three months old when her parents moved from New Zealand to England.
At the age of 16, her famly moved back to New Zealand, settling in Auckland where Maria finished her high school education before moving to Otago to study law.
While studying, Maria worked as a law tutor for most of her degree before graduating in 2016. Her first post-grad job was as a law clerk that year at Buddle Findlay, where she has since worked in the tax law team.
I understand you wanted to be a litigator when you first went into the graduate programme at Buddle Findlay but were put in the tax team. What do you now enjoy most about working in tax law? And did it take you long to get a handle on it as a speciality?
“Yes – I never studied tax law so I really had to start from the ground up. My graduate year was a steep learning curve and it certainly took me a while to get a handle on tax.
“Tax legislation is extensive, and every day it seemed like I was learning an entirely new concept that I had never seen before. I remember feeling like I needed to put my brain on ice when I got home! But I think the constant variation is what I enjoy most about my work – it means I never get bored. I like the intellectual challenge and the chance to think on my feet, and I get to be involved in all sorts of transactions with different teams and clients.”
What’s your BA in and how does it help in your day-to-day work?
“My BA major was Philosophy, Politics and Economics. It was a combination that meshed particularly well with my law degree – a study of philosophy, politics and economics is essentially an enquiry into the thoughts and ideas that have shaped society and the world, and law is one of the obvious and most important tools for creating change.
“The theories I studied in my BA informed the laws I studied for my LLB, and legal history is a chart of their evolution. In terms of my day-to-day work, economics and fiscal policy are obviously very closely linked to tax law. But at a less technical level, it was my BA that taught me how to think laterally when problem solving – how to pull concepts that I understood in a specific context and apply them to another. That has been really useful in my work so far.”
After finishing your studies, did you find the job matched the expectations you had while in Uni?
“I didn't come to Buddle Findlay expecting to know anything about legal work. I had been told so many times that practising law was totally different to studying law, which probably made it easier to transition.
“In some ways I found that being in a law firm was as I expected, but I underestimated the breadth of work I would get and how much scope I would be given to develop and expand my skill set.
“One thing I didn't appreciate was that legal advice requires more than just a technical answer – I had to learn a lot about the commercial considerations that surround most of the questions we see. I'm lucky that I have had access to a lot of opportunities while at Buddle Findlay that I couldn’t have anticipated while at university.”
Are there any issues currently facing lawyers and/or the legal system as a whole that you'd like to highlight?
“I feel fortunate to be entering the profession at a time where it is considering the role it performs in society, and the manner in which it functions.
“As a relatively new lawyer it is encouraging to see that the profession is one which is willing to test whether its norms are fit for purpose and evolving with the times.”
Can you tell me about anyone who inspires you?
“There are lots of people who have had fascinating careers or are doing really interesting things that I'd love to emulate. That said, I tend to find my motivation closer to home – the person who has been most influential in my life is my mum, and there are lots of friends that I'm really grateful for who have inspired me to do more and be more.”
In her spare time, Maria prioritises spending time with friends and family.
“If I'm not doing that I'm usually at yoga. It's something I'm working on at the moment and I'm planning on doing my yoga teacher training next year. It's nice to have a goal that focuses on something physical rather than mental.”