Financial literacy a plus for NZ lawyers

How much do you know about economics and accounting? According to one forensic accountant, Kiwi lawyers are becoming more and more proficient in the areas purely out of necessity.

Financial literacy a plus for NZ lawyers
New Zealand lawyers are increasingly becoming more proficient in the realm of economics and accounting – a trend a leading forensic accountant hopes will continue.
“I am noticing an increase in economically astute lawyers, or lawyers at least with a basic understanding of economics,” Crowe Horwath principal Marnus Beylefeld told NZLawyer.

“Counsel understand more complicated financial and economic issues than they would have ten years ago.”

Beylefeld, who has just been appointed to the principal role at the young age of 33, is predominantly a forensic accountant, who serves lawyers by way of finding evidence for them.

“Whether it’s a civil dispute or a criminal matter, it is often the case that the subject matter or the facts that need to be argued or investigated contain financial information which lends itself to complicated interpretation – and that’s where I step in.

“I help them navigate the complicated areas in financial records and financial statements, I help lawyers understand financial and accounting issues, and I help them in the forums where they want to take this evidence – including in court.”

But it makes his job – and theirs – easier when they are financially literate.

“I find it very useful when the lawyers that I am working with have at least a basic understanding of accounting, finance, or economics – which is the one I prefer. If they have an understanding of economics and economic issues, talking to them and working with them is much easier.”

Financial instruments and financial products have become more complicated and more intricate in the last decade, so as a matter of necessity lawyers have had to remain up-to-date with and keep up with the trends and the changing environment around financial products, Beylefeld said.

“And how our markets have changed.

“Capital markets have become more accessible to the wider New Zealand community. So 50 years ago I would struggle to invest $100 in a company that I loved. Today nearly everybody and anybody can do it with the click of a button.”

As capital markets in New Zealand change, so does the legal scaffolding around those markets, he said.

“The lawyers have kept up with the changing environment – which is a good thing and I applaud it and I’d like it be maintained.”

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