Our people

Leona McWilliam

Leona McWilliam


Leona is a Director of McWilliam Tyree.

Leona was a founding partner of McWilliam Rennie Lawyers in 2012.  The firm was recognised by the Doyles Guide as one of New Zealand’s leading family law firms from 2015-2021, recognising the firm’s expertise and abilities. Leona continues to be noted by Doyles as one of the leading family, divorce and relationship property lawyers in the country.  In July 2019 the Law Commission also recognised McWilliam Rennie’s contribution to the Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 – Te Arotake i te Property (Relationships) Act 1976.  In 2022, after a change in partnership, Leona was delighted to co-found McWilliam Tyree, which continues to offer high value expertise to clients.

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Leona specialises in all areas of family law practice.  She is an experienced litigator and regularly represents children in the Family Court.  She is a co-author of “Relationship Property and Adult Maintenance” published by Thomson Reuters and has previously authored for the Westlaw in the area of spousal maintenance.  Leona has lectured for Whitireia Polytech in family law and has also presented seminars for Legalwise in relation to capacity and the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act. Leona is a committee member for the New Zealand Law Society Courts Committee and a member of both the New Zealand Family Law Section and the Wellington Family Courts Association

Leona McWilliam graduated from Otago University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (English Literature). She worked initially in general practice in the Wairarapa, before travelling to the United Kingdom to work as an inhouse lawyer in child protection and special educational needs. She returned to New Zealand in 2005 and has practised in both criminal and family law in the Wellington region since then.

leona@mtlawyers.nz

Helen Tyree

Helen Tyree


Helen is a director of McWilliam Tyree, having been an Associate and then Senior Associate at McWilliam Rennie (predecessor of McWilliam Tyree) since 2014. She is excited about the new experiences being a director of the firm will bring, and is committed to ensuring that McWilliam Tyree continues McWilliam Rennie’s history of excellence in providing family law services, while also making her own mark on the new firm.

Helen has practiced all areas of family law since 2003.

Helen is also a contributing author for the legal publication “Brookers Family Law on Family Property”, writing about relationship property agreements (separation agreements, contracting-out agreements, and setting aside those agreements). She also contributed significantly to McWilliam Rennie’s submissions to the Law Commission in relation to their review of relationship property and then succession law.

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Helen presents seminars for Legalwise on a range of relationship property matters, relationship property law developments and on the Protection of Personal and Property Rights Act.

Helen is recognised by the Family Court as being sufficiently experienced and qualified to represent children in the Family Court, and is also appointed by the Family Court to represent people who lack capacity in applications for welfare guardians and property managers.

Helen supports the Wellington Community Law Centre by providing advice to the staff and clients of the Centre and by providing advice at the Family Law Advice Sessions on Wednesdays. She has had involvement with the Community Law Centres in first Taranaki (where she sat on the Board of Trustees) and in Wellington for over 18 years.

Helen is a member of the Wellington Family Courts Association, which brings together Lawyers, Judges, Psychologists and other professionals involved in the Family Court system.

Helen Tyree graduated from Otago University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Laws and from Brunel University of London in 2003 with a Master of Law in Child Law and Policy (with distinction). From 2003 she worked in firms in Taranaki specialising in family law before joining McWilliam Rennie in 2014.

helen@mtlawyers.nz

Tara Jackson

Tara Jackson


Tara Jackson graduated from Victoria University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Laws. Tara has worked in many areas of general legal practice including in family, criminal and civil litigation and on estates and conveyancing matters. Tara joined McWilliam Rennie Lawyers in 2018 as an Associate. She practices in criminal and family law, and has been included on the Court appointed Lawyer for Child list. Tara is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Society, the Manawatu Family Courts Association, and the Criminal Bar Association.

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tara@mtlawyers.nz

Sarah Ineson

Sarah Ineson


Sarah Ineson graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts (Criminology and Religious Studies). She studied law at Victoria University, Wellington and at the University of Victoria, Canada, completing her law degree in 2004. Sarah initially worked in a general litigation firm, practising in the areas of family law, criminal and parole law, civil litigation and local government.  Sarah joined McWilliam Rennie Lawyers in 2011 as an Associate.  She currently practices in all aspects of family law including separation, relationship property, contracting out agreements, childcare, and family violence. She has been approved by the Family Court to represent children. Sarah has been a regular presenter for the NZLS CLE Introduction to Family Law Advocacy and Practice course and she is member of the Wellington Family Courts Association.

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sarah@mtlawyers.nz

Emma Va’ai

Emma Va’ai


Emma Va’ai graduated from Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Laws in 2004, having graduated the previous year with a Bachelor of Commerce & Administration (majoring in Economics).  Emma has worked in general practice on the Kapiti Coast, and in a specialist family law practice in Porirua.  She joined McWilliam Tyree in 2021.

Emma has more than 15 years’ experience in all areas of family law, including relationship property, contracting out agreements, care of children, PPPR, adoption, family violence, and Oranga Tamariki matters. She also receives Court appointments in her role as Lawyer for Child, a role she particularly enjoys. Emma has a background in general practice and has a sound understanding of trusts, property and business matters, which she draws on to assist clients. She is skilled in dealing with complex relationship property matters.

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Emma is proud to be one of only a few lawyers in New Zealand registered as users of New Zealand Sign Language, having started to learn sign as a young child, and then studied NZSL while at university. She is uniquely able to assist Deaf clients and values accessibility to the law for all people.

Emma is a member of the Family Law Section of the Law Society, and the Wellington Family Courts Association.

emma@mtlawyers.nz

Jesil Cajes

Jesil Cajes


Jesil graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in January 2020, and spent her final semester in Tilburg University, the Netherlands as an exchange student. She was admitted to the bar the same year and worked in Treaty Law and Māori Land issues before joining McWilliam Tyree in October 2021.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Jesil was a trained primary and early childhood teacher where she managed a preschool in Tūranganui-a-kiwa (Gisborne) for over six years.  A significant portion of Jesil’s time in this role included advocating for tamariki and working with guardians and parents on issues relating to children’s best interest and day-to-day care.

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When not lawyering, Jesil is a radio presenter of the Culture Connection Show on Hutt City FM every Monday evening. She also volunteers at Community Law Centre in Te Awakairangi (Lower Hutt).

Jesil speaks fluent Filipino, basic Dutch and currently learning Te Reo Māori.

jesil@mtlawyers.nz

Jenny Paget

Jenny Paget


Jenny is our Office Manager.

She looks after the day to day running of the practice, including financial administration, and maintaining the firm’s systems, policies and procedures.

Jenny is originally from the UK, moving to New Zealand in 2009. She has over 20 years experience working in law firms, in both legal executive and administration roles. She joined McWilliam Rennie in 2017.

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reception@mtlawyers.nz