Stefano Mariani

Partner, Corporate Commercial


MA Modern History & Politics, University of Oxford
MSc International Relations, London School of Economics & Political Science
Graduate Diploma in Law, BPP Law School

My first Deacons Encounter

Joined the firm as a Registered Foreign Lawyer

I Chose Deacons

Deacons is the last truly independent firm in Hong Kong, with a unique connection both to local and global markets. Simply put, the range and quality of work is unrivalled: We are in a very real sense Hong Kong’s local law firm: we are not anyone else’s Hong Kong office, we are the head office.

In my practice, I have the privilege of advising a diverse range of clients including listed companies, public bodies, SMEs, and individuals, on a constantly engaging and varied set of issues. That keeps my day-to-day work interesting, stimulating, and challenging.

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My Role

I manage the tax and trusts practice, which involves a balance of advisory and contentious work. Revenue law in Hong Kong has in recent years become more complex to meet the challenges of the international tax environment, and that means great care must be taken in structuring transactions, and devising innovative solutions to complex questions of statutory interpretation. I qualified in Hong Kong as a solicitor-advocate, and I represent clients as an advocate before the tax tribunal and higher courts of Hong Kong.

Where did my story with Deacons begins?

Prior to joining Deacons, I completed pupillage and qualified as a barrister in London. I was recruited by the late James Bertram of Deacons, who wanted to expand the tax and trusts practice. I accepted immediately, thinking it, rightly as it turned out, to be an excellent opportunity to build on my knowledge of English tax law in a new and challenging context.

What draws me to Tax and Trusts law?

I enjoy the intellectual challenge, and the breadth of issues. There is a general misconception that tax law involves computations of various kinds, but, in general, it does not: instead, it is driven by rigorous statutory interpretation and a close reading of case law. It requires a practitioner to find solutions to conceptual and commercial problems beyond the ordinary. Trusts law, on the other hand, is more diffuse in Hong Kong because it is still mostly governed by case law, and driven by overarching principles of equity. When advising on trusts in a commercial context, one must find the right balance between technical rigour and practical workability.

My hobbies and interests outside my work

Engaging with the academic side of the law is useful in my practice area, and I am a regular contributor to legal textbooks and journals. I am an Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of Hong Kong, where I teach both undergraduate and postgraduate tax courses. When I am not writing or teaching, I enjoy art, history, and wine – not necessarily in that order. Where physical exercise is called for – this can be very effective in clearing one’s mind – I am partial to bouldering.

Something I have done at Deacons that I think had real impact

Working across practice areas to provide clients with solutions to their sometimes very complex tax problems. We work firm-wide as a team to provide seamless advice to the client: if a tax issue comes across my desk, the solution will often involve input from Corporate, Employment, or Intellectual Property practitioners. We aim to be a ‘one stop shop’ and this provides real value added to the client they can immediately appreciate.

What would I tell a junior or senior in college or university that my favourite part of working at Deacons is?

The variety of work, practice areas, and clients is unmatched in Hong Kong. We are one of a very few full-service law firms in this city: if you have an interest in building a career in a niche area, this is perhaps the best place in which to begin. We are also quite hands-off, and trainees are offered as much responsibility and challenging work as they are willing and able to attempt.


A Day In The Life


Check e-mails and go through any case law or legislative updates


Continue researching and drafting opinion on intra-group stamp duty relief


Begin drafting correspondence addressed to the Department of Justice in ongoing tax litigation


A Day In The Life


Teach tax course at the University of Hong Kong


Return to the office and attend telephone conference with my corporate colleagues and a French law firm on cross-border tax structuring issues


Resume drafting stamp duty opinion and liaising with our firm knowledge management team to obtain copies of a couple of old Australian decisions I think are relevant


Take unscheduled call on an urgent family trust matter and draft follow-up e-mail


Client drinks


Return home and check e-mails again to see if anything has come in from Europe. Answer a couple of short client queries on documents to enclose in submission to the Inland Revenue Department.


My Story

Won first Court of Appeal case as an advocate


My Story

Appointed Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong


My Story

Appointed Trust and Estate Practitioner by STEP


My Story

Relocated to Hong Kong


My Story

Member of the winning team of the BBC quiz programme University Challenge

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