Described by one leading QC as ‘absolutely first-class’, Tom Amlot is one of London’s most discreet divorce lawyers. He joined AFP in 2011 from Harbottle & Lewis, a firm known for its pre-eminent privacy and media work. He disagrees with advocates for open access to family proceedings. ‘I just don’t think it fulfils a public interest,’ he says. Recent highlights include securing a non-molestation order (convincing the court that an order could be extended to protect the client’s privacy from a spouse threatening to leak information and scupper a business transaction), and securing a leading decision on conduct with a reported case at the High Court.
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Each issue of Spear’s Magazine contains an exclusive Index prepared by the experts at the Spear’s Research Unit identifying the very best providers of professional services to the high net worth audience. Comprehensive, authoritative and indispensible, these are the definitive lists of the top HNW advisers in Britain working in property, family law, wealth management, tax and trust, alternative assets and reputation management. Once a year the Indices are updated and expanded to form the core of the Spear’s 500, the bible of HNW advisers. Go to the drop down menu below for the latest indices of top professionals from the Spear’s Research Unit
Family Lawyers 2018
MOST RECENT: Family Lawyers 2018
Susan Apthorp, a partner at Sears Tooth since 2008, is often found in court rather than in her Mayfair office. Clients rely on her ability to resolve contentious divorces and cite her ‘sound judgement’ and ‘tenacity’. A QC adds that her track record ‘speaks for itself’. Her expertise encompasses complex financial remedy cases, Inheritance Act claims and jurisdiction battles. Reported cases include issues relating to religious marriages and international divorces, and she advises on private children matters. Apthorp, who switched to law from working as an art agent and gallerist, says humour is vital in her job: ‘If you can make your client laugh, tensions tend to ease.’
Lawyer of choice to high-flying entrepreneurs, entertainers, financiers and sporting UHNWs, Catherine Bedford made her name building Lee & Thompson’s family department from scratch and making it one of London’s top-ranked outfits. In 2017 she took her entire team to Harbottle & Lewis, a firm known for its privacy work with A-list celebrities and international royalty. The warm and engaging Canadian emphasises reducing stress and emotional turmoil, but that doesn’t mean she’s afraid to get tough or tell hard truths when necessary: ‘I’m not a lawyer who tells the client what they want to hear. Ever,’ she says. It’s a good thing she doesn’t stand for the antics commonly associated with family law’s old guard: ‘It’s really important to have lawyers who are respectful and work as a team – we don’t do egos and prima donnas here.’ An expert across the full spectrum of family law issues, Bedford is […]
Five years as a barrister before joining Farrer & Co in 2011 gave Nicholas Bennett a grounding in family disputes. Solving ‘complex divorces’ is a specialism – these can feature jurisdictional conflicts, the unravelling of company structures or trusts, or liquidity issues. Bennett is currently handling a divorce involving complicated trustee-beneficiary relationships, and advising on prenups. His specialisms can converge: ‘The complexity in the divorce might be that they signed a prenup a long time ago and one of them wants to get out of it.’ Bennett predicts more arguments on whether existing nuptial agreements can be undermined or tightened up.
Ros Bever has had yet another successful year since the landmark Supreme Court decision of Sharland and Gohil, the 2015 case which saw wives winning against dishonest husbands. Enquiries have streamed in ever since, many from clients of rival law firms seeking second opinions. One recent case involved a client who was writing off a ‘substantial debt of millions’ to her husband, represented by Withers’ Diana Parker on the other side, which might set a precedent for future cases involving changing the terms of a loan. ‘It’s interesting as it ties in with Brexit and reduction in property values in the South East and stamp duty as a consequence,’ says Bever. The head of Irwin Mitchell’s national family department is one for creative solutions. She’s seen a recent hike in arbitrations and says the efficiency of such alternative resolutions can sometimes trump the fees. She adds that clients have the […]
Straight talking Zoë Bloom is known for acting for people locked in conflict where personalities are difficult. Personality disorders are extremely difficult as opponents often exaggerate, coerce, manipulate and bully to influence a case. ‘They see the court as a stage,’ she says. ‘You have to go through four or five hearings before the same judge before you get the recognition that what your client is describing is a real problem’. Bloom’s caseload comprises some of the most complex issues separating families face and she is not afraid to take matters in the middle of proceedings, to drive them through to a settlement.
‘Family law is what really matters to you – there’s less black letter law but it’s of huge importance,’ says Debbie Chism. ‘It’s also a different skill set for the lawyers, which is why you get the personalities. We have to really listen to what’s important to people.’ Chism is going from strength to strength: she recently acted for HRH Prince Louis of Luxembourg in a leading reported case on privacy in family proceedings, making a successful application for reporting restrictions. ‘The first meeting is so key,’ she says. ‘It helps you get a view on what their relationship with their spousal partner is like and gives you a read on how the case will develop.’
‘It’s not all about me,’ says Sandra Davis, Mishcon de Reya’s formidable family department head, who has been in position since 1989. Davis is very complimentary about the members of her team. ‘We look for lawyers who are both creative and commercial,’ she says. ‘They need to operate as if it’s their money they’re spending and spend it wisely.’ In the past year, Mishcon’s glossy Holborn halls have seen the usual influx of high-profile big-money cases, which are often multi-jurisdictional and involve billionaires and celebrities who inevitably come with complicated financial situations. ‘I think we have a reputation for being firm but fair,’ says Davis, who is known for having represented the Princess of Wales, Jerry Hall, Thierry Henry and Tamara Mellon among others. ‘We push boundaries and we get results… I don’t accept defeat.’ Cases involving children are best dealt with through alternative methods of dispute resolution such as […]
‘I wanted to be a family lawyer since I was 15 – don’t ask me why,’ says Joanne Edwards, the affable head of family at Forsters. Always up for a challenge (‘I’m also someone who likes to be fantastically busy’), Edwards moved from Pennington Manches in 2016 to work for a smaller firm where she could make big waves. Faced with what was then rather a depleted team, she was thrown in at the deep end: she hired two new partners and has taken on a trainee each year. ‘Progress has been phenomenal,’ says Edwards. Annual turnover has risen by 50 per cent and Forsters won family law team of the year at the Family Law Awards in November.
James Ferguson brings more than 35 years of experience to the family team he leads at Boodle Hatfield. Clients commend him as ‘very wise, very astute’ and peers observe that he ‘has the respect of everyone around him’. Ferguson handles intricate divorces where hundreds of millions of pounds are at play, reaching settlements out of court. Clients ‘want out and on the best possible terms’, he stresses. He recently advised on a ‘fabulously difficult’ case involving illiquid assets tied to a spouse’s £400 million company. Another case centred on a prenup, signed pre-Radmacher, where the strength and wording of the agreement was being questioned.
‘Generally I’m a settler if I can be, which is what most clients want,’ says Miranda Fisher, runner-up for Family Lawyer of the Year at the 2017 Spear’s Wealth Management Awards. ‘They don’t want ten days in the High Court.’ Even so, there will always be a case for big litigation, says the razor-sharp Fisher, who is arguably the first ‘star’ at Charles Russell since Peter George many moons ago. Her reported cases include Rotenberg v Times Newspapers Ltd and Fields v Fields. Now back from maternity leave, Fisher continues to represent an impressive client base. She is alive to the challenges and rewards: ‘I have conversations with our young female lawyers not to give up work when they have children – it’s a pattern and it’s really hard to get back in. There needs to be change across the profession to put women on an equal footing with men at […]
Stephen Foster is one of the most admired names in family law: it was he who masterminded Stewarts’ ascent from small beginnings (‘just me and a paralegal on day one!’ he recalls) to its present position of supremacy. And Foster remains extremely active on the fee-earning front: in the past year he has handled ‘a cluster of cases where assets exceeded £250 million’. And sometimes the assets are north even of that: he is acting for a husband who owns a worldwide luxury fashion brand, where the assets are in the region of £1 billion – a case which, Foster tells Spear’s, could have important ramifications for special contribution. Foster has recently had a number of cases involving what he calls ‘the nuptialisation of cohabitation’ (see page 75). He is critical of the courts’ approach: ‘The statute very specifically refers to the length of marriage and does not mention cohabitation, yet […]
‘It’s about time,’ says James Freeman of the rise in young lawyers in his field, many of whom he’s recently welcomed to Charles Russell Speechlys. ‘The danger is, people get too comfortable and unchallenged and don’t think properly… a little bit of back and forth is good.’ So where does he belong among the old guard and the new wave? ‘Maybe sitting smugly on the fence,’ he laughs. The French speaker, who mostly works on cross-border cases, says being a good lawyer is rarely about personality: ‘It’s fundamentally not about you…you’re there to try to do a job with respect to other people’s lives. It’s about discretion – get it sorted with less blood on the carpet rather than more.’
There’s no rest for Claire Gordon, lawyer to entrepreneurs, private equity investors, celebrities and UHNWs. Recently she has been drawing up a prenup for an ‘extremely international, extremely wealthy’ individual, involving ‘about eight different jurisdictions’. ‘Clients don’t need a legal treatise on the interactions of all the different laws,’ she says. ‘They just want things sorted so that they can get on with the wedding preparations.’ Gordon’s warmth, judgement and dedication are much valued by clients and colleagues. ‘Claire is smart, thoughtful and measured,’ says a peer. ‘She has a creative approach to her work and is always resolution-focused.’
Michael Gouriet is one of family law’s earliest advocates for greater protection of unmarried couples. He is also an expert in complex multi-jurisdictional work and financial matters, recently reaching a successful settlement for a Middle Eastern UHNW involving more than £1 billion in assets, and another for an unmarried HNW, hinging on the interest across a glittering array of properties. What surprises his clients most, he says, is that bad behaviour isn’t taken into account when the millions are divvied up: ‘Some people feel really taken aback by the way they have been treated or their spouse has behaved, and yet it has absolutely no bearing on the financial outcome.’
It has been another good year for the accomplished Mark Harper, who acted for Norwegian businessman Torstein Hagen in a divorce involving assets worth more than $4 billion. ‘It was the talk of the divorce world and the largest contested divorce for years,’ Harper notes. He has also recently advised on Anglo-Italian prenups and international child relocation cases. A leading authority on international trusts and divorce law, Harper co-authored a textbook on the subject. Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, has said the book ‘needs to be in the bookcase and in the briefcase of everyone involved on a divorce case with a trust element’.
Stevens & Bolton is arguably the premier law firm in Surrey – and Nicola Harries, head of family, is one of its leading lights. ‘The last 12 months have been very busy, with a marked increase in litigation,’ she says – and indeed, when Spear’s tries to get hold of her she is ensconced in court for days at a time. Harries has a varied caseload – ‘ranging from prenups for partners at Magic Circle firms’ to cases with ‘assets of circa £80 million’. She also recently helped recover an 11-week-old baby retained by her father without consent. But it’s the court system, and its shortcomings, which particularly worries her. ‘The courts are on their knees,’ she says. ‘We are using private options more and more. This is fine for our clients, but it is potentially leading to a two-tier system.’ Her career highlights? ‘Calming down a client before she […]
‘Family law had been dominated by a handful of grandes dames in recent decades but new blood is coming through and establishing a reputation in handling high-end divorces,’ says the charming and impressive Emma Hatley, a partner at Stewarts. No one has mounted more of an attack on the established guard than Hatley, who was crowned Family Lawyer of the Year at the 2017 Spear’s Wealth Management Awards. It’s a verdict based on sheer quality: Hatley is known for discretion on behalf of her clients. Hatley describes herself as a ‘black letter lawyer’ who enjoys the strategy of litigation but is also pragmatic in finding solutions. Despite the obvious confusion Brexit will bring, Hatley anticipates: ‘Domestic legislation will try to replicate the existing European regulations so that we don’t go back to the old days of the forum race. ‘My bigger worry is what happens to London as an international […]
‘I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be a lawyer if I wasn’t a family lawyer,’ muses Sarah Hoskinson, who was made a partner at Burges Salmon in 2012 and has since built the foundations for a stellar practice in London and the West Country. ‘Family law is all about people, and it’s that human element rather than the black letter of the law that gives it the edge.’ Despite her focus on the human side, Hoskinson is extremely well versed in the intricacies of those ‘black letters’. She’s part of what she calls a lawyer’s ‘geek squad’, is accredited as a specialist by Resolution in complex asset cases and pensions on divorce, and gives regular lectures. She is also a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers. She believes family law can be managed sensibly and co-operatively no matter how complex the case and it doesn’t have to be resolved […]
People come in and it’s miserable and mostly things get better. It’s the opposite of being an oncologist,’ says Frances Hughes, partner and co-founder of boutique firm Hughes Fowler Carruthers who has been practising family law for 37 years. Specialising in divorce and complex cases involving children, Hughes has a calm and gentle manner. She also happens to have a reputation for being a prolific litigator and ‘a fighter’ in court – and that’s no bad thing, she says: ‘Anyone who has a reputation for litigating will always have got it from settling cases early because that gets you 100 cases. We’re all very good negotiators.’ Hughes is also a senior mediator – ‘for those for whom it works, it works very well’ – but cautions that when money is involved, women tend to lose out in the process. ‘All the research shows that women in cases of money do […]
Sarah Hutchinson’s practice is split between financial matters on divorce and children work. ‘Child arrangements require a different approach as the situations are ongoing and parenting plans can accommodate some, but not all, situations,’ she says. A sizeable chunk of her work is international – a current case involves England and Russia (‘fairly straightforward’), while another spans England, Russia, Malta, Spain and Switzerland (‘quite complicated’). A Farrer’s partner since 2016, Hutchinson adds that there is ‘huge satisfaction in taking someone from a really difficult place to setting them up for the future’.
‘Family law is a bit like Marmite – you either love it or you hate it – and I got the Marmite bug immediately,’ says Caitlin Jenkins, the partner who leads Mills & Reeve’s Cambridge family team. She moved to Cambridge in 2003 after nine years at Withers, where her clients were mostly from the City. The difference between London and Cambridge is that she now acts for a ‘much wider range of business owners’. Clients include ‘tech entrepreneurs, senior figures in business including PLCs, farmers and families with landed estates and trusts’. But there is some similarity: ‘Cambridge is a very international city,’ Jenkins tells Spear’s. So while she and her team handle ‘the largest and most significant local cases’, she is also advising on cases connected to London and international jurisdictions. Jenkins is one of a handful of regional members of the International Academy of Family Lawyers: ‘It […]
A star solicitor who has seen action (and success) in some of the biggest cases of the decade, Schillings family law team head Davina Katz is in vogue among next-gen HNWs. And for good reason: ‘I see a lot of people in fintech who walk in with their trainers, ripped jeans and T-shirts. They’re not necessarily looking for a lawyer in a three-piece suit and pearl earrings to manage their divorce,’ she says. These HNWs are looking for ‘a human being – one who understands social media, a digital footprint’. A hedge fund client effuses praise for Katz: ‘She was a constant source of support and positivity, even in the bleakest of times. I owe her a great debt.’
‘Some of the preliminary advice you give is: “Get off social media!”’ says Jane Keir. She adds that ‘you can pick up a lot’ from researching an opponent’s online activity – photos can reveal true lifestyles and serve as evidence. Skilled at both big-money cases and ‘the ins and outs’ of children issues, Keir is receiving ‘more and more calls’ from families seeking advice about how to protect a family’s assets against a divorce, leading to nuptial agreements. She also champions reconciliation agreements: ‘You do the [financial] negotiation at a time when your feelings are more magnanimous towards each other,’ she explains, with the agreement serving as a divorce blueprint.
A previous Spear’s Family Lawyer of the Year, Suzanne Kingston has spent much of the year advising trustees on ‘divorce-proofing’, stress-testing and fine-tuning their asset-holding structures against drastic circumstances. She recently advised one UHNW private equity principal with ‘really complex international tax issues’, and remains busy with a wide range of global prenups. Kingston highlights an ‘evolution’ out of court, as more HNWs sign up to a ‘hybrid’ model of mediation where the lawyers are usually present and more contiguous negotiations are encouraged. ‘It’s going to be a really interesting model for family – and it’s great to be at the cutting edge of that,’ she says.
‘You can’t be a family lawyer if you recoil from the messiness of human life,’ says Renato Labi. Divorces with offshore elements form part of his caseload, as do prenups ‘in the hundreds of millions’ and child relocation matters. He says family lawyers need an aptitude to become ‘temporarily expert’ on different facets of the financial and tech worlds. But he adds that there’s ‘a fine balance’ between the technical and emotional challenges of the work: ‘We’re very expensive and completely unqualified therapists,’ he suggests with humour. Labi, a partner at HFC since 2005, is highly regarded, with one peer hailing him as ‘sharp, smart and always on the front foot’.
A rising legal force respected for her pragmatism, empathy and clear advice, Katharine Landells is described by market authorities as ‘a real powerhouse’. ‘Family law has not been touched by government for decades, except to withdraw funding, to withdraw legal aid, to effectively have a system where everyone is a litigant in person with no real idea about what to do,’ she says. ‘That would be fine if we had a simple law that people could apply on their own, but family law in this country isn’t simple – our principal statute is from 1973. It’s been so neglected and it continues to be. It’s really shocking when you think how much life has changed since then.’
This year Levison Meltzer Pigott celebrates its 20th anniversary, and when Spear’s catches up with Jeremy Levison, the founding partner is in celebratory mood. ‘I can’t imagine we won’t have a little wine with lunch,’ he says. Levison has been very busy with a number of UHNW divorces with ‘significant international trust issues’. He’s also wise about the course of family law. He refers to the Owens case as ‘an unedifying spectacle’ and is sympathetic about the need for ‘greater recognition for cohabiting couples’, adding: ‘Family law needs to reflect modern family life.’ Other stand-out solicitors at the firm are Simon Pigott, Julian Ribet and Alison Hayes.
Reported cases – cases that make law, that is – are still worn like a badge of honour by many lawyers. But not so in family law. ‘Clients should perhaps choose their lawyers by who has the fewest reported cases rather than the other way around,’ says Withers’ super-solicitor Julian Lipson. ‘Too many reported cases is a failure, and fewer is a success because you’ve got them done discreetly and quickly, and people haven’t become a cause célèbre.’ That’s not to say Lipson hasn’t had his share of big cases in the past year (he has a growing niche acting for Premier League footballers and continues to work on a large number of cases involving the United States and France), nor that he’s one to skirt around straight talk. To the contrary, he’s clear about how he would change family law if he had the power. ‘I’d make it more […]
William Longrigg joined Charles Russell as an articled clerk in 1985 and simply never left. ‘There was never anywhere better to go,’ he says. Longrigg predicts Brexit will have a ‘very significant’ impact on family law: ‘For the past decade or so, EU states have had quite an efficient system. Of course, now, that’s going to be completely swept under the table.’ Although the UK’s current system is very thorough and ‘has to be commended for that’, it’s ‘too cumbersome, too expensive and too uncertain’. If he had his way, Brexit might present an opportunity for ‘significant streamlining and simplification’. But will it happen? ‘Alas, that’s extremely unlikely.’
Dealing with the almost invariably knotty commercial and financial elements of HNW divorces is ‘part and parcel’ of Sam Longworth’s work. ‘You could not write the script of your next case – that’s what keeps you interested and on your toes as a divorce lawyer,’ he says. Longworth’s clients often hail from the City, entertainment and sporting worlds. While skilled at litigation – there was a multijurisdictional forum-shopping dispute in the Court of Appeal earlier this year – he remains a committed advocate of arbitration. ‘Many families are deciding they need to do anything but go to court,’ he says, emphasising that this is as much to do with privacy concerns as it is about cost.
Lewis Marks QC is revered for his skill and affability. ‘Lewis is almost frighteningly intelligent and able to grasp the most complex of issues extremely quickly and present them in a way which makes them look so simple,’ says a colleague. He is always available to assist and is an absolute pleasure to have on your side.’ While asset tracing used to be his bread and butter, Marks says those cases have become very uncommon as it becomes increasingly difficult for people to hide money with all the changes to money-laundering regulations. ‘I now deal with people who are obviously rich,’ he explains. Cryptocurrencies are still an unknown quantity, though: ‘It’s going to be another way for shady types to hide their assets, and it’s going be a matter of whether you can prove he’s got the Bitcoin.’ Marks is adamant that mediation should be a mandatory first step for […]
One of Farrer’s leading lights, William Massey remains involved in cutting-edge cases. In a November 2016 re-hearing of Goddard-Watts v Goddard-Watts – where non-disclosure of assets had unravelled the original consent order – Massey’s client was awarded an additional £6.42 million. While Massey has undoubtedly played a significant role in shaping the future of family law, his demeanour is understated. ‘An awful lot of the skill in what we do is being able to manage the expectations of clients,’ he says. ‘We have to win their trust and reassure them that our aim is to obtain the best outcome in the least litigious way possible.’
A former libel lawyer, Jane McDonagh found her calling in family law after she helped her own mother with her divorce. ‘It made me realise how rewarding it could be to support someone through this process,’ the head of SMB’s family team says. ‘For some people it’s an emotional journey – they are in mourning and in fear for their children’s future and their financial security. Others take a pragmatic approach.’ McDonagh recently won a ‘huge’ case where the opposing party failed to disclose significant assets in the original hearing, committing ‘perjury on a grand scale’: ‘I would like to see a more robust stance taken towards parties who fail to make significant disclosures.’
‘Bright and incisive… an undoubted partner and start of the future,’ says one barrister of Katie O’Callaghan, a senior associate who joined Boodle Hatfield as a trainee. Known for excelling on complex financial points, she is currently acting as lead associate on several highly contentious divorces. One involves £300 million of assets, while another stretches to multiple jurisdictions. Earlier in her career, she worked alongside family head James Ferguson (see page 73) on the first reported divorce case to divide private equity funds. This case, which went to the High Court in 2013, became a leading authority on how private equity funds are treated in divorce proceedings. O’Callaghan tells Spear’s that the value of the assets involved in a divorce is not always the main issue. ‘Often it’s the complexities of the structure of the award, rather than the amount, that causes the most difficulty,’ she says. ‘Some clients are […]
One of the family law greats – she became Britain’s first female (and the youngest ever) senior partner of a City law firm in 1998 – Diana Parker has been at the top of her game for more than 30 years now. The charismatic Parker has a particularly strong reputation for her strategic negotiation of financial settlements for UHNWs out of court and out of the press. It’s all about striking a fine balance at a time when people are prone to be in denial and self-deluding. ‘That’s why a lawyer’s job is so tricky. You have to constantly be providing a reality check,’ she explains. Parker has been behind some of the best-known family law cases, including the 2006 House of Lords decision Miller and McFarlane and the Court of Appeal cases of Marano, Vaughan and Tchenguiz v Imerman. Her cases are invariably vast – including Britain’s first billion-pound […]
‘A newly wealthy client once said to me after her divorce, “Thank you, I now have freedom and responsibility.” These two apparently contradictory things are what I think most people – whatever their situation – aspire to,’ says Ben Parry-Smith. Parry-Smith certainly has spotless credentials. Having been educated at Eton, he read law at Merton College, Oxford, trained at Mishcon de Reya and, upon qualification in 2008, joined Payne Hicks Beach. A standout moment in his career was undoubtedly the recent Work v Gray case, which threw up questions regarding special contribution and how to value different contributions to the marital partnership. ‘The focus after Work v Gray is on disparity of contributions – is there sufficient disparity such that a court ignoring it would lead to unfairness?’ he asks rhetorically. Parry-Smith believes the ‘alleged tension’ between transparent justice and protecting privacy is overblown. ‘It is often possible for the […]
Spear’s heads to Charles Street to meet Emma Percy, a ‘star in the making’ who’s rapidly progressing in the family landscape, according to a senior lawyer. The 30-year-old’s humble smile belies her UHNW practice, boasting celebrities, aristocracy, Russian oligarchs and sports stars. Her performance in complex cases alongside founder Camilla Baldwin has made her a partner already, which is exceptional as it was only in 2014 that she joined as a newly qualified solicitor. Her first and biggest case was her most memorable. She advised a Russian entrepreneur whose divorce was a ‘precedent book on case law’. ‘There were issues with privilege, conflict, children, along with applications for non-molestation and occupation orders. There were financial proceedings involving both England and Russia, as well as issues with non-disclosure,’ she says, adding: ‘It was completely full-on.’ A current case is similarly dramatic. ‘We were acting for the father of a child, and […]
Martin Pointer QC has appeared in no fewer than 100 reported cases since being called to the Bar in 1976 – an achievement no other family barrister can attest to. His expertise lies in division of intractable assets, particularly concerning arguments as to why matrimonial assets should, or shouldn’t, be halved. For a flavour of his work, he tells Spear’s that he recently made a special contribution argument for a husband who has a £600 million share in a multibillion-dollar company. But in his view the law on special contribution is not clear enough – it ‘needs to be resolved’, he says, adding hopefully: ‘I’d like to be able to do that if I get the chance.’ Pointer is also highly skilled in handling forum disputes, and he appeared in the Court of Appeal earlier this year on a question of competing divorce petitions. With 70 per cent of his […]
Fiona Read has 30 years in family law. ‘My work is varied,’ she tells Spear’s, ‘and I advise married and non-married couples as well as same-sex couples.’ Of late she has had a ‘higher number of instructions from overseas clients who are based in London and planning to return “home”’. Read, who is also a part-time district judge, notes developments in what may constitute unreasonable behaviour, plus an increase in arbitrations and FDRs: ‘This is probably as a result of cases being allocated away from the central family court and the limited time now being allowed for family cases in the courts.’ In her spare time, she likes to ‘sail, walk and stargaze’.
Rosie Schumm might be the nicest family lawyer in London – but that won’t stop her fighting ferociously for righteous results on behalf of clients. ‘My priority has to be to find the right solution for my client. What is best for their particular case always trumps all. If that means finding alternatives to court, then so be it,’ she says. Schumm doesn’t think the ‘privatisation’ of family law for the wealthy is as concerning as some make out: ‘I don’t think it will mean a dearth in reported cases about complex financial matters, as there will always be those difficult cases which still end up in court. They will just be whittled down to the most interesting, complex, and possibly the most fraught.’
‘I’m the ghost of Christmas past and these are the ghosts of Christmas present and Christmas future,’ says Fiona Shackleton as she enters the main boardroom at Payne Hicks Beach. Dressed in her trademark magnificent colours, she gestures at her team, consisting of associates Catherine Costley, Ben Parry-Smith, Vicky de’Sanna and Emilie Helm, and solicitors Camelia Buckmaster and Victoria Hingston. Ignore anyone who tells you the Baroness of Belgravia spends all her time in the House of Lords: Shackleton, whose clients have included Prince Charles and Paul McCartney (see page 56), remains impressively active in the law. ‘Her honesty and integrity are legendary, and coupled with her acute mastery of the law leave her in an unparallelled position as the top divorce lawyer in London,’ says Nicholas Cusworth QC, who has been instructed both by and against Shackleton over the years. But it’s probably true to say magic circle teams are […]
Penningtons Manches private wealth co-head James Stewart is no stranger to the legal limelight. Back in 2002 he successfully represented the applicant in Clibbery v Allan, which is credited with opening the doors of the family courts to the media. ‘Notwithstanding the decision in Clibbery, my years of practice as a family lawyer and experience of family cases in US jurisdictions – where family cases are routinely held in public – have led me to conclude that the privacy of parties to family proceedings, particularly any children, must be preserved,’ he says. ‘We need to avoid a situation whereby privacy in divorce is only available to those who can afford arbitration.’
A stalwart member of the Family Law Bar and a silk since 2001, Lucy Stone’s recent work shows the remarkable breadth of her skills. One case involved assets in excess of £500 million and ‘just about every complex area of family law’, including overseas trusts and special contribution. Meanwhile, a case in Gibraltar required ‘the untangling of a hugely valuable corporate structure’. ‘Family law requires an ability to bring legal order into the emotional maelstrom which is family breakdown,’ Stone tells Spear’s. With more than 30 years’ experience, she is well placed to note that ‘nothing is ever black and white’. As a barrister, she says her role requires ‘a willingness to listen, an acute eye for detail and a comprehensive knowledge of multiple areas of law’. Stone has navigated cohabitation disputes, Inheritance Act claims, disputes between unmarried parents, child relocation cases, and matters involving fine details of Jewish and […]
‘Highly experienced, very measured, very capable,’ an industry commentator praises the head of Michelmores’ family team, which has niche expertise in complicated surrogacy cases. On a personal level, Simon Thomas’s 25-year practice covers all corners of family law, with specialism in big-money cases involving a range of entrepreneurs holding a variety of international financial vehicles. Furthermore, he’s known for resolving issues concerning financial provision for children, trust funds, cohabitation disputes, property portfolios and pension provision. Thomas has been busy advising on prenups, postnups and divorce proceedings with local and international clients. Highlights include a breakdown involving a shareholder of a European yacht broker, reviewing a West Country farmer’s agreement with a spouse, and advising a peer of the realm in divorce proceedings where the family’s entire wealth was derived from her spouse’s trust interest. A classics graduate from the University of Hull, Thomas started his career in litigation practice at […]
Catherine Thomas’s meteoric rise in the world of family law is well documented: she made partner at Vardags at the age of 26, and last year she secured a £64 million settlement for Pauline Chai, a former Miss Malaysia, in her divorce battle against Laura Ashley chairman Khoo Kay Peng. Thomas says the lack of discrimination between breadwinner and homemaker is why the UK is such a popular jurisdiction for high-value divorces. ‘Judges, quite rightly, understand that homemakers who have been out of the job market may need assistance while they develop an earning capacity’, she says.
The English family courts may be crippled by delays – but it’s often the opposite with children’s cases, says Withers’ UK family team head Suzanne Todd. ‘They’re pushing them through so quickly now, to try and tick their boxes, that there isn’t time for clients to take a deep breath and think about what is going to work from a practical perspective, and from the child’s point of view,’ she says. Common-sense measures are often overlooked before Todd becomes involved: ‘In our first meeting, we will always say, “Have you closed down all your shared social media accounts? Have you changed all your passwords?”’ The answer is no more often than you might assume, she says.
Raymond Tooth started his career in the Sixties, founded his firm in 1982, and when Spear’s met him last year he dashed across a road declaring: ‘Nothing can kill me – I’m Ray Tooth!’ A master of navigating UHNW divorces in court, Tooth’s ‘no-nonsense’ approach has earned him a reputation as ‘the nation’s leading celebrity divorce lawyer’ and the moniker ‘Jaws’. ‘Going to court is a lottery in three respects: who the judge is, how each party behaves in the witness box, and finally, there is always the unforeseen event,’ he said after winning the 2010 Spear’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In his spare time Tooth enjoys breeding and owning racehorses.
It’s rare to find the experience of divorce pleasant in any way, but for one of Brigid Turner’s clients, the proceedings turned out to be far more than just bearable. ‘It was almost a pleasure getting divorced with Brigid alongside,’ the client enthuses, calling Turner ‘the only lawyer I’ve met with their dignity and conscience intact’. This is just one of many such accolades in Turner’s practice, which is why the co-founding partner comes ‘strongly recommended’ by industry commentators, who call her ‘a great all-rounder’. She covers the entire spectrum of family law, with particular expertise in nuptial agreements, jurisdictional complications, and all manner of relationship breakdowns. Many of her cases involve complex trust structures, private companies and inherited wealth. Turner has a spectrum of clients in Oxford, London and Northamptonshire. She began her career at Manches, relocated to the Cotswolds under Boodle Hatfield, where she was made partner, and […]
Described as ‘the future’ by a judge at the 2017 Spear’s Wealth Management Awards, Joe Vaitilingam has the slight scruffiness which is an offshoot of a cerebral nature. He trained at Hughes Fowler Carruthers in 1996 and became a partner in 2005, starting Vaitilingam Kay in 2014. ‘Our basic pitch is that you get me and Anne [Kay, formerly of Mishcon de Reya] – 30-plus years at Magic Circle firms – but we’re more modern. Our costs are lower than everybody else’s, our rates are lower and so we’re cheaper – but you suffer no loss in quality.’ The firm’s bread and butter is in the £5-15 million range, but it also regularly handles work where the asset pool passes £100 million.Described as ‘the future’ by a judge at the 2017 Spear’s Wealth Management Awards, Joe Vaitilingam has the slight scruffiness which is an offshoot of a cerebral nature. He […]
Helen Ward is a name breathed with awe across the family law world. It was her friend Ian McEwan who described her as having ‘a mind like a jewelled watch and a wise and honest heart – a very rare combination. She is a tigress who never sleeps.’ One peer tells us, meanwhile: ‘I doubt she gets out of bed for less than £50 million.’ In the past year Ward has been involved in the complex matter of Mantegazza v Mantegazza, which contains questions of forum under the Lugano Convention. ‘It was a fascinating case, and it has been a long time since I have been involved in a case about a conflict of jurisdictions,’ she says, adding: ‘I’m in another one now, where we’re not only arguing which is the right forum but whether the wife had any entitlement to bring legal proceedings in this jurisdiction at all.’ It […]
Described by one QC as ‘one of the best, if not the best’ family lawyers of his generation, barrister-turnedsolicitor Nick Westley acts for his own premier league of clients, from pop stars and TV presenters to international footballers. What does family law need most? ‘There is a minority of practitioners and judges that are, quite frankly, unfit to practise – yet there is very little that can be done to remove these bad apples,’ he says, admitting there’s an ‘element of truth’ to the theory that the profession often ‘closes ranks to protect its own’. ‘Where wrongdoing or incompetence is uncovered, it should be stamped out, not swept under the carpet.’