Welcome to the Spear’s Indices

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

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Family Lawyers 2016

MOST RECENT: Family Lawyers 2016

Sarah Anticoni

Charles Russell Speechlys

Anticoni knows how complex divorce can be, both legally and emotionally. After an entire day mediating a case involving assets in three countries she once told Spear’s: ‘There’s much more shouting and crying than there is in most law, and you’ve still got to get stuck into double tax treaties and transfer of assets.’ But when feelings run high, peers say her exceptional mediation skills come to the rescue, together with ‘the perfect blend of common sense, pragmatism and legal expertise’. A specialist in religious divorces, the solicitor is also experienced in international relocation cases. She says her greatest achievement was bringing together a couple, who had not spoken for five years, to reconcile with their children. An amicable solution was reached, with their assets redistributed back into England so that everyone could be housed. A former partner at Campbell Hooper, she joined Charles Russell as a partner in 1999. […]

Toby Atkinson

Stewarts Law

A sage family lawyer respected by peers for his client skills, work ethic and good judgment, Atkinson’s work spans the field, with particular expertise in financial claims that arise from family and relationship breakdown, including tackling trusts, disclosure and complex children cases – such as disputes about parental arrangements and financial claims to the relocation of children across jurisdictions. He also advises on pre and post nuptial agreements, cohabitation contracts and asset protection. One describes Atkinson as ‘unflappable and universally popular. Not one prone to grandstanding and posturing, he quietly and confidently gets the job done.’ The Edinburgh University graduate joined Stewarts Law’s pre-eminent family team as a partner from Charles Russell (now Charles Russell Speechlys) in August 2015 – the latest in a string of coups from partner Stephen Foster. He previously worked at matrimonial heavyweight Payne Hicks Beach, where he trained, and Hughes Fowler Carruthers before joining Charles […]

Roger Bamber

Mills & Reeve

Described by one influential peer as ‘one of the most constructive and imaginative family lawyers I have ever met’, the head of the national family law team at Mills & Reeve specialises in complex financial cases, involving businesses, trusts or pensions. In recent years, Bamber has been involved in the mediation of international family disputes and large multi-jurisdictional trust cases before the High Court. He is one of the most experienced dispute resolution practitioners, having qualified as a mediator in 1990 and more recently as a family arbitrator. Clients appreciate his reassuring nature and his ability to simplify complex situations, with one telling Spear’s: ‘Roger was always able to calm me down and allow me to focus effectively on the legal and tactical issues as they arose. Most importantly, I felt he had my best interest at heart at all times.’

Camilla Baldwin

Camilla Baldwin

Baldwin doesn’t like to put her feet up. Even when she took some time off to look after her children eleven years ago, the founder of the eponymous niche law firm sat as an immigration judge. The straight-talking lawyer learnt the ropes at Kingsley Napley and Withers, where she worked with Diana Parker and Charles Doughty on what she has described as ‘extraordinary cases’ involving Greek shipping billionaires and European royalty, even acting for the wife of a Nigerian tribal chief (‘He was as rich as Croesus until I came along,’ she previously told Spear’s). Recently, she has been increasingly advising on post-nups, with two types of clients in particular requesting them – those who got married for immigration purposes and didn’t have time to negotiate a pre-nup, and hedge fund managers who wanted to reassure their investors.

Catherine Bedford

Lee & Thompson

Star solicitor to CEOs, investment bankers, sports stars, supermodels and entertainers, Bedford established Lee & Thompson’s family team from a standing start in 2007. Now a top-tier practice, it’s attracting top talent (and clients) from established firms (Bedford’s own previous employer was Mishcon de Reya). A respected leader among the profession’s young and vibrant new guard, the practice head is a specialist in complex finance matters and private law children cases. She says her priority is to always reduce ‘strain, stress and emotional turmoil’. ‘We are nipping at the heels of our well-established competitors and we are doing things differently. Our only focus is the outcome for the client, not ourselves,’ she says. ‘Our aim is for a more professional and responsible culture — internally and externally — something that is lacking in the profession as a whole. It can only benefit the client, and it is bringing about great […]

Nicholas Bennett

Farrer & Co

The former barrister at 29 Bedford Row has made a ‘seamless move’ to private practice after a five year stint the Bar, an external peer says. Praising his combination of ‘technical excellence with commercial sense and acumen’, he is confident of Bennett’s future prowess: ‘He will be a leading figure at Farrer’s in the years ahead.’ A sentiment also echoed by clients who acknowledge his wisdom and kindness. The quadrilingual lawyer (with French, German and Italian up his sleeve) advises business leaders, celebrities, landed families and international HNWs – both in London and abroad. An expert in the complex European regulations governing international divorce, the lawyer is well-versed at disputes challenging the power of the English courts. IAFL (then IAML) recognised his talent in this field, giving him the Young Family Lawyer in Europe award in 2013. He joined Farrer as an associate in 2011, and moved up through the […]

Ros Bever

Irwin Mitchell

Last year was a big one for Bever. She represented both Alison Sharland and Varsha Gohil at the Supreme Court in landmark cases that redefined the law and its reach into disclosure of assets. Gohil made it clear that she saw no winners in divorce but praised Bever ‘and the whole team at Irwin Mitchell, who have believed in me and my case. At the eleventh hour they gave up their time to put in the tremendous amount of hard work they have to bring my case to this court.’ The Manchester-based Bever is keen to point out that she acts for men as well as women, saying it helps her to have a better understanding of the other party’s perspective. Tellingly, her male clients agree: ‘She gave me the best advice ever, all delivered in a calm and pragmatic way. When my friend and colleague needed a divorce lawyer, […]

Zoe Bloom

Keystone Law

An artful negotiator who cuts through the jargon and to the heart of her cases, Bloom specialises in complex HNW financial disputes. She is experienced in international divorce with cross-border tax complications, and has niche experience representing high-profile entrepreneurs and Nordic nationals. She is also a go-to adviser on pre- and post-nup agreements. Industry experts say that her strength lies in ‘combining compassion with efficiency’ while a peer attests that her services are both cost-effective and competitive (the peer, who has acted opposite Bloom, also tells Spear’s she would personally consult Bloom if she were divorcing). Clients are equally keen on the quick and thorough lawyer, praising for her collaborative approach. Formerly a senior consultant at McGuireWoods’ London office, she joined Keystone Law in 2010.

Charlotte Bradley

Kingsley Napley

HNWs relocating to London not only need advice on visas, property and tax, but also on post-nuptial agreements too, says Kingsley Napley’s family head: ‘If your marriage breaks down, you are under the jurisdiction of the English court, which is known to be generous to wives,’ Bradley says of ‘the divorce capital of the world’. A former Gordon Dadds solicitor, she joined Kingsley Napley in 1997 and became a partner in 2001. Praised by peers for her ‘incredibly strong technical skills’, she covers all facets of family law, specialising in Schedule I cases (unmarried mothers and children) and Brussels II regulation (family law conflicts between EU states). She also advises on financial disputes and matters involving relocation and surrogacy. Her most memorable case was a landmark in the big-money landscape involving unmarried mothers, acting for the mother of a severely disabled child whose father had moved abroad. No wonder a […]

Alex Carruthers

Hughes Fowler Carruthers

Most of us have heard of faking your own death but never faking your own divorce. That’s what Carruthers had to deal with a previous client whose husband claimed to have ended their marriage in a Russian court: ‘It makes it very difficult to not say, “That’s a fake! And in an English court you shouldn’t accept that!”’, as he previously told Spear’s. It’s because of such circumstances he’s not uncomfortable with his firm being seen as litigious: ‘If you don’t like litigation, frankly, you shouldn’t be a family lawyer.’ But that doesn’t mean he’s not flexible: ‘You’ve got to be able to say, “Right: mediate. Right: arbitrate.”’ In part that’s fuelled by the court system being hit hard by austerity, he said, speaking to Spear’s straight from a wasted afternoon at court where the judge dismissed his team due to lack of time. The Daily Mail bridge competition finalist […]

Dickon Ceadel

Wedlake Bell

‘One might expect big-money divorces to always come down to arguments about how the millions are divided, but actually quite often it is the seemingly more minor details that are equally important,’ says Ceadel. Emotive issues such as ‘who gets to stay in the former matrimonial home, and who keeps the family pet or the inherited coffee cups’ are often the most difficult to resolve, he says. Cue a good family lawyer to smooth the way. One of the veritable good ones, Ceadel’s mettle is proven. The associate garners no shortage of high praise in high places — not least among London’s top QCs for his dedication to clients and attention to detail (down to the coffee cups, we presume). ‘Dickon Ceadel is by far one of the most engaging family lawyers of his generation. He has that winning combination: great charm, great confidence and great determination,’ says one. Peers […]

Debbie Chism

Stewarts Law

If I were to tell you who I act for, a bit like James Bond and MI5, I’d have to kill you,’ Chism chuckles. Having worked for a client with ‘the same job as James Bond’ (whose only fear was his soon-to-be ex-wife) and celebrities, her vigilance is understandable: ‘Keeping this part of their lives out of the public eye is a feature of what we do.’ Currently advising on a £250 million case, Chism is known for her expertise in complex high-value financial work. One peer lauds her strategies, which are ‘often entirely invisible’ to opponents but ‘hugely’ beneficial to clients. Calling herself ‘relentlessly positive’, she views this area of law as a ‘social barometer’ which constantly moves with the current mores, something that’s not only intellectually stimulating but also gives her the opportunity to use her skills for the good of others, ‘in a way which law sometimes […]

Richard Collins

Charles Russell Speechlys

The internet has enabled people to conduct their own pre-divorce research — a mixed blessing, says Collins: ‘People will come in and tell you twenty points and three of them are relevant from a legal point of view.’ Without professional detachment, it can all lead to a ‘terrible mess’: ‘You’ve got people cross-examining partners — that’s madness, isn’t it?’ An experienced cross-border operator, Collins advises on all aspects of family law, including divorce, separation agreements and financial matters. He advises cohabiting couples and civil partners and is experienced in relocation cases and claims against offshore trusts (speaking fluent French and German helps). He also has niche knowledge of pet custody issues, which is important as some relationship breakdowns hinge ‘more on the pet than on the money’, he says. Clients laud the ‘absolute professionalism and authoritative approach’ of Collins, a former advertising man who joined Charles Russell in 1994. He […]

Sandra Davis

Mishcon de Reya

Davis almost singlehandedly grew the family department of Mishcons, which she has headed since 1981, into its current behemoth. She is the lawyer of choice for notable HNWs (‘I don’t deal with the middle level of income,’ she has previously told Spear’s) and has acted for Princess Diana, Jerry Hall, Tamara Mellon and Thierry Henry, among others. Specialising in complex international financial settlements, child disputes and pre-nups, Davis is accustomed to cases with hundreds of millions of pounds under dispute. She acted for Sir Chris Hohn’s former wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, who received £337 million in what many believe was the biggest divorce settlement ever awarded by an English judge. A client told Spear’s that Davis ‘was fiercely protective’ of them and ensured their children ‘remained the number one priority’.

Thomas Duggins

Charles Russell Speechlys

It’s the problem-solving aspect of family law that drew Duggins — who peers say has ‘gravitas beyond his years’ — to the profession. Besides his experience in complex financial claims in divorce and cohabitation disputes, he has built a niche around same-sex cases. He represented a JP Morgan man in the first ever civil partnership dissolution case of Lawrence v Gallagher, where the court was ‘scrupulous’ in ensuring that the couple was treated the same way as heterosexual couples. Another landmark case was Luckwell v Limata, where he acted for Mr Limata against the harsh terms of three pre-nups. Duggins doubts a wife in Mr Limata’s shoes would have received similar treatment: ‘If you are a man, even if you are in a weaker financial position, there is an assumption that you’ve got a much better chance at being able to fully support yourself, and that you should be doing […]

Miranda Fisher

Charles Russell Speechlys

‘Her attributes of diligence, intelligence, determination and innovation have made her the go-to solicitor for oligarchs and professional sportsmen,’ one leading QC told Spear’s. This year Fisher has expanded that practice to include the well-known case of a Russian wife and an American husband and ‘a fascinating and complicated issue’ concerning the ability of the English courts to make orders against an individual who is subject to EU sanctions. While she believes reopened cases, following Sharland & Gohil, will help counter fraud, it does mean a blow for finality in family proceedings — something also seen in the decision in Wyatt v Vince. ‘While we have been told repeatedly by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in recent years that the Family Division is not another country and we shouldn’t do things differently there, it seems this doesn’t apply to the ability to strike out a family case […]

Stephen Foster

Stewarts Law

‘He really understands people and combines this with an incisive ability to drive through a strategy to obtain the best deal possible,’ a leading QC says of Foster. Strategy is something that underpins the head of Stewarts Law’s divorce long-term thinking, having unapologetically assembled a legal dream team. ‘I’m trying to be like the All Blacks,’ says the Welsh rugby fan. ‘I’m trying to develop a team that wins by selecting the best people at every level, not just relying on a few stars.’ It seems to be paying off. He is now charged with cases typically worth between £250 million and £500 million, as well as several that ‘run into the billions’. Other top lawyers also frequently refer some of their most complex work to the judo black belt, whom they describe as ‘cool under fire’ and ‘incredibly civilised’. Foster’s most memorable recent case involved a ‘very complicated’ rags-to-riches […]

Pauline Fowler

Hughes Fowler Carruthers

Complex cases, both legally and emotionally, seem to be Fowler’s natural habitat. A children’s case in recent years ‘involved the local authority and some serious drug use on the part of the mother. I was acting for the father and looking at an enormously difficult situation to deal with. But we got a very good result and secured the situation for his children,’ as she previously told Spear’s. The new legal world of same-sex parenting is also a space she navigates: ‘Same-sex parents are having children with friends and the long-term implications of parenting with someone with whom you’re not in an intimate relationship are really complicated.’ Credited by peers for her ‘levelheadedness’ at such times, the violinist is indispensible to clients, with one telling her: ‘You shall never know how grateful I am for everything you have done for me…you helped me beyond measure.’

James Freeman

Charles Russell Speechlys

‘“There was only one tiny, tiny problem with this plan. It was bollocks,”’ says Freeman, quoting Captain Blackadder. ‘I think that sums up the current state of the law — certainly in financial provision on divorce — in that there’s an awful lot of huff and puff behind it but, at the end of the day, basically it’s bollocks.’ He draws perspective from the complexity of the cross-jurisdictional cases he deals with as a fluent French speaker — perspective that emphasises the family in law: ‘Some stuff we do is not complicated because there are 85 trusts in it, it’s complicated because there are three children involved.’ Sincere and forthright, Freeman advocates consent between parties out of court but remains realistic: ‘Sometimes you get people who are being greedy, sometimes you get people who are complete bastards. The idea you can get one of those cases and just pop it […]

Claire Gordon

Farrer & Co

‘When this is all over would you like to come and be my finance director?’ one client recently asked Gordon. It could well have been one of the number of billionaires she’s worked with over the past year, assisting them on pre-nups and children issues, as well as all the other issues that get sucked into divorce such as tax, employment, confidentiality and intellectual property. Such a holistic service demands a conscientious approach: ‘I think the key is always to try to think laterally and creatively to solve a client’s problems, rather than heading to court at the first opportunity.’ Praised for her ‘excellent judgement’, she astutely notes that while the rise in reported cases has led to greater insight into decisions, it has also led to greater scope for argument. The Oxford graduate has a response to the increase in exposure: ‘The threat of public scrutiny into their most […]

Michael Gouriet


Gouriet is one of the few lawyers in London with expertise in cohabitation issues (the breakdown of unmarried relationships) and has been campaigning for reform to give more protection to such couples. But he is also highly experienced in big-money divorces, multi-jurisdiction pre-nups and international child relocation cases. A high-profile media personality, Gouriet’s client for two years, previously told Spear’s: ‘Michael has been thoughtful, pragmatic, sympathetic and firm throughout, seeking to protect me without being unnecessarily provocative or belligerent. He fought a superb campaign for me.’ The qualified arbitrator’s competitors have learnt not to play games with him, with one saying: ‘When he is representing the other party you always listen carefully to what he has to say and ignore him at your peril.’

Charles Hale QC

4 Paper Buildings

Hale says family law is unique in the array of cases it throws up, ‘but it always involves people, which is why I’ve been attracted to it’. Jurisdictional variation is another attraction; he mentions the interpretations of ‘wardship’ under Sharia and Common Law: ‘It becomes very difficult, very complicated, very interesting.’ That intellectual relish has put him at the forefront of the family courts. Last year he presented three separate cases at the Court of Appeal on consecutive days, being unique as the only QC to get reported cases in both finance and children. That expertise has also seen him called to the Cayman Islands to sit as a private judge in a financial dispute resolution.

Mark Harper

Hughes Fowler Carruthers

The court system, which Harper says is ‘on the point of collapse’ with ‘demoralised’ staff, is further strained by self-representing litigants. ‘They don’t know what to do and have to ask the judge what to do — it leads to terrible delays,’ he adds. Harper, an experienced hand in same-sex and cross-jurisdictional cases, is a family law heavyweight popular with peers. One once said he does not care ‘whose toes he treads on in pursuing his clients’ objectives’. There is general consensus among those peers on his technical flair. It was a skill, he says, that ‘didn’t matter as much’ fifteen years ago. But as president of the IAFL he sees binding EU regulations dictating divorce parameters — an area which has become ‘much more technical’. The increasing application of trust law in big international divorces has introduced rules which are ‘alien to family lawyers’, he says, adding that the […]

Charmaine Hast

Wedlake Bell

‘Amazing,’ Hast says about the year so far, crediting a surge in high-value divorces as more Russian, American, and French clients seek her skills. A veteran of big-money divorce for over 35 years in South Africa and London, Hast is highly regarded among peers. A QC calls her ‘an outstanding practitioner, hard as nails when it counts, soft as a feather when needed’, while another says she is ‘astute and fiercely intelligent’. A chartered arbitrator, she was a partner at a leading law firm in Durban for fourteen years before moving to England, where she headed a leading family law unit in the South East. She joined Wedlake Bell in 2011 and now heads the family department that she established. Gone are the days when a high-flying HNW could rely on bullish market conditions to recoup their losses: ‘They would say, “We can earn another five or ten million each […]

Emma Hatley

Stewarts Law

Hatley’s international expertise has seen her take on some of the most complex cases, recently acting for the mother in a children’s case, Re C (2015). It was a landmark, she says, as it dealt with the guidance to be applied to domestic and international relocation cases. Her cross-jurisdiction practice has also seen her take on post-nup agreements for ‘global, dynastic family businesses involving close co-operation between international advisers and tax specialists’. Such an economical approach is apt, and no doubt appreciated by clients: ‘There is a tension in our field which is easy to identify but difficult to resolve — costs. The impact of fees is keenly felt by privately paying families as it directly depletes the precious family resources available for sharing — it’s an issue we are very alive to.’ That’s seen in her support for out-of-court arbitration, saying it is ‘the future of family law for […]

Elizabeth Hicks

Irwin Mitchell

Elizabeth Hicks – Irwin Mitchell It’s been ten years since Hicks was brought in to head up Irwin Mitchell’s family division. In that time she’s established herself as a pre-eminent defender of HNW assets, often securing freezing orders from banks and tax havens to mandate claims. Discretion is crucial in such cases so as not to alert the other party, or indeed the press as with one recent case for a celebrity spouse that she has been keeping under wraps. Other recent cases involve a number of City CEOs, as well as a £300 million fortune resting on the integrity of a premarital agreement. However, Hicks is clear that her role isn’t all about bagging big cheques for her clients: ‘In reality it is about bringing an end to a relationship in both emotional and financial terms, and the role of a good family lawyer is to do just that […]

Frances Hughes

Hughes Fowler Carruthers

Hughes is not a lawyer short of accolades. Peers described her as ‘a tour de force: a blend of fierce intelligence and human empathy’, and one of the capital’s ‘most formidable and clever family lawyers’. The past year has seen her take on a number of high-stakes pre-nup and post-nup cases and fight the corner of Christina Estrada, whose husband attempted to strike out her ancillary relief claims on the basis of diplomatic immunity. On the legal scene, the RSA fellow says the same problems persist: ‘Family law suffers badly because of the government cuts to the court services and to Legal Aid. That has affected everyone who litigates in family law because of the high rise in litigants in person.’ But that shouldn’t mean mediation for the sake of it. Hughes advocates litigation where necessary by those professionals skilled enough to navigate the inconsistency of judgements. Perhaps being so […]

Davina Katz


The formidable head of Schillings’ family division has had a fruitful year dealing with a number of high-profile cases, notably Wyatt v Vince, where she was able to appeal against a former wife’s retrospective claim, and Abuchian v Khojah, where her client received the highest ever High Court financial award following an overseas divorce (originally served in Saudi Arabia). Both cases have set precedents in the reach of English law into assets and domiciles. Katz doesn’t see the law as stagnant, saying it is changing, ‘albeit slowly’. That’s in part thanks to pre-nups, which have become a core part of her practice: ‘Such agreements certainly are not perfect — yet — but they are the best thing that family practitioners have, and they need to be better understood by the wider public.’ Clients are full of praise, a hedge fund founder crediting her ‘utmost professionalism and excellence’. ‘She more than […]

Jane Keir

Kingsley Napley

A high-calibre practitioner with an excellent reputation and a top client base, Keir succeeded Christopher Murray as Kingsley Napley’s senior partner in May 2013 after 26 years at the Farringdon-based firm. Unlike most senior partners, the warm and bright solicitor is hardly winding down. She splits her executive and legal roles 50-50, specialising in major and complex HNW financial and children’s cases – often on a cross-border basis. Clients appreciate the qualified collaborative lawyer’s calm and collected manner, as one wrote to her: ‘Worth every penny… Thanks again for every little bit of sympathy and patient advice.  I maintain my sanity in no small part because of your efforts on my behalf.’ A passionate horseracing fan in her spare time, she is also a breeder herself.

Suzanne Kingston


The Spear’s 2016 Family Lawyer ofthe Year and ‘highly capable mentor’ says that although she relishes the teaching she does across the profession, it’s the practice of law which gives her greatest satisfaction. She says litigation is something ‘I genuinely love — I think that is the way to hone your skills as a family lawyer’. However, those skills are just a part of a veritable legal arsenal which includes mediations, ‘some which have lasted several days’, as well as arbitrations endorsed by the judiciary and the family courts. ‘In years to come we’ll look back and see this as an absolute breakthrough in how we deal with our cases.’ Complimented by one client for being ‘approachable and amenable on the one hand but with a steely edge where necessary’, Kingston is also the person to help you avoid the divorce courts in the first place (see page 66). This […]

Renato Labi

Hughes Fowler Carruthers

A respected family lawyer, Labi started out as an insurance litigator going up against rich and powerful opponents. He certainly hasn’t been shy of upping the ante: ‘Mediation works in some cases but not all. If you have a very big power imbalance, or if you have suspicions of financial non-disclosure, you’re not going to be able to mediate it,’ he previously told Spear’s. He should know: his most attention-grabbing case was Imerman v Tchenguiz, a four-year battle that, says Labi, ‘brought the family law courts in line with the practice and law of the rest of the system, which said you cannot just raid someone’s computer and violate their confidence’ Away from work he finds solace in verse, chairing the charity Poet in the City, which promotes the love of poetry inside and outside the Square Mile.  

Stewart Leech QC


Before the Bar called him, Leech started out teaching modern languages at Shrewsbury and Eton. ‘If you can stand up in front of a classroom full of kids who don’t particularly want to listen to you, then you can stand up in front of a judge,’ he says. However that’s where the similarities end, although his language skills have clearly translated: he’s rightly proud of the fact he’s become the go-to barrister for London’s growing French diaspora. ‘Law is like healthcare: if you’re an Englishman in France you’d rather see an English doctor — not because their skills are different, but because you feel so much more comfortable and reassured when it’s in your own language.’ His biggest case so far involved a billionaire client dividing their business along the lines of divorce, while more recently he’s been acting for a Swiss client fighting a ‘rearguard action’ in the English […]

Jeremy Levison

Levison Meltzer Pigott

A lawyer with a ‘wealth of knowledge and experience that can’t be beaten,’ according to peers, Levison has been representing HNWs in complex financial cases for over 30 years. A co-founder of the firm and the IAFL, market authorities single out his ‘accurate and practical’ approach – not to mention his dedication, saying he ‘fights hard for each and every client’. The trained collaborative lawyer is also a member of the American Bar Association, Central London Collaborative Forum. The art lover is also chairman of the Old Carthusian Art Society, and owns his own gallery in Bermondsey Street (he is also responsible ‘possibly the finest, certainly the most eclectic, art collection in any law office in the country’, according to colleagues).

Julian Lipson


The head of Withers’ family practice group, Lipson specialises in pre-nups and complicated financial cases that often overlap with French and American jurisdictions. He has seen that this year while arguing for the special contribution rights of a client who had invented ‘a product we all use daily’ and created a huge fortune. Although it’s an argument almost never accepted by judges, the case was nevertheless successful. The chance to think creatively and work closely with clients is something Lipson says is particularly enjoyable, especially those ‘who’ve done phenomenally interesting things or had strokes of genius’. Sadly, genius isn’t something he attributes to the increasingly two-tier legal system, which sees those who can afford it contract out into privately funded hearings. ‘Yes, that’s good for the running of our cases, but it does deprive the law of the ability to evolve by the fewer number of court-reported decisions.’ That means […]

Sam Longworth

Stewarts Law

One of the UK’s leading partners, Longworth is popular among clients, referrers and peers alike. He is ‘very highly regarded not only for his personal qualities but also his excellence as a lawyer,’ a contemporary says. He started at SA Law, a boutique firm in St Albans. The speed and intensity of a windfall £300 million case made him realise he had to move to London for more. He joined Stewarts Law in 2007, where he became partner in 2013. That nine-figure case at the start of his career set a precedent. The lawyer peers call ‘discreet, reliable and technically-excellent’ is now hooked on high-profile divorces (he was the number two on Peter Andre’s). Peers describe the astute litigator as tough, ‘charismatic and assertive’, with a ‘calming approach’ when needed. ‘[He’s] Never one to shy away from a challenging client or opponent, or a complex case,’ echoed another. The lawyer’s favourite briefs […]

Magnus Mill

Alexiou Fisher Phillips

Experienced in cases heard from the County Court up to the Court of Appeal, industry commentators call Mill an excellent solicitor who is ‘very creative at finding solutions.’ A skilled collaborative lawyer who covers the family law spectrum, he specialises in large offshore asset-holdings and Hague Convention proceedings. Hailed as a contemporary and niche private law firm by the industry, Mill’s practice is known to be protective of clients’ privacy – an issue of paramount importance to its discreet clientele: senior and high profile figures in banking and industry. A Manches partner for twelve years, he joined Bathbased solicitors, Rubric, in 2013. He was later recruited as an Alexiou Fisher Phillips’ partner in 2015. The diligent lawyer is also active in the industry as Resolution’s treasurer.

Diana Parker


‘There is no one who can match her intellectually or her wide-ranging experience. Her clients are fortunate to be advised by her,’ said one peer of Parker. Although she is also credited for her ‘fearless’ litigation, Parker is as much shield as sword, often securing settlement away from the stress and cost of the court process. That is true of the past year, about which she is able to tell Spear’s very little. ‘Happily I have been able to resolve even the most complex and contentious issues out of court — and they are therefore all covered by the cloak of confidentiality,’ she says. Out-of-court arbitration also brings economy, says Parker, who saved Sir Christopher Hohn £140 million in court: ‘Solicitors should stop being so anxious that their clients will blame them for choosing the arbitrator if the award is unwelcome. One solution is to have each party appoint an […]

Maggie Rae


Rae is described as ‘the grande dame of divorce’ and dealt with Princess Diana’s divorce, yet she is as grounded as they come. ‘The press is dominated by these big, hugely litigious cases. That’s the impression the public get of what we do and it’s completely wrong because most of our work is settled,’ she says, criticising the abundance of reported cases: ‘I think that is quite wrong. I’m with Mr Justice Mostyn on that.’ Discretion is her valour. She cites a ‘very, very complicated’ case from the last year between a very well-known couple, praising the law-assisted mediation process that kept it out of the news until six months after they’d separated. ‘It was delightful to have been able to have done it in a civilised way. Indeed, the client said how nice it was that they were still talking to each other.’ Rae also chairs Refuge (a charity […]

Barbara Reeves

Mishcon de Reya

‘Tough and thorough,’ peers admire the grit and determination of Mishcon de Reya’s ‘sharp and straight-talking’ partner. Industry experts are similarly enthused, dubbing her a ‘real star’. From surrogacy to same sex-partnerships, Reeves advises on all aspects of private family law, with a particular interest in cases involving non-disclosure and legal enforcement. The quick-witted and incisive lawyer does not shy away from a challenge, as she advises a demanding clientele – entrepreneurs, owners of family businesses, City professionals and the independently wealthy. An active voice in the industry, she is an author and broadcaster on family law issues. When not at work, Reeves is busy collaborating with the Southbank Centre for festivals that help women and girls reach their full potential. She is also a development board member of the youth theatre group at the Young Vic.

Michael Rowlands

Kingsley Napley

Rowlands is an exceptional lawyer, ‘a class operator who always goes the extra mile with clients,’ a peer says. An impressed client echoes this, crediting Rowlands’ ‘patience, great kindness, understanding and communication’ and who, perhaps more importantly, remembers to bring ‘a dose of good humour at a difficult time’. With over 30 years’ experience, the solicitor excels at children disputes, complicated pre-nups, inter-generational wealth and family trusts. Dubbed ‘a superb communicator’, he serves international families and UK expats. Possessing specialist skills in Middle Eastern cases, he is also knowledgeable in US cases. After qualifying at Stitt and Co. in 1986, he headed Cripps Harries Hall’s family team for thirteen years. He joined Kingsley Napley as a partner in 2010.

Rosie Schumm

Wedlake Bell

‘The current court system is paralysed by delays, riddled with uncertainty and generally out of sync with the needs of my HNW clients,’ says Schumm. ‘They want, and deserve a better solution.’ A family lawyer with ten years’ experience, Schumm specialises in complex HNW divorce cases, typically involving trusts, offshore assets and family businesses. An expert in financial and children’s matters, she is also experienced in preparing and negotiating pre- and post-nuptial agreements. One of family law’s new guard, she sees a better way forward: from private negotiation hearings (see page 68) to round-table meetings, from mediation to arbitration, the ‘patchwork quilt’ of resolution methods needs further exploration, she says. ‘The best of us are finding the right, nuanced approach for our clients — which involves being creative and pragmatic.’ But that won’t stop her doing ‘all it takes’ to seal the deal for clients (while keeping ‘everything, as much […]

James Stewart

Penningtons Manches

The head of Penningtons Manches’ family team has built a reputation for cross-jurisdictional cases, and a commercial edge, having begun his career at corporate law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain. He acted for the successful wife in the case of AB v JJB [2015], one of the first reported cases to focus on the English court’s jurisdiction under Article 3 of the European Maintenance Regulation. He also worked on the headline-grabbing AI v MT case, where the judge agreed to recognise a religious ruling — specifically a Jewish Beth Din decision — the first case where a High Court judge delegated authority to a Jewish religious tribunal. A trained arbitrator, he was one of the founders of Collaborative Family Law, an organisation that promotes non-court alternatives in cases involving big money or celebrities.

Catherine Thomas


‘We’ve had a series of really great wins and some incredible settlements,’ Thomas, Vardags’ managing director, says of the year so far. One particular win came ‘on the back of the research that we had put together about the husband’s finances, rather than the information that has been presented to us by him.’ Thomas, who made partner at her previous firm at the tender age of 26, is described by one peer as ‘extremely intelligent’. She credits an in-house research team led by Stephen Bence. ‘It’s excellent,’ she says of the integrated expertise, which has ‘hugely’ benefited Vardags’ cases. She says it is better than ‘instructing an external expert and giving them information cold’. Thomas is particularly proud of the outcome she secured for client Pauline Chai, a former Miss Malaysia, in her divorce. The judge, who called the £440 million case ‘titanic’, gave the husband a 21-day ultimatum to […]

Suzanne Todd


Known as Shere Khan (the tiger in The Jungle Book) to her son’s Scout troop, Todd knows when it’s time to extend or retract her claws to pursue her clients’ interests. Among her peers, she is known for her ‘settlement minded’ attitude and ‘common sense approach’ and is also praised for her ‘contagious energy and ruthless efficiency’. A trained mediator and collaborative lawyer, Todd worked on the reported case of S v P, which created a now widely accepted shortcut to allow agreements reached during a collaborative process to be approved by the court. She also acted for the wife in the Court of Appeal case of Mahon v Mahon, where the husband refused to disclose substantial assets during the litigation. At Withers she acts for a wide range of clients, including landed gentry and movie and sports stars. Fluent in Italian, she has a strong Italian client base and […]

Helen Ward

Stewarts Law

A ‘tigress who never sleeps’ according to peers, the Spear’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner has had another stellar year dealing with a range of cases including a divorce fourteen years after separation, the repayment of a loan to a father-in-law, pre-nups, post-nups, and, in the last few months, Hague Convention proceedings on behalf of Guy Ritchie. Sincere and good-natured, Lady Ward says: ‘One has to be very creative and very persistent in trying to find a creative solution that facilitates a settlement. You have to think round corners and outside the conventional structure.’ She points to one case involving a transatlantic couple where she managed to provide the portions that both parties wanted ‘with some very good strategic tax planning and accommodation of their long-term wishes. It was a really productive, good process.’ Citing the power of ‘subconscious inspiration’, her mind never rests. The IAFL fellow recently organised a seminar […]

Nicholas Westley

Lee & Thompson

‘The older generation are screwing it up,’ Westley says of some veteran divorce solicitors who ‘massively overcharge’. It is ironic in an industry where clients, he says, want better value and are asking: ‘Can you do me a deal? Do you do fixed fees?’ ‘They are seemingly more interested in their own reputation, getting their picture in the Evening Standard with their client, walking to court,’ he says. Short-termist ambition is not viable for younger lawyers: ‘If we just sit there charging the earth and giving people a bad service, people will hate divorce lawyers the same way they hate MPs at the moment — we’ll lose our jobs!’ After eight years in his previous role as a barrister at QEB, Westley moved in 2013 to Lee & Thompson, where he has worked with a spectrum of firms in the industry. A former colleague says he brings ‘the full force […]

Bradley Williams

Family Law in Partnership

‘Gone are the days when super-rich people would come in and instruct lawyers on a huge retainer, and let the lawyers run the case how they want to,’ says Williams. ‘Quite rightly clients now want to be involved in how their case is managed.’ A solicitor, mediator and an arbitrator, the likeable Williams, who has been a partner at the firm since 2009, is an expert in financial remedy, asset quantification, unmarried couples and children’s cases. The German speaker, who also has a degree in German law and Swiss-British nationality, says being a fluid communicator ‘certainly opens doors’. The ‘very determined’ litigator recounts McFarlane v McFarlane, in which he represented a City lawyer who jointly decided with the husband, a top-tier equity partner at Deloitte, to give up her career for their children. She was awarded £250,000, but Williams helped turn it into a sum nearer £400,000 at the High […]

Anna Worwood

Penningtons Manches

‘Sometimes the distance involved in relocating a child within the UK is just as significant as relocating to the north of Europe,’ says Worwood. The Court of Appeal had a similar view in a recent case, where Worwood represented a father in London who wanted to stop the mother moving to Cumbria with the child. Although higher courts would normally only hear relocation cases with an international element, the relocation was stopped and the father was given a residence order on the grounds that both internal and international movements are equally significant. Known by peers for her work on children’s cases, she also advises HNWs on complex financial structures. After focusing on finance and children cases at a Chelmsford law firm, she moved to Manches’ London office (prior to the Penningtons-Manches merger) in 2001, and became a partner in 2005. The skilled solicitor is also the president of the International […]

Toby Yerburgh

Collyer Bristow

The head of family law at Collyer Bristow, Yerburgh enjoys the variety of his work, spanning mediation, litigation and jurisdictions. Perhaps because of this he takes a holistic view, advocating problem avoidance as much as problem solving. That ranges from getting a ‘neutral evaluation’ to resolve a particular point in a marriage breakdown (‘It’s particularly useful for children cases and areas where there is no absolute right answer’, he has previously told Spear’s) – to preventing breakdowns in the first instance with a pre-nup (he’s overseen at least one worth £800 million). The post-nup is also something he advocates, guaranteeing pre-conditioned gifts and avoiding complex trust and tax arrangements.