Top Ten Family Lawyers
‘Frances is a fighter,’ says a contemporary. It’s a word used often about Hughes, but in her meeting with Spear’s her calm and gentle manner is different from what one would have expected, given her reputation for fierce litigation prowess.
A solicitor of 36 years’ standing, the founding partner of HFC has had a ‘fantastically busy’ twelve months, including the leviathan six-month-long case Estrada v Juffali, in which her socialite client was awarded ‘the highest calibration of reasonable need’ by an English court. It was a success in a case of immense complexity, in which the husband was a billionaire sheikh with diplomatic immunity who was also on his deathbed. ‘If he had died at any point she’d have had no claims,’ Hughes says of her client. But cooperation between judges resulted in a timely judgement: ‘The speed with which we got through that process was very unusual,’ she recalls.
Hughes observes changing trends in her profession. ‘When I started out, family lawyers were beginning to differentiate themselves from commercial lawyers; all the lawyers we came across knew a lot about litigation and not very much about family law or family dynamics,’ she says. ‘Now I think it’s slightly reversed — there are quite a lot of lawyers who are a bit unused to litigation.’
Beyond the law, Hughes is an RSA fellow who plays viola in a string quartet. She is also involved in the charity Poet in the City.