Stephen Foster On Helen Ward's Surprise Move to Stewarts Law - Spear's Magazine

Stephen Foster On Helen Ward's Surprise Move to Stewarts Law

Stephen Foster, head of family at Stewarts Law, talks to Freddy Barker about the imminent arrival of Helen Ward

Stephen Foster, head of family at Stewarts Law, talks to Freddy Barker about the imminent arrival of Helen Ward
 
  
Freddy Barker: How did you transform Stewarts’ family department from a two person team in 2006 to a 30 strong team in 2012 capable of attracting one of the top lawyers in the land?

Stephen Foster: Within 18 months of the department’s launch, the legal directories were commenting that in a short space of time we had attracted some of the best work London had to offer.  Given the quality of our client base, it was no surprise that we aroused the interest of the most ambitious of the top quality family lawyers at all levels, who were keen to become a part of what was seen as a new and exciting department.

We took a huge step forward in 2009, when we recruited Debbie Chism from Manches and Emma Hatley from Withers. Both were seen as rising stars and three years on are now regarded as two of the very best family lawyers in London, fantastically capable and a magnet for high quality referrals.

We have also taken great care to nurture our own homegrown talent at all levels, we have some excellent young solicitors coming through. You mustn’t forget that we are no longer the new kids on the block and our senior associates, Sam Longworth and Matt Humphries, have developed into key players in their own right.

When you consider that we’ve been a top ranked firm for the past two years and we’ve grown into a team of well over 20 from a standing start six years ago, Helen joining us was a logical next step.

FB: Helen Ward would have been welcome at every family firm in London. Why did she join Stewarts Law?

SF: You’ll have to ask Helen that when she joins in November! More seriously, I think Helen was impressed by our rapid progress and the fact that we’ve developed into one of the top two or three divorce practices in London.

FB: Approaching the end of her career, will she be a figurehead or a front-line practitioner?

SF: Helen Ward attracts more high-asset divorce work than any other solicitor in London. She has a ferocious appetite for work and is nowhere near the end of her career – in fact she’s in her prime.

FB: What are the strengths and weaknesses of the department?

SF: Even without Helen, I think our department has established one of the top batting orders in London and the quality of the young lawyers we are training is a huge plus point.

As a litigation-only firm, we have been free to develop key strategic partnerships with the leading City commercial and private client departments. We have been instructed on some of the largest and most complex cases before the English Court and we have a reputation for resolving these swiftly on the best terms that can reasonably be agreed.

That said, life at Stewarts Law is a continual search for improvement, the dynamism of the firm rubs off on all our practice areas. If ever I get complacent, a glance around the partnership table brings me down to earth.

Innovation is one of our core values and this is well demonstrated by us creating the only truly claimant aviation practice in Europe and more recently by our embrace of securities and anti-trust litigation in the UK and US (with the opening of offices in New York and Delaware) for major institutional investors and FTSE100 clients. So, however successful we have been as a Divorce and Family Department, there is absolutely no room at all for complacency.

FB: What targets have you set for five years time?

SF: When I started at Stewarts Law, my brief was to create the best divorce and family practice in London. In many ways the progress of the department mirrors that of the firm. Six years ago, the firm had a turnover of £6 million, whereas last year our turnover had risen to £35 million and we are budgeting £40 million this year.  We are the largest litigation-only law firm in the UK and, with an increase in turnover of 20% year on year, are the fastest growing UK law firm.

London has become a focus for international divorce work, reaching all the corners of the globe. I see great opportunities by this creeping internationalisation of divorce work. I would like to build on our reputation as the ‘firm of choice’ for complex high-asset divorce work. We will continue to employ our practical and down-to-earth advice allied to technical excellence in all we do.  

It’s a simple proposition really: we want to leverage the skills of the team we build up to solve the often complex issues arising from the needs of our clients.  If we keep focusing on our clients’ needs, we can’t go far wrong!
 
Read more by Freddy Barker

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