The Legal 500

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Index of tables

  1. Family
  2. Leading individuals

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP’s ‘immensely experienced team’ is noted for its ‘very broad range of skills and particular expertise in children and money matters’. Recommended individuals include Victoria Francis, who is ‘simply superb’ at handling complex cases with offshore assets and trusts; the ‘phenomenally brightJames Freeman, who has niche expertise in Anglo-French cases; Richard Collins, who is ‘a tough litigator with an excellent bedside manner’; the ‘thoroughSarah Higgins, who is particularly strong on financial applications and civil partnership cases; and Sarah Whitten, who has a ‘first-class brain’.

Dawson Cornwell is renowned for its expertise in international children’s cases of all kinds, whether it be surrogacy, relocation, or forced marriage/stranded spouses, while its breadth of experience in financial matters enables it to act on the full range of cases, from the smallest to the largest. Anne-Marie Hutchinson has ‘near-legendary status’ and Carolina Marín Pedreño is ‘very experienced in international cases at the highest level’. Zoe Fleetwood is ‘very calm and organised’ and Charlotte Conner ‘really doesn ’t miss a trick’ – both are newly promoted partners. Also recommended are Kate Allen, the ‘excellentRhiannon Lewis, and associate Colin Rogerson, who ‘gets to the nub of the issue very quickly’.


Vardags Law

Ayesha Vardag, dubbed by the international and national media ‘Britain’s top divorce lawyer’ and ‘the diva of divorce’, set up this specialist family law firm in 2005. Its trailblazing work has led to a meteoric rise, moving rapidly to be described as a ‘magic circle’ firm and earning its place at the forefront of a new era of intellectually tough, commercially savvy financial law cases, while still retaining its human touch.

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Farrer & Cois strong across the board’, with a particularly strong reputation in high-value ancillary relief following divorce. Simon Bruce is ‘excellent for cases with an international dimension’ and is recommended alongside the ‘very wiseWilliam Massey, Jeremy Posnansky QC, who ‘provides an extraordinary level of care’, and Claire Gordon, who ‘rolls up her sleeves and gets the job done quickly and well’. Sarah Hutchinson is also recommended for her skill in private children disputes and her ‘deep understanding of the emotional as well as the legal aspects of litigation’.

At Hughes Fowler Carruthersthere is no weak link – the whole team impresses’ with its ability to ‘deal with the most complex and highly contentious cases without losing sight of the needs of the client’. Frances Hughes is ‘indomitable and shrewd; you want her in your corner’. Also recommended are Pauline Fowler, who is ‘just superb all round’; Renato Labi, who ‘explains complex issues in a very user-friendly way’; the ‘excellentAlex Carruthers; the ‘totally switched-onCaroline Park; and Mark Harper, who is highly rated for his ‘in-depth knowledge of trusts’.

Mishcon de Reya LLP’s team combines ‘integrity and a client-centric approach to litigating, which ensures that clients feel protected’. The ‘exceptional, dedicated and very knowledgeableSandra Davis heads the team, which frequently acts in the most complex and high-value cases with an international element and involving complicated tax and trust issues. Barbara Reevesalways brings tenacity and intellectual rigour to cases’. The ‘very intelligentMelissa Lesson is also recommended.

Payne Hicks Beachprovides a Rolls-Royce service to each and every client’ and continues to attract a steady stream of work at the highest level of complexity. Key figures include the ‘wise, pragmatic and resolute’ Fiona Shackleton, ‘hugely respected’ Ian Airey, Matthew Booth, who is ‘everything you would want in a family lawyer – unflappable, calm and intelligent’, and the ‘very efficient’ Philip McGuirk, who is singled out for complex, multi-jurisdictional disputes and financial remedy work. The practice’s ‘very talented younger lawyers’ are also singled out for praise.

Stewarts Law LLP’s ‘scarily bright’ team is noted for its knack for ‘unravelling complicated trust structures and assets hidden behind companies’. Stephen Foster is ‘a strong leader who can manage any situation or individual and steer things to a successful outcome’. Also recommended are Debbie Chism and Richard Hogwood, who are ‘very clever’; Emma Hatley, who is ‘as good as you can get’; Helen Ward, who is ‘extremely talented and fiercely loyal to her clients’; Sam Longworth, who stays ‘very calm under pressure’; and Matthew Humphries, who is ‘excellent at tracing the money’. Toby Atkinson joined the team from Charles Russell Speechlys LLP.

Withers LLP has ‘real strength in depth, both at partner and assistant level’, giving the team the notable ability to deftly handle several large cases at once. Diana Parkerbrings matters to a swift conclusion’ and Julian Lipson is ‘in command of every detail of the case while maintaining a clear tactical overview’. The ‘hardworkingSuzanne Todd provides ‘excellent support to clients’ and Suzanne Kingston a ‘very skilled litigator’. Special counsel Lisa Fabian Lustigman can produce ‘timely and accurate advice at a minute’s notice’. Newly promoted partner Brett Frankle has ‘a bright future ahead of him’.

Alexiou Fisher Philipps is ‘an excellent boutique practice with a high level of skill amongst its practitioners’. The ‘caringSara Hannell has ‘a razor-sharp and analytical mind’ and the ‘very sensibleEmma Harte has ‘excellent judgement’. Susan Philipps is ‘very hands on’ and Magnus Mill is noted for his ‘knack for securing the best outcome for clients’. Tom Amlot is ‘very focused and effective’ and Douglas Alexiou is ‘a wise elder statesman’.

Clintons fields a team of ‘great solicitors who resolve issues in a pragmatic, intelligent and cost-effective way’. Paul Newton garners praise for his ‘meticulous attention to detail and brilliance at handling complex and high-value matters’, as does the ‘excellent’ Maggie Rae. Also recommended are the ‘very able’ Liz Vernon; Patrick Kearns, who is ‘determined to secure the best outcome for his clients’; the ‘very experienced and empathetic’ Catherine Bell; and associate Frances Petterson, who has ‘wisdom beyond her years’.

Family Law in Partnership Ltd’s ‘great team’ attracts praise for its ‘focus on out-of-court solutions’. The ‘hugely knowledgeableJames Pirrie is recommended alongside the ‘sympatheticGillian Bishop, who adopts ‘a no-nonsense approach’; the ‘tenacious yet realisticBradley Williams; the ‘very cleverDavid Allison; and Daniel Coombes. Ann Northover joined from Forsters LLP.

Hunters Incorporating May, May & Merrimans has ‘an outstanding team that places strategic advice, client care and thorough preparation at the top of its list of priorities’. Henry Hood has ‘the Midas touch on high-value cases’ and Richard Kershaw’s ‘tactical and negotiation skills are second to none’. Hazel Wrightreally knows what she is talking about’. The ‘extremely ableJo Carr-West was promoted to partner.

Kingsley Napley LLP frequently advises high-net-worth individuals on matrimonial finance, prenuptial agreements and cross-border children matters. The ‘very wise and experiencedCharlotte Bradley heads the team, which includes the ‘very sensibleJane Keir, and Michael Rowlands, who has the ‘sharpest of brains and works tirelessly for his clients’. Also recommended are William Healing, who is strong on advising on foreign law issues, Claire Wood, who is noted for her ‘exceptional capacity for hard work’ and is recommended for matrimonial finance and surrogacy.

Levison Meltzer Pigotttakes excellent care of its clients, has superb technical knowledge and provides a cost-effective service’. The ‘very impressiveSimon Pigott and Julian Ribetrelish the difficult cases and get results’ and the ‘pragmaticNicola Fletcher has a ‘good eye for detail’. Alistair Myles is ‘clever and approachable’ and Amanda Andrews is ‘balanced and calm’. Alison Hayes is ‘technically brilliant’. The firm has particular expertise in complex financial and international cases.

Penningtons Manches LLP regularly handles complex cases involving high-net-worth individuals often with an international dimension. Anna Worwood is known for her ‘exceptional children work’, and Gillian Rivers has ‘a wholesome mix of common sense together with vast knowledge’. Jane Craig and James Stewart are ‘passionate about giving their clients the best possible service’. Simon Blain and ‘extremely diligent and exceptionally pragmaticRebecca Carlyon are also recommended.

Russell-Cooke LLP provides ‘clear, pragmatic and quick’ advice. The team is ‘equally at ease with ultra-high-net-worth individuals, as well as individuals with very little money’. Kate Hamilton ‘combines legal experience with emotional intelligence’, and Fiona Read is praised for ‘getting the job done quickly and cost-effectively’. Other key figures include the ‘very knowledgeable’ James Carroll, Sarah Richardson, who is ‘great with tricky parent clients in public law cases’, Samantha Little, who has ‘vast experience of complex children cases’, and Camilla Thornton.

Vardags acts in high-value cases and is frequently involved in multi-jurisdictional disputes. Ayesha Vardag is recommended alongside Simon McKirgan and Catherine Thomas, who are ‘first-class family lawyers with excellent client and case management skills’, and Arron Bortoft, who ‘represents each client with dogged determination and is not afraid to give robust advice when needed’.

Bindmans LLP’s ‘excellent family law practice’ is especially active in international and children cases. At the helm are the ‘very bright and ableFarhana Shahzady and the ‘knowledgeable and experiencedFlora Grossman, who ‘put their clients at ease’. The ‘assured and always well-prepared’ Amy Rowe is adept at handling complex international issues and the ‘pragmatic’ Liz Dronfield is recommended for her experience in children matters.

Boodle Hatfield LLP provides a ‘very personal and high-quality service, which stands shoulder to shoulder with the larger Magic Circle firms’, and which is especially rated for its ‘high-quality matrimonial finance work. Barbara Simpson has a ‘wealth of experience and knowledge’ and associate Harriet Errington is a ‘true rising star’ – both are recommended for their ancillary relief work. Clients include a number of international sportsmen.

Camilla Baldwin is a boutique practice that is singled out for its ‘immaculate level of service and advice’, as well as its ‘skill at handling high-value and complex cases with great success’. Camilla Baldwin is ‘warm and clever; even in the darkest hours of divorce she will get people through it with good spirit’. Henrietta Thomas is also recommended.

At Collyer Bristow LLP, Toby Yerburgh and Michael Drake are ‘level-headed and can reach a deal with the minimum of fuss’. Other key figures in the ‘exceptionally competent and dedicated team’ include Susan Breen, who ‘develops a rapport very quickly with her clients’; Philippa Dolan, who ‘works collaboratively’; and ‘thorough’ senior associate Mark Harrop.

Shona Alexander* heads the team at Forsters LLP and specialises in high-net-worth financial cases with a cross-border component. The ‘approachable’ Joanne Edwards is skilled at advising wealthy individuals on issues that arise in the aftermath of relationship breakdown. Ann Northover is now at Family Law in Partnership Ltd. *Shona Alexander joined Charles Russell Speechlys LLP's Guildford office in May 2016.

Goodman Raycontinues to have a very strong presence in children’s cases, and its financial provision practice is also strong’. Jemma Dally is ‘a real problem solver’ and is particularly excellent on surrogacy and adoption. Trudi Feathertone ‘works tirelessly for her clients to secure the best possible outcome’, as does Peggy Ray, who gives ‘110% to her cases’.

Harbottle & Lewis LLP is ‘particularly well known for its representation of sports people and clients in the media and entertainment industry’. Team head Tom Farley-Hills is ‘as comfortable litigating as he is negotiating, mediating or arbitrating’. Linzi Bull is ‘a highly impressive family lawyer with terrific client skills’.

Harcus Sinclair LLP is ‘a blue-chip firm with traditional values but a modern approach’, and provides ‘a highly bespoke service’. The practice is skilled at advising high-net-worth individuals on complex financial issues across multiple jurisdictions. Kathryn Peat heads the team and ‘will always go that extra mile for clients’.

Irwin Mitchell’s ‘great team’ is noted for its ‘very modern approach’ and for its work on complex financial applications, often with international trust and property issues. It is also ‘well placed to deal with heavy and complex litigation’. Elizabeth Hicks has ‘lots of energy and is hugely committed to her clients’, and Ursula Danagher has ‘amassed extensive knowledge which she deploys in her cases with confidence’. The team at a more junior level is also ‘first-class’. The firm combined with Thomas Eggar in 2015, further strengthening its capability in this area.

At Lee & Thompson LLP, Catherine Bedford (‘charming, clever and tenacious; her clients all love her’) heads a ‘very impressive team’ that includes newly promoted partner Mark Irving, who is ‘great with clients’, and the ‘very cleverNicholas Westley.

Miles Preston & Co is recommended for its work with children and for divorce, relationship breakdown and pre- and post-nuptial agreements. Key figures include Julia Stanczyk and Rachel Freeman, who are Resolution Accredited specialists, and Miles Preston.

The International Family Law Group LLP advises on the full spectrum of issues and provides ‘a quick, efficient and accurate service’. The team, which is ‘particularly well regarded for cases with a difficult international aspect’, includes associate Mandeep Gill, who is ‘very experienced in international disputes’, and the ‘fiercely intelligentHelen Blackburn. Also recommended are the ‘very knowledgeable and thoroughLucy Greenwood; Ann Thomas, who ‘always seeks to achieve the best outcome for her clients’; and David Hodson, who ‘really knows his stuff’.

Anthony Gold’s ‘strong and well-respected team’ is led by the ‘excellentKim Beatson and includes the ‘experienced’ David Emmerson, who joined from TV Edwards LLP, and Margaret Hatwood, who is skilled at handling cases with offshore trusts.

Bross Bennett is a boutique practice that provides ‘a quality service at a sensible price’. Sharon Bennett is ‘sympathetic with her clients and adopts a no-nonsense approach with her opponents’ and Ruth Bross is ‘totally committed to her clients’. The ‘exceptionally experienced’ Lea Harris and ‘knowledgeable and sensibleAnna Wagstaff are also recommended.

Fisher Meredith LLP is ‘an excellent firm with real strength and depth’. Practice head Eileen Pembridge is singled out for her ‘determination to secure the best outcome for her clients’. Also recommended are David Hodgson, who ‘leaves no stone unturned’, and the ‘collaborativeLouise Barretto, who ‘fights hard for her clients’.

Freemans Solicitors fields a team of ‘high-quality practitioners with a raft of experience on which to draw’, and which has ‘now firmly established itself among the big hitters on international children cases’. ‘Very committed’ associate Hilka Hollmann is especially rated for her work on international adoptions, and team head Nina Hansen is ‘a class act on children cases’. Other standout associates include the ‘very caring and bright’ Maria Wright, and Laura Coyle, who ‘always goes that extra mile for clients’.

Gordon Dadds has considerable experience dealing with divorces and cohabitation disputes in addition to pre- and post-nuptial agreements. John Burrell is skilled at advising on child arrangements and David Ruck advises on significant financial matters (often with an international context) following relationship breakdown.

Hodge Jones & Allen LLP has a strong public law practice that includes Laila Bhunnoo, who provides ‘excellent representation of parents and children in care proceedings’, and Jacqueline Major, who joined from Winckworth Sherwood LLP and is ‘very experienced’ in all aspects of privately funded family work.

Miles & Partners LLP’s ‘exceptional’ practice is singled out for its strength in children public law work and for its abduction expertise. Standout team members include Sarah Cove and Kate Hammond, who are ‘kind and intelligent’; solicitor Stephen Talbot, who has ‘an encyclopaedic knowledge of financial remedies’; the ‘calm and insightful’ Amanda Dench; and Michelle Uppal, who ‘really cares about reducing the animosity between the parties’.

Mills & Reeve LLP fields a team of ‘excellent lawyers who manage clients ’ expectations brilliantly’ and which ‘offers a London service at non-London prices’. Cambridge-based Caitlin Jenkins is ‘superb on detail and can always see the bigger picture’, and Joanna Grandfield is ‘clearly at ease with handling complex matters, while always putting the client at the forefront of every case’.

The five-partner practice at Osbornes is strong across the board, with particular experience in high-value financial litigation with a cross-border element, complex cohabitation issues, and private law children’s matters. Bridget Thompson heads the team, which includes ‘experienced’ practitioners Lisa Pepper and Mark Freedman.

Pinsent Masons LLP is noted for its ability to ‘handle family law cases of the greatest complexity at a level that matches and often surpasses the self-styled specialist firms’. The practice is led by the ‘exceptionally hardworking’ Michael Pulford, who ‘thinks outside the box’. Senior associate Kate Francis is singled out for her ‘breath-taking efficiency’.

RadcliffesLeBrasseur is ‘an all-round excellent private client firm, and for family law matters it cannot be praised enough’. The practice is led by the ‘really efficientCaroline Penfold, who is ‘highly thought of by senior counsel and the judiciary, and is excellent with clients’. ‘Very capable’ associate Carina Smith is also recommended.

Schillings’ ‘dynamic team’ advises on the full range of family law matters. The practice is headed by the ‘personable, intelligent and very commercial’ Davina Katz and has ‘an excellent reputation for understanding its clients ’ needs and handling high-profile and complex cases’. Clients include Dale Vince OBE.

At Sears Tooth Susan Apthorp and Raymond Tooth act for UK-based and international high-net-worth individuals.

Seddons is recommended for its work on complex financial disputes between divorced and cohabitating couples, often involving cross-jurisdictional issues. Deborah Jeff heads the team which welcomed the ‘reliable and very competentToby Hales to its ranks from Hodge Jones & Allen LLP.

TV Edwards LLP’s wide-ranging practice handles all aspects of children law and financial remedy work. Key individuals include the ‘very responsive’ Maud Davis; Alison Leivesley, who is ‘totally committed to her clients’; and Hannah Perry, who has strength in public law children proceedings.

For some, Vaitilingam Kay continues to be the ‘best new boutique family firm on the block and is as good if not better than many of the long-established boutique firms’. Joe Vaitilingam is ‘a master tactician who wins cases’, and Anne Kay has ‘an excellent instinctive feel for her cases’.

Wedlake Bell LLP’s ‘well-organised and client-focused’ practice includes Charmaine Hast, who has ‘a wealth of experience, which she delivers in spades to her clients’. The ‘very practicalConrad Adam is also recommended.

Winckworth Sherwood LLP’s ‘thorough and conscientious’ team includes the ‘excellentEmily Brand and senior associate Katie Spooner; both attract praise for their ‘wonderful personal touch with clients’.

At Bircham Dyson Bell Siân Jones is skilled at advising on the financial aspects of high-value cases with an international component. Lisa Bolgar Smith ‘fights hard for her clients’.

Burges Salmon LLP is ‘already a major player in the West Country and has successfully gained a significant foothold in London’. The ‘excellent and efficientSarah Woodsford and the ‘wise and calmCatherine Hallam are recommended.

Burgess Mee Family Law is ‘an excellent niche firm with intelligent and fair lawyers who go the extra mile and have the personal touch’. Founding partners Peter Burgess and Antonia Mee are recommended.

Covent Garden Family Law is recommended for its children work and advice to same-sex couples. Haema Sundram is the name to note.

Mary-Ann Wright leads the team at DWF and handles high-value matters – often with a cross-border element – for high-net-worth individuals.

DWFM Beckman is noted for his ‘excellent handling of big-money international cases well’. Team head Sofia Dionissiou-Moussaoui has ‘excellent judgement and puts her clients at ease’.

Fladgate LLP is singled out for its ‘excellent handling of high-net-worth finance and private children law matters’. Teresa Cullenlooks after her clients very well’.

Howard Kennedy LLPis doing really good work on high-value matters for high-profile clients’. The ‘very wise and practical Alan Kaufman and the ‘excellentLois Langton (who is very strong on surrogacy matters) are recommended. Juliette Peters and Jay Patel joined Shoosmiths LLP.

Ketley Miller Joels Ltd is ‘an excellent all-round family law firm that provides a high-quality service’. Clients recommend Clayton Miller, who stays ‘fantastically calm under fire’; the ‘immensely ablePhilip Cooper; and associate solicitor Laura Brown, who is ‘quick and wise’.

Natalie Gamble Associates provides ‘an outstanding, personal and sincere service’. The firm is a ‘top firm for same-sex couples’ and is highly recommended for its work on assisted reproduction and international surrogacy. Natalie Gamble is ‘extremely knowledgeable and really cares’.

Russells Solicitors acts for a number of celebrity clients. Carol Ellinasprefers to work collaboratively as opposed to an adversarial approach, but she is also very strong in court when needed’.

Sheridans has a ‘sure-footed team that provides excellent advice’ to its predominantly media-related clients. Andrea Plum ‘really knows her stuff and gets the job done’.

Simons Muirhead & Burton provides ‘an excellent service in all aspects of divorce, especially those with an international component’. Jane McDonagh is ‘brilliant and charming’ and Lara Wulwik is ‘very bright’.

Slater and Gordon’s team is ‘a slick, well-run machine that still has the personal touch’. Rupi Rai is recommended.

Venters Solicitors fields a team of ‘public law experts’ including Denise Hoilette, who is very well regarded for her care work and is a ‘highly experienced advocate’. June Venters QC is also recommended.

At A City Law Firm Ltd Andrew Spearman is recommended for his work on surrogacy law and is ‘incredibly professional and empathetic’.

Brookman Solicitors is praised for its ‘total transparency on costs and its precise answers’. Talitha Brookman and Aziz Malik are recommended.

Burke Niazi Solicitors & Advocates is strong on all aspects of family law from care, abduction and finance to private law proceedings. The ‘calm’ Stephanie Marshall and David Marcus are ‘excellent advocates’.

DMH Stallard LLP provides ‘robust and cost-effective advice’. David Leadercramer is ‘a very fine solicitor indeed’.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors has particular expertise representing divorce abuse victims under legal aid and has niche experience in Islamic divorce. Adeeba Naseem is ‘extremely helpful’.

Edwards Duthie’s ‘hardworking team is devoted to each and every client’ and has particular experience in issues involving children. Rajinder Garvey is recommended.

Edward Hayes Lawyers is recommended for its work in serious injury/abuse cases and public law children matters. Christopher Hayes and Stephanie Dew are ‘very able’ and are recommended alongside the ‘very hardworking’ Helen Fitzsimons.

GT Stewart Solicitors & Advocates is a ‘forward-thinking’ firm that undertakes a broad mix of public and private work. Geoffrey Castello is ‘knowledgeable’.

Grayfords Law Limited’s ‘responsive team answers questions succinctly’. Sheata Karim is ‘very efficient’.

HKH Kenwright & Cox is very experienced in childcare law and Shari’ah law. Solicitor Surinder Chana and Aisha Jamil are recommended.

Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitorsdefines what a good firm should be’. Sarah Beskine and Barbara Hopkin are ‘practical, deeply committed and very skilled’.

Josiah-Lake Gardiner Solicitors’ ‘very efficient’ team includes the ‘very personable’ Margaret Kelly and Rebecca Gardiner, who ‘takes very good care of her clients’.

McMillan Williams fields ‘very effective advocates for children law’. Nicola Jones-King is ‘extremely experienced and entirely focused on assisting her clients to achieve the best outcome’.

Michelmores LLP’s clients ‘feel that they are in very safe hands’. Louisa Ghevaert is ‘enormously knowledgeable about surrogacy law’.

Nockolds Solicitors fields three collaborative lawyers. Lynn Cowley and Peter Dodd are well regarded.

Philcox Gray & Co has six Children Panel members. Joint heads of team Beverley King and Sheila Donn are recommended.

Simpson Millar LLP handles divorce and financial remedy matters. Victoria Walker is a key contact.

Joanna Pratt at Thomson Snell & Passmore specialises in high-net-worth financial cases.

At Wilson Solicitors LLP the ‘excellent Aysen Soyer and Patricia Beckett are both ‘able to quickly identify the key point in each case’.

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