The Legal 500


United Kingdom > London > Private client > Family


Index of tables

  1. Family
  2. Leading individuals

Farrer & Co is noted for its ‘old-school approach’ and cross-departmental strength. Simon Bruce is ‘clever and hardworking’; William Massey is ‘well liked by clients and peers’; Toby Graham ‘marries knowledge of trusts law with superb client care’; and Jeremy Posnansky QC is ‘very sound on the law’. The firm recently acted for the wife in the high-profile Prest v Prest, a case involving $17.5m assets and significant issues of company-owned property in the divorce context which was heard by the Supreme Court in March 2013.

Hughes Fowler Carruthers’ boutique practice is built around the superb reputation of Frances Hughes, who is ‘an outstanding tactician and a fearless litigator, who settles cases where necessary’. The firm regularly acts in reported cases, with examples including Imerman v Tchenguiz. Numerous other lawyers attract praise: Pauline Fowler is ‘intelligent and warm’; Alex Carruthers is ‘especially shrewd’; Ann Ison is ‘a natural’; Renato Labi is ‘the perfect choice for complex offshore trust disclosure’; and Joe Vaitilingammanages client expectations superbly’.

Payne Hicks Beach’s practice centres on Fiona Shackleton, who is ‘one of the pre-eminent solicitors of her generation. What makes her unique is that whether her client is a household name or otherwise, she makes the client feel theirs is her only case’. Fiona Brown is another ‘star of the show’, and ‘an unbelievable cruncher of documents’. Practice head Ian Airey also has a superb reputation. Recent reported cases include Riding v Riding, MA-H v ZS, and R v R, and the firm also has a great pedigree in high-end pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Stewarts Law LLP, even before the recent arrival of Helen Ward from Manches LLP, was ‘showing signs of emerging from the pack just below the elite, and her move has been a great coup’. The particular strength of the trio of Ward, Debbie Chism and Emma Hatley is ‘the synergy between them; one feature that they share is their determination to achieve the best outcome for their clients’. The ‘calm, unflappableStephen Foster heads the team.

Withers LLPhas long been a top-flight firm’, and has great strength in depth; Diana Parker, Gill Doran, Julian Lipson and Mark Harper are all ‘excellent practitioners’. The firm’s reach across many jurisdictions, and its strength in related areas such as private client and tax, make it ideal for complex cross-border family matters with complex trust elements. The ‘quietly brilliantMichael Gouriet is recommended for complex cross-border matters involving children; Suzanne Kingston is highly respected for ADR; and Claire Blakemorehas made the transition to partner with great style’.

Numerous lawyers at Alexiou Fisher Philipps attract praise: Douglas Alexiou is ‘experienced, and looks after his clients’; Jeremy Fishergives no-nonsense advice’; Sara Hannell is ‘energetic’; and Tom Amlot is ‘highly capable’. The firm acted for the respondent in Prest v Prest, and also represents senior figures in the media and banking industries. Emma Harte is well regarded for mediation, and Susan Philipps also has a superb reputation.

Charles Russell LLP is particularly noted for its strength in depth: practice head Sarah Higgins is ‘unshakeable’; William Longrigg is ‘a deft hand’; Erica Shelton has ‘a first-class legal brain’; mediation and collaborative law specialist Sarah Anticoni is ‘brilliant with clients’; children law specialist Tanya Roberts is ‘measured and sensible’; James Riby is an ‘exceptionally able young lawyer’; Sarah Whitten is ‘one of the best lawyers of her generation’; Miranda Fisher is ‘charming’; and Grant Howell is ‘tactically astute’. In 2012, Higgins advised Peter Lawrence in the first significant civil partnership case to reach the Court of Appeal.

Family Law in Partnership LLP is noted for its ‘mature, collaborative approach’ to family disputes. Gillian Bishop has ‘huge experience and finely tuned judgement’; James Pirrie has ‘a prodigious work rate, and devours complex cases’; Daniel Coombes is ‘patient and committed’; Bradley Williams is ‘precociously talented’; and David Allison has ‘insight and quiet authority’.

Kingsley Napley LLP is ‘a standout firm’, with Jane Keir’s promotion to senior partner ‘emphasising the importance of family law at the firm’. It has a cutting-edge children practice and regularly appears in reported cases; ‘clever and confident’ new practice head Charlotte Bradley recently acted in Re S. Michael Rowlands has a heavyweight ancillary relief practice, and is ‘steely’. William Healinghas carved out a niche in cases with a French element’.

Leading boutiqueLevison Meltzer Pigottproduces high-quality work’ in an atmosphere of ‘infectious family spirit’. Jeremy Levison and Simon Pigott are ‘not averse to giving unpalatable advice, but neither shrinks from litigation’. The firm recently advised in relation to matrimonial assets in the tens of millions, and has expertise in complex matters such as occupation order proceedings, and contested Children Act proceedings involving alcohol misuse. Alison Hayes is ‘a superb divorce lawyer’.

At Manches LLP, Anna Worwood, Rebecca Cockcroft and Rebecca Carlyon are all a new breed of excellent partners’. Worwood is singled out as having ‘an exceptional ability in international children cases’, and James Stewart and Caroline East are noted for their sensitivity. While the firm will miss Helen Ward following her move to Stewarts Law LLP, it ‘has moved to the next phase and the departure has allowed younger dynamic partners to grow in stature.

Mishcon de Reya draws on the combined talents of David Lister, who ‘can handle any crisis’, and Sandra Davis, who is ‘an excellent lawyer to have on your side’. The firm is noted for its ‘entrepreneurial edge’, and its ability to leverage its New York team in high-net-worth matters. Recent reported cases include Re E (Children), an international child abduction case before the Supreme Court, and anti-arbitration injunction case T v T before the High Court. Barbara Reeves, Melissa Lesson and legal director Miles Geffin are also highly recommended.

Bindmans LLP is ‘outstanding in all areas of child law’, with Katherine Gieve is ‘one of the top names’ in the area. Also recommended are Janet Broadly, who is ‘first rate’, and Melanie Hay, who ‘always has clients ’ interests at heart’. Associate Liz Dronfield is ‘outstanding for public law children work’ and often appears before the Supreme Court; and solicitor Amy Rowe is developing ‘an excellent reputation’ in international child abduction matters.

Boodle Hatfield LLP is ‘an increasing presence in the financial remedies field, and has recently been involved in some very significant cases’. It acted for the applicant civil partner in Lawrence v Gallagher, the first civil partnership financial relief proceedings to reach the High Court and the Court of Appeal. James Ferguson has ‘good judgement, and is an excellent letter writer’; and assistant Katie O’Callaghan ‘will go far’. Christopher Butler recently joined from Speechly Bircham LLP.

Clintons is ‘especially dynamic and forward-thinking’. Consultant Maggie Rae is recommended for high-value financial remedy instructions. Catherine Bell ‘really gets things done for her clients’; Paul Newton ‘keeps the client’s feet on the ground’; and Patrick Kearns is ‘a calming influence on clients’.

Collyer Bristow LLP’s practice head Toby Yerburghsensitively and professionally’ conducts high-asset work, often with US and Swiss elements. Gillian Rivers moved to Penningtons Solicitors LLP in 2012.

Dawson Cornwellmakes regular Court of Appeal and Supreme Court appearances in leading international children cases, and has a huge presence’. Anne-Marie Hutchinson is ‘one of the leading matrimonial lawyers of our time’; Kate Allen’s ‘response times couldn ’t be better’; solicitor Colin Rogerson is ‘the “go-to” lawyer for surrogacy’; and solicitor Olivia Piercy ‘works non-stop’.

The ‘incisiveAnn Northover’s team at Forsters LLP is ‘outstanding’. The firm handles a range of high-asset financial remedy cases, often with complex trust and pensions aspects, as well as pre-nuptial agreements with shari’ah elements. Shona Alexander specialises in multi-jurisdictional cases. Solicitor and mediator Spencer Clarke is ‘on top of every case’.

With a seven-strong team in London and significant regional resources, Irwin Mitchell provides a ‘superb’ service, acting for clients including entrepreneurs, professionals, and high-profile individuals. Elizabeth Hicks has ‘an astonishing work ethic’. John Nicholson is recommended for complex UK-Swiss matters, and is well versed in Treaty of Lugano technicalities.

Russell-Cooke LLP is ‘pre-eminent in an area where changes in family law demand an increasing range of creative and cost-effective responses. Key figures include Fiona Read, Therese Nichols, James Carroll, Camilla Thornton and Samantha Little. Little is ‘one of London’s “go-to” specialists for complex children’s issues’, and Carroll is ‘an exceptional talent’.

In addition to seeing an increase in cases out of Russia, Sears Tooth has been active in landmark cases such as 2012’s Sharbatly v Shagroon, in which Susan Apthorp acted for the Saudi wife; the case established that those who have entered religious marriages which fail to comply with the Marriage Act cannot obtain financial provision upon divorce. Raymond Tooth has a superb reputation.

Anthony Gold’s four-partner team is led by the ‘absolutely first-rateKim Beatson, who is well versed in collaborative law and is also experienced in complex children litigation, including leave to remove and child abduction matters. Camilla Fuscoworks relentlessly to minimise conflict’.

Camilla Baldwin is a ‘first-class niche practice which serves the market of high-net-worth clients extremely well’. The firm’s work is distinctly international in nature, with recent instructions involving the US, Australia, Hong Kong, Russia and India. Name partner Camilla Baldwin has a superb reputation, as has Rosie Schumm.

Goodman Ray is ‘one of the best child law focused firms in the country’, and has seen an increase in Hague Convention and Brussels IIR matters. Peggy Ray is ‘an undoubted leader in her field’. Ann Thompson, Hilka Hollmann and Kevin Skinner are ‘all excellent, and go the extra mile’. Trudi Featherstone leads on the finance side.

Gordon Dadds is ‘long-established and professional, with a high level of integrity’; David Ruck and Anna Wagstaf, in particular, are ‘highly experienced; working with them is a constructive and productive process’. Naim Qureshi has a growing reputation.

Roger Cobden-Ramsay and Kathryn Peat are the names to note at Harcus Sinclair. Cobden-Ramsay handles high-value, often multi-jurisdictional work, while Peat is very active in children matters, including Schedule 1 financial applications.

Hodge Jones & Allen LLP is ‘still best known for its childcare work, but is developing a reputation in financial remedy cases’, where Toby Hales and Sally Parsloeboth act with integrity and fairness, and protect their clients’. Children specialist Susan Breen is ‘not afraid to give strong advice’.

Hunters is ‘extremely strong in family law, and in particular in high-net-worth matrimonial finance cases’. Graeme Fraser is ‘excellent to work with, and has a very sound grasp of legal principles’; and Henry Hoodlistens to the client’s needs and responds accordingly’.

Lee & Thompson LLP’s Catherine Bedfordhas propelled the firm into the front line of niche family law firms’, and is ‘a first-class divorce lawyer’. The firm is noted for its practice advising high-profile music industry and banking sector clients. Nicholas Westley is ‘excellent’.

Miles Preston & Co is a niche practice built around the complementary skills of ‘thoroughly charming’ name partner Miles Preston and Julia Stanczyk. The firm handles the range of matrimonial matters, from high-value financial remedy work to children and paternity disputes.

Osbornes handles an impressive mix of work, and is ‘rated highly’. Mark Freedman and Simone McGrathknow how to litigate family cases effectively’; and Lisa Pepper is a ‘strong collaborative lawyer’. Julian Beard is recommended for complex financial cases; Andrew Watson has notable expertise in intricate areas such as confiscation and non-disclosure; and consultant Naomi Angell is the contact for adoption issues.

Schillings’ ‘family department is rising exponentially. Its lawyers are hard hitters who are not afraid to take a case and run with it’. Practice head Davina Hay, ‘an undoubted force for the future’, was recently successful before the Court of Appeal, achieving the strikeout of a claim by the ex-wife of client Dale Vince as an abuse of process. David Greer ‘brings clients into the fold’.

Speechly Bircham LLP’s James Freeman is ‘one of the best family lawyers to work with’, and handles major work for ultra-high-net-worth individuals in property and sport. Victoria Francisgets to the heart of the issue’, and was promoted to the partnership in November 2012.

Vardagsreceives cases which one would normally expect to see handled by “Magic Circle” firms’. Ayesha Vardag is ‘the main name’; Katie Spooner is ‘tough and pragmatic’, and Sarah Foreman ‘is going to be a star’. The practice is expanding at a tremendous rate, currently numbering over 30 fee-earners.

Ambrose Appelbe is ‘discreet and strong’, but handles matters ‘without drama’. In 2012, the firm acted in a number of high-value cases, some involving £100m in assets, as well as complex emergency applications and cross-border children matters. Lisa Bolgar Smith is ‘a grande dame of family law’.

Siân Jones heads the ‘top-class’ team at Bircham Dyson Bell, which draws on the firm’s strength across the board in private client. Its work is often international, with its caseload in 2012 including notable instructions involving Sweden, the US and France. Jones is ‘an excellent person to have on your side’.

CKFT’s seven-strong team ‘punches above its weight’, with Pam Collis an ‘outstanding practitioner who attracts work from the City’. Fiona Turner left the firm in 2013 for Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office.

Covent Garden Family Law is ‘a niche firm which tackles all areas of family law with commitment and skill which put bigger firms to shame’. Alison Burt ‘has a grasp of all aspects of children law’, and Haema Sundram ‘deserves her reputation for litigation excellence’.

Davenport Lyons’ broad-based matrimonial practice was bolstered in 2013 by the arrival of Philip Rutter and Geoffrey Rutter from Collyer Bristow LLP. Department head John Burrell has ‘outstanding empathy’.

Fisher Meredith LLP combines Eileen Pembridge’s family practice with Maria Healy’s children team to create ‘the kind of department you ’d refer your friends to’. The ‘unflappableEmma Sherrington has ‘a heavyweight care practice’, and recently acted in Sutton v Gray & Butler.

Harbottle & Lewis LLP has an ‘up-and-coming’ team. Linzi Bull is ‘extremely collaborative, but at the same time 100% fights for her client’s case’, and Tom Farley-Hills has ‘a nose for the right answer’. The firm is notable for its same-sex practice and cohabitation work.

HowardKennedyFsi is ‘efficient and well structured’, typically acting for wealthy sports people, restaurateurs, celebrities, and individuals in the hedge fund sector. Juliette Peters is ‘unflappable’, and ‘goes the extra mile’. New partner Lois Langton is ‘top notch’, and Alan Kaufman has ‘years of commercial savvy’.

The ‘excellent’ team at RadcliffesLeBrasseur acts for clients including professionals, business owners, property developers and investment bankers. Practice head Caroline Penfold is ‘experienced and practical’, and associate Ruben Sinha* is ‘incisive’. *Ruben Sinha is now with Vardags.

SeddonsDeborah Jeffdemonstrates an outstanding level of professionalism’. Recent work includes a Schedule 1 Children Act application with assets of over £262m. Solicitor Sonny Patel is ‘ambitious and hardworking’.

The International Family Law Group LLP is ‘an excellent niche firm’. David Hodson is ‘London’s leading international family law specialist’, and is particularly known for cases involving Australia. Ann Thomas is ‘a very safe pair of hands’.

Ashfords LLP (incorporating Rochman Landau)’s Teresa Cullen ‘always does her best for every client’, and is particularly recommended for ‘international cases with complex issues of law and fact’.

The clinical and forensic’ team at Bross Bennett LLP includes Caroline Falkus, who is ‘particularly able’. The ‘experiencedRuth Bross and ‘sensibleSharon Bennett are also recommended.

Duncan Lewis Solicitors conducts high-profile child abduction matters, such as 2013’s Re Y. Laila Bhunnoo is ‘exceptional, and relates very well to the child in person’. The firm also now has the Islamic specialism of Aina Khan.

Freemans Solicitors’ practice head Nina Hansenbrings a calm and astute perspective to cases, and moves between care proceedings, private children cases and international children’s cases with consummate ease’.

At Memery Crystal LLP Ursula Danagher and her team are valued for their ‘knowledge and understanding’. Danagher has ‘a firm yet sympathetic approach to resolving matters’, and Joanna Norris is also singled out.

Miles & Partners LLP’s Michelle Uppal has ‘an innate ability to demonstrate empathy and understanding’.

The team at Mills & Reeve LLP is ‘conciliatory, and knows the law’. Roger Bamber is the name to note.

Natalie Gamble Associates has a niche fertility practice, and is also ‘really able to understand’ complex international surrogacy issues. Natalie Gamble displays ‘great empathy’.

Penningtons Solicitors LLP saw the departure of Julia Thackray, while Gillian Rivers arrived from Collyer Bristow LLP. Rivers is ‘a first-rate lawyer, with incredible people skills’.

Recent highlights for Michael Pulford’s team at Pinsent Masons LLP include a notable challenge of jurisdiction for a super-wealthy client, and the settlement of the super-injunction case RJA v AJR.

Simons Muirhead & Burton is recommended ‘without hesitation’. Jane McDonaghholds her own against the top firms’.

T V Edwards LLP’s ‘responses are always carefully considered and extremely well informed’. Maud Davis has ‘extensive knowledge’, and David Emmerson has ‘gravitas’.

At Venters Solicitors, June Venters QC has a niche specialism in family and crime matters.

Wedlake Bell LLP’s Charmaine Hast provides an ‘astounding’ level of client care. The team also includes shari’ah specialist Trisha Siddique; and Conrad Adam, who joined through the firm’s merger with Cumberland Ellis.

Winckworth Sherwood’s practice was bolstered in 2013 by the arrival of Emily Brand from Vardags. She is currently representing Mrs Young in her long-running non-disclosure of assets case against her husband.

Press releases

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Legal Developments in London for Family

  • Parking rights: here to stay? Consent might be the surprising answer 

    In the field of the acquisition of easements by prescription, little has caused more consternation over the last decade or so than the question of whether a right to park cars can be acquired by twenty years user as of right. The types of property capable of being adversely affected range from individual residential units all the way up to major development sites. The establishment of such a right can have a devastating impact on the value of the burdened land.

    - Falcon Chambers

Legal Developments in the UK

Legal Developments and updates from the leading lawyers in each jurisdiction. To contribute, send an email request to
  • Home Office announces extension of support service for SMEs

    An online support service for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) which need to recruit skilled overseas workers has been extended until 28 February 2014. The pilot was launched by UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) in partnership with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and provides a step by step guide to sponsoring an overseas worker. This service is available via the GLA website.
  • Penningtons Manches' immigration team considers new changes to the Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance

    The Home Office has recently published new Tier 4 Sponsor Guidance, version 12/13. This guidance is to be used by all prospective and existing Tier 4 sponsors from 11 December 2013.
  • Finding the 
right words

    In the recent case of Newbury v Sun Microsystems [2013], the defendant argued that an offer to settle proceedings was ‘in principle' only and that a binding contract could not be formed until further terms had been agreed and a formal contract had been signed. It supported this argument by referring to a statement, in the offer letter, that the settlement was to be ‘recorded in a suitably worded agreement'. 

  • Behind the corporate veil: is that all there is?

    That companies have an existence entirely separate to that of their shareholders and directors is a foundational principle of English law and commerce.

  • Playing fair with penalty clauses

    It is often difficult to predict what will be recoverable as damages for breach of contract. To provide some certainty, parties will often seek to agree the sum that will be payable in the event of specified breaches. 

  • Restoring environmental damage: putting a price on ecosystem services

    On 7 August 2009 a 40-inch pipeline ruptured, spilling 5,400 cubic metres of crude oil into the soil and groundwater of La Crau nature reserve in southern France, a habitat protected under French and European law. The operator had to excavate and replace 60,000 tons of soil, install 70 wells to pump and treat groundwater and 25 pumps to skim oil from surface water, at a cost in the region of €50m. However, this was just the primary remediation (that is, restoring the site to the state it would have been if the damage had not occurred). The operator was also required to compensate for the damage to the habitats and the loss of the ecosystem services that would otherwise have been provided by La Crau nature reserve. Measures included purchasing land outside of the nature reserve and contributing to its management for a period of 30 years (over €1m), monitoring the water table for 20 years (over €500,000), monitoring fauna over three years (€150,000) and rehabilitation in accordance with best available ecological techniques (nearly €2m). Overall, the compensatory restoration (to compensate for the amount of time that the ecosystem was impacted) and complimentary restoration (to compensate for elements of the ecosystem that had been permanently lost) came to more than €6.5m. 

  • The role of arbitrators in EU antitrust law

    In May 2014, it will be ten years since Regulation No 1/2003 entered into force. When the legislator of the European Union adopted this Regulation on 16 December 2002, its main objective was to decentralise the enforcement of the two main provisions of EU antitrust law, Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (now Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). Where do the arbitrators fit in this picture?

  • New Immigration Bill, October 2013: cause for concern or appeasing public sentiment?

    The year 2013 has seen a string of reforms to the immigration system by the current coalition government. On 10 October, the government published a Bill aimed at continuing its drive to reduce net migration figures. 

  • New Schengen EU Regulations: impact on short-stay visa visitors

    The publication on 26 June 2013 of the European Union Regulation EU 610/2013 modified the incumbent Regulation EU 562/2006 in relation to third country nationals (ie non-EU citizens) and those travelling on a short-stay visitor visa, as well as those who do not require a visa to enter the Schengen area, Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria. Exceptions include EU and EEA nationals travelling to other EU/EEA states within the Schengen area together with foreign nationals holding either long-stay or residence permits for their destination Schengen countries.

  • New revised guidelines for administrators in pre-pack sales

    Pre-pack sales by administrators are now used frequently enough for most people in business to be aware of them and many have come across them in their business lives. A small amount of controversy still attaches to pre-packs, but it is probably right to say that they are now an accepted part of the UK business scene as a useful means of rescuing a business in difficulty and preserving some or all of the jobs connected with the business.
    - Druces

Press Releases in the UK

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