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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Kingdom > South West > Private client > Family > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Family
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next generation lawyers

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Burges Salmon LLP is ‘in a league of its own', according to clients. Asset protection - particularly where international or offshore assets are involved - is the firm’s forte. Practice head Sarah Hoskinson specialises in international divorce cases: her highlights included advising a non-domiciled wife on a complex consent order and international tax advice regarding a BVI company in a Guernsey-based trust; a financial dispute regarding a £67m landed estate; and a £30m pre- and post-nuptial agreement concerning inherited and illiquid assets. Consultant Alison Hawes - a new recruit from Irwin Mitchell last year - is ‘a strategic, great negotiator’ who is experienced handling complex, high-value financial matters arising from relationship breakdown; she recently acted for a husband in a £75m divorce settlement involving international properties, which also included multi-generational asset protection via prenuptial agreement. ‘Pragmatic’ senior associate Nicky Howarth handles private children's law and cross-border cases, and recently advised a husband in €15m French divorce proceedings with complex cross-border children and financial elements.

Clarke Willmott LLP is a ‘top-tier firm in this area’, acting primarily for entrepreneurs, high-level executives and farmers/landowners in financial remedy proceedings, and providing particular expertise in cases with cross-border aspects, complex trust and asset ownership issues, and pension elements. ‘Excellent’ practice head Gareth Schofield specialises in complex financial remedy and ToLATA disputes, and also advises on protective trust and nuptial settlements; he works on purely domestic matters and on those with cross-border aspects, particularly involving France. Daniel Eames has expertise in complex marriage or cohabitation disputes, particularly those with an international aspect. Eames was also the only solicitor called to give evidence to the Justice Select Committee on the impact of Brexit on family law. Senior associate Alastair Macleod ‘is a very sound lawyer, who is particularly knowledgeable in pensions on divorce’, dealing with high-net-worth financial settlements, including cases involving companies, partnerships, trusts and farm businesses. Senior associate Hannah Livesey is ‘an exceptionally bright young lawyer, very approachable and supportive whilst being objective in her advice’. Associate Laura Bond also has significant international experience, including financial settlements (e.g. under Part III of the MFPA and Schedule 1 of the Children Act), prenuptial agreements and children matters. Senior associate Emma Gordan is also recommended.

Ellis Jones Solicitors LLP is ‘a leading and well-respected player in the region’. The practice focuses almost entirely on child abduction, and has a strong local and London caseload. The department has also recently launched a new service area focusing on family issues for the LGBT community. Katie Taft was made partner in January 2018 and works on matrimonial finance, international child abduction, injunctions and complex children issues, especially Hague Convention work. Sean McNally - who is praised as ‘charming and charismatic’ and a ‘collaborative lawyer, who tries to cut through matters and avoid litigation’ - specialises in complex financial disputes involving pensions, companies, trusts and non-disclosure. McNally heads the practice with Deborah Leask, who is ‘experienced and approachable’ and is ‘excellent with clients’. Senior associate Ian Butterworth specialises in matrimonial finance cases.

The 'excellent' Irwin Mitchell has developed its expertise in complex money cases with the arrival of the ‘simply brilliant’ Nicola Walker from the Birmingham office, who brings ‘vast experience’ in family law and specialises in cases involving premarital wealth. The practice focuses on HNW financial cases, often with additional complexities such as family businesses with private equity investment and large property portfolios, and issues involving pre-acquired wealth. Associate Erin Sawyer specialises in professional negligence litigation arising out of family finance, as well as matters involving family companies, shareholdings and partnerships. Recent work from the team includes Assistant solicitor Rebecca Jones joined the Bristol team in 2017 and is also ‘very good’.

Michelmores LLP is a 'pre-eminent firm in the South West of England’, with a skilled, well trained and very client-focused’ team.  Louisa Ghevaert has a ‘depth of knowledge in relation to complex surrogacy and assisted parenthood matters is second to none’. She leads the fertility and parenting team, which handles matters with an international dimension as well as complex children disputes involving families created through assisted conception. Ghevaert gave expert evidence for the claimant in the first-ever UK damages award for surrogacy in September 2017 (in conjunction with Irwin Mitchell). Practice head  Simon Thomas is ‘very thorough, with attention to detail in complex financial remedy cases’; Thomas mostly advises on high-net-worth divorce cases and receives many instructions from divorcing landowners relating to both traditional and diversified farms, including, recently, dynastic trusts and a Zambian land and farming portfolio. Associate Rachael Shearmur is ‘clear-minded about complex private children cases’ and is also experienced in ancillary relief and domestic violence matters.

Royds Withy King has ‘one of the strongest and most experienced family teams in the South West’ and is ‘at the head of the pack of modernised family law firms.' The team specialises in complex child care proceedings, with five ‘sympathetic and pragmatic' partners leading the group. Sharon MacDonald ‘combines strong support for clients and has a pragmatic approach to negotiation’; she handles high-value finance matters, prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, and cohabitation disputes. MacDonald also specialises in cases involving farming and agricultural families, and the armed forces. A recently made partner, the 'outstanding' Rebecca Stevens deals with family disputes relating to children, including child protection, contact, residence, removal from the jurisdiction and domestic violence issues, and ‘moves mountains to get results’. Among other changes to the team, senior associate Kit O'Brien moved to Stokes Partners LLP in January 2018, and Will MacFarlane  joined from Withers LLP as partner in February 2018. MacFarlane has considerable experience acting for unmarried parents in financial claims on behalf of children, and recent Schedule 1 clients include two Premier League footballers. Senior associate Katherine Lauder is ‘exceptional’, and consultant Jon Toogood is also ‘an outstanding family lawyer’.

Stephens Scown LLP is ‘a very experienced and respected firm’ and has one of the largest teams in the South West, with 17 ‘well-organised, efficient and knowledgeable practitioners.’ The team handles complex private children's law, domestic abuse issues, adoption, international abduction, conflict of laws issues, high-net-value divorces, and and large pension considerations. In 2017, Mark Chanter joined the Truro team as a senior consultant from Foot Anstey, and the ‘professional, courteous, helpful and approachable’ Sarah Atkinson was promoted to partner; she now heads the Truro team. Liz Allen and Andrew Barton lead the overall practice and are ‘particularly strong’. Allen has ‘a fantastic rapport with clients and won’t stand for anything but the best’, and specialises in high-net-worth financial and business settlements on divorce, including pensions and trusts. Barton is ‘technically excellent’ and ‘isn’t afraid to take an inventive approach to litigate or settle cases and ensure the best for his clients’; he has a strong practice in financial cases involving international assets, financial provision following a foreign divorce and jurisdiction issues. Senior associate and ‘exceptionally hard-working solicitor’ Sarah Walls is 'a rising star in the firm’, specialising in mid- to high-net-worth divorce cases.

The Family Law Practice is an ‘excellent niche practice’, providing 'a quality service coupled with sensible and practical advice'. The firm has a notable cross-border practice, which recently has encompassed matters involving Australia, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Germany. Ashley Palminteri leads the practice, mainly acting for high-net-worth individuals whose cases generally involve commercial assets, trust assets, complex income and pensions structures. Sharon Mahmood specialises in complex private law work relating to children, particularly applications to remove children from the jurisdiction. Associate Bessie Hanson joined the firm in January 2017 from Bobbetts Mackan in Bristol, where she headed up the divorce and finance team. She specialises in farming cases, ToLATA proceedings and private children work.

TLT is ‘an extremely strong and impressive firm’, and the family team is led by Natalie Drew. All members of the team handle high-net-worth financial cases following divorce or dissolution, involving non-UK pensions, share options, 'Black-Scholes' valuations, Part III 1984 Act applications following foreign divorce, offshore taxation and trusts, company valuations, non-matrimonial assets, complex High Court financial cases involving marital acquisition and assets accumulated post-separation. Associate Sarah Green advises on CSA variations and appeals, as well as intractable contact disputes, parental alienation, physical and psychological harm, sexual abuse allegations, and fact-finding hearings. Green also handles permanent removal from jurisdiction cases. Associate Mark Sage has considerable experience in international cases and jurisdictional issues, representing many UK expatriates across the world and particularly those in Hong Kong; he typically handles complex financial matters arising from the breakdowns relationships. Solicitor Joanna Newton advises on children matters, including parental alienation and child abuse.

The ‘determined’ Carolyn Green is ‘a genuine big hitter’, leading the practice at Harrison Clark Rickerbys with ‘sound judgement honed from years of experience’. Specialising in high-value and complex financial cases, Green has experience in cross-border matters (including those involving France, Spain, Australia and Dubai). Matthew Waddington specialises in Children Act proceedings. Senior associate Rebecca Pike is ‘diligent and secures very good results’ and has extensive experience in private children and ancillary relief matters.

The team at Lester Aldridge LLP is ‘organised, professional and very well prepared, offering an outstanding service’. Typical work includes complex financial remedy cases and protecting assets through prenuptial agreements, as well as advising on declaration of trusts and cohabitation agreements. There have been a few changes, with associates Kimberley Davies leaving for Trethowans LLP  and Joanne Clarke  being promoted to partner and Rosemary Sharp who specialises in rural landed estates and farming assets,  joining as partner from Wilsons. Practice head Jane Porter is ‘particularly worthy of mention, going the extra mile for her clients’. Porter specialises in complex family companies and pension schemes; she also advises on prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, cohabitation claims, and disputes relating to children under Schedule 1 of the Children Act.

Lyons Davidson has ‘one of the best family teams in the area’, according to one client. The department is led by Philippa Morgan , who is a ‘strong advocate with fantastic case preparation’ and ‘very strong in international law’; ‘calm, clear and fair’ Iona Phillips is deputy head. The department comprises two main divisions: Morgan leads the child abduction and international children law team, which provides a 24/7 advice line to anybody affected by child abduction, and Phillips leads Advoca, a specialist child and domestic abuse division dealing with private and public children law proceedings, domestic abuse and forced marriage work. Advoca is ‘well organised, thorough and highly committed to doing the best it can for its clients’, and also provides a 24/7 advice line to victims of forced marriage and domestic abuse. Senior associate Donna Cummins is ‘very strong’, with a ‘consistently excellent legal knowledge’ and ‘a keen sense of humour, which makes her very personable’. Other areas of case work include international children disputes, radicalisation cases, public law proceedings with an international element, and female genital mutilation cases. Charlotte Mason joined in 2017 from Bobbetts Mackan.

NGA Law is a ‘genuine class act’, with ‘a well-deserved international reputation’ in its niche specialism in fertility law, surrogacy and LGBT families. ‘Unrivalled leaders in the field’, the firm was responsible for the remedial order sent by the government to Parliament in November 2017 to change UK law to allow single parents to apply for legal parenthood following surrogacy. Led by the ‘extremely bright, authoritative and tremendously reassuring’ Natalie Gamble, the team also deals with divorce, finances and private children's law clients from LGBT or other non-traditional families. Both Stephen Ashe  and Bethan Cleal are ‘thorough, professional and knowledgeable’.

VWV is an ‘excellent’ firm, with ‘significant experience, including in various methods of dispute resolution.’ Practice head Samantha Hickman  has a ‘wonderfully down-to-earth manner which belies the strategic thinking of a chess grandmaster’. Acting locally, nationally and internationally, and covering financial settlements on divorce, unmarried family disputes (ToLATA and Schedule 1), and divorce and separation planning, Hickman is ‘pragmatic without being overly pessimistic’, and her clients include musicians, authors, artists and TV stars. 'Highly recommended' senior associate Hannah Petherickjoined in January 2018 from Gregg Latchams LLP. Working in financial resolutions and arrangements for children, as well as drafting pre- and post-marital agreements, Petherick is ‘courteous, professional, well prepared, unflappable, and conscientious’.

Ashfords LLP is ‘one of the leading firms in the South West’, providing ‘a very good and competent family section’. The team specialise in divorce and financial matters arising from relationship breakdowns, particularly for high-net-worth individuals. Head of practice at the Exeter office Zoe Porter - previously a partner at Michelmores LLP - has a client list including high-profile celebrities and handles cases with international elements. Porter’s equal in the Taunton office, Jayne Turner, is ‘sensible, client focused and knowledgeable’, and has expertise in cases involving high-value pensions. Both partners are ‘very competent lawyers and have an excellent knowledge of family law and practice’.

Barcan+Kirby LLP has 'a significant presence across Bristol’, with a practice in private children cases, care proceedings, domestic violence and multiple niche areas of family law, such as surrogacy and adoption. The ‘sensible and approachable’ Chris Miller has now stepped down as managing partner, and now focuses solely on matrimonial finances. Jim Gridley is head of department, and is a qualified mediator as well as a solicitor. Head of matrimonial finance Hanni Pennelegion is undertaking a phased return to work following a period away from the office.

The team at Blanchards Bailey LLP is ‘very compassionate’, providing ‘excellent and tailored’ legal advice. The department has a niche military families' service, which represents and advises army personnel at Bovington Army Camp, and acts as sole licensed firm at Blandford Camp. Associate Clare Cherry has ‘an excellent working relationship’ with clients and has expertise is cross-border marital issues. 'Professional and sympathetic' associate Laura Martin specialises in prenuptial and cohabitation agreements. Former practice head Lisa Holden  left to head the family team at Bonallack & Bishop.

Jessica Pitt, practice head at Foot Anstey, is ‘very calm, sensible and pragmatic’, and specialises in the financial consequences of relationship breakdown. The firm has expanded its practice to cover pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and has also invested in its mental capacity ancillary team. Consultant Nigel Gosden covers family financial issues, and high-net-worth cases particularly. Associate Jill Bruce handles all areas of family matters, including divorce, high-value financial matters, cohabitee disputes and children matters, and has particular expertise in inter-jurisdictional children matters. Mark Chanter left for Stephens Scown LLP.

Goughs Solicitors has ‘a strong family team’, with ‘experienced and first-rate lawyers placed across a number of offices’. Among its array of services, the firm provides niche family law expertise to military families. Head of team Matthew Drew in Corsham acts for a number of clients overseas, particularly in high-value finance matters. Devizes-based Jonathan Shipton is ‘a tough litigation lawyer who is not to be messed with’ and has ‘excellent interpersonal skills, combining technical legal advice with guidance on risks and what is practicable and likely to be achieved through legal proceedings’; he has particular expertise in trusts of land disputes. Richard Bebb in Melksham is ‘a focused and intelligent man who cares deeply about providing a sterling service for his clients’, and specialises in finance matters, marital agreements and collaborative practice. Thomas Boyce is recommended as having a ‘high level of experience in this area’. Associate Ross Phillips is strong in cohabitee cases.

The family department at Bristol-based Gregg Latchams LLP is led by James Myatt , who joined the firm in 2017 to lead the family and relationships team. He has experience in financial and pension issues relating to divorce and separation. Senior associate Hannah Petherick departed for VWV.

Mowbray Woodwards Solicitors has ‘knowledgeable, experienced and down-to-earth lawyers’. ‘Excellent’  Megg Moss is ‘thorough and precise’ and is well versed in prenuptial agreements. Head of department Tracey Smith handles complex financial, children and other matters arising out of separations. Moss and Smith are ‘both very experienced and constructive family lawyers: a great combination’.  Daniela Nickols has particular experience in acting for teenagers directly, including those cared for in secure units. Nickols also represents children and their guardians in private law proceedings.

Nash & Co provides ‘impeccable business acumen and response times’ and a ‘very much client-focused' service. Covering the full range across finance and public and private children's law, the team has niche expertise in cases involving domestic abuse. Associate Eleanor Barber, who heads the department, is a ‘faultless lawyer’, ‘personable and knowledgeable in her field’; she recently acted for a Belarusian wife in £1m financial proceedings arising from her divorce from a British national. Helen Bull is ‘approachable and knowledgeable’ and 'an excellent advocate who consistently works hard to find practical solutions’.

Porter Dodson LLP is ‘well respected for its family law practice’, which covers traditional areas of family practice and niche fertility and parenting services. Areas of strength include high-end matrimonial finances and complex Children Act proceedings, and the firm brings ‘a huge body of experience and expertise’ and ‘stands out in the Taunton legal community for its knowledge and firm-but-fair approach’. Dorchester-based Richard Baker ‘is a tenacious and thorough practitioner, who is able to deal with the most difficult of personalities in a calm and reasoned manner’. Cathryn Smith was promoted to partner. Nicola Scott, who was formerly a solicitor at the firm, is now working with the firm as an independent consultant.

Sharp Family Law LTD provides an ‘extremely high level of service’. The firm has doubled in size in recent years, continuing its trend of taking on a new solicitor every year these past four. Recently made partner Clare Webb is ‘extremely effective and focused’ and delivers ‘sensible and realistic advice’. A notable adjunct to the practice is that the firm provides rooms at its premises for psychotherapists and relationship specialists to work with clients. Richard Sharp leads the team.

Steele Raymond LLP is ‘a strong player in the regional market when it comes to family work, with some outstanding lawyers’. The team’s focus remains complex financial remedy and Children Act matters, though it handles an increasing number of prenuptial agreements. In September 2017, the team recruited mediator Michelle Bettell from Laceys to provide a permanent family service in the firm’s satellite office in Southbourne; in January 2018, the firm hired Daniel Sanders as partner and head of team to replace Julie-Ann Harris , who moved to Coffin Mew LLP. Sanders is ‘particularly skilled in child-related matters’ and is valued as a Polish-speaking family lawyer, receiving numerous referrals from Polish community groups and other Polish speaking professionals. Promoted to senior associate in 2017, Lindsay Halliwell is ‘an extraordinary lawyer’, with an ‘impressive attention to detail and professionalism, sympathy towards clients, and diligent preparation’.

The team at Stone King LLP specialises in complex cross-border instructions following relationship breakdowns. Partner and practice head Caroline Fell  specialises in complex financial matters, particularly those with an international element, and has clients based in the South West, London and overseas. Senior associate Jayne Martins handles financial matters for married and unmarried couples, with added expertise in complex children matters, including cross-border children cases; highlights included protecting a matrimonial home in its entirety when a husband sought a sale and 50%. Senior associate Sarah Wasaya joined the firm in January 2018 from Rollingsons, bringing expertise in international and complex financial matters, and cross-border children disputes.

The team at Thrings LLP specialises in divorce cases with agricultural elements, acting on cases with complexities arising from interests in farm assets, planning and development issues, tax, and property valuations. Department head Matthew Kellow is experienced in relation to Hague Convention applications, and recently acted in complex UK-New Zealand children abduction proceedings. Kellow was also recently instructed to represent a husband in a multimillion-pound asset divorce, involving a partnership between two brothers. Head of private client, Fiona Kellow, focuses on high-net-worth matrimonial finance. Sally Pike joined Thrings in September 2017 from Coffin Mew LLP, where she had been a partner and head of the team; she has expertise in company and shareholder issues, pensions and property issues. Pike's recent instructions include acting for a company director in divorce proceedings, which involved assets valued between £5m and £8m; and advising on a co-habitation agreement with assets in excess of £30m. The firm was instructed by a partner of a significant farm in Bath in divorce proceedings, concerning assets in the UK and America valued at more than £5m, and is also currently advising on cases with connections to Australia, France, Africa and Spain; and Fiona Kellow in cases connected to Hong Kong, California and Miami.

Tozers Solicitors LLP's main family team advises high-net-worth and high-profile clients on their divorces, while the childcare sub-team represents vulnerable children and victims of domestic violence. Tracy Lambert heads up the overall practice, advising on complex family cases involving matrimonial finances and children matters; she has success in securing settlements involving substantial assets and overseas interests. Consultant Caroline Ryan focuses on pensions on divorce. Tony Wood leads the new specialist public law children team based in Newton Abbot; his experience includes a high-profile shaken baby case which resulted in the death of the child. Following solicitor Julia Clayton’s appointment to Circuit Judge, Louise Barber was recruited as a replacement.

Trethowans LLP provides particular expertise in dealing with complex high-net-worth financial provision and intricate private children's law and surrogacy or fertility matters. Typical work includes advising wealthy individuals in relation to family owned businesses and/or farms. 'Bright and tough litigator' and practice head Andrew Mercer 'has huge experience and gives excellent commercial and practical advice'. Grant Cameron leads in the Southampton office. Kimberley Davies - who joined with her team from Lester Aldridge LLP as a senior associate - has a fast-developing practice in Poole and Bournemouth, and has particular expertise in fertility, surrogacy and assisted reproduction matters.

Willans LLP’s family department handles complex family/matrimonial law issues, predominantly for high-net-worth individuals. The firm handles all aspects of family law, with particular expertise in complex cases involving the financial areas of divorce and separation, and those concerning children. Senior associate Jonathan Eager focuses in Children Act matters and financial issues arising out of divorce. Eager also acts for parents in disputes over children involving international jurisdiction issues.

Woolley & Co, Solicitors provides a ‘knowledgeable and conciliatory approach to all family matters'. These include divorce and matrimonial issues for British expats, high-value and complex financial  settlement cases involving pensions, business interests, buy-to-let and overseas properties, annulment and disputed divorce and nullity cases, and implacable hostility and complex children cases. Truro-based Susuan Harwood is ‘an organised, skilled and proficient family lawyer’, who ‘understands the issues, sticks up for her clients, and is sensible to deal with’. Wells-based solicitor Judith Buckland  comes highly recommended. Luci Larkin is also ‘very conciliatory and approachable' and is 'clearly an experienced family lawyer’.

Battens Solicitors Limited ‘combines a personal and sensitive approach to its clients with a thorough, well-informed manner in negotiation’. Senior associate and practice head Louise Gidley advises on high-net-worth matrimonial disputes, as well as complex cases concerning children, including representing children through their guardians. Gidley is ‘particularly well prepared, experienced and imaginative in her approach to the financial remedies cases of her clients, blending practical common sense with a sound knowledge of practice and procedure.’

BPE Solicitors LLP’s practice is led by Helen Cankett, who specialises in financial settlements on divorce and in assisting unmarried couples with settlements on their separation. Senior associate Jemma Jones has extensive experience in high-value matters, specialising in all aspects of divorce and separation, and has a particular strength in private children's law.

Kitsons LLP is ‘professional and effective, with a strong family team', and is a ‘a go-to firm for financial remedy and children cases’. The ‘highly experienced’ Plymouth-based head of department Tony Hunt is ‘a standout practitioner in financial remedy cases’, typically handling financial proceedings for business-owners on divorce and cohabitee disputes.

The team at Mogers Drewett LLP is ‘very organised and efficient’. Key names include Rebecca Silcock, who has a ‘laid back and pragmatic approach’ and a focus on complex financial matters and private law children work, and Victoria Strode, who is ‘calm but robust, and again pragmatic’, and typically advises on financial disputes between separating and divorcing couples, as well as cases with an agricultural aspect. There were some team changes, with associate Anne-Marie Hamer  leaving for Michelmores LLP and associate Simon Walker  joining from Crallans.

The ‘very reliable and effective’ Amanda Shaw  of Pardoes Solicitors LLP is noted for her ‘expertise in child care law’ as well as finance matters, and works out of the Taunton, Yeovil and Bridgwater offices. Associate Moira Reynolds focuses on divorce and financial cases and also operates out of all the South West offices. Following Maggie Roberts’ retirement in July 2017, Shaw and Reynolds were made joint heads of the department.

In Gregg Moss and Amanda Sawyer, 'Simpson Millar LLP has two of the most knowledgeable and effective children lawyers in Bristol', with Moss heading up the public children's law practice. There has been a succession of changes in recent times, with team head Peter Morris moving to Shoosmiths LLP in March 2017, and then Morris’ successor as head of department, Emma Pearmaine, moving to Ridley & Hall in August 2017. John Pratley  has since been promoted to partner and regional head of practice.

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