Firms To Watch: Family

HCR Hewitsons made a notable addition in May 2022 with the hire of Sally Robinson, formerly of Shoosmiths LLP and Wilson Browne, where she led the family team.

Family in East Midlands

Geldards LLP

‘Highly experienced and knowledgeable at all levels’, Geldards LLP ‘is very well-respected not just in the Midlands but across the country’. National practice chair, Fiona Apthorpe, is a heavyweight in complex medium to high net worth financial cases, pre-nuptial deeds and same sex marriage/civil partnership breakdowns. Claire Dean is a ‘powerful advocate and a talented lawyer’ who leads the private children practice. Jane Cowley is another integral member of the team, as is senior associate Natalie Haydon-Yeung, particularly for children and financial remedy cases.

Practice head(s):

Fiona Apthorpe

Other key lawyers:

Claire Dean; Jane Cowley; Natalie Haydon-Yeung


‘This team are very well respected not just in the Midlands but across the country. A very strong collection of individual solicitors who work together tightly as a team. Their ethos is strong representation of clients but with a sensitivity to the nature of family proceedings.’

‘Jane Cowley is very professional, but also compassionate and approachable. She explains the options open and helps to find the best way through difficult situations.’

‘Claire Dean is a powerhouse of energy, strategy and legal knowledge. She really is a unique solicitor who has a very engaging personality together with an absolute inner strength. She is a powerful advocate and a talented lawyer. Her professional background is so special that she really is a unicorn in the family legal world. Opponents know that they will be met with fairness but also a total determination to achieve an outcome for her client.’

‘Jane Cowley is the best family lawyer we have referred our clients to. Feedback is always extremely positive. Jane is proactive, knowledgeable, caring and competent.’

‘Geldards are the go to solicitors for high net worth individuals going through a divorce. The Teams strength lies in it’s ability to provide excellent service with a close attention to detail. Partners work closely with counsel on complex matters and, as counsel their instructions are second to none.’

‘Fiona Apthorpe is the partner leading the family team at Geldards. Fiona is proactive and approachable and deals with the most complex of cases. Fiona also sits as a Private FDR Judge and Arbitrator and is greatly experienced and respected in the field.’

‘Claire Dean is a senior partner who specialises in divorces with an agricultural element. Claire brings her knowledge of farming and rural affairs to the team and is well respected in the locality. Claire will fiercely defend her clients position whilst maintaining perspective in the overall case.’

‘Excellent client care and a thorough approach to work. Highly experienced and knowledgeable at all levels. Determined and fair advice. Really recommend them to any client. The team is excellent throughout, no weak points whatsoever.’

John Hooper & Co

John Hooper & Co‘s ‘responsive, accurate, fairly priced and professional’ family law practice maintains its top-tier position, owing to its wide-ranging expertise representing divorcing spouses/separating cohabitees in personal financial protection disputes and complex cases involving children. As a divorce specialist, John Hooper‘s experience as a family barrister in New Zealand has further helped to attract instructions from overseas clients. The ‘first classLeon Messam is an expert on Children Act matters whereas Dominic Lee and Yasmine Roff are respectively highlighted for high net worth divorce and financial remedy matters.

Practice head(s):

John Hooper

Other key lawyers:

Leon Messam; Dominic Lee; Yasmine Roff


‘Leon Messam has been excellent to work with. His patience knows no bounds. He is knowledgeable and thoughtful in his approach and sensitive during what was a difficult period of my life.

‘John Hooper – very approachable, experienced, gives sound and realistic advice and is open to the opinions of clients. John puts you at ease and is concerned to give best value for money.

‘John Hooper himself is a fantastic guy, very straight to the point and won’t let you do something that is in the best interests of everyone concerned.’

‘Leon Messam, absolutely first class gentleman, goes above and beyond every time, can’t think of a way to praise Leon enough.’

‘John Hooper & Co are a responsive, accurate, fairly priced and professional practice that I would have no hesitation in recommending to anyone. Their service and customer care is outstanding and their invoicing system is accurate and straight forward and easy to understand.’

‘Crisp and clear at all times. Proactive, helpful and supportive which is so important in family law with its related stresses and strains. John Hooper leads from the front – always consistent.’

‘John Hooper is clear and confident, quick and responsive, proactive and thoughtful. A top class performer with vast experience.’

‘Vigorous yet compassionate, Good communication, the staff are very supportive, understanding and patient which is what is need in such a difficult time, quick to respond to queries, breakdown of bills with a clear statement of costs,’

Nelsons Solicitors Limited

Midlands powerhouse Nelsons Solicitors Limited houses family law specialists in each of its three offices, led by Emma Davies (in Nottingham); Melanie Bridgen(Derby) and Glynis Wright (Leicester). The firm is particularly recommended for its capabilities in dealing with international children law cases, a specialism of Bridgen, as well as, surrogacy, unravelling trusts, complex business arrangements and divorce. ‘Outstanding‘ director Gayle Rowley has built up a specialisation in financial remedies and private children law.

Practice head(s):

Emma Davies; Melanie Bridgen; Glynis Wright

Other key lawyers:

Gayle Rowley


‘Nothing is too much trouble for Melanie Bridgen and she is a calming presence when things seem overwhelming. Thanks to Melanie and Nelsons my child is safe. I thank my lucky stars that I had Melanie fighting my corner.’

‘Emma Davies supported me massively and was approachable, friendly, punctual and provided innovative options. I could not recommend her highly enough, she is simply amazing.’

‘Gail Rowley is outstanding. She was efficient and effective dealing with the other party in my family law matter.’

‘Gayle Rowley works exceptionally hard and is very conscientious. She will do as much as she can to achieve a positive result for clients, whilst also being realistic with them as to the potential outcome.’

‘Glynis Wright – Effortlessly precise and thorough. Incredible attention to detail and highly experienced. Deals with wealthy and non wealthy cases with same attention. An amazing force to have on your side. Fair and down to earth.’

‘Melanie Bridgen is a star performer, excellent manner with clients and a good grasp of the law.’

‘Nelsons Law is a leading firm in family law. They represent people from all walks of life and always give 110% to all of their cases. Their diversity is exceptional. Unlike other solicitors they are always on hand to speak by phone or email, night or day or weekend. They will take the most challenging pro bono cases to ensure that clients have the best representation and advocacy.’

‘Melanie Bridgen is an exceptional family law solicitor. I have had the privilege of working with her for almost a decade now. Her case preparation is outstanding, she always goes the extra mile for clients and is totally dedicated to her clients. Her commitment shines through because she secures excellent results. She is a formidable opponent and a highly sought after solicitor.’

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

At Shakespeare Martineau LLP, Katherine Marshall  leads the divorce and family team in Leicester, which ‘exudes professionalism and knowledge’ across all family law specialisms, with particular strength in nuptial agreements, surrogacy law, children law and multijurisdictional proceedings. Sonia Bachu is sought after for high-value financial remedy cases involving family businesses, inherited wealth and pension issues.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Marshall

Other key lawyers:

Sonia Bachu


‘Shakespeare Martineau’s team exude professionalism and knowledge, which makes a client feel super comfortable to be represented by them.’

‘Personable, always on hand and very successful in their services. Its an all encompassing family law practice, so that is a real strength.’

‘Sonia Bachu – is a dedicated and experienced senior solicitor who is able to put across complex concepts and ideas to a client in a friendly and easy to understand manner.’

‘Impressive and dedicated team who can fight a case when required but also good judgement as to when to try and broker a settlement.’

Sills & Betteridge LLP

Sills & Betteridge LLP‘s sizeable practice is divided into four units; matrimonial/finances, emergency work, care and mediation, and is distinguished for its niche expertise in child abduction cases, knowledge of the preservation of family farms/trusts and acting for army personnel. Helen Derry leads the team from Lincoln where she primarily deals in pre/post-nuptial agreements and divorce cases. John Mitchell represents high net worth clients in complex financial proceedings, arising from separation or divorce, while the ‘exceptionalChrystal Theofanous is one of the region’s top specialists in international child abduction, forced marriage prevention, complex care proceedings and domestic abuse matters. In Northampton, litigator Nicholas Flatt and Siobhan Thompson are the key names.

Practice head(s):

Helen Derry

Other key lawyers:

Chrystal Theofanous; John Mitchell; Nicholas Flatt; Siobhan Thompson


‘Siobhan Thompson is one of the most devoted and committed solicitors I have come into contact with. She is amazingly thorough. She is not afraid of taking the fight to the other side and she is tenacious. She is a practitioner to admire.’

‘Nicholas Flatt is highly regarded amongst his peers. He is a very skilled solicitor. His case-load reflects the depth of his knowledge and experience. He approaches his work with dedication and great insight.’

‘Chrystal Theofanous is exceptional and perhaps the most dedicated public law practitioner in the region. She challenges other professionals to consider every possible eventual outcome and is also willing to challenge the judiciary, when a decision seems to be wrong or unjust on the evidence.’

‘An exceptionally experienced and well regarded family firm benefit from extremely effective support to deliver an outstanding service for their clientele.’

‘Siobhan Thompson is a star. She is hard working, thorough, organised, easy to work with and wholly engaged with her cases. She is razor sharp and does not miss a trick. Her work is unrivalled and she is super efficient.’

‘This practice is strong across all areas of child law. The solicitors are first class and advice to clients is based on both sound judgment and experience.’

‘Sills & Betteridge has a very strong family team across all areas of practice. The team work very hard, are always well prepared and fight for their clients. They attract very good quality work in Lincoln and Nottingham.’

‘Helen Derry is an absolute professional in all aspects of her work. She fought for me, she supported me, made sure going forward I was secure and I cannot thank her enough.’

Work highlights

  • A successful outcome in a High Court child abduction and habitual residence case, where the judge ruled that the father’s decision to remove the child from Russia to the UK was wrongful under the terms of the Hague Convention, and that the child should return to Russia with the firm’s client, the mother.
  • Acting for the wife in a large, ongoing divorce-related mediation involving expensive property and complicated trust structures set up by the husband’s father prior to his death worth many millions.
  • Acted for a child in a serious case initiated by a local authority after a mother and her partner inflicted violent injuries on a young child.

Smith Partnership

At Smith Partnership, Muctar Johalleads his team by example’ and is a renowned figure in children law. Head of family practice, Ruth Jones, routinely advises on the financial aspects of relationship breakdowns, prenuptial/cohabitation contracts and cases involving minors. Solicitors Samuel Mason, Adele Woods and Emma Hennessy are also noted.

Practice head(s):

Muctar Johal; Ruth Jones

Other key lawyers:

Samuel Mason; Adele Woods; Emma Hennessy


‘Muctar Johal leads his team by example. His advocacy is exceptional. He is calm and unflappable. His ability to digest complicated medical reports is phenomenal.’

‘The breadth of experience and knowledge within the family team make it the go to firm within the area for advice on complex legal issues.’

‘Muctar Johal is quite simply exceptional. On the very rare occasions he does not have the answer to a complex legal issue, he will undertake thorough research and you can be sure you are getting the best advice.’

Wilkin Chapman LLP

Wilkin Chapman LLP houses a ‘truly outstanding family law department’, comprising of practice head, Lisa Boileau, and senior solicitor with over 30 years experience, Julie Bailey. The firm is distinguished through its visibility in high-net-worth divorce cases, particularly those involving farming assets and trusts, and its unique expertise representing Armed Forces personnel, combined with an in-house specialist Courts Martial department.

Practice head(s):

Lisa Boileau

Other key lawyers:

Julie Bailey


‘First-class service to family law clients with wide ranging experience in children/ financial matters. Excellent case and court preparation with first rate preparation of court documentation and instruction of counsel at earliest stage where necessary. Very hands on client care, nothing is too much trouble.’

‘Truly outstanding family law department. The best in the region by miles.’

‘Lisa Boileau is a truly formidable performer. Her grasp of detail and ability to find the game changing factors in a case is amazing.’

Banner Jones Solicitors

Banner Jones Solicitors‘ practice consists of two units; a family law department, headed by Kelly Parks with support from senior solicitor Shetal Gudgeon, and a specialist in legal aid and domestic violence cases. Parks focuses on divorce and financial settlements. Vince Beckworth leads the equally busy care proceedings team where he highly regarded for his representation of parents, family members and interveners in children’s care proceedings.

Practice head(s):

Kelly Parks; Vince Beckworth

Other key lawyers:

Shetal Gudgeon


‘Seamless throughout and support from various departments but all under one roof. Correspondence was second to non and I never felt like I had to chase for answers or updates. Kelly kept me well informed throughout.’

‘Very approachable. Professional throughout.’

‘Shetal Gudgeon’s patience and understanding is second to none. The outcomes for some of the clients has been life changing.’

Flint Bishop LLP

Flint Bishop LLP‘s lead lawyer, Angela Davis , is ‘an extremely capable and knowledgeable solicitor’ specialising in divorce and the dissolution of civil partnerships, including in respect of children, property, business interests and pensions, freezing orders and children matters. The firm has built up a strong network of international connections and regularly acts on high-net-worth client cases involving multijurisdictional elements.

Practice head(s):

Angela Davis


‘Angela Davis is very personable with a good sense of how to work in her clients best interests.’

‘Angela Davis is an extremely capable and knowledgeable solicitor. She knows her area of law thoroughly and she is very pleasant to deal with. She will stand her corner when required however and is by no means a pushover. She is extremely thorough and I would recommend anyone to her.’

‘Excellent!!! Can’t recommend Angela Davis and her team enough! Angela’s expertise and experience and super calm manner turned what could have been a very stressful experience into a ‘walk in the park’.  The whole team are amazing. Angela went above and beyond and I will be eternally grateful. I can’t recommend Flint Bishop, especially Angela Davis, enough.’

Work highlights

  • Acted for the wife to be in in successfully negotiating significant improvements to the proposed terms of a prenuptial agreement with a total value of £9m. Husband had accrued significant wealth prior to their relationship, to include a shareholding in a limited company valued at over £6m and other assets held both in the UK and in France.
  • Acted for the husband to be in respect of a pre-nuptial agreement with a total value of £18m. The case concerned an independently wealthy couple in their own right with both having dependent children from previous marriages.
  • Acted for the wife where her former husband sought to make a claim many years following their separation in a case where the former family home remained in their joint names. This included an interesting point as to whether an agreement signed by the parties at the point of separation should be upheld. The agreement made provision for the property to be transferred to the wife for nil consideration. The case was eventually compromised successfully with the wife making a nominal payment only to the husband.

Freeths LLP

Judith Speed is the main contact at Freeths LLP Nottingham office, where she receives instructions from local private clients, and referrals from medical practitioners and lawyers on the full range of family law issues; from pre and post-nuptial agreements, divorce, family mediation and arbitration to surrogacy law.

Practice head(s):

Judith Speed

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP is noted for its expertise handling complex financial cases involving businesses, land and estates. Justine Flack leads the East Midlands family law department across the Leicester and Northampton offices and is a seasoned divorce lawyer, with a background advising on wealth preservation, drafting prenuptial agreements and all private client matters.

Practice head(s):

Justine Flack


‘Justine Flack has an excellent ability to collate a large amount of information and condense it succinctly and accurately. She gives sensible pragmatic advice about when to pursue certain matters and when to let others alone.’

‘All the team know what is going on in my case and they all speak very knowledgeably about the options available to me simplifying legal terms into language I understand.’

‘The team is friendly and hardworking.’

‘Thoroughness, approachability, legal knowledge.’

‘Very detailed orientated. Personable. Justine Flack absolutely outstanding and the best in the sector.’

‘A great team. Sure footed and confident, they are fantastic with clients.’

‘A client focussed and determined team who provide an excellent service.’


Rotheras ‘successfully combines a high degree of professionalism and attention to detail’ in all aspects of family law, with particular strength in financial settlements and private children issues. Ann-Marie Bowman ‘offers exceptional advocacy and expertise’ in children law; advising both children, parents and guardians in court proceedings, as well as providing counsel in adoption, child arrangement orders and care proceedings. A lawyer of over 30 years, Joanne Millward supports with divorce, division of assets, children and pre/post nuptial agreements.

Practice head(s):

Ann-Marie Bowman

Other key lawyers:

Joanne Millward


‘The team work very hard to provide an excellent service to clients, particularly in the current climate. Cases are prepared well and are in good order when papers are received by chambers.’

‘The practice successfully combines a high degree of professionalism and attention to detail with excellent client care, providing pragmatic solutions in plain English.’

‘Joanne Millward provides a first-class service to their clients, giving realistic advice in a sympathetic manner using straightforward language which puts the client at ease.’

Excello Law

Emphasising mediation in the resolution of finances cases, Swati Somaiya at Excello Law is the primary mediator and family lawyer for high-net-worth divorce cases involving overseas assets, pre/post nuptial agreements and private children law.

Practice head(s):

Swati Somaiya


‘Swati Somaiya is very professional, pragmatic and personable in her approach to family matters. She is also quick to respond to client queries.’

‘Swati Somaiya’s excellence never fails to impress.’

‘Swati Somaiya is the perfect mix of consummate professional with expert knowledge and a friendly and approachable touch.’

Work highlights

  • Advising W in relation to a complex split of assets valued at between £3 to 3.5m including shares in a business worth £1.5m and advising upon quantum of ongoing spousal maintenance.
  • Advised H in respect of the division of assets totalling £1m plus including the closure of a business, transfer of assets to a new business, advice from pensions expert about the division of pensions and discussing the complexities of Trust Funds.
  • Advising H a high earner about the importance of his health problems and the affect this will have upon his future earning capacity and the significance of this when negotiating a settlement including capital assets and pensions with a value of over £2.5m.

Roythornes Solicitors

Roythornes Solicitors largely focuses on medium to high-value divorce cases involving issues such as pension assets, company/partnership assets, farming assets, and trusts. Though based in Spalding, Nick Ingrey frequently receives referrals from national clients as a result of his 40 years’ experience in high-value financial claims arising out of the breakdown of a marriage; he is also experienced in cases under the Children Act 1989 and negotiating pre-and post-nuptial settlements.

Practice head(s):

Nick Ingrey

Other key lawyers:

Caroline Elliott

Wilson Browne Solicitors

Led by Ed Rawlins, Wilson Browne‘s team is a renowned choice for all family law matters, and has been joined by senior solicitor Minara Hannan in June 2021. Hannan brings in complementary expertise in private children law and specialises in cross border family disputes involving children and child abduction and children proceedings. Helen York is a noted divorce lawyer.

Practice head(s):

Ed Rawlins

Other key lawyers:

Minara Hannan; Helen York


‘Ed Rawlings is a great lawyer at Wilson Browne. The focus and passion he has towards his clients is clear to see. Ed and his assistant are professional, honest and go above and beyond for you.’

‘This practice gets the work done to high standards. The team is extremely organised and there is clear communication between the team making them very efficient with the case they are helping you with.

‘Minara Hannan stands out from other solicitors in her positive, highly focussed and “it can be done” attitude. She is great at thinking on her feet and analysing situation in very few minutes to build a picture. I value her ability to focus on the important matters but also to note when to direct a client for additional support such as therapy to help individuals cope with difficult circumstances.’