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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 > North > Private client > Family > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

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

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Who Represents Who

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β€˜One of the best in the market’, David Gray Solicitors LLP β€˜deserves every ounce of praise it receives’. The firm handles the full gamut of family work including divorce cases, children matters and financial issues. It also has a prominent dispute resolution practice and a growing financial remedy focus. Department head Lucy Mead specialises in children matters, acting on behalf of children, parents and other family members in both public law cases (including social services issues) and private matters following family breakdowns. Mead also has notable financial expertise. The highly regarded Mary Shaw and Elspeth Thomson are β€˜clear leaders in the field’ and focus on divorce cases and adoption law respectively. Shaw also has a notable specialism in collaborative law and mediation. Lesley Monkhouse is singled out for her children work, with particular emphasis on non-accidental injury cases, honour-based violence, forced marriages and child abduction matters. Solicitor Claire Hunter is also recommended.

β€˜A prominent niche practice covering the North East and beyond’, Major Family Law’s β€˜ambitious and innovative’ practice is β€˜the one to watch in the region’. It has β€˜truly leading-edge professionals’ with β€˜unrivalled knowledge’; key figures include β€˜fantastic’ practice head Joanne Major, who attracts praise for her β€˜knowledge of the law coupled with business acumen and emotional intelligence, which makes her a force to be reckoned with’; Jonathan Dunkley, who is a β€˜tough negotiator’; children specialist Anna Hunter, whose β€˜quiet confidence makes her perfect for the arena’; and solicitor Rebecca Savage, who is β€˜a skilful and safe pair of hands with a level head and excellent client skills’. The firm covers all elements of family law, including high-net-worth finance cases, divorce issues and children mandates. The firm also has an increasing international focus, with particularly emphasis in the expatriate area.



Having initially trained as a Magic Circle corporate solicitor and a barrister, Ayesha was determined to bring blue-chip, City quality to the moribund area of family law. In 2005, she founded Vardags as a sole practitioner, combining razor-sharp expertise on complex financial matters with the empathy and common sense afforded by her own experience of divorce. A landmark Supreme Court win in the case of Radmacher v Granatino, which made prenuptial agreements legally enforceable in the UK, cemented Vardags’ status as a game changer in matrimonial law.

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For some, Silk Family Law is lauded as β€˜the pre-eminent firm in the North East; an undoubted leader’. The β€˜dedicated’ group has β€˜genuinely brilliant expertise wedded to a caring and thoughtful approach that makes it truly peerless’. The firm is β€˜packed full of legal experts’, including the β€˜amazing’ Kim Fellowes, who has β€˜a reputation for fighting her corner with dogged determination; she has a brilliant mind and undoubted prowess in children issues, financial matters and pre-nuptial agreements’. Also recommended are qualified barrister Ian Kennerley and β€˜first-rate family lawyer’ Margaret Simpson, who β€˜never misses a trick’ and β€˜is charming with clients and opponents alike’; she is recommended for divorces, particularly those involving land ownership and farming issues. The β€˜outstanding, pragmatic and highly skilled’ Wayne Lynn focuses on cohabitation agreements and pre-and-post-nuptial agreements. Associate Harriet Reid is another key name to note.

Ward Hadaway’s β€˜strong and integrated’ department is β€˜exceptional at divorce matters’ and is β€˜one of the best around for children work’. Associate Sarah Crilly β€˜stands out as an experienced and competent performer’ and practice head Jonathan Flower is β€˜invariably courteous, sensible and hardworking’. Other areas of expertise include financial remedies, cohabitation agreements and care proceedings. Associate Cassandra Spenceley, who joined the firm in mid-2016 from DMA Law, is β€˜intelligent, meticulous and always goes the extra mile’ and focuses on complex care proceedings, especially those involving injury and abuse. The team also has a growing contentious workload, representing clients in litigation against local authorities pertaining to issues where children’s human rights have been breached. Associate Louise Cannell-Mirza is singled out for her work in financial remedies and child law disputes; she also has experience in the health and education sectors.

Burnetts’ β€˜courteous and friendly’ practice is led by the β€˜highly considerate and very thorough’ Simon Mortimer, who is noted for his high-value divorce experience, particularly those involving pensions elements, farm businesses and agricultural assets. Amy Fallows, whose β€˜knowledge and understanding of the sector is exceptional’, handles financial mandates and childcare cases including special guardianship orders, child relocations and child arrangement orders. The team also regularly represents foster carers and grandparents, and acts in cross-border children cases, civil partnerships, single-sex marriages and co-owned land disputes. Mortimer and Fallows have collaborative law expertise; Mortimer recently advised a husband in a divorce, which was resolved using collaborative law.

The β€˜highly professional’ department at Cartmell Shepherd is led by Julian Nelson, whose β€˜skill and experience is evident at all stages of an issue’. Nelson focuses on matters with an agricultural angle and regularly acts for professionals. He works closely with β€˜extremely approachable and empathetic’ associate Caroline Smith, who advises on children issues, cohabitation cases and pre-nuptial agreements. The β€˜always pleasant’ team is noted for its track record in divorce matters and private children law. Consultant David Kendrew specialises in collaborative law and mediation. The firm’s clients include solicitors, healthcare professionals, police officers, teachers and farmers.

Hay & Kilner is β€˜an excellent firm with a highly respected team of skilled and compassionate lawyers’ who advise private and public clients on the full range of family law matters. The β€˜exceptional’ Nicola Matthews heads the practice and has notable experience in high-value divorce cases. Rob Hart’s expertise lies in childcare mandates including non-accidental injury allegations, emotional abuse issues and cases relating to sexual risk; he is praised for his β€˜incredible knowledge of the law, which he applies with sound common sense’. Other noteworthy individuals include β€˜brilliant’ associate solicitor Kerry Sutherland and associate solicitor Leanne Sutherland, who has β€˜outstanding client-care skills’.

At Mincoffs Solicitors LLP, practice head Lyn Rutherford is recognised for his matrimonial expertise and his work on high-value financial cases. Associate solicitor Emily Cannell regularly handles divorce issues, financial matters and private children work. Recent work includes handling financial proceedings, pre-nuptial agreement drafting and private law children proceedings. The team also works closely with the firm’s corporate, commercial property and trust teams.

Sintons LLP’s practice attracts praise for its high-net-worth financial remedy expertise, particularly through the work of practice head Steve Freeman. Freeman’s recent work includes advising on a Schedule 1 Children Act matter as well as handling a high-value financial remedy and a Children Act matter for a high-net-worth individual. Associate Louise Masters is lauded for her divorce and children law expertise and also brings collaborative law expertise. Solicitor Jayne Cluff is another name to note. The firm’s client base includes senior executives, solicitors and professional sports players.

Swinburne Maddison’s family team is led by Kath Hill, who excels in complex financial matters involving pensions, companies and overseas properties. She also handles children issues, particularly those with an international element. In a recent highlight, Hill represented a wife in a case concerning divorce, children and financial issues; she also handled a divorce for a university professor, which involved complex immigration issues. Allan Devine regularly defends parents in care proceedings issued by the local authorities, and Catherine Lowther primarily handles financial and children matters.

BHP Law handles the full gamut of family issues including divorces, financial cases, children matters, injunctions, separations, civil partnerships, pre-nuptial agreements and adoption. The team is also recognised for its expertise in care proceedings. Practice head Andrea Hewitson is a qualified collaborative lawyer and advises clients on complex children issues and high-value matrimonial cases. Other noteworthy names include consultant Terry Hamer, who is a children law specialist; associate Gemma Holmes, who is recommended for financial disputes; and associate Michael Harrison, who is experienced in serious abuse and adoption matters.

Beecham Peacock has β€˜an excellent, modern and well-run family department’ with β€˜comprehensive experience in all aspects of family law’. The β€˜outstandingly good’ Sophia Yau-Rosher has β€˜a well-earned reputation’ acting for high-net-worth clients, for whom she β€˜always goes the extra mile’. The β€˜responsive’ Charlotte Talbot is recommended for her children law expertise. Fiona Ryans and Derek Pack are qualified collaborative lawyers and specialise in financial issues and children work respectively.

At EMG Solicitors, associate Natalia Lalas excels in divorce and finance matters and has niche specialisms in surrogacy issues and civil partnerships. Lalas is also a qualified collaborative lawyer, as is associate solicitor Julia Middleton, who joined the firm in 2017 from Ward Hadaway. In a recent highlight, Lalas advised a couple based in Dubai on an international surrogacy matter, which involved further issues of domicile and international residence. The group is supported by practice head and Court of Protection expert Emma Gaudern, and Jemma Morland.

Short Richardson & Forth β€˜provides a service that is nothing short of excellent’. Established following Christine McVay’s move from Slater and Gordon in mid-2016, the practice has a core matrimonial focus, with McVay acting for clients on a regional and national level. She β€˜a high-powered, driven and intense practitioner, who is particularly astute when it comes to difficult cases’; her β€˜breadth and depth of knowledge is second to none’. McVay also handles nuptial and cohabitation agreements.

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