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    • John West - SKO

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Absolutely brilliant, clever, knowledgeable, human and responsive’, the team at SKO is ‘at the cutting edge of family law’. Its work includes handling major international maintenance cases and acted in the first contentious case under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act in Scotland (a matter led by Robert Gilmour). The group also has a significant practice catering specifically to LGBTI individuals; with vast experience in related human rights and Equality Act issues, civil partnership dissolution, gender recognition, adoption, surrogacy and reproduction cases. In addition, the team advised on the first same-sex divorce case in the UK. The ‘doyenne of Scots family lawyers’, practice head Rachael Kelsey (noted as a ‘force of nature’) is particularly known for her presence in cross-border and international family cases. Susan Oswald continues to advise various county councils in England and Wales on the recognition and enforcement of proposed deprivation of liberty orders, which has implications under Scots law. John West is ‘building a stellar reputation in the field’ and regularly receives instructions from English leading and junior counsel in relation to Scottish and European law issues. Alison Edmondson is a specialist family mediator, but is also well regarded for her expertise in work for vulnerable adults, as well as tax and capacity issues. Clients include NSPCC and the Scottish Government.

The ‘absolutely top-end team’ at Brodies LLP is noted for its family law work, including high-value and high-profile divorce cases, as well as multi-jurisdictional aspects and ‘forum shopping’ cases. The group also cases involving international child abduction and has expertise in European regulations pertaining to maintenance. Lisa Girdwood is ‘hugely experienced and able’ and has ‘a caring manner with clients’. Also recommended are ‘master tactician’ Scott Cochrane, Richard Smith, who focuses on divorce cases involving business owners has ‘a pleasant and pragmatic approach’, and Shaun George, who heads the practice.

Morton Fraser has a broad practice, which covers financial provision, international and English family law, child support, preventive advice, international child abduction work, family mediation and arbitration. The group, which is noted for going ‘above and beyond’, is led by the ‘hugely experienced’ Rhona Adams, who has ‘an air of calm authority’. Adams specialises in complex financial provision work, often with cross-border or international elements. Lucia Clark has ‘superb technical knowledge’ and an ‘analytical approach’, which she also applies to financial provision work. Fiona Sasan is noted for always ‘fighting her client’s corner’ in cases involving business interests and their disentanglement in divorce cases. ‘Perceptive’ consultant, Savita Sharma handles a number of intra-UK child cases, in which complex jurisdictional issues arise between Scots and English law. Recent highlights include advising various English local authorities on 50 related public law cases, involving children in England who were being detained in Scottish secure accommodation as a result of an English court order.

Turcan Connell’s ‘extremely strong group’ has a particular focus on complex work for high-net-worth individuals and negotiations of financial settlements that avoid litigation. The firm’s broader practice adds value to the family law team in terms of business valuations, pension sharing, tax and trusts. In addition to divorce mandates, the firm also handles cohabitation issues, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, child law cases (including international relocation), adoption and surrogacy. Dual qualified in Scots and English law, practice head Gillian Crandles is ‘in the very top category of family lawyers in Scotland’. She has ‘an excellent manner with clients’ and acts for a wide variety of Scottish professional individuals facing matrimonial and cohabitation issues. ‘Pragmatic’ Alasdair Loudon has notable expertise in international divorces. Lindsey Ogilvie, who was promoted to partner in April 2018, is the firm’s child specialist, but is also recommended for her work on complex financial issues. Senior solicitor Zaynab Al Nasser, whose attention to detail is ‘second to none’, is another key contact.

Balfour+Manson LLP’s ‘very experienced and hard-working’ team handle all aspects of family law, drawing on experience in cross-border matters and the firm’s wider private client expertise. Practice head Shona Smith, who gives ‘sensible and clear advice’, often handles negotiated settlements in the Sheriff Court and Court of Session. Kirsten Knight’s practice encompasses divorce, cohabitation, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, child-related disputes and adoptions. ‘Experienced beyond his years’, Jamie Foulis advises clients on the spectrum of non-contentious family matters. Associate Iain Thomson is recommended for his ‘quick-wittedness’ and ‘impressive familiarity with the Court of Session’.

Blackadders LLP is ‘a particularly good Central Belt firm’ that handles complicated financial disputes, in addition to the full range of family work. The practice is led by Craig Samson, who is ‘a formidable lawyer and really strong negotiator’. He specialises in financial claims arising out of separation and divorce, sometimes with cross-border and jurisdictional aspects. John Mitchell has ‘considerable litigation experience’ and specialises in handling family disputes in and out of court. The ‘brilliant’ Gareth Masson handles a substantial amount of civil court matters, financial provision, child law, adoption and permanency orders.

The ‘strong’ family team at BTO Solicitors LLP handles family disputes, surrogacy, children’s referrals, international adoptions and high-value settlements. The group also has expertise family matters involving data protection, revenge porn, reputation management, harassment and domestic abuse. The group is led by the ‘empathetic’ Lesley Gordon, who provides clients with ‘direct and strategic advice’ on the range of financial issues arising from the formation and breakdown of relationships, particularly involving high-net-worth individuals. She is also an experienced family arbitrator and mediator. ‘Collaborative’ associate Marjory Blair focuses on issues involving children, and is particularly noted for handling cases involving child protection and domestic abuse. Associate Denise Laverty is also recommended for English and Scottish jurisdictional issues.

Harper Macleod LLP has significant experience in cases involving the relocation of children, financial provision, cohabitation, pre- and post-nuptial agreements. It also handles English law and cross-border mandates. The practice is led by the ‘highly knowledgeable’ Amanda Masson, who is a specialist in family and child law, as well as family mediation. Although experienced in non-contentious work, she also acts for clients in the Court of Session and Sheriff Courts. Masson acted alongside ‘dedicated’ associate Claire Christie in a complex relocation case. Jenny Smith, who joined from Family Law Matters Scotland LLP, is dual Scots and English qualified, and has a particular interest in financial provision cases.

Lindsays has ‘a solid team with a good knowledge of family law matters’. The group handles complex financial provision cases, child law (including adoption and permanence orders, cross-border and jurisdictional work. It also has considerable experience in Court of Session and Sheriff Court litigation, which stands alongside its alternative dispute resolution practice. On the non-contentious side, the team handles nuptial and cohabitation agreements, rural matters, Hague Convention work and surrogacy. Alison McKee leads the practice and has particular expertise in international child abduction cases, in addition to collaborative family law. Jennifer Gallagher stands out for ‘excellent technical knowledge’, as well as possessing ‘the confidence to run cases and take decisions herself, where appropriate’. The ‘sensible and practical’ Duncan Mackinnon is a child law specialist and is noted for his ‘great rapport’ with children. ‘Approachable, sympathetic and intellectually able’ legal director Lucy Metcalf has an excellent track record in court, which she combines with ‘well-developed soft-skills’.

MacRoberts LLP’s team was greatly bolstered by two new arrivals from Shoosmiths in September 2017: Marika Franceschi, who ‘instils confidence in clients’, and senior associate Karen Nicol. ‘Empathetic and clear’ Jacqueline Stroud leads the team, which advises clients on the full range of family matters, including divorce, mediation, child law, international matters, nuptial agreements, cohabitation and adoption. Recent highlights include a number of divorces involving high value and overseas assets. ‘Professional’ senior associate Fiona Sharp is also recommended.

Morisons LLP has ‘an extremely knowledgeable and reliable’ family law department, which is most known for its expertise in complex child law matters, including Hague Convention and child abduction cases. ‘Hugely experienced’ Alasdair Docwra leads the team, and has extensive experience in resolving child matters via a collaborative approach. He is frequently called upon to prepare reports for the Edinburgh Sheriff Court in child cases. Associate Rachael MacDonald, whose advocacy skills are ‘excellent’, is ‘one to watch’; she is noted for working ‘tirelessly’ in service of her clients, and is noted for her specialist expertise in cases involving international child abduction.

MTM Family Law has particular expertise in collaborative law, with a particular focus on family mediation and arbitration. The group assists a range of high-profile individuals reach often complex financial settlements. It handles cases involving child care arrangements in addition to surrogacy, pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation disputes. The team is led by founding partner Shona Templeton, who leads on alternative dispute resolution, also has extensive litigation experience in the Sheriff Court. Carolyn McBride  has expertise in complex financial provision. Caroline Henderson focuses on surrogacy matters.

Patience and Buchan is noted as ‘the best family law practice in Aberdeen’. The team (which is ‘professional to the core’) specialises in high-value cases and child-related issues. Founding partner, Lorna Buchan is ‘hugely formidable’ in court, and has extensive experience in the financial and child aspects of divorce and family law matters. Highlights for Buchan included acting for a husband in complex divorce proceedings, in which his wife refused to enter into negotiations about a jointly-owned property, leading to a successful action for its division and sale. ‘A strong performer and tough litigator’, Ashley Simpson is particularly knowledgeable in disputes arising from cohabitation. Associate Gillian Smith is also recommended for disputes involving children and international relocation.

Aberdein Considine has added two new partners to its family team: April Campbell joined in August 2018 and Karl Brown joined from Murray and Brown in November 2017. The group, which provides ‘good advice at a reasonable price’ handles separations (including financial and child-related issues), contentious and non-contentious aspects of divorce, child law matters, child maintenance, adoption, civil partnerships and pre-nuptial agreements. The practice is led by Ruth Aberdein, who specialises in high-value divorce and separation cases, and has expertise in alternative dispute resolution methods. The ‘highly intelligent and diligentIsabelle Douglas is ‘thorough and empathetic to the overall situation of separation’; she has particular expertise in financial provision and child-related matters. Naeema Sajid's focus is guardianship issues, although she also has extensive experience in contentious court proceedings.

Anderson Strathern has a strength in handling financial provision, divorce and child-related matters. It also has experience in nuptial agreements, permanence orders, cohabitation claims and residence disputes. ‘Highly organised and approachable’ practice head Janice Jones has ‘an ability to explain complicated legal concepts’; she acts for a number of high-profile individuals in often complex divorce cases. Senior associate Ann-Marie Chalmers, who joined the practice after the firm’s merger with Jeffrey Aitken in April 2017, focuses on divorce work and nuptial agreements. Associate David Coutts is noted as ‘rapidly building a good reputation’, particularly in the area of child law. He is ‘an excellent negotiator, with good legal knowledge and communication skills’.

BLM’s ‘very experienced team’ stands out for its ‘in-depth knowledge’ in high-net-worth matrimonial cases and child welfare. Recent highlights include a number of complex financial provision cases that involve family-owned businesses and the division of assets. The team is co-led by Siobhan Kelly (‘at the very top of her game’ and ‘passionate about the client’s best interest’) and ‘formidableCaroline Gillespie , who deals with a broad range of family, child and matrimonial cases, with particular expertise in international child relocation and cohabitation.

Digby Brown LLP’s ‘experienced’ team is noted for providing ‘an excellent level of service’. Practice head Roger McKenzie stands out for his work in financial provision cases, and for developing the firm’s traditional area of practice, adoption work. Highlights included representing the wife in a high-value and complex divorce case at the Court of Session, which involved outside expertise to determine the true value of the husband’s niche business interest, and internationally-based assets.

T C Young has a ‘highly experienced’ team that deals with all aspects of family law. It is most noted for its ability to deal with child-related work, including Hague Convention and cross-border contact issues. Practice family law head in Glasgow Lynne Collingham is an alternative dispute resolution expert and ‘works hard towards reaching settlements’ in divorce and separation cases, often involving complex financial provision. Grant Knight leads the family law department in Edinburgh, and is regularly appointed by Edinburgh Sheriff Court to act as Curator ad litem for children in family actions. He specialises in children’s referrals, adoptions and permanence orders. Also in Edinburgh, Vicky Lewis , whose tactical awareness is ‘second-to-none’, focuses on financial provision arrangements.

Thorntons Law LLP is regularly instructed in matters across the spectrum of family law, including divorce, separation, child and cohabitation disputes, civil partnership dissolutions and nuptial agreements. After the retirement of Stephen Brand in May 2018, Amanda Wilson leads the practice and is ‘a very highly regarded, natural successor’; she specialises in collaborative dispute resolution. Graham Harding is a child law expert, and regularly called upon as a child welfare reporter and Curator ad litem in permanence and adoption cases at Perth Sheriff Court. Associate Lynne Sturrock is another key contact.

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