Family: Essex in South East

Birkett Long LLP

Birkett Long LLP‘s large and specialised family law team spans across the Essex region, with bases in Colchester, Chelmsford and Basildon. The team continues to focus on divorce, the financial aspects of family breakdown and the related private child law issues. On the financial side, the work includes complex cases such as those involving business interests, significant pensions, property and land, and tax issues. ‘Innovative solicitor’ Mel Loxley has taken over as joint leader of the team with Lisa Collins to replace Philip Hoddell, who has been appointed as chairman of the firm. Francesca Cozens was recently promoted to senior associate.

Practice head(s):

Lisa Collins; Mel Loxley

Other key lawyers:

Munctech Kaur; Francesca Cozens; Karen Johnson; Philip Hoddell


‘From the moment I contacted Birkett Long they were understanding and responsive.’

‘Mel Loxley has been excellent She is professional, thorough and meticulous. She has dealt with my divorce since the start and has provided an excellent service.’

‘Mel Loxley is an innovative solicitor with the ability to listen and value the information given to achieve the goal. I have valued her ability to achieve extraordinary results which I believed were out of my reach.’

‘I would describe this practice as exceptional in all aspects. From my initial meeting to the finalisation of my financial settlement, the communication was excellent.’

‘They were easy to get hold of, replied promptly and succinctly to queries and issues. They were very knowledgeable and flexible.’

‘Muntech Kaur kept everything on track. Nothing was too much trouble for her.’

Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP

Fisher Jones Greenwood LLP 's well-regarded family team is led from Colchester by Simon Osborn - he is hugely experienced and is known for his 'sound knowledge and pragmatic approach.' The practice handles complex, high value financial remedy proceedings, private law children matters and also offers legal aid. The team, which is spread across five Essex offices, including Billericay and Chelmsford, prides itself on resolving cases for clients without the need to attend court, and is praised for being 'approachable and using clear language in all dealings'. Other key names include Charlotte Knappett and Rachel Earnshaw.

Practice head(s):

Simon Osborn

Other key lawyers:

Charlotte Knappett; Andrew Brown; Rachel Earnshaw; Julia Brewer; Lisa O’Boyle


‘Simon Osborn has a sound knowledge of the law, a pragmatic approach, is extremely professional and efficient in all engagements and dealings with my case. I also liked his commitment to the firm’s trainee solicitor programme – both trainees I dealt with were efficient, informed and diligent in their aproach.’

‘Charlotte Knappett outlined my current situation clearly. She communicated very professionally but also with a sense of humour. My dealings with her team were always quick and professional.’

‘Lisa O’Boyle has guided me through a truly terrible time in my life. She was always available and supportive.’

‘Charlotte Knappett always seemed to go above and beyond to progress the case. The opposing side delayed a number of stages; Charlotte personally called the senior partners at the firm and sorted this all. She always made time at short notice to advise and support.’

‘Communication was always very clear, and advice was succinct and reassuring.’

‘Simon Osborn was there for me 24/7 for almost two years, sorting out a difficult divorce.’

‘I asked FJG to act for me in my divorce. Charlotte Knappett was informative  and reassuring. Costs were outlined clearly.’

‘The family team is extremely hardworking and conscientious. It works well and all members are helpful in handling your case or query efficiently. Great empathy and a pragmatic approach making a challenging time easier to handle.’

Pinney Talfourd LLP

Pinney Talfourd LLP‘s strong private client practice has leveraged its ‘strength in depth across the Essex area‘ to become well known for complex, contentious, and high-value financial remedy cases within family law. The offering has now broadened to include surrogacy and fertility issues, a niche within this practice area. Ex-barrister Catherine Polli leads the family team and is valued for her family law expertise. The deep bench also includes Catherine Loadman, senior associates Jennifer Herbert and Louise Eady, and solicitors Rukhma Sohail and Sue Nash. Michael Sheville is a member of Resolution.

Practice head(s):

Catherine Polli

Other key lawyers:

Catherine Loadman, Louise Eady, Rukhma Sohail; Jennifer Herbert; Michael Sheville; Sue Nash


‘Strength in depth across Essex area. Major players in the region and with good reason due to the calibre of their lawyers.’

‘Pinney Talfourd offer a very accessible regional service to their clients. They are very client focused and well prepared.’

‘Notable and well-prepared solicitors include Catherine Loadman, Louise Eady, Rukhma Sohail and Jennifer Herbert. All have very strong relationships with clients, who are always impressed with their preparation and availability.’

‘Louise Eady has a remarkable ability to get difficult clients to focus on the key strategic issues and not to get side-tracked by emotive but ultimately insignificant peripheral points.’

‘Rukhma Sohail has an outstanding manner with clients. She is extremely personable, cuts to the heart of an issue quickly, and gives strong advice with a firm eye on real-world practicalities, which is deeply appreciated by clients. She is thorough in all of her work, highly efficient, and it is a pleasure to work with her. She is strategic and able to see the bigger picture.’

‘This is a large firm in Essex, with offices throughout. Catherine Polli has real expert knowledge in family law. She also has her finger on the pulse in terms of the market, keeping up to date with what her competitors are doing and employing the best solicitors available in the market.’

Work highlights

  • Representing a client in financial remedy proceedings with assets in excess of £8m including property in the UK and abroad.
  • Representing a client in complex financial remedy matter circa £15m involving a family business and future inheritance.
  • Representing a cohabitee client in a high-conflict complex claim under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

Birketts LLP

Based in Chelmsford, the team at Birketts LLP is one of four teams across the South East and is therefore in a strong position to assist clients with complex family issues, spanning divorce and financial matters and mandates involving children. Chelmsford family team leader Emma Brunning was promoted to partner and qualified as an arbitrator in 2021, while Ivana Radovic has joined the firm’s Ipswich office. The team also leverages connections to the firm’s company, property litigation, and agricultural teams.

Practice head(s):

Emma Brunning

Other key lawyers:

Dharshica Thanarajasingham; Ivana Radovic; Tom Wright


‘Robust team with ability to deputise as required.’

‘Emma Brunning gives approachable, pragmatic and commercially orientated advice.’

‘Birketts are an absolutely fantastic firm of solicitors, with a small but effective family team in Chelmsford who punch way above their weight.’

‘Emma Brunning is incredibly hardworking, efficient and knowledgeable. Emma is strategically astute and has great judgement.’

‘A well-organised and very proactive firm.’

‘Dharshica Thanarajasingham was very proactive and diligent.’

‘Tom Wright is diligent, hard-working, has good attention to detail, and is client-focused. Tom will go the extra mile.’

Ellisons Solicitors

Ellisons Solicitors‘ Colchester-based group is recommended as ‘a strong team, with a range of experience and able to handle all family law matters.’ Practice head Lisa Dawson‘s diverse caseload covers Children Act cases with complex domestic abuse and fact finding issues including allegations of child abuse and rape; financial cases involving multiple properties and businesses also make up a significant part of her practice. Another key name to note is associate MaryCarmel Wilson, who has particular expertise in Hague convention cases and variation of maintenance matters.

Practice head(s):

Lisa Dawson

Other key lawyers:

MaryCarmel Wilson; Francesca Easter


‘This is a strong team, with a range of experience and able to handle all family law matters.’

‘Lisa Dawson is an exceptional member of the Ellisons team. Her instructions are always detailed and focused. She provides extremely pragmatic and sensible advice to clients while always striving for the best outcome.’

‘An all-round firm with expertise in different areas of law.’

‘MaryCarmel Wilson is an outstanding solicitor who displays knowledge and skills far in excess of her seniority. Handles a variety of applications including international children’s cases. Drafts excellent statements, handles clients superbly and has good tactical acumen.’

Holmes & Hills

Carol Toulson, who is ‘capable and experienced in her field‘, leads the Holmes & Hills team from Marks Tey, near Colchester. The team deals with a variety of family latter matters and particularly distinguishes itself in its work on complex children matters and Children Act cases. The team also excels in high-value financial cases. In addition, all lawyers in the team are able to advocate in court.

Practice head(s):

Carol Toulson

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Patrick; Sue Wardropper


‘The solicitors listen and are empathic, they advise you and reassure you throughout the complex process of family courts. The litigation department are open and transparent and will support you throughout the processes.’

‘Carol Toulson has always been sympathetic, calming and open when dealing with difficult and challenging court hearings. Carol has been supportive and reasonable when giving advice. She is professional and experienced in her area of work.’

‘I found Holmes & Hills understanding and considerate regarding all aspects of interactions and communications. When my solicitor was away or on leave, there was always a well informed team member there and willing to help with any questions or needs.’

‘Carol Toulson has been consistent, professional, knowledgeable and skilled throughout my time with them being a client. Carol always consulted me prior to sending any legal letters or documentation to check the information was valid and true. Carol is able to navigate safeguarding issues and concerns in a professional and supportive manner.’

‘I have received a very efficient and professional service from all the solicitors and administrative staff I have come into contact with. I have been guided through each stage relevant to my situation.’

‘Sue Wardropper presented legal issues very simply and clearly.’

‘Sarah Patrick has strong client and knowledge skills combined with excellent communication.’

Work highlights

  • Advised a client in divorce and financial matters exceeding £4m.
  • Advised a client in divorce and financial matters in excess of £3.5m.
  • Advised a client in divorce and financial matters of approx £1.3m including complex pension valuations.

Tees Law

At Tees Law, practitioners in Chelmsford, Brentwood and Saffron Walden are led by Joshua Coombe alongside overall department head Sally Powell. Coombe specialises in complex financial matters involving substantial wealth, company structures and trusts, and also has a range of expertise in family law. More broadly, the group is able to work with other teams in the firm on divorce cases with related company law issues.

Practice head(s):

Joshua Coombe; Sally Powell

Other key lawyers:

Caroline Andrews


‘The team are dedicated to ensuring that the client is well looked after from the beginning until the end of a matter. Everything is explained clearly from the outset.’

‘Caroline Andrews has been exceptional. She explained everything within a very difficult divorce with ease, understanding total transparency and complete empathy. I would not have come out the other side of a very emotional time without Caroline’s outstanding expertise and guidance. A fantastic senior associate who is a credit to the industry.’

‘There is a great depth in the team as they work across all offices with great technology, so there is always someone available if required. The team offers a number of specialisms within family law and interact well across the firm.’

‘I have worked with Caroline Andrews on a number of cases throughout the years and her empathetic but constructive approach stands out.’

‘A well-regarded firm with a number of offices and a good ‘reach’. They get good quality cases and are well prepared and hard working.’

Work highlights

  • Advising a client on divorce and financial arrangements regarding assets valued at £20 million.
  • Advised a client on successfully returning to Vietnam with her young son.
  • Advised a client on complex surrogacy and child arrangement issues following the breakdown of their relationship.

Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors

Attwaters Jameson Hill Solicitors‘ group stands out for ‘twinning empathy with a proactive approach‘. ‘Standout solicitorJoyti Henchie is one of very few family solicitors who is a member of all family law panels, while practice head Belinda Strange‘s practice concentrates on assisting clients with divorce and separation matters. The practice as a whole has seen a shift towards private law proceedings.

Practice head(s):

Belinda Strange

Other key lawyers:

Stephanie Holmes; Joyti Henchie


‘They get it right every time. They have good, solid and diverse team that provides a great service, and a real team is what they are. What they have achieved is to ensure that their approach is personable, given much of the work they undertake being of such a personal nature. They do that brilliantly.’

‘This is a responsive and efficient department who go above and beyond for their clients. They stand out as twinning empathy with a proactive approach to the resolution of the case.’

‘Joyti Henchie is by far the best lawyer of her generation that I have encountered. There is no question of her ability as a lawyer, and there is in my view no-one better in this field. Her strategic thinking is unrivalled and she brings measured calm to the storm every time.’

‘Joyti Henchie is a standout solicitor. She has brilliant tactical sense; judgment and efficiency. She has an extraordinary eye for detail and for finding a solution in the most difficult of cases. She is hugely well respected, client focused and ready to meet any challenge. She shines in the most difficult of cases.’

‘They are an extremely user friendly family team with a mix of excellent senior solicitors and younger solicitors who compliment the team well. I have been working with members of their team for over 25 years and would have no hesitation in recommending them as one of the leaders in the field for family law in Essex.’

Giles Wilson LLP

With an office in Leigh-On-Sea, Giles Wilson LLP‘s team is headed up by Richard Busby, whose main area of work involves financial claims stemming from relationship breakdowns. ‘Pragmatic and realistic‘ former practice head Philip Giles is also a deputy district judge and splits his time between complex matrimonial matters and contentious probate mandates.

Practice head(s):

Richard Busby

Other key lawyers:

Philip Giles; Melinda Giles


‘Richard Busby heads up a great team which provides straight forward and expectational high-quality legal advice.’

‘I believe Giles Wilson provides more than a match for many of the City firms. I have on many occasions recommended Giles Wilson to friends and colleagues who are seeking legal advice. Giles Wilson continues to go from strength to strength.’

‘Philip Giles is exceptionally bright, and can immediately see which aspects of a case require the focus of his energies. He is pragmatic, realistic and genuinely interested in and able to carefully apply the law. His ability to settle cases is second to none, but he also knows how to pick the cases that must fight and he is astute when it comes to litigation.’

‘Melinda Giles (who mainly focuses on non-contentious matters) and Richard Busby are both driven and client-focused.’

‘A practice that can be trusted to be thorough and diligent with the client’s best interests as the focus. A timely service along with clear and effective communication with clients.’

‘Richard Busby has been exemplary from start to finish with his attention to detail and unwavering determination to get the job done.’

Work highlights

  • Successfully applied for an urgent order for leave to remove children from the UK.
  • Acted in a financial remedy case with multiple businesses.
  • Acted in a constructive trusts and breach of trust case with a deal value of £2m.

Jefferies Essex LLP

Jefferies Essex LLP‘s Southend-On-Sea team’s strength lies in its ‘collaborative and reparative approach to working with children and families in family court proceedings.’ Department head Anne-Marie Rainsford acts for children and adults in children law cases and has recently appeared in the High Court. Rainsford, Sian JenkinsBrooke Robdrup-Kilgour and Shannon Tomkins form the ‘children’ part of the team, highlighting the depth of expertise in this area.

Practice head(s):

Anne-Marie Rainsford

Other key lawyers:

Sian Jenkins; Brooke Robdrup-Kilgour; Shannon Tomkins


‘The staff are very reliable, engaging and make themselves available as soon as possible if engaged in other matters. Their attention to detail and sensitive approach is very important and appreciated.’

‘The firm’s collective strength is in their collaborative and reparative approach to working with children and families in family court proceedings. They are balanced, knowledgeable and approachable.’

‘Anne-Marie Rainsford has excellent communication skills. I have observed in practice Anne-Marie’s wide-ranging skill set which demonstrates her empathetic understanding and ability to robustly challenge where necessary.’

‘I am impressed by Sian Jenkins’ attention to detail and swift and thorough analysis of incoming information. I found this extremely helpful on a public law case.’

‘I appreciate Brooke Robdrup-Kilgour’s attention to detail, and swift response to questions.’

‘They are responsive. They are always on the ball. Always personable but highly professional and on point with all advice.’

‘Anne-Marie Rainsford has a depth of knowledge that is remarkable. Brooke Robdrup-Kilgour is energetic and thoroughly reliable. She is professional and focused.’

Mullis & Peake LLP

Sally Ward now leads the primarily Romford-based team at Mullis & Peake LLP after joining the practice in 2021, replacing Roisin McCorry. She is well supported by mediator and arbitrator Jessica Thrower, who is ‘particularly skilled in private children law disputes‘ at associate level. The group is well known for representing clients in complex child arrangements and financial matters.

Practice head(s):

Sally Ward

Other key lawyers:

Roisin McCorry; Jessica Thrower


‘Honesty and great attention to detail. Patience. Availability. Feels like a two-way, collaborative effort to do things the right way.’

‘Sally Ward has been very thorough, calm, understanding, patient and honest.’

‘Jessica Thrower is a trained mediator with an eye on resolution of disputes through mediation and collaboration and yet robust, direct and pragmatic when court action is required. Particularly skilled in private children law disputes.’

‘The team is a very well respected department.’

‘A cohesive team able to provide a range of services across family law.’


Located in four offices across South Essex, Palmers‘ family team handles a range of family mandates with Surjit Verdi at the helm. Verdi’s practice includes mandates involving complex property issues, company issues and pensions elements. Kim Mansfield‘s large caseload spans disputes between unmarried partners, domestic violence cases and pre-nuptial agreements.

Practice head(s):

Surjit Verdi

Other key lawyers:

Kim Mansfield


‘Extremely efficient in the preparation of papers and correspondence. Excellent with keeping up to speed with legal developments and the impact this has on preparation of documents and case for trial.’

‘Surjit Verdi is superb – approachable, knowledgeable, client-focused – a real go to person. A joy to work with.’

‘Kim Mansfield is hardworking and pushes for her clients.’

‘The team are approachable and will go above and beyond for their clients.’

‘Kim Mansfield takes on a huge caseload and to a high standard. Surjit Verdi is an excellent partner, who has a great expertise in family law. Both deliver good results and are a pleasure to work with.’

Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP

The team at Paul Robinson Solicitors LLP, which impresses clients with its ‘knowledge and attention to detail’, is led by Christopher Wall, who is a member of the Law Society Advanced Family Law panel for financial remedy disputes and private law children work. The practice is split between Westcliffe and Billericay and has a specialist children department that includes specialist Annette Lowen.

Practice head(s):

Christopher Wall

Other key lawyers:

Kerry Wilks; Annette Lowen; Lorraine George


‘I have always been very impressed with the team’s knowledge and their attention to detail.’

‘Lorraine George has been approachable, listens to your point of view and gives you a clear answer to which way she thinks the best approach is.’

‘The team is highly responsive and considers both strategic and tactical matters at all times. I have felt fully supported at every turn.’

‘Chris Wall has been dynamic and responsive and has provided excellent advice. He is good at saying what he can do and then fully meeting or exceeding expectation. He always achieves a great deal in a short time.’

‘Chris Wall has experience in tackling complex matrimonial finance cases and is popular with clients. He is building an excellent reputation for the firm and personally and is our go-to solicitor in Essex.’

Stowe Family Law LLP

Stowe Family Law LLP‘s rapidly expanding Chelmsford-based practice is unique in concentrating solely on family law work. Another feature that sets the practice apart is that it has a nationwide network, meaning that it can offer clients ‘an understanding beyond the local area’. Team head and trained advocate Sebastian Burrows is known for his deep expertise in complex and particularly challenging children and financial settlement cases.

Practice head(s):

Sebastian Burrows

Other key lawyers:

Lucy Birch


‘Stowe Family Law in Chelmsford offers a great out of London legal service. Stowe Chelmsford offers a first-class service, be it in matrimonial finance – including complex cases, private children disputes (with international or other complicating factors such as alleged domestic or substance abuse), and disputes involved cohabiting couples.’

‘Having trained as a barrister, Sebastian Burrows is able to conduct his own advocacy and does so very successfully and persuasively. Seb has built up a strong reputation in matrimonial finance matters, particularly when it comes to dividing pensions, litigating city bonuses and achieving top-class results in dividing property portfolios. His case analysis is clear and his instructions succinct and to the point. His natural affable charm is the icing on the cake of his considerable legal and practical knowledge. He is very able – a gifted litigator and strategist.’

‘They are ambitious to grow the team and increase the amount and the quality of the work that they do. The Essex office is determined to become a significant player and seems to have the energy and expertise to do so.’

‘Sebastian Burrows is clever and personable. He really knows his stuff and has the sort of tactical nous that allows him to secure results for clients with the minimum fuss and expense.’

‘Stowe are a specialist outfit, exclusively undertaking family law work, and I think that sets them apart in a big way. They also have presence across the country, which adds to their expertise, as they can bring an understanding beyond their local area.’

‘I really enjoy working with the team at Stowe, and have done on a number of occasions. It feels like we work together as a team, which isn’t always the case. I have worked a lot with Sebastian Burrows and Lucy Birch, and would recommend them both. They are able to offer a strong level of expertise in a very approachable, client-friendly, way.’

‘This is a small branch of the powerhouse that is Stowe and they are evidence that good things come in small packages. They are a tight-knit, friendly team who support each other and achieve great outcomes.’

‘Lucy Birch is one to watch. Incredible diligence and great instincts.’