Tell me about your role.
I head up the Family Asset Protection team at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner in London. It’s a brand new role and I have only been in position since 1 September 2018. I deal with all aspects of family law ranging from preparing pre-marital agreements, drafting the divorce paperwork, resolving the financial aspects of a divorce and advising on difficult private children law disputes. I deal with a lot of international work, which can involve taking urgent action to secure the court’s jurisdiction in this country. I am also a trained collaborative lawyer which is a way of resolving disputes without going to court.
How has the private client industry changed?
In the family law world, one of the key changes, since I began my practice over 20 years ago, is the emphasis on resolving cases outside of the court arena. Arbitration is becoming far more popular and ensures that there is judicial continuity and privacy of proceedings. There are so many options now of resolving family disputes such as mediation, collaborative law and private hearings, to name a few. We have to be creative as family lawyers and consider which process is going to be best for the clients. This can involve looking at the wider family dynamics as well as considering the delays involved in the court process and of course, the risk of publicity. Part of the skill of a family lawyer is being aware of the nuances involved in each case and what process option will work best for each particular client. Times have certainly changed since I started my legal career, back then the only choice was court or a round table meeting.
What lessons have you learnt?
There are always two sides to every story. Every client will have their own view of their experiences and respond accordingly. My role, as the family lawyer, is to take the emotion out of the problem and come up with a pragmatic solution.
Tell us about interesting client instructions.
There are so many…probably one instruction I will never forget was a lady who instructed me to deal with her divorce from an ultra high net worth individual. To protect her share of the assets, we obtained a worldwide freezing order and various mirror orders around the world. Following 15 months of intense litigation, we started settlement discussions. We were making good progress until the husband’s lawyer insisted that I raise with my client the issue of who would take the family dog. My client immediately walked out of the negotiations! She did eventually return and the question of the dog wasn’t raised again. This shows it isn’t always about the money….
What challenges do your clients face?
With high profile clients, their primary concern is ensuring that their family problems are not played out in the tabloids. The Family Division of the High Court has a divergence of views on whether family cases should be heard in private or not – which is why I always try and go down the arbitration route if at all possible. Nobody wants to see their dirty laundry washed in public. While I completely accept that justice must be seen to be done, I do question why a couple’s private matters should be of interest to anyone else.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
You can’t fast forward experience.
What was the last book you’ve read?
I’m currently reading Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, the author who wrote Gone Girl. It’s a thriller involving a reporter who returns home after many years to write about the local murder of two girls. It deals with her difficult relationship with her mother as well as investigating the murders…I long for the weekend when I can read the next chapter!
How do you relax after a long day?
I take my gorgeous German Shepherd for a walk along the Thames – London at night is beautiful – and then curl up with a glass of wine watching American TV shows.