Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Susan Apthorp, Keystone Law

Date: 28 Sep 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Susan Apthorp, Keystone Law

Citywealth speaks to Susan Apthorp, member of Citywealth’s Leaders List (click here to check Susan Apthorp’s Leaders List profile) and Partner at Keystone Law who specialises in family and matrimonial.

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.

Family Law knows no boundaries. A relationship breakdown can have chasmic repercussions for a family: complex business and trusts structures dismantling, unforeseen tax rearing an ugly head, assets to be valued and sold. I could go on and on. Alongside this, throw raw emotion into the mix – people who feel betrayed and abused, children who need security and a logical fear of an unknown future.

Relationship breakdown is a traumatic time even for the most hard-hearted. My role is to guide and protect clients and their children through the process and seek to achieve the best outcome for them. It is something I have been specialising in for 25 years and really enjoy.

What are you working on at the moment?

Confidentiality prevents me from discussing specific cases. I can say that this month, I am feeling very international as I investigate/ await valuations of assets in Hawaii, Dubai, Morocco, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico, New York and of course London.

Further, I am grappling with a £50m plus gap in the valuation of business assets, how a court will treat repeated spousal rape during the course of a long marriage and whether the market for birds of prey really is on its knees. 

What is the biggest challenge you and your firm are currently facing in the private family law sector?

The last decade has seen a seismic change in the construct of families. As societal norms have changed, families have become more international and inclusive, cohabitation, co-parenting, pre-nuptial agreements, same sex relationships, surrogacy and transgender issues have all increased dramatically during the last five years. Alongside, the needs of these new families, there has been a recognition and understanding of the complexity of abuse/coercive control within close relationships. The law and family practitioners are striving to catch up. It’s a multi-directional learning curve.  The challenge is recognising the learning curve and educating yourself/ your team and always listening.

Are your clients behaving differently in the present era?

 Yes. Clients across all age groups (even the silver splitters) have had to become more sophisticated technically   and most meetings are taking place remotely. Face to face meetings remain important especially for the vulnerable. Most clients wish to meet in in person at least once.

Further, positively and anecdotally there is some evidence post pandemic of a kinder and more compassionate approach to family law by both clients and their lawyers.

What does it mean to you to be a member of Citywealth’s Leaders List?

I am honoured to be included in the Leaders List. It is a list I turn to time and time again when seeking advice from professionals from other disciplines,  conscious of the fact that all Citywealth Leaders have been independently referenced.

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for a lawyer who takes care of family divorce/disputes cases?

First and somewhat amusingly in this context, passion: It you are passionate about what you do the rest will follow. Without passion coming as it does hand in hand with determination and energy, you are bound to fail.  You need to pick up and read the most recent law report out of interest not duty, time and time again.

Secondly an ability to de-escalate situations fast and/or duck. Nobody wants a jug of water thrown over them. So, first class communication skills are vital.

Thirdly, maths. Maths is highly underrated by solicitors but   financial provision on divorce is considerably more nuanced than dividing by 2 and it’s a very important skill for family lawyers.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

“Don’t forget you are going to die”.

Click here to check Susan Apthorp’s Leaders List profile

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