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March 9, 2023updated 14 Mar 2023 4:34pm

Letters to the editor: Diversity in family law, the Economic Crime Bill and pre-nups

By Spear's

Our readers have their say on shifting sands in family law, regulation of company ownership and prenups

Settling up

SIR – The numerous references in your article ‘Modern family’ (Spear’s 84) to the use of alternative methods to litigation for finding early solutions in financial cases on divorce are testament to the development, over the past 20 years, of the legal profession’s ability to find early and creative solutions to settling cases.

Family Lawyers
Top divorce and family lawyers at different stages of their career chart the evolution of their profession. Photographer: Sebastian Nevols

Read the article here: Leading family lawyers on the future of HNW divorce

Mediation, conciliation, collaboration and arbitration have all evolved as alternatives to litigation, with its inevitable emphasis upon delay and cost. It is still, however, either a combination of one of these alternatives with the Court process, or still having recourse to the Court, when necessary, that brings the process to a quicker and more mutually satisfactory conclusion.

London still has good reason for being described as the divorce capital of the world, and whilst it is perhaps not quite so generous to the weaker party (usually the wife) as it used to be, it can still be relied upon to investigate the nature, size and extent of resources outside its own jurisdiction and/or held in the name of a third party and to bring them into account. So yes, we have come a long way and we are still developing – arbitration in particular – but we have now a generation of lawyers who have grown up with these techniques at their fingertips and are determined to use them to maximum effect.

Jane Keir, Kingsley Napley LLP

Diverse opinions

SIR – As a family law specialist, I read your article about leading family lawyers on the future of HNW divorce (Spear’s 84) with interest. It charted the evolution of the legal profession and family law. Thankfully, it’s much more diverse than when I started my career nearly 25 years ago. However, your article was a reminder of how far we have to go.

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The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s latest diversity statistics show that both Black and Asian lawyers are significantly under-represented at senior levels in the legal industry. For a new generation of legal professionals, articles like yours play an important role in re-imagining the old-school picture of who a lawyer is and what they can achieve. Young lawyers need to see other lawyers who look like them. And with issues of divorce and separation affecting people from all backgrounds, clients need lawyers who understand their needs and better reflect the community they serve. Representation matters.

Sarah Khan Bashir MBE, SKB Law

Clear as mud

SIR – Your article on the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act (Spear’s 84) raises interesting questions about whether the Act will achieve its objective of unveiling ownership of UK properties and the entities holding them, and whether Companies House is fit for purpose.

Read the full article here: House of Cards – the problem with the new Economic Crime Bill

The Act introduced a public register of overseas entities holding UK property, listing who has beneficial ownership of those entities. The register launched on 1 August and supplements the Register of People with Significant Control of UK companies, the Trust Registration Service and the Scottish Register of Persons Holding a Controlled Interest in Land. However, there are differences between the regimes and, even combined, they do not paint a complete picture nor offer full transparency.

Economic Crime Bill
The success of the new Economic Crime Bill rests on the UK’s corporate registrar, Companies House – which already risks toppling under its own weight. Illustration: Martin Hargreaves

Eager to plug the gaps in the existing regimes, the government has announced its intention to pass a second Economic Crime Bill and has published a white paper on corporate transparency and reforming Companies House. We should therefore expect more regulation in this area and, undoubtedly, further complexity.

Rachel Morris, Wedlake Bell

Prenup prep

SIR – I was interested to read your article ‘How to propose a prenup’ (Briefing, Spear’s 84). As a matrimonial lawyer who has advised on an ever-increasing number of prenups in recent years, I agree that it can often be a tricky path to tread for couples at a time of hope and excitement before an imminent wedding.

Read the full article here: How to propose a prenup

A prenup should never come as a bolt from the blue, and it is always best to try to lay the seeds with your partner as early and as informally as possible. With that said, some couples are less organised and, in those instances, mirror postnuptial agreements can be a useful tool to reinforce a prenup that was signed within a month of the wedding and show that there was sufficient consideration, negotiation and advice received in relation to the agreement.

Proposing a prenup can be challenging and awkward. The experts give their advice on how best to approach the subject with your partner.

Finally, I often advise my clients to try to reach an agreement on the main aspects of the prenup before drafting of the substantive document starts and lawyers are involved for the other party. This helps there to be a constructive dialogue between the parties, to simplify matters and for the negotiations to run smoothly.

Rosie Schumm, Forsters LLP

More from Spear’s

How to propose a prenup

House of Cards: the problem with the new Economic Crime Bill 

Leading family lawyers on the future of HNW divorce

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