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June 9, 2020updated 24 Nov 2020 4:14pm

Revealed: the best divorce lawyers in London

By Edwin Smith

The 2020 edition of Spear’s Family Law Index shows that the so-called ‘Queen Bees’ are still very much on top

Spear’s today publishes its index of the finest family lawyers in the land – the best people to guide HNW clients through iron-clad prenups, big-money divorces and complicated custody battles.

The full index, with links to a short profile of each lawyer, is at the bottom of this article and can also be seen here:

2020 Spear’s Family Law Index

Spear’s published its first Family Law Index 10 years ago and, ever since, several of the top places in our rankings have been occupied by the so-called ‘Queen Bees’. This cadre of female lawyers rose to prominence in the Eighties and Nineties and are now widely referred to by only their first names – they are the Adeles, Beyoncés and Rihannas of their industry.

The Queen Bees (Fiona Shackleton of Payne Hicks Beach, Lady Helen Ward of Stewarts, Frances Hughes of Hughes Fowler Carruthers, Diana Parker of Withers and Sandra Davis of Mishcon de Reya) retain their place in the Top Flight of our index and continue to deliver outstanding results for their clients. At £600 per hour, or more in some cases, you’d hope so too.

Not everyone is a fan, however. One respected lawyer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told us: ‘They should have dropped off the end of their perch. They’re blocking the way for the younger generation to come through.’

This year, for the first time, we asked the lawyers in our index which of their peers from rival firms they would instruct to represent them in their own – hypothetical – divorce.

The answer given more often than any other was ‘Fiona’, and Baroness (Fiona) Shackleton is the subject of an in-depth profile published in tandem with our index.

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Fiona Shackleton: Britain’s most feared divorce lawyer

In the piece, we ask how a young woman who left Exeter University with a third-class degree and began working as a cook rose to become the most feared divorce lawyer in London, representing Prince Charles, Paul McCartney and countless celebrity clients.

Earlier this year, Shackleton won a stunning preliminary judgement in favour of her client Princess Haya bint Hussein of Jordan in a High Court battle with her estranged husband, Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.


2020 Spear’s Family Law Index

Top Flight Family Lawyers

Catherine Bedford, Harbottle & Lewis
Debbie Chism, Stewarts
Sandra Davis, Mishcon de Reya
Miranda Fisher, Charles Russell Speechlys
Stephen Foster, Stewarts
Claire Gordon, Farrer & Co
Mark Harper, Hughes Fowler Carruthers
Emma Hatley, Stewarts
Frances Hughes, Hughes Fowler Carruthers
Davina Katz, Katz Partners
Jane Keir, Kingsley Napley
Julian Lipson, Withers
Diana Parker, Withers
Fiona Shackleton, Payne Hicks Beach
Helen Ward, Stewarts

Top Recommended Family Lawyers

Tom Amlot, Alexiou Fisher Philipps
Susan Apthorp, Keystone Law
Camilla Baldwin, Camilla Baldwin
Zoe Bloom, Keystone Law
Charlotte Bradley, Kingsley Napley
Emily Brand, Boodle Hatfield
Peter Burgess, Burgess Mee
Alex Carruthers, Hughes Fowler Carruthers
Rebecca Cockcroft, Payne Hicks Beach
Joanne Edwards, Forsters
James Ferguson, Boodle Hatfield
James Freeman, Charles Russell Speechlys
Michael Gouriet, Withers
Charmaine Hast, Wedlake Bell
Elizabeth Hicks, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner
David Hodson, International Family Law Group
Henry Hood, Hunters
Deborah Jeff, Seddons
Rachel Kelsey, SKO
Carly Kinch, Stewarts
Suzanne Kingston, Mills & Reeve
Renato Labi, Hughes Fowler Carruthers
Jeremy Levison, Levison Meltzer Pigott
William Longrigg, Charles Russell Speechlys
William Massey, Farrer & Co
Jane McDonagh, Simons Muirhead & Burton
Philip McGuirk, Payne Hicks Beach
Simon Pigott, Levison Meltzer Pigott
Maggie Rae, Newton Kearns
Fiona Read, Russell-Cooke
Rosie Schumm, Forsters
James Stewart, Penningtons Manches Cooper
Catherine Thomas, Dawson Cornwell
Suzanne Todd, Withers
Raymond Tooth, Sears Tooth
Joe Vaitliingam, Vaitilingam Kay
Ayesha Vardag, Vardags
Nicholas Westley, Harbottle & Lewis
Bradley Williams, Family Law in Partnership
Anna Worwood, Penningtons Manches Cooper

Rising Stars

Laura Naser, Penningtons Manches Cooper
Ben Parry-Smith, Payne Hicks Beach
Frederick Tatham, Farrer & Co

Selected Barristers

Deborah Eaton, 1 King’s Bench Walk
Charles Geekie, 1 Garden Court
Lewis Marks, Queen Elizabeth Building
Jonathan Southgate, 24 Bedford Row
Lucy Stone, Queen Elizabeth Building

The Spear’s rankings are drawn up on the basis of peer nominations, telephone and face-to-face interviews with dozens of leading lawyers, data supplied by law firms, as well as information gathered by the Spear’s editorial and research teams.

Read more

Fiona Shackleton: Britain’s most feared divorce lawyer

Spear’s Briefing: Divorce in the time of coronavirus

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