Vardags appoints new director and financial specialist

The Family Law firm Vardags – started in 2005 by Ayesha Vardag, described in the media as ‘Britain’s top divorce lawyer’ – is in a phase of expansion.

Catherine Thomas joins as a director, having previously fast-tracked to partnership in a leading family law firm in Lincoln’s Inn.

Catherine is recommended in the independent review of the legal profession, the Legal 500, as being “highly rated by clients”. Clients have described her as having “a deep subject matter knowledge and … excellent judgement”.

Catherine deals with all aspects of private family law with particular expertise in complex financial matters arising out of divorce, including those with an international element. She also advises on private children disputes, including international abduction, and on a variety of agreements including pre-nuptial, post-nuptial, cohabitation and surrogacy.

As a trained Collaborative Lawyer, Catherine is qualified to assist clients – who wish to avoid traditional litigation – to resolve their disputes through the Collaborative process. Through careful negotiations during a series of face-to-face meetings with the client, their partner and the partner’s lawyer, Catherine will ensure that both the process and the outcome are specifically tailored to suit that family’s needs.

Catherine holds an MA in Jurisprudence from Oxford University and completed the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law, London.

Stephen Bence joins from the private commercial sector as a Financial and Commercial Consultant.

Stephen’s appointment, as a former McKinsey non-lawyer, is an innovative step which recognises the extent to which big-money divorce cases are now heavily concerned with complex financial and corporate transactions. Stephen consults as a specialist in the financial aspects of cases, including assessing valuations of private companies; interpreting complex remuneration schemes; finding hidden assets; and liberating cash to allow clean-break settlements.

For example, in a recent case Stephen identified that a Single Joint Expert had potentially undervalued a private company by over 50%; he also identified ways in which to liberate cash from that private company to facilitate a prospective settlement. In another case Stephen showed that a partner in an investment fund had set up a complex remuneration structure to depress his short-term earnings in favour of massive long-term value.

Stephen works with both financially-stronger parties (to help them to present their position and its real financial limitations accurately) and with financially-weaker parties (to help them to identify and value assets and to be on an equal footing with their spouse).

Stephen has experience in consulting (as an Engagement Manager at McKinsey Company); venture capital; and start-up companies. He is Managing Director of Spin-out Strategy, a strategy consultancy specialising in advising high net worth individuals in family companies.

Stephen holds a PhD in astrophysics and an MA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of a bestselling textbook on mathematics for physical scientists.

Vardags has also taken on at junior level Sophie Cantillon, newly called to the Bar, as a legal assistant, and Sheena Mahal, solicitor.

Vardags works exclusively in the full range of divorce and family law, specialising in ‘big money’, high-profile and ground-breaking cases often with a cross-border dimension but covering the full gamut of private family law work. Services include pre and postnuptial and cohabitation agreements, money cases on divorce or for children, civil partnership and cohabitation cases, children matters and domestic injunctions.

The firm won the biggest case in the history of family law in 2010 on behalf of the German heiress Katrin Radmacher before nine judges in the Supreme Court, setting a benchmark for the recognition of pre-nuptial agreements in English law.

It has grown ten-fold in its six years, recently taking on a number of other trainee and administrative staff at its offices in Bell Yard, The Strand, adjoining the High Court.

Other well-known cases in which Vardags or its predecessor Ayesha Vardag Solicitors has acted include acting for Michelle Young in the claim reported as the ‘Brewster’s millions’ case, acting in a groundbreaking transatlantic nullity case and obtaining what is believed to be a record interim child maintenance award against a member of a royal family. Michelle Young’s comment on the firm is one common to many clients: “Vardags really turned my case around”. The firm is also reported in the press as acting for Nivin El Gamal in respect of the son of Sheikh Ahmed of Dubai and for Sarah Cresswell, wife of John Cresswell, former CEO of ITV.