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A solicitor sought out by UHNWs with complex divorce cases, Vardags managing director Catherine Thomas has had a ‘busy and exciting’ 2017: ‘We’ve had a series of really great wins and some incredible settlements,’ she says. Her star has risen fast through the ranks of family law (she made partner at her previous firm aged just 26) . She’s certainly no stranger to big cases, or big wins: she’s particularly proud of the outcome she secured for former Miss Malaysia Pauline Chai, who received around £64 million in her divorce, one of the highest awards of all time. The judge, who called the £440 million case ‘titanic’, gave the husband a 21-day ultimatum to settle after a bitter three-year battle. She also obtained a £61 million settlement for the wife in Al-Baker v Al-Baker, where the husband tried to issue divorce proceedings in Portugal and obtained an Islamic talaq divorce — the latter being the highest ever lump sum after a foreign divorce. She also represented ex-Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers’ wife in her divorce, and Michelle Young, the ex-wife of property tycoon Scot Young (with the latter case resulting in a £20 million payout). She’s keen to share credit with Vardags’ in-house research team, led by Stephen Bence. ‘It’s excellent,’ she says, highlighting the firm’s ‘integrated’ expertise, which has ‘hugely’ benefited Vardags’ cases: it’s certainly better than ‘instructing an external expert and giving them information cold’. The firm also recently opened new offices in Manchester, Cambridge and Newcastle, ‘all proving very successful’, she says, with Manchester going from a standing start to ten fee earners in under 12 months. While perfectly comfortable battling it out before a judge, Thomas is nevertheless keen to see matters resolved more amicably where possible. However, not all have been so quick on the uptake, she says, describing its adoption across the field as still being ‘frustratingly slow’: ‘Hopefully as more family lawyers undertake their first [arbitration], interest will increase.’

Catherine Thomas