A respected and well-liked solicitor noted for his ability to trace complex assets and conduct forensic investigations into offshore corporate structures, Toby Atkinson sees a system in crisis. ‘Our courts are grossly underfunded, and with the withdrawal of legal aid and subsequent rise in numbers of litigants-in-person it has resulted in severe delays and immense pressure on judges,’ he says. ‘This is hugely frustrating for both clients and practitioners. Urgent funding is required to remedy the current deficiencies.’ His clients include privacy-sensitive entrepreneurs, professionals, bankers and private equity investors, but he also often acts for HNWs in the media and sports arenas. Recent highlights include a £200 million case, resolved via mediation, and an £80 million dispute, resolved through negotiation. He was pleased to avoid court in both cases: ‘One of the most interesting things we’re seeing is couples electing to go private — either arbitrate or have private FDRs [financial dispute resolutions] — because the court system is broken. We’re at the forefront of the arbitration movement, and it’s what our clients are looking for.’ For Atkinson the benefits are the chance to choose an arbitrator and speed of decision-making no longer possible in a court system suffering from cuts. ‘Toby is building a growing reputation, and was a major acquisition for Stewarts,’ says a peer.
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