A leading light of British law — and ‘one of the three best family lawyers in the country’, according to her peers — Hughes attracts the biggest cases around — between £100 million and billions. Kind, modest and straight-talking, Hughes knows why the battlehardened firm remains ‘particularly buoyant’: its steel. ‘There are lots of people who define themselves in terms of being a collaborative lawyer, a mediator and so on — all of which can be very helpful,’ she says.
‘But it has meant there are fewer people comfortable litigating cases — and there are always cases that need to be litigated. So I think the pool of people who are good at it has dwindled a bit.’
Even so, Hughes discreetly settles most cases — whether concerning trusts, pre- and post-nups, in her Court of Protection work or in complex litigation about children’s issues across multiple jurisdictions. The ‘lion-hearted and kind-hearted’ lawyer advises her clients to get a pre-nup: ‘It’s the best thing we know of. It’s better than nothing but not as good as it should be.’
An accomplished viola player and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, she is popular with her peers, who call her a ‘fair and scrupulously honest opponent’. ‘I have always found it a real pleasure to deal with Frances. While she can be tough, she is always constructive and child-centred in her approach,’ says one. ‘She is the perfect foil for Baroness Shackleton,’ says another.