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Davis has almost single-handedly grown the family department of Mishcons, which she has headed since 1981, into its current behemoth. She is the lawyer of choice for notable HNWs — ‘I don’t deal with the middle level of income,’ she says — and has acted for Princess Diana, Jerry Hall, Tamara Mellon and Thierry Henry, among others.

Specialising in complex international financial settlements, child disputes and pre-nups, Davis is currently working on cases with hundreds of millions of pounds under dispute. She has recently acted for Sir Chris Hohn’s former wife, Jamie Cooper-Hohn, who received £337 million in what many believe is the biggest divorce settlement ever awarded by an English judge. A client told Spear’s that Davis ‘was fiercely protective’ of them and ensured their children ‘remained the number one priority’.

Her rivals admire her tough but fair approach, with one saying: ‘She is a very persuasive operator who, in a graceful way, strives to obtain the best results on behalf of her clients.’ Having the respect of her peers is very important to Davis, as she says it helps the outcome of the case: ‘I try to make sure that I establish a good working relationship with the lawyer on the other side so that I don’t get in the way of a settlement. This is not about my personal ego. I don’t feel I need to win, I feel that I have to find a solution to a problem that works.’

A recipient of the Spear’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contribution to the HNW World, Davis knows that with high stake family cases comes ever increasing levels of complexity that often reach far beyond the immediate family confines. Recent examples include her protection of the company a husband had acquired before marriage and the acting for a wife whose husband had initiated divorce proceedings in                   Syria.

Each case is difficult in its own way she says: ‘One case may be difficult as a result of the personalities involved rather than the actual litigation itself.’ Dealing with such emotive issues she’s knows clients benefit from a sympathetic, but fundamentally objective, lawyer who crucially understands that chasing victory at all costs can leave you much like Pyrrhus.

Such wisdom means there is only one outcome she feels pleased with and that is when the ‘client understands why the settlement is what it is and appreciates the consequences of it.’ Nevertheless she’s well known for a being tough when she needs to be, winning praise from clients, and tellingly, from competitors too, one of whom described her as ‘a formidable adversary in big money divorce cases.’

Like many in the industry she talks about the need to embrace alternative avenues of resolution and a holistic approach to marriage breakdown but it’s not just talk. Davis has been actively advocating for conflict clinics to be mandatory in cases involving children. In such cases she’ll often partner up with the Tavistock clinic to make sure clients are properly cared for.

Sandra Davis Q & A

Sandra Davis
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