Lawyer of choice to high-flying entrepreneurs, entertainers, financiers and sporting UHNWs, Catherine Bedford made her name building Lee & Thompson’s family department from scratch and making it one of London’s top-ranked outfits. In 2017 she took her entire team to Harbottle & Lewis, a firm known for its privacy work with A-list celebrities and international royalty.
Her team’s work focuses predominantly on divorce, financial provision for the children of unmarried parents, disputes between parents about child arrangements following separation, relocation of parents wanting to move with the children (within the UK or abroad), and nuptial agreements regulating financial claims in the event of a separation or divorce of a couple.
She emphasises reducing stress and emotional turmoil, but that doesn’t mean she won’t get tough or tell hard truths if needed. ‘I’m not a lawyer who tells the client what they want to hear. Ever,’ she says. As many of her clients have a high public profile, Bedford works closely with the firm’s highly regarded media team, headed by eminent reputation lawyer Gerrard Tyrrell, to ensure their privacy is fiercely guarded, while they and their family are going through a difficult time. ‘The invasion of the media on top of this is the last thing that they need.’
It’s a good thing she doesn’t stand for the antics commonly associated with family law’s old guard: ‘It’s really important to have lawyers who are respectful and work as a team – we don’t do egos and prima donnas here.’
An expert across the full spectrum of family law issues, Bedford is particularly experienced in divorce cases involving offshore corporate structures working extensively with families and professionals both within and outside the UK. She also specialises in complex children cases. Her work has been at the centre of the changing landscape in addressing the pressing need in this country for children to have a full relationship with both parents.
She is especially concerned about the funding cuts to public services which are affecting the courts. Two trends have arisen as a result: a rise in litigants in person, which further slows down proceedings; and an increasing move of clients towards to private dispute resolution, such as arbitration and mediation.
One Wall Street veteran was full of praise after the Oxford and McGill University graduate took over his partner’s case: ‘She was superlative on all counts… a quick and accurate study, insightful and tactically smart.’
She is a staunch defender for the fight for no fault divorce, which is gaining traction and has the support of Supreme Court President Lady Hale, whose background is in family law. ‘Unless you’ve been separated for two years, or your spouse has had an affair, your only route to a divorce is to blame your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour for the ending of marriage,’ Bedford explains. ‘This is archaic and out of kilter with our modern perceptions of marriage and relationships.’