A star solicitor who has seen action (and success) in some of the biggest cases of the decade, Schillings family law team head Davina Katz is in vogue among next-gen HNWs. And for good reason: ‘I see a lot of people in fintech who walk in with their trainers, ripped jeans and T-shirts. They’re not necessarily looking for a lawyer in a three-piece suit and pearl earrings to manage their divorce,’ she says. These HNWs are looking for ‘a human being – one who understands social media, a digital footprint’.
The lawyer acts for A-list celebrities, blue-chip entrepreneurs and gilded names from the banking, private equity and hedge fund arenas. Due to her Middle Eastern heritage, she attracts a large contingent of clients from the region, who are usually wives, as London has continued to uphold its reputation for being ‘brilliant’ for wives. A hedge fund client effuses praise for Katz: ‘She was a constant source of support and positivity, even in the bleakest of times. I owe her a great debt.’
A recent highlight for Katz was a distressed Lebanese client who was divorced by a sheikh in Saudi Arabia. ‘I secured for her one of the highest ever financial awards from a High Court judge following an overseas divorce,’ she says.
Response time is crucial when attending to HNW clients, and Katz is known to be particularly fleet-footed, as she has settled some of her best cases in a matter of days. ‘With very wealthy or very well-known clients, you can get a telephone call in the middle of the night, and have to leap in a car or fly somewhere at a moment’s notice.’
Katz looks at the issue of lifetime maintenance from a feminist standpoint. ‘Women need to be empowered and a meal ticket for life doesn’t do that,’ she recently told The Times. ‘There should be rehabilitative maintenance, whether year by year or lump sum instalments, rather than a “salary” for the rest of your life.’
When Davina Katz left Mishcon de Reya to join Schillings in 2009, she was by far the youngest head of a family law department in London. She has made important contributions to family law in reported cases such as Thum, Vince v Wyatt and Abuchian v Khojah.
There are still things that shock the seasoned lawyer who leads a formidable team focused on big-ticket litigation. ‘I’m seeing a lot of people with stupendous amounts of money — hundreds of millions — who’ve been married for twenty years who just appear to be bored,’ she says. ‘It’s one thing if you’ve met someone or if there’s something fundamentally wrong, but [to say], “Oh I’ve made a lot of money and now I’m bored,” as if marriage is so disposable.’ It is also saddening, she admits. ‘Very little surprises or shocks me anymore, but discarding a spouse abruptly and brutally like that always will.’
It’s clear that Katz’s ability to combine legal rigour with empathy, speed and strong communication are her most defining characteristics. A hedge fund client effuses praise: ‘She was a constant source of support and positivity, even in the bleakest of times. I owe her a great debt.’