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Frances is a fighter’, says a peer. It’s a word often used of the solicitor of 37 years’ standing. Yet Hughes also understands that her clients ‘want settlement’, adding that there are ‘interesting ways to pursue settlement of the most complicated cases’. She certainly has some of the most interesting work out there: as the founding partner of HFC, Hughes acts for entrepreneurs, royalty, film stars, lawyers, politicians – and often in the £1 billion-plus range. Asked what separates the great from the good in family law, Hughes lists ‘judgement’ and ‘personal skills’ before adding a third: ‘the ability to close a deal at the drop of a hat’. Hughes isn’t quite the ferocious litigator of legend – of mediation, she says ‘for those for whom it works, it works very well’ – but she still has some huge cases to her credit of late: witness for instance 2016’s Estrada v Al-Juffali. Clarity in the law is of great importance to Hughes: if she had her way, there would be more lucidity, especially in the area of prenups. ‘Some fettering of judicial discretion would be a good thing,’ she says. She also notes an increase in divorce coaches – ‘to help [clients] make pragmatic and non-legal decisions’. Away from law, Hughes is also a viola player – ‘you can’t argue while playing music,’ she jokes – as well as an RSA fellow. She is also known for her involvement in Poet in the City.

Frances Hughes
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