“I am not sure that wealth makes much difference to what a client looks for in a solicitor” Henry Hood, partner and head of Family at Hunters ponders. “Divorce is a miserable experience whatever you are worth, and it is fairly universal to want the process to end as quickly as possible consistent with a fair outcome, and to avoid final hearings which are expensive, public and unpredictable”. He observes that “there are many more approaches available now than there ever were before, and while sometimes there is no alternative to a trial, there should be seen as a rarity, whatever the size of case”. ‘Trials are good business; but they are not often good for clients, however wealthy, or for relationships that so often have to continue after they are over.’
Hood’s practice, and that of the department he leads, spans the spectrum from clients with vast disposable fortunes, to those where money is much tighter. Notable recent cases have included acting for James Stunt and one of the adult children in the Hagen (Viking cruises) litigation, and Hood’s own farming background perhaps accounts for the number of landed cases that he has recently been responsible for, some involving 100’s of millions of pounds.
Accessibility and the ability to move at great speed where needed, Hood also sees as important. All cases are conducted by teams of two or three, each led by a partner, and so there will always be a lawyer available. Hood recalls a memorable week in which he and a well-known (now retired) practitioner were acting for the two parties. ‘We succeeded in settling the case on a Friday, for which we had each first received instruction on the Monday of the same week.’ Hood, who has over 20 years’ experience in family law, says the last decade has seen a significant increase in the capacity for individuals to ‘take charge of their own destinies’. ‘The rise of the nuptial agreement allows them to do so at the start of a marriage, and this is matched by the increase in privatised methods of dealing with its breakdown, such as private FDRs, neutral evaluation and arbitration which is beginning to get into its stride.’ He is himself an accredited mediator and a family arbitrator, and considers the training in mediation, that many family lawyers have undergone, has had a ‘significantly civilising effect’ on the conduct of family law cases.
Hood feels lucky that the technical excellence and long experience of the practitioners in the Hunters family team is complemented by the skills and knowledge in the rest of the firm, which is ‘committed to wealth management’. “Expertise in areas such as tax, land and commercial is readily available to us – where the more boutique family firms would have to outsource”. Hood enjoys the variety of his practice. ‘We are the last general practitioners. One day one might need a working knowledge of share options and the next freehold reversions”, and he enjoys the academic element involved keeping abreast of it. He is also aware that not every rule of the game is written in stone. ‘There is much that arises where there is no law or authority at all which means it is down to you and your powers of reason and negotiation – most of all, it is an area if law where your advice and guidance can make a real difference to your clients’ lives.’