To say that Ayesha Vardag has made an impression on the family law world would be more than an understatement. Since founding her firm in 2005, she acted in the landmark 2010 prenup case Radmacher v Granatino – in which her tactical nous has been praised by contemporaries – and has gone to claim, she says, ‘the lion’s share’ of UHNW divorces.
Rachael Kelsey of SKO just one of her admirers, saying: ‘By using publicity in a way that no one else does, and running family cases in a way that commercial litigators would recognise, she has attracted a huge amount of attention. Ayesha has been bold, focused and created a hugely distinctive brand. She’s been brave. She’s not afraid of ruffling feathers and doesn’t feel the need to be clubbable.’
When Spear’s caught up with Vardag over lunch earlier this year, she was in cheerful mood, pointing to the firm’s domestic expansion, as it is now moving into reputation and criminal law. She has also been involved in the fight for no-fault divorce, lobbying the Conservative Party conference on the issue. ‘I hope we’ve cracked it now,’ she says.
Vardag is definitely among the more expensive lawyers out there. So what do clients get for their extra money? ‘Intellectual rigour,’ says Vardag, highlighting her Magic Circle background in commercial litigation. Over the past few months Vardag has been coordinating a multi-faceted team including four directors and four silks on an immense three-headed divorce case against her client’s part in a global family enterprise, interwoven with a civil claim in deceit. ‘It’s a mammoth operation and absolutely cutting edge in law,’ explains Vardag. ‘Breaking new ground and finding new paths to justice for my clients is what I’m most passionate about, so I’m very proud to have developed and lead the strategy on an extremely innovative case.’
In 2005, she set up Vardags from the spare room of her Islington home. ‘I had a relentless drive to get my firm to the top of its field and my very first case was reported, S v S (2006, Conduct, Matrimonial Assets) making law on non-matrimonial assets for my client,’ she tells Spear’s. ‘I won case after leading case, including Radmacher, the biggest case in family law history, changing centuries of law in the Supreme Court to make prenups work in England.’ Vardag cites Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Lady Justice Brenda Hale as her heroes:‘To make it to the top in a male-dominated profession, you have to be that much better than everyone around you. I’m so grateful to the women who blazed a trail for those of us who’ve followed them.’