Renowned as a tough negotiator, Russell Bywater has worked in family law for more than 30 years, and is Dawson Cornwell’s longest standing partner.
‘I was a trainee (then an Articled Clerk) here, joining DC in 1983,’ he tells Spear’s. ‘It might sound dull that I’ve not moved, but the firm has gone on and propelled me on a professional journey that has meant no two days in 36 years of professional practice have ever been the same. I was a salaried partner at 29, and an equity partner at 33,’ he adds.
Referred to by industry observers as ‘a pragmatic and savvy family practitioner’, Bywater advises on all areas of family law, especially complex high net worth financial cases, arising out of marital and non-marital breakdown. He also boasts particular expertise in heavy international trust cases, and has been involved in some of the leading cases in the field.
One of the things he is most proud of is that the gender balance in the firm’s partnership is now eight women to four men. ‘The majority of fee earners are women,’ he says, ‘yet when I started, there were three partners – all white males and all called John. So it’s been a journey of the ridiculous to the sublime.’
Clients have described him as ‘quick thinking, smart, thoughtful… and he does not waste time”.
Describing his clients, Bywater says ‘they will be executives from the City in finance and the law, from West End executives in advertising and the media, some celebs, property developers, the odd sportsperson, IT people, and the occasional aristo… the human condition at the high end of the market in all its forms.’
‘Although we present as a niche family practice, we offer a complete service. We have the languages: all major European, important Asian languages and a sharp use of English. We have a deep talent pool and can put together teams that cover many bases. We are backed up by private client so have tax and trust advice on tap, as well as a very highly regarded property team. We can recover your stolen child from abroad and manage your surrogacy or adoption.’
How does he describe his job to friends? ‘Carefully, because we are uber strict about policing client confidentiality,’ he says. ‘But if I’m being flippant, I say that I break up homes for a living – which tends to kill off that line of conversation!’
Bywater is a member of the International Bar Association, a trained mediator and a frequent speaker on family law.