‘I’m not entirely sure how I ended up as a family lawyer in London’, reveals the likeable advisor Toby Atkinson, a partner at Stewarts.
‘I grew up in Kenya, and always thought I’d go into conservation to save the elephants!’
‘My client base is largely a mix of entrepreneurs, professionals, bankers and private equity investors,’ he explains. ‘I also advise clients in the sport and media industries.’
His practice is also a reliably international one. ‘As London has cemented its position as the world’s financial centre over the past 10 years, more and more international UHNWs have been drawn to the capital. This has led to a growing number of extremely high divorce awards.’
Atkinson has a burgeoning practice in international relocation cases and child abduction work. ‘I recently acted for the successful applicant in a child abduction case,’ he tells Spear’s. ‘The litigation was all consuming and fiercely contested.
Ultimately we achieved a fantastic outcome – one of the most satisfying of my career’.
Upon qualification in 2006, Atkinson joined the niche matrimonial practice Hughes Fowler Carruthers Ltd, before moving in 2008 to Charles Russell Speechlys, where he was promoted to Senior Associate. He went on to join Stewarts as a partner in August 2015.
Whilst his practice flourishes, there are also challenges. He says that, to be a top family lawyer, ‘You have to be tough, resilient and unflappable. A sense of humour also helps…’
The current political situation is a challenge. ‘There is no doubt that Brexit presents its challenges,’ he says, ‘and you will not find many within the profession who are enthusiastic about it.’
Another key issue for Atkinson is the perennially underfunded court system. As he explains to Spear’s: ‘With the withdrawal of legal aid and the subsequent rise in numbers of litigants-in-person, there are now severe delays and immense pressure on judges and court staff.
‘This is hugely frustrating for both clients and practitioners. Urgent funding is required to remedy the current deficiencies.’
So what is it that keeps him at the stressful business of divorce? ‘Most clients want the same thing: a quick, fair and amicable divorce,’ he explains. ‘It is always extremely satisfying when you are able to deliver that.’