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Ayesha Vardag is one of the top divorce lawyers in the UK, handling high-profile, high net worth cases. She graduated with honours in law from Cambridge University in 1990, and as a scholar in European law from the Université Libre, Brussels in 1991. She then worked at the International Court of Justice in the Hague and at the UN in Vienna. She qualified and worked initially as a finance solicitor at Linklaters in London and Moscow, and then at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in London. Ayesha also trained as an advocate at the Inner Temple and was called to the Bar.
Ayesha moved across to Matrimonial and Family law in 1999 at Sears Tooth. She left to lecture in family law at Queen Mary’s, London, and to establish Ayesha Vardag Solicitors as an independent practice. She works primarily with high net worth / high achieving clients, drawing on her City based deal orientated negotiating skills against a background of hard-hitting litigation experience, and a strategic intellectual grasp of the law. Recent work has included the major reported case of FS v JS, one of the first multi million cases since the notorious House of Lords decision last year in Miller v Miller. And this year a celebrity £30 million international divorce involving offshore trusts and a £40 million international divorce involving foreign assets.
We met at the Milestone Hotel in Kensington over delicious champagne and I asked Ayesha what ©The Power of Image meant to her. She said that “it is the immediate impression that one gets of another”, and when it comes to personal branding, she believes that it is a “recognisable personal statement of who you are”. She went on to say that “as people come to know your work it becomes less important, but initially, first impressions really count”. When I asked her about the image culture within her company, she said that she has created “a city, professional, glamorous culture… a departure from some of the dingier matrimonial lawyers of the old era when family law was seen as low rent and hadn’t become a high stakes financial field”.
She seems to be naturally aware, and her offices and team are living proof. Ayesha employed a design consultant to create, in her offices overlooking the High Court, an environment that will be comfortable and familiar for her clients… “quietly opulent, with the feeling of a private home”. She wants her clients to feel that the service that she provides is “personal… bespoke” and that her office environment is “somewhere that they will feel at ease”.
When it comes to her clients’ image, Ayesha advises them what is appropriate in the courtroom. “Men should be smart, sober, respectable, demure… not too sharp or snappy… Women should be quietly expensive, not flashy or too sexy, with no vulgar displays of wealth”.
Ayesha’s parents were the first to instil an awareness of creating a positive first impression. Her father was a politician and her mother elegant and conscious of Image. She laughingly remembers wearing a smart grey suit for her interview at Cambridge University.
Ayesha’s clients are international high net worth individuals, many of whom enjoy resident non domiciled status in the UK in its capacity as an on-shore tax haven. She describes a “feeding frenzy” in her market due to the UK’s generous rulings on divorce and says that there are a “vast number of people profiting from the conditions”. She competes with what she terms “the magic circle of long-established firms” and her business has grown exponentially as her clients feel that she delivers “a more personal, proactive, thinking service with lower costs” due to the leaner organisational structure and personal service… “my clients don’t get relegated down the ranks”.
When it comes to high net worth divorce cases, “people want someone to fight on their behalf, to win… someone who is strong and confident and may look slightly intimidating to the other side”. And Ayesha plays the part. She is not only a solicitor, but originally qualified as a barrister and dresses accordingly. “Chanel suits day-to-day, and pinstripes when in court so that others take you seriously”.
God forbid I ever need her services, but if I do, this is the person who I would want to fight my corner.