Nestled in Newcastle’s historic Grey Street, Vardags’ newest regional office occupies one of the most prestigious addresses in the city centre. The law firm was founded in 2005 by Ayesha Vardag, who is highly regarded among her legal peers and considered one of the top divorce lawyers in the UK.
Vardags took up its Newcastle residency at the start of the year and is now home to a team of three, who have more than 25 years of collective experience in practising family law in the North East.
Vardags began in the spare bedroom of Ayesha’s London home. She was determined to bring ‘City-quality’ service to family law. When the firm was launched, she was sole practitioner, working day and night to forge new ground in family law – while caring for her baby daughter and two young sons.
Ayesha wanted to build a new gold standard in law, beyond the traditionally male cast of London City ‘suits’. Her previous legal experience had fallen so far short of what she felt it should and could be and in 2005 she felt she could make a change.
Following work as a finance solicitor, then as a barrister, Ayesha moved from the Bar to the area of family law after her own divorce lawyer offered her a job at his firm.
Ayesha’s razor-sharp expertise on complex financial matters, coupled with empathy and no-nonsense common sense from her experience on the other side of the negotiating table, soon won her a reputation as a formidable litigator and she has worked on some of the last decade’s most prominent family cases in the English courts.
In 2009, Ayesha changed legal history with the case of Radmacher v Granatino, which made prenuptial agreements legally enforceable in England and Wales.
The case helped cement Vardags as a game-changer in family law and the firm – along with Ayesha herself – was catapulted to the forefront of family law. Vardags incorporated the following year and has experienced meteoric growth, progressing from an initial one-woman operation to a 60-strong team with five regional offices and a global clientele in little over a decade.
Every Vardags client is represented by a dedicated team of talented lawyers who are carefully selected to suit their particular high net worth needs. As a result, the firm is renowned for tackling tough jurisdictional cases and for its asset-tracing expertise, thanks to a pioneering in-house financial forensics team.
This is the gold-standard service that Vardags is determined to bring to Newcastle. For Ayesha – who says she despises workplace sterility – the choice of region was simple: she has an emotional connection with the North East as her mother was born and bred in Northumberland. Though the family eventually moved southwards to Oxford, instilled in Ayesha was a strong sense of pride for her North Eastern roots. Her mother would regale her with stories of her family’s life in Alnwick and Alnmouth and, as a child, she spent time holidaying on the spectacular Northumberland coast.
Congruent with her fondness for the region is the conviction that – despite a lack of investment – the potential of the North East has barely begun to be tapped.
She says: “I wanted to put my money where my mouth is with my wholehearted support for regional investment in the UK.
“Business owners have a responsibility to partake in the creation of a more inclusive economy, and while this venture is personal to me, rooted in my fiercely felt connection to Northumberland, it also makes undeniably good commercial sense. The area is ripe and bursting with talent and budding homegrown industries, plus two leading universities and a strong legacy of Geordie innovation – all of
which made Newcastle the natural choice for our new Vardags base.”
Two exceptional hires currently make up Vardags’ Newcastle directorial team. Susanne Shah and Nicky Hunter are both experienced family lawyers who have been working in the North East for years.
For them, businesses have a responsibility to commit to local expansion, and ensure that the North is home to an economic force to be reckoned with.
Nicky says: “We’re determined to do our bit to realise the promise of a true Northern Powerhouse.
“Supporting economic stimulation and creating jobs in my home county is a real motivating force as we grow our business.”
Fellow director Susanne agrees: “While we are currently a capsule team, we’re steadfast in our commitment to local expansion, with a view to hiring 40 employees in the city. With client demand growing, we’re already looking forward to welcoming another paralegal into the fold in September, who will join the wonderfully talented Beth Courtney-Walker. Nicky and I are committed to providing both paralegals with the hands-on training they need to become exceptional family lawyers.”
“Beth has been there from the start, coming to us on graduation from my alma mater, Northumbria. The university is particularly well equipped to give aspiring solicitors the very best start to their legal careers, incorporating the LPC into its undergraduate law programme.”
But it’s not just the concentration of talent that gives Susanne and Nicky high hopes for the new office—the team feels that the demand for services in the area is greater than ever.
For high earners, professionals, and those who have married or were born into significant assets, Vardags’ Newcastle branch will be a welcome arrival.
“You instruct a family lawyer to protect the things that really matter,” says Susanne, “to protect your family life, legacy and relationships. Those with substantial assets will have particular concerns that demand a highly personal, bespoke service from a team who really cares.”
With the doors of Vardags’ Newcastle office officially open for business, Nicky, Susanne and Beth look forward to welcoming new clients from across the North East and confirming that, whatever their family law matter, a world-class service is less than a stone’s throw away.
Earl Grey House, Grey Street
0191 401 8575