Kate Taylor studied law at Cardiff University and is a trainee solicitor at Vardags in Manchester. Vardags, which was founded by Britain’s top divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag, is renowned for winning some of the world’s most high profile divorce cases, and the firm exclusively caters for high-net worth individuals.

1. Tell us about your route into Vardags?

I started at Vardags as a receptionist in January 2017 due to the rapid expansion of the Manchester office. At the time I was working as a paralegal but I could sense the potential of the role with Vardags. I was told very early on by the head of the office, Emma Gill, to make myself indispensable, so I volunteered for every role that I could and ended up working part time in our accounts team, before later supporting Emma as her Personal Assistant.

It wasn’t until July 2017 that I was offered my training contract with the firm, which I have no doubt came as a result of my work in all of these different roles. It’s definitely not the most direct route, but it has given me a broader insight into how a law firm operates from the ground up, and definitely lends credence to the saying “no small roles!”

2. What attracted you to Vardags initially? What do you enjoy most about working there now?

I first encountered Vardags when I was applying to University and researching cases to discuss in my personal statement. I wrote about Radmacher v Granatino, the landmark Supreme Court case concerning the validity of pre-nuptial agreements. When I was offered my interview, I realised that it was the firm’s founder Ayesha Vardag who had acted for Katrin Radmacher. In that sense, it always seemed a little bit fated.

The best part of working for Vardags is the opportunities that you are given at such an early stage in your training. From day one you are exposed to complex legal issues, and to clients, with the support of an amazing team of intelligent and experienced professionals, and that level of responsibility is almost unheard of amongst those of my friends who have secured training contracts in other firms. Vardags has given me a platform to push myself and develop my skills and confidence as a young lawyer, with the backing of an incredibly supportive team in Manchester.

3. What do you enjoy most about working in family law?

I really enjoy the human element of family work, and the process of getting to know a client’s problem and then working with them to find the best solution for them. It’s not an easy process but it can be very rewarding. At this level, working with high net worth clients, you also have a lot of complex financial work. So you have access to some very mentally stimulating work but always with that human element. It’s an ideal mix for me, and something which interested me about the firm before I was recruited.

4. Tell us a bit about an interesting case you’ve worked on?

I can’t say much but there have been a few interesting cases; notably we’ve had disputes involving the block chain and cryptocurrency, which inspired me to write an article for the Vardags website. We’ve also had cases involving a dispute of shared custody of a cat, and high stakes jurisdiction races. No two days are ever the same!

5. What are the biggest external challenges facing family lawyers?

Brexit is the obvious answer, and in particular, a No Deal Brexit.  Vardags works with a lot of international clients and recently I’ve worked on a number of cases where jurisdiction is a concern.

This is the case where the parties to a relationship have a number of jurisdictions within which they can issue and under the current ‘lis pendens’ rules in Brussels II, the first court seized will hear their proceedings. The courts in any other Member State must stay their proceedings, and in that sense there is a ‘race’ to issue proceedings first. As it stands, in the event of a No Deal Brexit, the lis pendens rules would be repealed as the EU courts would not reciprocate. The European courts have also not yet confirmed whether any proceedings which are presently subject to the mandatory stay will continue to impose the stay once the UK exists the EU.

With less than six months until the proposed Exit Day (29th March 2019) this level of uncertainty is definitely a risk for any individual seeking to conduct their proceedings in the courts of England and Wales.

6. What’s your top tip for prospective family lawyers?

Find a customer facing role whilst you’re at University. Working in family law is definitely emotional, and the issues that you’re dealing with have a profound effect on people’s lives. Often the clients will be angry, upset, frustrated… Often they come to us at the most stressful time of their lives. I found that my part time job whilst I was at University has equipped me to deal with the full spectrum of human emotion. I’m sure anyone who has worked a Christmas shift in a busy department store will tell you that they’re prepared for almost anything!

Work experience in family law is notoriously hard to come by, but speaking with customers, taking phone calls, doing admin etc, is all good preparation for the human side of working as a family lawyer.

Wildcard Question – Unorthodox questions that candidates have been asked in real interviews

7. “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?”

I’m never 100% convinced that these questions are actually asked, they certainly weren’t in my Vardags interview, but:

“I’ve got the chips, if you’ve got the dips!” – he’s a guest at my TexMex themed party.