We are delighted to welcome our newly-appointed Director Jo Hall to Vardags. After joining us this October, Jo immediately made her mark with both colleagues and clients. Despite her busy schedule, she found some time to speak with us about life, law and being a northern soul in London.
Could you tell me a bit about your background?
I’m a northern soul, so to speak, being Newcastle born and bred. I read History and completed an MA in American History at Newcastle University before converting to law. I loved it. Martin Luther King is an alumni of the University and I was passionate about justice and rights from my early teens. I think that was because my Irish Nana moved to New York in the early 1920s as a 17 year old and I was always fascinated by her inspiring stories and struggles, which led me to family law in a roundabout way.
Last year, I finally tore myself away from my home town by the North Sea and made the leap to London after several years of whizzing back and forth to the High Court and to visit friends. I love the energy of London and the international vibrancy. It’s an amazing city and so full of opportunity. It’s true what they say, that it is the divorce capital of the world, and a hub for amazing innovators and thinkers.
How did you decide to specialise in family law?
Family is a true leveller and I am interested in people and how we survive and struggle even in the hardest times. Everyone faces the same challenges and emotions when they face family breakdown.
Like a lot of lawyers I speak to, I always resisted a legal profession. However my father is a solicitor, so I think it’s in the blood! From a young age, my brother and I watched him and my mother build his practice, with him burning the midnight oil from our kitchen table. It was inspiring but I remember looking at the endless files of paper and wondering what could be so interesting. Now I know!
Family law is so rewarding because it is both legally technical and about human emotion. We deal in corporate, property, trust, and international issues and matters of social policy, but it is also about humanity and helping people move to the next chapter.
You have successfully represented a range of high net worth clients, what if any are the particular demands of working with wealthy clientele?
I genuinely feel privileged to work with each and every client who instructs me. It’s such a brave step for a client to meet with a lawyer at this vulnerable life stage and share their inner fears. For high net worth clients the stakes can be really high and discretion is key. They may be in the public eye which can potentially magnify the pain and embarrassment of family breakdown. They often have the responsibility of employing people who rely on the stability of their business assets or connected family in trust arrangements who become embroiled in litigation. The global location of assets in high value cases means wealthy clients need quick thinking and robust legal action. I don’t view it as a demand, it’s a duty to deliver for the client, and that’s what drives me.
What advice would you give to an aspiring lawyer?
In the words of the late great Steve Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do”.
Also to be true to yourself. I’ve been lucky enough to have some great mentors along the way, but ultimately you have to believe in yourself.
If you could reform family law in one way what would it be?
A lot of family law needs reform. It’s 2016 and our main piece of legislation is from 1973. We’re also in a digital age and I would like to see family lawyers at the forefront of innovating change in how we provide legal services.
What attracted you to Vardags?
I want to work with the best.
I remember when Ayesha won the landmark case of Radmacher v Granatino in the Supreme Court in 2010. I had been chosen to make an in-house presentation on it the next day to both family and commercial lawyers in Newcastle. I introduced it to the Kanye West lyrics “We want pre-nup”.
To now work with such a game changer is a dream come true. The team of lawyers and experts here is truly second to none.
What are you looking forward to most about your new role?
The opportunities here are endless.