Career: ‘Britain’s top divorce lawyer’ was Ayesha Vardag’s billing by the Law Society, the Guardian, the Telegraph and New York’s prestigious Huffington Post. She is one of only a handful of family lawyers to receive the Times’ accolade “Lawyer of the Week”. The Evening Standard called her ‘one of the star lawyers turning London into the divorce capital of the world’, while Easy Living Magazine March 2012 featured her as ‘The Diva of Divorce’. She rose to fame for winning the landmark Supreme Court case of Radmacher, changing the law on prenuptial agreements.
Ayesha Vardag specialises in big-ticket financial and associated cases on divorce and family breakdown. She has a reputation for hard-hitting litigation, commercial savvy, fearlessness and strategic intellectual vision. This, coupled with an informal no-nonsense style, gritty life experience and passion for her cases, has won her a high-value, high-profile client base second to none.
Ayesha has acted for and against heirs and heiresses, tycoons, international footballers/polo players, celebrities and royalty. Over the past year alone she has been noted as acting in almost all of the biggest cases running through the courts including acting for Li Quan in the international tiger charity case, the Marchioness of Northampton in her high-profile settlement, for Yasmin Prest in the High Court case which ran into the Supreme Court corporate veil victory of Petrodel v Prest, for Michelle Young, obtaining the suspended committal of Scott Young for non-disclosure, for Meshkah Tawfik – the wife of a Qatari prince and for the former Miss Malaysia in a case reported to lead to potentially the biggest award in English family court history.
Vardags, which Ayesha founded as a sole practitioner in 2005, and of which she is President, has in 2013 won the Halsbury award for Law Firm of the Year, London, beating much longer established generalist firms. The firm now has more than 50 members and is the biggest family law presence in what is described as the “magic circle”. It has embraced the hard-core financial nature of the ultra-high-net-worth divorce market by hiring in a former McKinsey engagement manager to head up a forensic corporate/commercial team and a former head of trusts from another leading firm to inform those elements of its matrimonial cases.
Last year, Ayesha was presented with the 2015 Natwest Everywoman Award, in recognition of the landmark win that brought enforceable pre-nuptial agreements to the UK and her pioneering working practices which, through flexible and generous maternity packages, enable female employees to reach their highest potential in an infamously male-dominated industry.
Ayesha celebrated yet another success in 2015 when Vardags became the only law firm to feature on The Sunday Times Virgin Fast Track 100, as the 46th fastest growing company in the United Kingdom.
Ayesha is now spearheading Vardags’ expansion into the Middle East and beyond from her base in Dubai.
Ayesha Vardag read law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, with a Duke of Edinburgh award for membership of the Inner Temple. She was a Cambridge Wiener Anspach scholar for a Masters in European Law at the Université Libre Brussels. This makes her uniquely placed to lead Vardags’ clients through legal uncertainty in the light of the EU referendum. She worked on expert research projects at the International Court of Justice in The Hague and at the UN (IAEA) Legal Division in Vienna and helped draft the nuclear energy Safety Convention. She qualified and worked initially as a finance solicitor at the global City law firm Linklaters (London, Moscow) and then at the New York law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges in London. She is dual-qualified as a barrister of the Inner Temple and did pupillage at leading professional negligence set 4 New Square. Her training in matrimonial law was as a mini-pupil to Nicholas Mostyn (then QC), then as one of two assistants to Raymond Tooth at Sears Tooth, who hired her away from the Bar after working with her on her own divorce. She has run the family law course at 5 star Law School Queen Mary’s, London. She set up her own specialist family/divorce law firm, Ayesha Vardag Solicitors, in 2005. The firm incorporated and became Vardags (and the only exclusively family law firm finalist for ‘The Lawyer’ award for ‘Niche Practice of the Year’), in 2010, by which point it had become the go-to firm for some of the weightiest divorce cases in the country. Ayesha’s background as a finance solicitor and barrister contribute to her negotiating skills and litigation savvy, while her personal experience of the divorce courts enables her to address her cases with empathy, compassion and common sense.
Publications: Ayesha regularly appears in the media as an expert on the leading cases and legal issues of the day, appearing not least on BBC News, CNN, the Today Programme and Newsnight and throughout the national and international press. She has published articles in Spears Wealth Management and the New York Huffington Post. Her views have been canvassed by the Law Commission. She is sought out as a lecturer, appearing recently at the Shelley Society at Eton, the White Paper conference, the inaugural session of the Law Society’s public debates, on “The End of Marriage As We Know It” and at the Marriage Foundation’s inaugural conference.
Professional Memberships: Law Society, Inner Temple, Family Law Bar Association.
Languages: Fluent French and Italian, conversational Spanish and rusty Russian, Urdu and Portuguese.
Personal: Ayesha is a Shehzadi of the Pashtun Lodhi dynasty which ruled India before the Mughals. She grew up with her English mother in an Anglo-Scottish home in Oxford as one of the children of New College where her mother worked, while being romanced with the stories of her father: barrister, politician, alumnus of Magdalen College and the youngest ever senator of Pakistan. Amnesty campaigned for her father when he was repeatedly imprisoned and mistreated for making pro-democracy speeches under martial law and he faced down three assassination orders under a previous regime. Ayesha’s grandfather was exiled by the British for pro-independence politics and her grandmother grew up in the old royal style, carried everywhere until her marriage by bearers in a palanquin, then became an exiled princess in a palace in the deserts of Saudi Arabia until her husband was recalled to become Mayor of Karachi.
Ayesha was named for the legendary heroine of the 19th century novels by anthropologist and explorer Rider Haggard, dubbed “She-who-must-be-obeyed”. She enjoys opera, travel, movies and dramas, four horses, a cat, two dogs and five combined children. She lives in Dubai and has a holiday home in Southern Italy.