A letter from Vardags’ president, Ayesha Vardag
Qualifying as a lawyer attracts those who want to work with words and people at a high intellectual level but who are also driven to make a real contribution in the world.
Family law is overtaking the sterile world of commercial law as the hot ticket for a fulfilling career. With its heady blend of love, sex, money, glamour, drama, children, global corporate asset sharing, Byzantine offshore financial structures, making an immense difference in the lives of others and an occasional gloriously shallow spritz of celebrity, it’s the one discipline that really has it all.
But the run-of-the-mill path to becoming a solicitor involves, for law and non-law graduates alike, utter tedium and poverty with relentless months or years full-time in an institution, rote-learning vast swathes of material in a vacuum without any sense of how it plays out in a case, then two years as a trainee solicitor, often doing little more than sit in on things and make photocopies, because your skill level, fresh from law school, is so low you can’t be useful in more interesting ways.
Then you qualify and either you take a long time to get any meaningful work, or you get dropped into it from a standing start and spend the first 1-2 years on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
All of this equips you to be cannon fodder to churn out some chargeable hours and then break or decide it’s just too boring to be able to live with and drop out yourself before, in most cases, anyone has to think about developing your career properly.
I went through a leading City law firm after a Cambridge law degree, so I know a fair bit about how that feels. It’s just not good enough.
So, at Vardags, we’ve spent several years working with the Law Society and BPP, the leading education provider, honing an alternative mechanism, a proper Graduate Training Programme, so the best candidates can work, get paid a full salary, learn how to be a top litigator by working on the best family law cases in the land, and get the academic element of their qualifications from the leading institutions. This builds up to qualifying in full at Vardags as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England & Wales in a far shorter time than they would have done by the old route. And their days are weighted on getting parents back in touch with their children or fathoming and sharing out some of the biggest fortunes in the world, not on lectures.
We are, to our knowledge, the only firm currently providing this opportunity.
How it works is you start straight away on graduation with us. We pay you a full salary and finance your fees at BPP to do the GDL and/or LPC and we release you one day a week to attend your courses. If you’re a law graduate, you should be fully qualified in two years (as opposed to three by the conventional route). If you’re a non-law graduate you should do it in 3 ½ as opposed to 4. Those years are spent as a properly earning young professional, learning a genuine skill and having the excitement of working on leading cases day-to-day. According to leaders in the family law Bar, our newly qualified solicitors start out at about the level that solicitors in other firms only reach after a couple of years.
Our third batch of newly qualified solicitors has just celebrated becoming solicitors by this route. And they know that every lawyer we take on has, we believe, the potential to become a Director of Vardags in due course.
Our growth and success, unusually among law firms now, supports that intention. Vardags is the only law firm in the prestigious Virgin Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list of Britain’s Fastest Growing Companies. The same week, I was voted Woman of the Year in the NatWest Everywoman Awards, for changing the legal landscape. Our Managing Director, Catherine Thomas, was in the Management Today and Sunday Times ’35 under 35’ list. We and our firm are routinely recognised as leaders in family law and we have an expert role in the media in thought leadership on social issues.
We care about our people. We have gold standard parenting provisions, we offer superb health care and according to recruitment consultants we pay well over the odds, with a higher than usual level of base pay and an exceptionally generous bonus scheme for high and exceptional performers.
And we’re a young firm, with fun people with a sense of humour, no bitchy office politics and a deep sense of compassion and support for each other. With a team of more than 60, we’re the biggest family law team in the ultra-high-net-worth sector, but (partly thanks to lots of socialising, gallons of champagne, some very large loud-speakers and an unholy penchant for cake) we stay very close.
Of course, we’re most famous for winning big cases. In 2010 I won for Katrin Radmacher in Radmacher v Granatino in the Supreme Court, in the case which changed the law to make prenuptial agreements work in England & Wales and established the firm principle of autonomy between couples in the face of legal regulation of their private arrangements. In 2014 we won a record-breaking award in Young v Young for Michelle Young, wife of the tragically demised Scot Young, businessman with connections to Berezovsky, found impaled on his Knightsbridge railings. This year we won Chai v Khoo, securing jurisdiction for former Miss Malaysia Pauline Chai, against her husband, owner of Laura Ashley and Corus Hotels, in the case that has consumed the press with details of where Ms Chai keeps her 1000 shoes and why Dr Khoo needed to buy a padded lavatory seat (so he could do his thinking more comfortably is the answer). Behind the headlines was our huge forensic sweep identifying the location of many hundreds of millions of assets.
And these are just a selection from the public domain. We act for and against heirs and heiresses, members of royal families, business tycoons, celebrities, sporting stars, artists and professionals.
We care passionately about our clients, and we always go the extra mile for them. We combine intellectual rigour, old world luxury (in our Georgian mahogany panelled offices overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral on Old Bailey and the Rolls Royce we send for our clients), and a completely modern, cutting edge, take-no-prisoners approach to get our clients a fair deal, even if the law needs changing to do it.
We’d say we’re by far the leading law firm in family law and one of the best across the board- which is why we’ve won Halsbury’s Law Firm of the Year against leading City and other firms.
And we believe young lawyers should treated like valued professionals from Day 1. That’s why we’re offering this programme, and why we’re willing to invest so heavily in hiring the very best people, from the leading universities, with the brightest minds.
We want people who are dynamic, great problem-solvers, with clear minds, real creativity and a capacity for original thought. We want people who are warm and positive and make those around them feel good. We want people who know how to play with language to be persuasive but are at the same time rigorously logical. We expect a lot.
Our assessments are legendarily tough, but those that go through them say that even the assessment was so interesting it made them want the job. If you get through, you can look forward to a demanding but utterly thrilling career, making an immense difference to the lives of those around you while being properly rewarded as your talent, hard work and brilliance so richly deserve.
Call us on 020 7404 9390 or email us with your CV.
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Vardags is an equal opportunities employer. Positions advertised are open to applicants with the right to work in the UK.