Author: Teresa Cullen
This interview was previously published in Private Client Adviser on 24 March 2014
Fladgate’s new family specialist, Teresa Cullen, says clients are focused on what the Law Commission’s matrimonial report means for them.
What are the priorities of your new role?
My immediate priority is to settle in as quickly as possible to ensure that the clients who came with me feel at home in their new environment and can benefit from the additional skill base at Fladgate. Medium to long term, I want to continue to develop the family and matrimonial team and to explore ways in which other teams can support family and matrimonial clients, and vice versa.
What are clients talking to you about at the moment?
It has to be prenups, prenups and prenups, with the press coverage over recent weeks regarding the Law Commission’s reports, which recommended that prenups be formally recognised by the courts.
What trends are you following?
I think there will be further developments in the court’s approach when dealing with parties to a marriage who are also beneficiaries under often complex offshore trust arrangements. There is a natural tension between the obligations that a court can impose (often on overseas trustees of such beneficiaries to produce details of the trust, its circumstances and assets).
What are your concerns about cross-border divorces?
I think that the number of cases where there is a cross-border or international element will increase, as the global village continues to shrink. These present challenges for the lawyer in terms of dealing with conflicts of law, questions of jurisdiction and the different bases of the legal world in different jurisdictions. I anticipate that forum shopping will continue to stress lawyers in ‘issuing first’ and securing a favourable jurisdiction where possible for their client.
Often in this field lawyers are faced not only with technical issues but also the need to take into account cultural sensitivities and customs.
It is heartening, however, to see some indications that international cooperation is increasing, with Japan agreeing to join as a signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.
What is your view on prenups?
I believe that prenups are here to stay. The Law Commission’s recommendations bring us closer in line with other European countries and the US. In France, for example, getting married without a prenup would be greeted with a shout of quelle horreur! While not an overly romantic proposition, they will obviate some of the uncertainty for couples who find themselves in the divorce courts with financial claims. It would be interesting to analyse how many relationships have faltered on the requesting and refusing of a prenuptial agreement.
What attracted you to Fladgate?
Importantly, Fladgate is committed to developing its private client practice, which is logical, given that over 50 per cent of the firm’s overall income is derived from privately controlled capital. Its client base and my own are a good match, comprising a number of high net worth individuals, many of whom have an international element to their affairs.
One of the key factors for me was to find an environment in which my clients would feel supported. Cross-departmental support is positively encouraged, which is helpful in my line of work.
Additionally, there are quite a few common connections with other professionals, which I am enjoying exploring. The firm’s modern offices in Covent Garden were also an enticement.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your career?
I think that Robert L Fulghum summed it up well in All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. To seek to achieve a balance in life, to “learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some” and “to play nice with the other kids” – well, at least until they steal my toys.
Teresa Cullen, Partner, Fladgate LLP (email@example.com)