Who? Frances Hughes, senior partner at Hughes Fowler Carruthers, London.
Why is she in the news? Acted for former supermodel Christina Estrada, who was awarded a £53m cash lump sum after a High Court battle with her billionaire ex-husband, Saudi businessman Sheikh Walid Juffali. Dr Juffali had already obtained a talaq (divorce) in Saudi Arabia. Estrada obtained leave under part III of the 1984 Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act to apply for financial relief in England, because she could not bring a case in Saudi Arabia. With her own assets this provided Estrada with a total settlement of £75m plus jewellery, cars, chattels and so on, which (by £50m) is the highest needs award ever made in the Family Division.
Thoughts on the case: ‘I was only instructed on 14 December. Dr Juffali’s ambassadorial status and ill health seemed pretty insuperable problems, but with assistance from the Foreign Office, the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court the issue of Juffali’s ambassadorial status was resolved in a record 12 weeks. By then we had obtained an emergency hearing date for financial remedy proceedings. Mrs Estrada was forced to run ‘needs’ only because of the lack of time to run a sharing case.’
Dealing with the media: ‘The media are increasingly part of family law life. Many of the press are easy to deal with but problems can arise in relation to complex legal issues which the press representatives cannot possibly assimilate quickly enough.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I nearly became a viola player but I read English instead. I became a music lawyer on a whim but found family law much closer to the experience of reading a novel.’
Career high? ‘Certain cases in which I have acted have changed the law, including Imerman and Estrada, although the pleasure is often much greater in settling rather than fighting a case.’
Career low? ‘As a junior solicitor I served a freezing order upon a harbour master to stop a yacht leaving Poole Harbour. It had, however, already left under a changed name and the harbour master collapsed after sprinting up and down looking for it. He did recover!’