Ayesha Vardag: From pregnant magic circle trainee to £845-an-hour Queen of Divorce

By on

High-flying family lawyer reflects on incredible life in candid interview

Ayesha Vardag — image credit: Vardags

Ayesha Vardag is one of the world’s most renowned divorce lawyers. The high-flying ‘diva of divorce’ opens up about her remarkable career in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, in which she reveals, among other things, that she completed her training contract whilst pregnant.

Cambridge law grad Vardag secured a training contract with elite magic circle player Linklaters. Still finding her feet at the firm, Vardag reveals how she gave birth to her first child during her training contract and later “fell in love with her boss”. But, according to the top lawyer, she managed to make things work during the intensive training period by “putting in 12-hour days while her son was with a nanny or at nursery” and only taking five weeks maternity leave.

“I managed to finish my training contract on time. I was the only trainee to have a baby and keep on going full-time in a City firm,” mother-of-six tells the magazine. This, according to Vardag, was somewhat of a rarity:

“I remember someone who was told by her doctor, ‘You can’t possibly have this baby and do your training contract’, and this girl felt she had no choice but to have an abortion, which she was then very upset about subsequently. I just did it, but I had to give up so much for that…”

Vardag decided to turn her back on a successful commercial career. She married her boss and relocated to Moscow in a move driven by his career, where she raised her first-born and by then, a second child. The couple later returned to England and divorced a few years later. It was during this time that she discovered her true calling, divorce law, so she set up her eponymous law firm 13 years ago in a bid to bring City-level quality to family law.

The 2019 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

Elsewhere in the in-depth interview, Vardag recalls the struggle of juggling childcare with launching her own law firm:

“It was incredibly stressful and difficult and I’d work all day, then I’d go out in the evening and try to network for clients. I’d be out until three in the morning, it was exhausting and I was very frazzled, but it was so immensely satisfying.”

Now a leading family practitioner, Vardag (who famously represented German heiress Katrin Radmacher in the Supreme Court case that gave legal status to prenuptial agreements in England and Wales) doesn’t come cheap. In the interview, it is revealed that Vardag bills her clients up to £845 an hour.

Vardag, who has just given birth to a baby boy with long-term partner Stephen Bence, who is also at Vardags, shows no sign of slowing down. “I’m not having any [maternity] leave at all,” she says, “just keep going but in a flexible way, which is generally how I think everybody should approach the world nowadays.”

Comments on this article are now closed.

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Newsletter



Such an inspiration! it just proves that everything is possible!



Considering her firm was only founded in the last few decades, she seems to have achieved quite the impossible.



Self publicist of a quite massive ego. Just have a look at her website.



It must have been so hard having so much money that she could leave her child with a nanny and continue her contract. Such a feat only having 5 weeks off because she could afford to send her kid to a nanny when some mums can’t even afford to have jobs because of the cost of childminders

Everything is possible if you have a shit ton of money, went to Cambridge and as such got a magic circle placement in part because you went to one of the only unis they accept from


Legally John

If you read the article in the Sunday Times you would see that she came from a poor, single-parent background, won a scholarship to high school and into Cambridge in her own merit. Hardly handed to her on a plate!



That does not excuse some of the views she has on 5 weeks maternity and getting pregnant on the training contract by her boss, harkens back to the MeToo movement and some of Non disclosure agreements women had to sign.

Question remains: Did she get pregnant by accident when having to do something sexual in return for a TC?



Actually yeah, if you read other press about her you’d see that she grew up poor raised by a single mother and has won everything good in her life through serious ambition, talent and relentless hard work.

Also it’s an incredible achievement for her to have grown a business from scratch by herself right through a massive recession, and whilst juggling being a single mother with several kids to look after.

Do your research before you slag off a hard-working woman? Jealousy is graceless you know…



This woman seems like a walking HR nightmare



Not only did she marry her boss at Linklaters, her current husband is the director of strategy at her current firm!

HR nightmare incarnate indeed.



“City-level quality to family law”. Family “law” is dross and for intellectually second rate people.



You’re either very ignorant or a troll, or both.



No, I’m just far more intelligent than them, and you.






She is the epitomy of feminist delusion



Has anybody ever seen a website more self-aggrandising that hers?



Not only did she marry her boss at Linklaters, her current husband is also a director of strategy at her current firm!




All the sexists always come out the woodwork whenever there’s an article about a successful woman. Whatever you may think of the her getting with her boss, it’s pretty admirable that she managed her training contract while pregnant and after giving birth.



Just as bad about the guy with a 2:2 from Newcastle working at Skadden as co-head of private equity.




HAHAHAHAHA this is so true



Is this a joke?



It’s not a joke check out an article on Legal Cheek concerning Richard Youle of Skadden Arps, in the career section.

Something about a 2:2 being a springboard.



He also trained at a high street firm in Hull.

This all serves to show that you do not need to be clever or well educated or well trained to be a non-contentious solicitor. This is because you never encounter the law and spend your days cobbling together deals using boilerplate documents.



What’s your point? Can’t get more contentious than divorce.


If you read or know anything about this woman, you wouldn’t be commenting positively. She has been in several documentaries about herself. She has a need to tell everyone how wealthy she is and how accomplished. Why else do I know about her place in the city and her pad in Winchester, and how Eton isn’t good enough anymore? I didn’t read the article but did she mention how her husband is a former astrophysicist? Quite.



Better to remain silent and be thought of as a colossal egotistical braggart, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.



“I didn’t read the article but did she mention how her husband is a former astrophysicist? Quite.“

No, she didn’t. Maybe you should have read the article.



The Times article does mention it!






She spouts forth enough in the press to realise that she appears to have fallen mightily in love with herself somewhat…



Self-branded “Britain’s top divorce lawyer”. Ranked band 2 in Legal 500, not mentioned in the Hall of Fame…



Why would anyone want to be known as the Queen of Divorce?



There’s a lot of things about her that make you stop and think ‘Why would anyone do that?’



Words fail me

She sounds like the most appalling person



Michael Winner was a good deal worse. Birds of a feather though, in many respects.



Calm down, dear



Try Facebook



Family law is very easy.



We need more examples of incredible female lawyers like this! I bet the people writing these comments are boring old men who are feeling rather threatened, I should imagine. Let us know when you have a 4 page spread in the Sunday Times Magazine lol



It’s precisely because she continually courts all of this ridiculous ‘Look how amazing I am’ attention that she is being pilloried in the first place!



Of course, if you achieve anything amazing in your life it is only valid if you don’t tell anyone 🙄



That’s not quite my position, but it is an entertaining caricature of it.

There are hundreds if not thousands of incredible, brilliant lawyers in this country, and many of them are women. I can’t think of a single one of them who spends quite as much time, effort or verbiage trying to impress other people with their accolades as does the talented Miss Vardag.

Interestingly, the degree to which Miss Vardag does this is inversely proportionate to the fuss made/achievements of (just off the top of my head and by way of example) Sasha Wass, Dinah Rose or Liz-Anne Gumbel. Funny that, don’t you think?



Three more successful female lawyers. All of whom deserve to be a lot more celebrated than they already are. What’s your point?

Other female lawyers being successful doesn’t make Ayesha’s achievements any less impressive.


My point relates not to whatever success she may have had, but to her very public narcissism.

I thought I’d made that clear.


Hi Ayesha!


Why do people always feel the need to attack successful women? To have founded her own law firm whilst raising her family is pretty impressive.



Speaking only for myself, it is not because she is successful (not that she is as successful as she would like to have us all believe), but because she spends so much time and energy drawing attention to herself and making grandiose claims about how amazing she is.

Again, speaking only for myself, I have no difficulty at all in celebrating successful women in the law. Women who have actually done something to justify the kind of accolades that Vargag claims for herself, but who are themselves far too modest and have far too much sense to incessantly blow their own trumpets in quite such a shrill way.



So successful women are only allowed to be celebrated if they behave with the appropriate levels of modesty?

Pretty sure that restriction doesn’t apply where successful men are concerned!



“So successful women are only allowed to be celebrated if they behave with the appropriate levels of modesty?”

Nope. Success should be celebrated on merit, rather than because somebody claims vast amounts of it for themselves and then showers in it publicly.

My aversion to her has nothing to do with her being a woman.



It is possible to be successful, on merit, and also court publicity for it. Talking yourself up in the press doesn’t have to diminish whatever it was you’ve achieved to get yourself in the press to begin with.


When the impression given over many years is of being utterly devoted to self-promotion/self-aggrandisement, isn’t that enough to justify these sorts of comments? Anybody who does that kind of thing is painting a target on their back, surely. If this article concerned a male blowhard, he would be pilloried mercilessly. Sauce for the goose, etc.


Self promoters tend to be pilloried, whether justified or not. But there is a special level of vitriol reserved for self promoting women.


Not from me there isn’t.


Oh thats a sexist comment against women.


Yep, all this talk of “shrillness” and “modesty” and praising “quiet” women couldn’t be more stereotypical.



How many of those ‘modest’ female lawyers founded and run their own firms? Have sole ownership of their firms? None? Exactly. They stay in the shadows of their male bosses. Ayesha has done it all herself. If she needs to get business through press, why not?? Would you be so offended if this was a man?



“How many of those ‘modest’ female lawyers founded and run their own firms?”

I could name you quite a few, but they quietly get on with doing excellent jobs and would probably not thank me for drawing attention to them on here.



Translation: you can’t name one.

If someone was interested in finding law firms founded and run by women, you would be doing those women a disservice by not advertising them.

How do you think law firms get their clients? Telepathy?


I can name several, but I am not going to for the reason I have given. If you don’t know any, you could always try a Goggle search.


I love how women like this wind up bitter sexists. Hilarious.



I love how you’ve reached the conclusion that anybody who disagrees with you, irrespective of their gender, is sexist.



you are though aren’t you?





Comments are closed.

Related Stories