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Top divorce firm Vardags in war of words with legal workers’ union following dress code leak

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Dress code saga rumbles on

One of the country’s best known divorce firms is engaged in an extraordinary dispute with an upstart trade union over a leaked email about the firm’s dress code.

Law firm Vardags took to the High Court last week to secure an order preventing a former employee, whom it accuses of leaking the dress code advice, from disclosing other confidential documents.

The employee is a member of a trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), which Vardags says is trying to claim a high-profile scalp in its work “assisting workers to leverage their power against the bosses”. The union has hit back, declaring victory in the legal action and charging Vardags with choosing to “impugn our legitimate trade union activities”.

The firm, founded by self-styled ‘Queen of Divorce’ Ayesha Vardag, has already run up £68,000 in costs.

All this kicked off when a staff email containing detailed dress code advice from Vardag herself found its way to Legal Cheek in September. It included tips such as dressing “discreetly sexy and colourful and flamboyant at the same time according to your preference”.

Vardags believes that a former employee who is taking the firm to the employment tribunal was behind the leak, saying that she “forwarded certain confidential information to her private email account” the day she was sacked for “poor performance”.

The well-known family law outfit took the unnamed employee to the High Court. On 6 November, it obtained an interim consent order “restraining her from disclosing confidential information obtained in the course of her employment including a number of specific documents”.

But the ex-employee is a member of Legal Sector Workers United, a branch of UVW, as is her solicitor. The union has “declared victory” in the High Court showdown, saying that the judge turned down Vardags’ requests for an interim injunction and for disclosure of certain information within 24 hours.

The union has certainly gotten under the firm’s skin. In an extraordinary statement, Vardags says that “we are concerned that United Voices of the World is keen to have a cause celebre, and has targeted a law firm with a high public profile to do”.

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Stephen Bence, director of strategy at Vardags, said:

“Of course, it is open to us to lie down under the pressure, to write a cheque, to roll over. But we will not be at the mercy of spurious and false claims and vindictive breaches of our confidentiality, to pay people off when we know we have done nothing wrong. At some point, one has to take a stand. This is where we take ours.”

UVW was only founded in 2014 and has around 5,500 members, of which almost half have joined since the start of this year. Its Legal Sector Workers United (LSWU) branch was set up last year.

The union hit back in a statement of its own, saying that Vardags had chosen to “impugn the conduct of the LSWU member who had taken the case on pro bono in his capacity as a solicitor, and for whose work the High Court Judge expressed his gratitude”.

The solicitor concerned, Zachary Whyte of Montague Solicitors, said:

“This victory is a demonstration to powerful employers that we will not allow them to use their finances and the legal process to gain an advantage over employees they have dismissed. We will now do everything to win our member the compensation she deserves. There is power in a union and I would encourage everyone in the legal sector who is in a non-managerial position to join LSWU today”.

Vardags is claiming costs of £68,000 relating to the High Court action. The ex-employee is claiming compensation for disability discrimination related to her dismissal. Vardags told Legal Cheek this morning that it would be “robustly defending” the claim. The firm also stressed that there has been no leak of information confidential to clients.

32 Comments

*Fetches*

🍿

*Gives*

🖕

Cardigan man

£68,000 in costs?!! Who did they instruct? Vardags?

Anon

Anything on bailii about this?

Lazy

Look yourself!

Yes, you are

Doesn’t, seem to be hence the question.

Any record at all of a transcript or judgement?

Lazy

Why come here to ask when you can look it up? Or do you lack the cognitive function to do that?

Yes, you are

It doesn’t seem to be there, hence the question.

Noe go and check if its there – assuming you have the cognitive function to do so.

Anonymous

The question isn’t if I can look it up. The question is whether it is there. Sounds like you lack the cognitive function to understand that.

Now go and check, there’s a good boy.

Anonymous

Nice, getting into a fistfight with a union is a great look.

Solicitor Descendant of Julius Caesar

Indeed, perhaps a much better look than lawyers in cardigans?

They should litigate like this every week.

Profile analyst

Saying Vardags has a “high public profile” is pushing it to say the least. Realistically if you pulled the average member of the public off the street and asked them to name a high profile law firm you’d be lucky if they could even name one magic circle firm.

anon

The highest profile law firms to the average person on the street are invariably going to be large, national family law and PI firms.

Anon 2

I doubt the public have heard of Harbottle & Lewis either, but they advise members of the Royal Family. I’m not arguing Vardags are equivalent by any means, but as anon says, public recognition isn’t indicative of quality – particularly if your practice falls within a niche.

Old Guy

Don’t Farrar and Co advise the Queen and members of the Royal Family? Seems these firms are so low key you are getting them mixed up.

Floppy Flaps

Historically Farrers but Harbottle & Lewis get most of the work these days. Meghan & Harry are using Schillings for their current claim now though.

Lawyer

Vardags’ are ‘high profile’ in their own minds only. To the rest of the legal profession they are, quite frankly, a laughing stock.

Lawyers can unionise?

I met Zachary on a PSC course once. Great guy, really wanted me to sign up to the union. Literally stood up and preached about it. Instructor didn’t know what to say.

Uncle Jezza

Well I obviously support the union here

Anonymous

Surely no judge is seriously going to jail an employee for talking about the dress code at a former employer.

Anonymous

What a PR disaster. Sounds very very heavy handed

Union Man

Oh you don’t get me I’m part of the union
You don’t get me I’m part of the union
You don’t get me I’m part of the union
Till the day I die, till the day I die.

Anonymous

So was there an injunction, or was there not an injunction?

A

Sounds like it was the typical conduct of a rich party being aggressive – get the order ex parte and then force a consent order before the inter parties hearing.

Anonymous

It does read that way, but that gives rise to the following questions:

1) – how did they get an ex-parte in relation to something like dress code advice. They’re supposed to be for serious matters.

2) – why would anyone consent to something like that?

3) – the other side claims the injunction application was refused – was it?

4) there appears to be no record of the transcript or the order – where are they?

Anonymous

Re 2) that is the aggressive part. Tell the poor individual “You can agree to this order and walk away or you can fight it and risk 50k of costs. We have our expensive legal team that is already assembled and prepped standing by.”

Anonymous

Surely this is a bluff though – would the court actually award £50k against someone for fighting an injunction, especially if it related to something like a firm’s dress code?

Anonymous

So what was the actual order?

Anonymous

It is appropriate for an employer to instruct its employees to look sexy? If a male boss told a female employee to look sexy, would this be acceptable? And if there is a requirement for employees to look sexy, is this reflected in its recruitment decisions?

K&E Big Dollar Dollar Boy

What sort of loser joins a legal union?

A

What sort of loser joins Vardags?

fdfd

Comrades, OUT ✊

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