Editors Pick

Why you need to have a happy workforce

23rd November 2023

Diary: Ayesha Vardag on hiring, why the law on forced marriage needs to change and her new novel

Ayesha Vardag


From a legal point of view the major shift over the past few years has been no fault divorce, which I’d been campaigning for for a long time. This has crystallised what was already a shift in the zeitgeist, with people being less obnoxious and pointlessly confrontational. The tone has changed somewhat: you can see the relief on individuals’ faces when you tell them you don’t have to say anything nasty about your spouse: it’s just a very simple administrative exercise.


I’ve received my share of criticism from my peers. I find gossip and bitchiness just immensely boring and it always gives me a slightly nasty taste and nasty feeling. I’m a disruptor and so I’m sure people out there in the industry dislike me just as much as they always did. I always seem to provoke all kinds of extreme reactions among people that I didn’t know at all. On the other hand, being slightly on the outside of things helps me to be entrepreneurial.


To young female divorce lawyers, I’d say that you’re in a uniquely strong position of appealing to female clients who might be feeling suspicious of men – but also appealing to men who want their wives to be understood and want to soften their look. The men that do go into divorce law are a minority but they tend to be very successful: that’s probably because those that do so have got a real vocation. I find men really good dedicated workers and while we have a minority of men, I would very much like to redress the balance. The reality is we hire purely on quality and so we just get whatever gender mix comes in.


On hiring, there have been times when we have been just so busy that we have taken on people that were doing well somewhere else, assuming they would do well here – actually, that very often wasn’t the case because we have our own demands way of doing things. We have had some great lateral hires but mostly it hasn’t worked out. Happily, we have fantastic graduate trainees but there, I have to work hard to stop losing them; what happens is they get offered a pay bump elsewhere by headhunters. It’s a nice problem to have though as we just have to raise salaries.


There’s still more to do on the public policy front. I feel strongly we have this situation in which men tell women they are having an Islamic marriage. Women are married in order to have sex with them and then get divorced over texts. This is not something that England should be condoning as non-marriage: it is void marriage and clearly defective but void marriage carries financial relief much like valid marriage. That’s one thing I think they need to deal with: at the moment men are getting away with this with impunity.


People ask if I am a workaholic, but I would describe myself as immensely lazy: in fact I think I am more of an achievement junkie. I like to do things with the minimum of effort but I am also restlessly wanting to achieve. I am much more of a morning person than a night owl. If I have got something important to do I will set my alarm early and do it in the morning which is when I do my writing. My novel is called Pont Neuf, and I’m releasing it in instalments on Substack. It’s heavily based on lots of things I have experienced including some of the challenges growing up being ethnically unplaceable in the 70s and 80s in England and experiencing different sorts of racism. People are going nuts for it.


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