Q&A with Adrian Clossick

Adrian Clossick

Stewarts is the UK’s leading litigation-only law firm, with offices in Leeds and London and its divorce and family team is the pre-eminent practice in the UK, ranked No.1 in both The Legal 500 and Chambers.

Adrian Clossick is head of Divorce and Family in Stewarts’ Leeds office and specialises in the resolution of complex financial issues for high net worth individuals. He sat down recently to share his views on a number of questions.

When did you first become interested in being a lawyer?

I could answer from birth, but I am afraid I would be lying! The more mundane reality is that, once I realised my dream of being a marine biologist was likely to fail due to (a) being rubbish at chemistry and (b) being a poor swimmer, then I had to have a fall back plan.

As I approached my mid-teens, law stood out as being something that I could aspire to. I was keen to do something that required intellectual rigour but also involved applying that to real life situations. The problem was that I had never met a lawyer in real life, so it was a bit of a shot in the dark!

Why family law in particular?

Again, that one crept up on me! Having decided to pursue a career in the law, I was fortunate to train at what was then Addleshaw Booth & Co in Leeds. I was determined that I would qualify into one of the “sexy” departments, such as Intellectual Property or Corporate. I was therefore a little bit taken aback when I was given a seat in the Family team.

I committed myself to gritting my teeth and just getting through it before focusing on my other seats. However, within weeks I knew that family law was the only area I wanted to qualify into; being able to deal with clients directly and use the law to help them navigate through perhaps the most difficult period of their lives was immediately rewarding.

What first drew you to Stewarts in 2009?

At the time I was a member of the family team at Gordons in Leeds. I had not heard of Stewarts who, at that stage, were primarily seen as a Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence practice with a London Divorce and Family team in its infancy. When I first heard that Stewarts were considering setting up a Leeds Divorce and Family team, I was pretty sceptical.

However, on meeting with Daniel Herman (head of Leeds), Stephen Foster (head of Divorce and Family) and John Cahill (managing partner) I immediately realised that Stewarts were an ambitious and dynamic firm who were undoubtedly “going places”. After that initial meeting, it took precisely no time to decide that my future lay with Stewarts.

How has the firm evolved since you joined?

Where do I begin? In the period I have been with the firm it has transformed itself into the UK’s leading litigation-only law firm. The family team at Stewarts is also widely seen as one of, if not the, best in the country.

My initial scepticism has been shown to be entirely incorrect; in the period I have been with the firm its turnover has risen from around £15m to knocking on the door of £100m. The transformation of the firm has been a joy to be a part of.

What’s your biggest achievement at Stewarts so far?

Having helped set up the Divorce and Family Law team in Leeds under the stewardship of Simon Preston, I was honoured to be asked to lead the team following his departure to pastures new. That was back in 2016. My greatest achievement (to date!) has been to grow the team into what we have today – a committed and dedicated team of 11 people who are all at the top of their individual games.

What’s the most significant or rewarding case you’ve worked on?

That is a tricky one! People often assume it is the cases where you discover undisclosed assets in offshore jurisdictions or you are dealing with hundreds of millions in assets. Of course, it is always flattering to have reported cases.

The reality is, however, that every case we deal with is the most important and significant case for that particular client and my job is to remember that at all times.

What’s the most challenging aspect of family law?

Working in family law does mean that you see all aspects of the human condition. You see people who are at their lowest ebb. Family lawyers are typically empathetic and caring people. That can make it hard to “switch off” and not bring work home with you.

That has been exacerbated with the blurring of home and work life during the Covid pandemic and there is, quite rightly, now a real push in family law circles to recognise the unique stresses and strains of being a family lawyer and provide the tools to enable family lawyers to thrive.

How much of your work has an international element?

A huge amount. At Stewarts, we focus on acting for high net worth and ultra-high net worth clients in complex cases. As a result, many of our clients have international lifestyles and assets based all over the world. We also deal with international children cases, which can throw up their own challenges.

I only see the volume of cases containing international aspects increasing over the years ahead given the increased fluidity of movement between countries.

What is the biggest trend or change within family law at the moment?

The impact of Brexit is yet to fully hit home. I envisage that jurisdictional disputes will become more and more common. Previously, when the UK was an EU member state, the “first past the post” system applied meaning that inter-EU divorces would be dealt with in the state where proceedings were first issued. That no longer applies between the UK and the EU. Given that where you get divorced can fundamentally change the financial outcome of your divorce, that is likely to lead to an increase in disputes about where proceedings are best held.

You’ve worked in Leeds for your whole career. What makes Leeds a good place to practice law?

Leeds is, and will remain, the only city in which I would wish to practice, and that is coming from a Lancastrian! Leeds has a thriving Legal sector and that brings with it a camaraderie and support network that is the envy of many other cities.

Savvy clients recognise that the Leeds legal scene is in the “sweet spot” of providing them with the best possible legal expertise and advice but doing so at rates far lower than the City alternatives.

How do you see the Leeds legal market developing in future?

The Leeds market will continue to grow and flourish. It is a great city in which to work, filled with ambitious and commercial lawyers. Yet that progressive approach is combined with a down–to-earth attitude and a good dash of northern grit. It is a recipe for success.

What are your interests outside of the law?

I’m a big sports fan with rugby league and boxing high up on the list; I have also been known to watch England’s cricket team both home and away. I also spend far too much time in my garage nanobrewery, concocting new beer recipes to try out on families and friends.