Emma Hatley is a partner in our Divorce and Family team. Emma has consistently achieved top ranking in the directories as a ‘Star Individual’ and has a reputation as the best technical lawyer of her generation. In Chambers, Emma is described as a “the perfect combination of intellect and commercial pragmatism.” The Legal 500 ranks Emma as a Leading Individual “in a league of her own”.

Emma gave an account of her career in an article for Spear’s magazine in 2017, adapted here in 2022.


Beginning in the law

My interest in family law was sparked by work experience in a High Street practice in my teens. I knew I enjoyed working with people and problem-solving. I performed well in science and maths and applied an analytical approach to my studies. I went on to study Law at Cambridge, electing to study the family law module. My dissertation explored the evidence of children.

Following a vacation scheme ‘shadowing’ Diana Parker in 1992 I was offered a training contract at Withers and started as a trainee in 1994. I qualified into the family team in 1996 and was promoted through the ranks until I was appointed as a partner in 2003 (whilst on maternity leave).

As my career evolved it was a privilege to be trained by family lawyers of the highest calibre.  I was exposed to and involved in the most complex and ground-breaking cases, including Sorrell [2005] EWHC 717 (Fam) and Moore [2007] EWCA civ 142. I became actively engaged with the development of family law, through my involvement with the Solicitors Family Law Association (now Resolution) and, since 2008, as a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers. I have frequently written commentary and lectured on family law topics.

In developing my own practice I benefitted from working with a wide diversity of leading family partners, each with their unique style and different strengths – in particular Charles Doughty, James Harcus and Gill Doran. But, throughout my career, my ‘mentor’ has been Diana Parker whom I admire most for her strategic vision, technical excellence and clarity of judgment. She encouraged me to trust my judgment and develop intellectual curiosity. In this increasingly fast moving area of law, I am committed to standing out a technical but compassionate lawyer. I find the nature and diversity of my work incredibly stimulating and understand the importance of combining my analytical abilities with ‘emotional intelligence’ and integrity.


Moving to Stewarts

Since moving to Stewarts in 2009 to help build a new team, my career has flourished. My profile has enabled me to attract some of the best work in the market.  I am invigorated by making a difference to people’s lives in the context of challenging relationship breakdowns.

I am also inspired by the growing success of the firm and others at Stewarts. I actively mentor the careers of junior fee-earners and aspiring paralegals, not least in my role as training partner for the firm since 2011. It was well-deserved recognition for the whole team when Chambers first top-ranked us and said: “They have a lot of very good young lawyers led by the leading lights of the profession. They’re a powerhouse.”


My expertise

The majority of my cases involve global assets within a range of £10m to £500m. The diversity of my caseload is a testament to the broad scope of my appeal, having acted for a wide variety of household names, business executives at the top of their respective fields and as well as more vulnerable individuals. Increasingly I have been retained to co-ordinate international litigation on behalf of corporate entities, trusts and/or family offices who have become embroiled in family litigation in the English courts.

I also have considerable expertise in negotiating and drafting sophisticated nuptial agreements, both in a domestic and international context, seamlessly coordinating with other professional advisors across the globe. I advise on all aspects of cohabitation claims and private law children issues, including applications to relocate internationally.

As a Fellow of the IAFL I have a strong interest in the subtleties of international forum shopping in family law and the majority of my cases have an international dimension.

I am a trained collaborative lawyer and family mediator and enthusiastically embrace alternatives to the traditional court process, if they are appropriate for the case. I am particularly proud to have co-founded ‘Creative Divorce’, a pod of the best legal, financial and therapeutic practitioners in Central London who regularly work together with families in challenging circumstances using methods and processes designed to keep people out of court.


The personal touch

Regardless of the factual complexity or legal curiosity of the issues, I never forget that the outcome of these cases will touch someone’s life very deeply so I endeavour, at all times, to maintain that perspective and the desirability (usually) to find a pragmatic solution with dignity and respect. I pride myself on my reputation of being assertive without being unnecessarily aggressive.

I am also extremely mindful that most clients I act for wish to preserve complete confidentiality with regard to their personal lives. I am therefore well regarded and respected by my peers for my integrity and discretion.


Stewarts Career Stories

We encourage our people to strive for excellence in everything they do. Our culture promotes a good work/life balance and supports the career progression of our staff.

We’ve highlighted some of the careers of our people, outlining the diverse paths they have taken to get where they are today.

View our Career Stories here.



Interested in joining us?

At Stewarts, we aim to recruit and retain the best people at all levels of the firm. The ability, dedication and technical excellence of our people are critical to the successes we achieve for our clients.

If you are interested in working for Stewarts our Careers section provides further details of our recruitment process and current opportunities.

You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and teams on our Expertise pages and more about the firm on our About Us section.



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