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The 'Magic Circle': Britain's ten most sought-after divorce lawyers

FIONA SHACKLETON (Farrer & Co) is the socialite of the Magic Circle and famous for hosting smart dinner parties. Among her guests are former clients who have become friends, which is a sign of the patience and attention she devotes to them. Recipients of her five-star service include the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York (Farrer & Co has been the Queen's solicitors for many years). Known as a fair negotiator, but tough when necessary.

HELEN WARD (Manches & Co) is known for her 20-plus years of experience ("No longer the darling of family law," she has said, "more the grandmother"), her skill as a tactician and her phenomenal capacity for hard work. Articulate, witty and charming, but can be extremely aggressive on behalf of her clients, who have included Andrew Lloyd Webber.

PETER GEORGE (Charles Russell) runs the firm's family department, one of the best in the country, from an unassuming office that reflects his lack of pretension. Has a strength that many attribute to his Catholicism (he attends mass every day); that aside, the firm's doctrine is one of conciliation, and this is embodied in George's approach.

SANDRA DAVIS (Mishcon de Reya) is thought to be the hand on the tiller steering the Princess of Wales through her divorce. Her reputation is as a strong but likeable personality, down to earth, known both for her legal ability and a determination to get the best for her clients, who include business people and film stars.

RAY TOOTH (Sears Tooth) is the tough guy among divorce lawyers. He acts mainly for women and can make their husbands' lives hell, believing that an aggressive approach is often the only way to discover the truth. He has represented everyone from rock stars to landowners to princesses.

DOUGLAS ALEXIOU (Gordon Dadds) is known to regard discretion as the key quality he brings to the profession; famed for his soothing bedside manner, which has made him popular both with clients including Sarah Brightman and with other lawyers.

CHARLES DOUGHTY (Withers) has an irreverent sense of humour which can puncture the vanity of the more pompous in the profession. He has acted for the Duchess of York; the firm is famous for acting for the landed gentry. Now winding down towards retirement.

MILES PRESTON (Miles Preston & Co) is debonair, charming and has a classically English sense of fair play. Tries to avoid fighting for the sake of fighting, and sees himself primarily as a negotiator. Acts for business people, landowners, pop stars and media people.

PAMELA COLLIS (Kingsley Napley) tries to reach a sensible settlement but won't be pushed around. Carries out some work on legal aid in keeping with her firm's philosophy of giving something back to society.

JEREMY LEVISON (Collyer Bristow) plays the violin and bass guitar, has had paintings exhibited in a West End gallery and has acted for a clutch of celebrities including Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall and Mandy Smith. Charming, clever and sometimes very tough.