Family Law in Partnership is an award-winning team of specialist family lawyers, mediators, arbitrators and family consultants

James Pirrie



James is a director at Family Law in Partnership. He specialises in complex financial issues and non-adversarial and cost effective approaches to divorce and separation including mediation, arbitration and collaborative law. He helps clients take control of the issues that affect them, clarifying priorities, exploring all the options and identifying the best way forward.

“It’s about helping clients to make wise choices: identifying and pursuing the options now that will continue to make sense three months, three years or even thirty years down the road. This involves giving clients the time they need when they need it and ensuring we have the technical knowledge, the resources and the contacts that will help clients to manage the challenges well and within a budget they can afford.”

The leading legal directories Chambers UK and The Legal 500 UK have listed James as a top ranked, leading individual in the field of family law and family mediation for many years, with The Legal 500 UK 2020 ranking him in the “Hall of Fame” and noting that he is “breathtakingly knowledgeable“. Comments on his family mediation expertise in the 2020 edition include: James Pirrie goes above and beyond to think through the answer for clients. He works incredibly hard and should be very proud of his output. He is a real thinker. Very balanced and fair‘.

Previous editions of The Legal 500 UK note: “James Pirrie is another ace at the boutique firm”, he is “a trail blazer in dispute resolution and thinking outside the box. He really understands family dynamics”, “he is ahead of the times with his initiative…a renowned litigator…at the forefront of dispute resolution” and “hugely knowledgeable”. Legal 500 UK 2017 notes that James has “considerable experience and sensitivity in these (family mediation) matters. He has the skill and understanding to know when to see the parties separately but also when to engage with the parties’ lawyers more directly.”

Chambers UK 2020, describe James as a “master strategist” who is “the font of all knowledge” in family law. Chambers UK 2017 notes that James is “absolutely exceptional, a real conciliator but incredibly robust when he needs to be.” The 2018 edition quotes a source “He is one of the brightest lawyers I know and has no hesitation in going the extra mile on behalf of clients.” Chambers HNW 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 name James as a leading family lawyer – “he is praised by sources for his “academic and practical” approach. A specialist in complex financial issues, he is notable for assisting clients through collaborative law and ADR, and is frequently involved in Child Support Act cases“…”the cleverest family lawyer I’ve ever come across” “the doyen of child maintenance…..his particular expertise is his encyclopaedic knowledge of child maintenance regulations” “He combines a facilitative anti-confrontation stance with an amazing knowledge of the law but he can fight when necessary”,“James is a gifted lawyer,” says a London family barrister, explaining: “He is intelligent, personable and pragmatic – a rare combination. He is an acclaimed guru on all matters to do with child support and has a real interest in questioning the law and what it can do for his clients”.

Naming James as a prominent figure in the family and matrimonial field in the Citywealth Leaders Lists 2017, 2016 and 2015, Citywealth describes James as “smart and very able”. James was named winner of Resolution’s John Cornwell Award 2014 which recognises lawyers who have gone above and beyond the norm in their work to support separating families. He was named as a leading family lawyer by Best Lawyers 2020.

What James’s clients say

  • Your patience and professionalism is truly appreciated
  • “I wanted to say thank you for everything you have done for me over the last 18 months. For every piece of advice, for keeping me sane, for stopping me from shouting from time to time, but most importantly caring about the process and understanding what I was going through, I will be forever grateful.  It kept me going through some horrid moments.”
  • “It does feel rather like a miracle to have got all this way within a year. I don’t know how to thank you all for your fantastic efficiency (and kindness)”
  • I shall be recommending you to anyone I know going through this
  • “Thanks James, you were very impressive in dealing with us”
  • “Thank you for your much appreciated advice and support throughout”
  • “Thank you very much for your help (with the prenup), I could not have had a better lawyer”
  • “James helped to make what could have been an unbearably destructive process almost a positive experience”
  • “I immensely respect the difficult job that you do, I wish it were the case that all lawyers were able to tread the difficult path that you have in such a wise yet robust and empathetic manner”
  • “I had total confidence in James”
  • “You were absolutely brilliant James”
  • “Professional but understanding – I always felt like James cared about the needs of my family”
  • I was happy even before the (arbitration) award, knowing that everything had been looked at properly”
  • “Having James on your team is a godsend”
  • “I was very lucky to find James Pirrie who made a stressful situation calming and made me feel positive about my future again”
  • “…without your guidance and patience we would not have received this ending. I recall wanting to give up as I was so overwhelmed and exhausted and you guys kept me strong and going. So the thank you and well done is deserved by both of you (James Pirrie and Charlotte Symes)!”
  • Thanks again for all of your help and advice on this matter and for working quickly the whole time. Working with you made the whole thing as pleasant as it could be
  • “Thank you – for being so supportive, responsive and plain damn humane!”
  • “Thank you so much for all your support and guidance you have given me….you have always been very patient with me, especially when I have stuck my head in the sand!”
  • “You were the first stranger to show real kindness and care. I am sure that you deal with difficult divorce cases on a regular basis but you made me feel like I was a priority”
  • “I am really pleased that I went to see you on Monday, thank you so much for making my life a bit easier”
  • “Thank you so much. I found the session with you massively helpful, not least because I now have a better understanding of my situation and some clear and positive steps that I can take towards resolving the relationship issues”

James is recognised throughout the country for his leadership in alternative dispute resolution. He was one of the first family lawyers to train as a family arbitrator in financial issues, one of the first to train in children issues and he is a member of FamilyArbitrator. The Huffington Post interviewed James for an article on the merits of arbitration. Read the article here together with James’s analysis of the new children arbitration scheme. James is very well known for his expertise in the law relating to child support with a commentator noting that James is “undoubtedly this country’s expert on child support“.

James is a Law Society accredited mediator, having qualified in 1989, and is also qualified in the commercial model of mediation and direct child consultation. He was instrumental to introducing collaborative law to Europe and was the first non-American director of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, a membership which he continues to hold. James’s initiatives also led to the introduction of the “Parenting after Parting” programme which seeks to bring the children involved in a divorce or separation centre-stage. Of course, some cases require Court involvement and James has a strong track record of helping clients achieve successful outcomes in the Court system.

Representative matters:

  • Advised the wife on the ground-breaking case of McFarlane v McFarlane which went to the House of Lords and which established the now common approach to dealing with uncertain income by percentage, banding and applying a cap.
  • Acted on numerous arbitrations, including S v S [2014], the first judicial announcement on the nature and effect of financial arbitration orders.
  • Acted as a mediator in a wide range of disputes from substantial financial issues between city couples to the equally challenging high-needs & scant-resources cases and was identified as an acknowledged expert by Mostyn J in his judgment TW v TM [2015] when recommending mediation in a never-married finance case.
  • Acted on various CSA (now CMS) cases involving applications to the Upper Tribunal.

Recent blogs:

Brexit … And Family Law

Price of Success: The Hidden Costs of Financial Dispute Resolution Hearings

Pending change in child support calculations – Assets return to generate a notional income

Support for Older Children when Parents Divorce

The Child Maintenance Service – A Third Generation Scheme?

An Analysis of the Children Arbitration Scheme

Tips for a Good Prenup

Maintenance Variations – Top Tips

Is Mediation to Arbitration the answer when parents can’t agree?

How could Med to Arb help Family Mediations?

Pre-Nups are they worth it?

How long do I pay child maintenance for?

James has undertaken the financial planners’ training (up to FPC and G10) and has written for and delivered lectures to the legal and accountancy professions on a range of financial/ matrimonial issues. He writes and lectures on conflict resolution, negotiation, child support, financial provision for children (Schedule 1 cases), enforcement, emergency procedures and financial remedies. James is accredited in finance and cohabitation cases by Resolution and has set the child financial accreditation paper. As a specialist in child maintenance, James appeared before the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee to talk about the practical impact of the introduction of the new Child Maintenance Scheme. James is co-author of “Towards the Light: A Way Through Divorce and Separation” (2017), a handbook for individuals going through a divorce and separation, and he co-authored Resolution’s Guidance Note: First Directions Appointments (2018).

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