Shackleton faces negligence claim from former client

Payne Hicks Beach is being sued by a client who claims a mistake by Britain’s highest-profile divorce lawyer Fiona Shackleton cost him £250,000.

According to papers filed at the High Court, banker Christopher Smith paid Baroness Shackleton, a partner at the firm, more than £95,000 for legal advice regarding his obligation to pay child support.

Smith, who is represented in the claim by Rosenblatt Solicitors assistant Simon Walton, said that Baroness Shackleton is considered a “leading expert in her field” and he was “entitled to expect the highest standards of skill and care”, according to the High Court claim.

Smith instructed Payne Hicks Beach prior to the birth of his child, who is now 16-months old, to negotiate Child Support Agency (CSA) payments after he split with his partner, art collector Rachel Verghis.

A deal to pay Verghis £7,000 a month in maintenance for their son Louis as well as money for rent was struck, according to the claim. Smith alleges that when he took his business to rival family law firm Levison Meltzer Pigott, he was told that a CSA assessment would have made him pay just £658 a month – £8,000 a year.

Shackleton has acted for a number of high-profile clients, including former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney on his divorce from Heather Mills (28 August 2008) and singer Madonna on her divorce from film-director husband Guy Ritchie (17 October 2008).

Smith was advised by her between May 2010 and June 2010, over his rights and responsibilities towards the child he was expecting with Ms Verghis in December 2010.

Smith claims that Shackleton was “negligent” and alleges that if he had been “correctly” advised, he would not have agreed to the order. He alleges to have lost out on £264,351.80, which includes the £95,700 he paid Payne Hicks Beach.

Payne Hicks Beach managing partner Peter Black said: “We owe a duty of confidentiality to our clients and we’re unable to comment on any specific cases. All that I can tell you is that this claim will be defended.”

Walton at Rosenblatts has yet to instruct counsel.