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Black Letter Communications Blog

Expert pr advice for the legal sector

Vardags passes the legal PR test

The recent news that the wrong couple were granted a divorce after a lawyer at Vardags accidently opened a different couple’s file when making the application was a sobering reminder that mistakes happen, but it’s how you react to them that really matters.

This could have gone one of two ways and to be honest, having seen some law firm howlers when it comes to managing embarrassing incidents, I was pleasantly surprised that Vardags did the right thing.

Led by the doyenne of divorce Ayesha Vardag, the firm is no stranger to attracting media headlines. In 2020, a dress code email from the eponymous leader was leaked to the media and it went viral. In it, Vardag sought to remind all staff about the appropriate dress code.
Women were advised to dress ‘formal’ and aim for a ‘Chanel/Dior/Armani look’ and to avoid anything ‘homespun or homely or what you’d cosy up by a fire in.”

Trousers suits were apparently ‘just fine’ but ‘cardigans are almost never OK.’

Vardag later claimed she suffered PTSD as a result of the vitriol from the media to the email and the litany of online trolls.

Fast forward four years and no such legal PR fail. Vardags response was spot on.

Modus operandi for some law firms would have been to hang the unfortunate lawyer out to dry. That Vardags not only chose to stand by their employee but also use it as an opportunity to show a potential flaw in the online divorce portal is to their credit.

Vardag said the mistake happened after the wrong name was clicked from a drop-down menu on the divorce portal. She also highlighted that court staff had admitted this had happened a few times and that it felt like a design flaw.

Ayesha Vardag said: “The young lawyer who made the slip with the drop-down menu on the new divorce portal is one of the best of the next generation. Not sloppy, not careless. Totally committed, extremely able. That young lawyer, our brilliant young lawyer, genuinely needs support to deal with the trauma of it all.

“Even with me saying “any of us could have done this”, and with collective responsibility, it’s the kind of thing that wakes people up at night, gives them breakdowns or makes them run away from the law completely.

“The courts shouldn’t change people’s marital status based on a slip on an online portal. Whether the person makes the slip themselves or their lawyer does. It goes against the principle of intention which suffuses our law. It’s absurd that we can have orders amended under the “slip rule” and everyone understands it happens, but when it’s a slip on the portal it’s set in stone.”


Coming so soon after the truly heart-breaking case of the Pinsent Masons partner who killed herself after the stress of working on the sale of Everton FC, Vardags’ response was human, honest, and kind.

I sincerely hope the response was of some comfort to the brilliant young lawyer who clicked on the wrong button and that with the support of her colleagues she can quickly rebuild her confidence.

I also hope it will serve as a lesson of how to do things for other law firms.

For anyone in the profession struggling with their mental health, let me conclude by signposting you to those wonderful people at LawCare. Sadly, their work has never been in more demand and if you don’t need their help, perhaps you can join me by supporting them with a financial donation here.