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Dawn Goodman

Partner  |  Withersworldwide

England and Wales
British Virgin Islands


Dispute resolution
Asset holding structures
Family office

Enhanced Q&A

What has been the highlight of your practice over the past 12 months?

Acting as a significant fiduciary in a structure similar to a PTC for a UHNW family. There is nothing like the sharp end of being a fiduciary for having a better understanding of the nuanced decisions which trustees and protectors have to make!
I have also become a CEDR accredited mediator and hope to use the skills I have learned (which are very different from being a trust litigator) to help bring about consensual resolutions, particularly between trustees/ family offices and beneficiaries and as between family members. Finally I've also been admitted in Eire.

How did you get into private client?

I started life as a divorce and commercial litigator in Surrey. When I decided to move from there, Withers was advertising for a private client litigator (in the Dark Ages!) I mentioned I had worked on a case regarding a holograph will and taken a tax case up to the House of Lords – this seemed to have impressed them and I got the job! Trust and estates law was not a practice area at the time. A lot of the work was done by clerks in the family law team. I had a blank canvas and had to start from scratch. It took a while to develop and at the beginning it was mostly in Cayman.

What advice would you give rising stars/new lawyers in the private client world?

Take the opportunity to act for those in as many different capacities and coming from as many jurisdictions as you can. Acting for trustees, protectors, settlors, beneficiaries and heirs gives an insight into their perspective.

What is your favourite quote?

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much." Oscar Wilde.

Do you have any outside interests or hobbies?

I don’t have much time but the top one is my family! I also have a very expensive hobby – I love buying old and decrepit buildings and doing them up. We recently renovated a 13th century house in France. I also love music, film, theatre and literature.

When the restaurants reopen, where would you like to go?

Anglo, in Smithfields. It’s a small restaurant and the food is glorious.

Where have you seen growth in your practice over the last year?

Political instability in the West over the past year spurred creating trusts/ restructuring for those who were concerned as to erosion of the rule of law. Complex restructuring to address a wide range of political risk was undertaken for those ( including from the US) who were unable to move themselves but were anxious to find a safe haven- usually onshore- for their assets. This involved taking advantage of investment treaties, carrying out risk analysis at all levels and adapting mechanisms usually used for Latin American or Russia and CIS clients.

What is the main area of growth you predict for the next 12 months?

Undoubtedly political instability, the desire to find as safe an environment as possible with good healthcare, increased taxes in the wake of the pandemic and disaster planning against the possibility of the unthinkable happening in terms of succession will continue the surge in structuring and restructuring. On the other hand inadequate planning or the failure - because of a sudden death - of a succession plan widely supported by a family is likely to give rise to unhappiness and contention. I anticipate that this will not only produce will/ heirship disputes but also trust disputes as everyone tries to come to terms with an unexpected outcome.

Can you identify any new areas you have developed within your practice to further benefit your clients?

With the strains of the pandemic on the justice system alternative forms of dispute resolution are likely to become more crucial in finding a quicker, less expensive and more malleable resolution to a dispute. I'm delighted to have become a CEDR accredited mediator last year and anticipate that, particularly in the fields of trust and succession litigation and trusts in divorce the facilitative and imaginative skills I have learned will be really useful, whether advising a client in a dispute or acting as mediator.