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Steven Kempster

Partner   |  Withersworldwide

England and Wales


International trust disputes
Cross-border probate disputes
Asset protection advice

Enhanced Q&A

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

Over the past 12 months I have resolved some fascinating and very challenging cases out of court, much to the clients' satisfaction of having avoided a long and public family dispute, but unfortunately this means I cannot say anything about them! Particular highlights have included a number of cases where I have been working with our private client and litigation colleagues around the world, from our offices in California to Asia and also back in Europe (and in one case this involved joining up a team in the US, Hong Kong and Switzerland).

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

If you are on the private client advisery side, try to get some trusts and estates litigation experience. It will hugely improve your skills and advice to clients in both areas.

Vice versa, trusts and estates litigators should make sure they have some experience of advisery work and setting up structures, so that they understand how and why they are set up in different ways, which can be very relevant when litigating or preventing litigation over a trust.

What is your favourite quote?

"The floggings will continue until morale improves". Attributed to Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty I think, but I had it on a poster I brought back from a visit to a prison in Australia. It was framed and hung in my office, which may have caused some concern for the trainees who sat with me.

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

A significant number of cases in the last 12 months involve families in Asia. And these have been coming from a wide range of jurisdictions, not just the usual - Hong Kong and Singapore. I think this is partly a reflection of us having significant offices in the region with local qualified lawyers and also that it is a region of the world that has been growing and has been less adversely affected by the pandemic in terms of economic activity than certain other parts of the world have been.

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

The possibility of trusts disputes being submitted to arbitration (ad hoc or mandatory) is an area I have been promoting by speaking at conferences and working with arbitration bodies (for example the ICC) and trustees. Many clients – whether its families or trustees - are interested in how to avoid court processes and deal with disputes more quickly and confidentially. It's an area that raises various legal and practical questions and so always stimulates a lively debate amongst trust lawyers and professionals!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Always look on the bright side, even if a pandemic ever comes along.