Vardags has dropped its dress code, so what better time for a t-shirt to own the haters?

As coverage of nepo-babies roils the celebrity world, high profile divorce specialist Vardags has shown the way forward by defending its award of a training contract to the CEO's son.

Ayesha Vardag, whose website for her 49-solicitor firm states that she "selects every one of the Vardags team for their tenacity and legal skill", told RollOnFriday that her son had overcome the same obstacles as the rest of her employees to obtain the coveted role.

"Jasper Vardag-Hunter, as it happens, went through the same rigorous selection processes as other Vardags candidates", said Vardag, whose husband Stephen Bence also works at the firm.

"With a solid Cambridge degree and great problem-solving abilities at interview, plus immense commitment to the firm, (demonstrated by working there over his holidays staffing reception from 16 and as a paralegal through his gap year) he is a classic top-quality Vardags Graduate Trainee", said Vardag.

"However I must say as a general comment that, in all family businesses, there has to be leeway on a commercial basis to train up those who are going to inherit and be running things in the future, in order for family businesses to survive and keep providing employment and tax revenue long-term".

It is a different approach to many firms, which impose a blanket ban on partners' children joining as trainees. Doing so avoids charges of nepotism and awkward questions of influence which might otherwise dog the individual through their contract as they receive their appraisals, seat choices and qualification roles.

A growing number of firms go further and impose a 'blind CV' policy in an attempt to minimise the impact of bias, whether conscious or unconscious, in their recruitment processes.

Vardag-Hunter put in time before snagging his training contract, working exclusively at the firm post-graduation, first as a Client Relations Associate for eight months, then as a Strategy Analyst for eight months, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The risk of intra-office friction that law's 'nepo-babies' face has raised eyebrows among some observers. When RollOnFriday revealed that Walker Morris was examining its hiring processes after it awarded a training contract to the Managing Partner's child, one commenter suggested that it was "unavoidable people's treatment of them will be affected by their parent's position".

Another considered that "Some people might even be super-harsh to the kid to appear not bias".

"I don't know why you would ever want to join your parent's firm. It would be my absolute last resort", said another individual.

Being groomed for the top job might make a difference. Vardag-Hunter's stellar academic credentials - starred As from Winchester and a 2:1 from Cambridge - would have represented a passport to interviews at any number of top firms.

And his involvement in Vardags is longstanding. As a 19-year-old he wrote an article for Vardags called "The Children of Divorce". Vardag-Hunter’s own parents are divorced, and in the 2014 piece he argued persuasively for the benefits which divorce can bring a child compared to growing up with unhappy parents who stay together in a toxic marriage.

"Some prominent child psychologists even claim to have observed...that certain positive characteristics appear to be accentuated in children of divorce”, wrote Vardag-Hunter, “these including a greater sense of independence, a slightly more sensitive and empathetic disposition, and a more sophisticated perception of each parent’s value as an individual, rather than as simply one half of a composite parental machine".

Not to mention "the practical benefits of having two happy and loving parents who rarely argue and who provide two sets of holidays and two sets of presents for birthdays and Christmases".

And a career, although Vardags isn't alone in finding a job for its leader's heir: Linklaters once gave a training contract to the senior partner's son, and Mishcon has form, too.


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MissorMs 27 January 23 08:58

I had the misfortune to have dealings with this bunch last year and they have much much bigger issues to deal with than dress codes or nepotism.  

Anonymous 27 January 23 09:15

Vardag Hunter sounds like a hero fighting to defend the last bastion of humanity against the marauding Vardag hordes...

big smoke 27 January 23 09:17

Pretty sad to lay into a kid for getting a training contract.  If he had a 2:2 in ethical lawn studies from armpit polytechnic then maybe it would be more of a story.

The nepotism stuff isn't a big deal either.  It's not an LLP with lots of partners; his mum owns 85% of the equity, it is a private company family business. 

Anonymous 27 January 23 09:24

"With a solid Cambridge degree and great problem-solving abilities at interview, plus immense commitment to the firm that only arose because I gave birth to him, (demonstrated by working there over his holidays staffing reception from 16 and as a paralegal through his gap year) he is a classic top-quality Vardags Graduate Trainee", said his mum."

There.  FTFY.

Graham 27 January 23 09:25

I don't like the principle of nepotism, but with a 2:1 from Cambridge this guy is hardly a dud. Not sure why he would choose to work there when he presumably could have worked at a number of other firms though. Perhaps the opportunity to dress to impress? 

NEPO 👶 27 January 23 09:35

I worked in a large Nottingham firm which gave a TC to a major client’s child. 

They trotted out the “same rigorous selection process” line, until the trainee admitted they hadn’t had to attend the assessment to get the job. 

Unsurprisingly the child was a p*sspoor trainee and the law firm ended up getting quite a lot of negative Roll on Friday coverage, a few years later.


Anon 27 January 23 09:36

To be fair, he has done really well academically and is clearly not work shy (assuming he actively worked rather than just putting in some face time). It is not at all unusual for someone with excellent academics to get a TC at the firm they’ve worked at as a student (although not going on pretend his parents had nothing to do with this!)

Anonymous 27 January 23 09:46

If you go on Brabners website and look at the staff you will see a number of partners with same surname a junior lawyers. Unfortunately in 2023 this sort of thing is still not uncommon 

Anon 27 January 23 10:58

Having been to St Paul’s and Cambridge, he is obviously very clever and very well educated. 

Anonymous 27 January 23 11:14

That's the saddest thing about this - the chap could almost certainly have got himself a training contract somewhere else, picked up som experience from a place other than immediately under his mother's wing, avoided all the Nepo-Baby criticism, and then pinged back to the mothership at 2+pqe.

But instead he's been bundled along by his mum and told what his career path is, which will forever look a bit wet.

He's probably quite a nice bloke in the moments that she isn't helicoptering him...

Anon 27 January 23 11:27

Good luck to him. Having been to Cambridge, he is by definition part of the intellectual cream of his generation.

MT 27 January 23 12:57

I currently work in the (small, 15 fee earners) family firm, but I did my TC in a different city and then worked at another firm for a few years before coming in. I wanted to make sure I had something to offer and prove to myself and everyone else that I could make it on my own and not just be here because of my surname.

My reward: I currently hold the MLCO position which takes up more and more of my time, and I do it for less than anyone else would be paid to do such a risky job _because_ it's my name on the door as well and you need someone you can trust 100%. So that worked out? Idk.

Lydia 27 January 23 13:45

This is a bit unfair on a Cambridge graduate who obviously is pretty good (and it is no secret I have done it in my one person firm too so appreciate I have skin in the game as it were). In some ways it shows how pure systems are that his mother and I aren't able to shoe horn a client into a firm of a friend - it kinds of illustrates how pure the market is rather than the other way round.


This morning I was advising a client who works and now owns the firm of his father - 2 person firm father and son  Do we think it is morally wrong if it is law but absolutely find if someone is a gardener or electrician? My coal miner ancestors right through to 1940 did what their father did - dig coal and presumably the father had a word to get the son into that job.

AAA 27 January 23 16:35

This seems rather unfair. Firstly, it is a private firm. I would have hired my own off-spring as well, if they wanted to join the family firm. Secondly, he is clearly a very well-educated candidate. Why should he not join the family firm straight away? Just to appease the commentariat? It is rather bad form criticising him for joining the family firm. It is not like any direct competitors are keen to hire their competitions off-spring in the first place.  

ShootyOriginal 27 January 23 20:58

Is it just me, or does he look like a baddie Nilfgaardian General from The Witcher 3?

(also, what's all this "Ooooh, Cambridge, impressive" bollox? Most of our politicians went Oxbridge. Surely that's indication that it's Not Actually All That Speshul?)

Anonymous 27 January 23 21:20

Yeah @Lydia - it’s exactly the same, working down the mines or getting a cushy TC from your mum’s firm isn’t it. I mean, my great grandfather was a coal miner, he died after having his leg blown off when my grandfather was 13 and of course my grandfather rushed to do the same job. Oh no, hold on, no of course he didn’t, because that would be mental. Instead he later put himself through university and qualified as an engineer. Which begs the question of all these nepo babies who go into law and then their parent’s firms - why not do something totally different where your parents can have zero influence - become an engineer, or an oceanographer or anything really so long as it’s totally on your own merit. At least people will respect you. 

Anon 28 January 23 09:17

One of my parents was a lawyer. It’s not good having another person’s professional reputation hanging over you as a young trainee.

The only thing that should matter is whether this guy is any good. 

Different view 28 January 23 09:52

All the posters saying he's very academic for getting into Cambridge...

When you have the best education that money can buy, and are spoonfed your A level qualifications and Oxbridge interview prep, getting into Oxbridge is really not that special.

Just come context to his achievement:

22% of Winchester leavers in 2021 went to Oxbridge or US Ivy League and 42% of A levels were graded A*. He then got a 2:1 at Cambridge, which is standard. So at best this tells us he's in the top 22% of his year group at school - but weren't we all?

I'm not impressed by A*s and Oxbridge unless the individual went to a state school. Otherwise it's just par for the course. Context matters.

Anon 28 January 23 10:35

Would we be saying the same of manual tradesmen who also give their kids a leg up? It would be unusual for plumbers, electricians and farmers not to join family trades

Another view 28 January 23 13:02

Different view 28 January 23 09:52: but people who go to state schools tend not to be as bright as those who are privately educated. The link between genetics and intelligence is established. And the link between intelligence and earnings is obvious. Clever people tend to have clever children, who (because they can afford to do so) they educate privately. 

Also, remember that Oxbridge dons are trained at interview to discern who are the brightest people of their generation. And they make every allowance for the fact that state school kids will be less sophisticated than their privately educated counterparts. If you don’t get into Oxbridge, it’s because you were not clever enough.

⭐️ 28 January 23 13:21

If your parents arrange for your TC, then you don’t deserve it and should feel ashamed. 

After all you’ve stolen the TC opportunity from someone else. 

Anon 28 January 23 10:35 28 January 23 13:31

@Anon 28 January 23 10:35


False equivalence. Our profession is elitist and highly competitive where students globally are trying to enter the UK's legal proffession. The same is not true for the trade or farming profession.


Different view 28 January 23 09:52 28 January 23 13:36

@Different view 28 January 23 09:52


100% facts. That's why most lawyers at the highest paying law firms are from affluent families - their parents could afford to send their children to fee-paying schools (or they go to a grammer school equivalent in quality to a fee-paying school), so going to Oxbridge or an Ivy league insitute is the default. It's more easier if they did humanities A-levels.

HL 29 January 23 08:24

Hogan Lovells has a strict anti-nepotism policy. We had an excellent member of the events team who could not be promoted just because she was related to someone on the management committee - so she left. It's harsh, but fair - and it's not about bias - it's the perception of bias and the assumption that appointments are not based on merit if senior people are related.

Anonymous 29 January 23 09:33

@another view 28 January 23 13:02 yeah that’s just bollocks. Affluence has no relation to intelligence. There is correlation without causation, unless you are suggesting that prince Andrew, Boris Johnson etc are geniuses?! (Also sounds like a poor justification for inequality). Wealth buys you access to the private school - at £41k a year, parents want results, so schools prioritise passing exams, getting into Oxbridge - but intelligence in the sense of creative thinking and innovation, not so much. It also allows private school kids to network furiously in a way that state school pupils never can. That’s one of its main benefits.

Arguments like this make me realise why we in the UK are in such a terrible state. Widening inequality and social mobility have seen a dearth of talent in almost every industry as the same bland, private school pupils/ Oxbridge alumni get regurgitated and dominate almost every industry and the result is a society in terminal decline, with no new ideas, no creativity and no brilliance. 

Anonymous 29 January 23 19:15

Plenty of people employ their families - MPs, local trades etc. How many local businesses are called 'Smith and Sons' and the like? Quite a lot. 

The difference is they are wholly owned family businesses not pretending to be anything else. 

Not a family law firm hiring it's partners as consultants on grossly inflated fees offshore and then hiring their son whilst pretending to be a fair and equal employer. 

I don't really have an issue about parents employing their kids. I have an issue with pretending it's anything other than nepotism. 

Arachnae 30 January 23 11:05

By all means mention this, but don't name and shame the young man (or invite people to comment on his appearance for Pete's sake!). How would you feel?

Different view II 30 January 23 20:41

@Another view

Okay, admittedly, I took an extreme position in saying that quality of education is the only difference behind difference in outcomes.  I actually agree with you that genetics sit behind results and the academic potential of children in independent schools is likely to be higher for the reasons you describe.

However, higher to a very limited extent only. By far the most important factor in a child's outcome is their education.  Why else do those intelligent, aspirational, hard-working parents you refer to spend £45k per annum on top schools?  (A lot of money even for people in the professions.)  Why do this if their child has the same potential to succeed if sent to a state school?  Your position is illogical.

I want to a bad school in a deprived area.  Not a single person went to Oxbridge in the seven years I was there (c.1,400 students graduating).  The student intake included kids from multigenerational English working class backgrounds and the children of first-generation migrants. Even if you make some weird argument that people in English working class families are genetically inferior (i.e. because their ancestors failed to get ahead during the medieval and industrial eras?), are you really arrogant (or racist) enough to say that none of these second-generation immigrant children had the potential to go to Oxbridge because, in your words, they're "not clever enough"?  Rather than their parents' lack of education and knowledge of UK universities playing a part at all?

Like so many from your background (I'm presuming here, but safely I think), you fail to see all the advantages you had.  The interview prep at school, the private tutoring, suggestions from teachers to read around your A-level subjects, encouragement from parents and family friends who went to Oxbridge themselves. To kids at my school, it was a mysterious and inaccessible place. To kids at yours, it was a rite of passage.  (Btw, this preparation offsets many many times over any adjustment that dons make at interview, as you suggest.)

Yes, exceptional kids at bad state schools do get into Oxbridge.  Had one got in from my school, they would have been a 1 in 1,400 student.  But a lot of distinctly average kids get in from top schools (swept up in the 22%), who wouldn't have had a chance had they gone to a state school.  Often, in fact, those who go on to get a 2:1 at Cambridge (instead of a first) despite all their advantages and tutoring.

But yes, continue to feel clever because you got into Oxbridge and Mummy and Daddy say you're ever so smart for doing that.  I helped my parents to buy their dream home in retirement due to my life-changing earnings, and let me tell you that it feels amazing to have got here off my own back without a leg up or any contacts.  Yes, probably better than getting into Oxbridge.

Ease up please RoF 01 February 23 13:45

While I appreciate Vardags is the "What the actual F@ck?" gift that keeps on giving, is it time we please turn our focus somewhere else, RoF?

It was definitely amusing to read the first round of articles about the cantankerous Managing Partner and the shenanigans at this firm ... but I think we are all well warned to steer clear if we can - Message received. Seems a bit harsh to focus on a junior starting out his career, whatever decision he took? 


Anon 01 February 23 17:10

Different view II 30 January 23 20:41: you need to get rid of the huge chip on your shoulder, hun.

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