Fiona Shackleton left Exeter University with a third-class degree, then began working as a cook. How did she become the most feared divorce lawyer in Britain?
On 17 March 2008, in London’s High Court, Heather Mills poured a jug of water over Fiona Shackleton’s head, transforming her trademark feathered Farah Fawcett hairdo into a slicked-back look more redolent of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.
Perhaps the incident, which, along with the details of Mills’ divorce from Sir Paul McCartney, was splashed across newspapers the next day, was the pivotal moment in Shackleton’s career. Or maybe that came in 1996, when she represented Prince Charles in his divorce from Diana. It may even have been earlier this year, when Shackleton’s client Princess Haya bint Hussein of Jordan won a stunning preliminary judgment at the High Court in a battle with her estranged husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai known as ‘MBR’.
What is beyond reasonable doubt is that the 63-year-old Fiona Shackleton – Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia, Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order, to give her full title – has a bigger reputation than any other divorce lawyer in the land. ‘We don’t venerate lawyers in this country like they do in the US,’ says Matthew Rhodes, a lawyer and founder of the legal industry website RollOnFriday. ‘I think Fiona is the only celebrity lawyer we have.’ She’s also one of few with a plausible nickname, ‘the Steel Magnolia’, which sums up a winning combination of inner grit and exterior polish.
Other high-profile clients have included Prince Andrew, Liam Gallagher, the Aga Khan, Stephen Hawking, Norman Foster, German socialite Maya Flick, as well as the former wives of footballer Thierry Henry and advertising magnate Martin Sorrell. Her wardrobe of structured power-suits, brightly coloured dresses and designer accessories has attracted the attention of Vogue and the Daily Mail, which once ran an article about her ‘killer outfits’ headlined ‘Dressed to kill’.
Shackleton’s dousing at the hands of Heather Mills came after Mills was awarded just £24 million of former Beatle McCartney’s £400 million fortune. Although this amounted to £700 for every hour Mills was married to McCartney, the sum was £100 million less than she had claimed and around £3 million less than the value of the settlement offered by Shackleton and McCartney at the outset. The 1996 divo