This is My Life…with Nicola Wilburn-Shaw

In People by Salutions


Nicola Wilburn-Shaw, Head of Family Law at Didsbury’s Pabla+Pabla, talks about motherhood, Christmas, and using her own life experiences to deliver a compassionate service to clients in matrimonial crisis…

It’s 7pm when divorce lawyer Nicola sneaks in a chat with Salutions. Her two-year-old daughter Amalie is refusing to sleep, but tonight, luckily, dad’s on bedtime duty at the Wilburn-Shaw’s Hale home. It is instantly clear in the first few minutes of talking to Nicola that she is bright, funny, and extremely busy. “Life is so hectic,” she laughs, “but I’m not complaining!”

Shortly before Amalie was born, Nicola left behind the fast-paced world of
international corporate law firms to work closer to home and focus her career solely on what she was truly passionate about – family law.
Nicola’s parents divorced when she was nine. It was acrimonious, protracted and tore the family apart. It’s this “emotionally raw” experience that drives Nicola’s wholly empathetic – and successful – approach to the divorce process: “You have to see things from the point of view of everyone involved,” explains Nicola. “You can’t see it as a war andhave to abandon that ‘I’m going to win’ mentality. I put up a pretty tough fight when necessary, but by seeing things from the other’s point of view, you can work out how to achieve the fairest and best outcome amicably and, importantly, quickly and cost-effectively. You also have to become a bit of a personal counsellor; divorce is a time of deep anguish for most. My clients always say, ‘I couldn’t have got through this without you – on a personal level and not just as a lawyer’. That is what drives me.”

Nicola is a hard-line, tough lawyer, but clearly a people person who cares about her clients and becomes a huge source of legal and emotional support.

Away from the office, Nicola reveals that, less than a month ago, she married university sweetheart Damian: “I’m still getting used to calling him my husband!” laughs the 37-year-old. There’s been little room for a honeymoon, what with the demands of work and motherhood, but a family holiday is planned for next year. When time allows, they love to eat out – “We are regulars at Piccolino in Hale, Amalie really likes it there, we all do” – and spend time in the Cheshire countryside, such as Nicola’s personal favourite, Dunham Massey.

We wondered if Nicola ever had the chance to unwind and, if she did, what helped her to relax…She laughs out loud… “Red wine! I am very much a foodie and so I love food and wine tasting events like the monthly Fizz Club at Hale Wine Bar. It’s a great way to get together with friends and do some business networking at the same time. I enjoy beauty treatments, when I get the rare chance. I am a devout supporter of local business in my village, Hale; I am a regular at HOB salon in Hale and Opium in Hale Barns. I used to do yoga and Pilates daily, but my idea of Pilates now is getting Amalie out of the bath when she doesn’t want to get out!”

Nicola adores Christmas and, this year, it’s going to be a family affair. With her department at Pabla+Pabla expanding (and January being one of the busiest times of the year for divorce), the festive season will be an opportunity for Nicola to catch her breath. “I’m not a bad cook, but it will be a Booths delivery this year!” she smiles. “Freshly-prepared stuff that, cheekily, hasn’t been prepared by me! I just want to spend the entire day with my daughter and my husband, and not in the kitchen.”

“It’s not easy, but you can be a mum and have a successful career,” says Nicola, as our chat comes to a close. “Modern-day career women juggling family life withwork have to be superwomen, but I certainly couldn’t do it without support from my husband and the understanding of the Partners I work for.

“I am so grateful to be able to do what I love, whilst not missing out on seeing my daughter grow up. I don’t see my work as a job, it is a part of me and my being, and I want Amalie to have a good role model. I want her to think, ‘My mum was a strong, professional woman, but she was always around and a good mum’.”Nicola Wilburn-Shaw

By Lisa Symonds / Image Mike Browne