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Marilyn Stowe

Partner, Stowe Family Law LLP

A magical Christmas

A magical Christmas


Marilyn Stowe is summoned to New York to represent a divorce client

When the movie Working Girl was released in 1988, I had to fend off comparisons to Sigourney Weaver who played the ruthless high flyer Katherine Parker.

But secretly, I admired her chutzpah, especially the memorable line, ‘I am after all, me’.

The movie’s theme song, Let the River Run, became my theme as I trudged to dreary East Leeds, weighed down by a baby and the office, imagining I was a glamorous New York attorney.

In reality, I was stressed morning to night, managing a baby and a tiny office.

But Katherine Parker was no quitter. Neither was I and somehow it worked.

One day, approaching Christmas, I had a call out of the blue. The daughter of a wealthy Jewish family was divorcing in New York.

The family wanted me to attend a settlement meeting there.

They knew it wasn’t my jurisdiction, but they wanted me to observe and to hold her hand.

Flattered, I refused. I explained I wasn’t prepared to leave my baby. But they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

“You’re smart, honest and blunt”, I was told. “You will give her your opinion. You have no skin in the game.”

I still refused. A trip would take me away too long.

“How about we send you on Concorde?” they suggested.

And so, a solicitor with offices in East Leeds found herself flying to New York to attend a meeting with high powered US attorneys.

It was a three-day round trip.

“Welcome back,” said the stewardess (as if).

I was stunned by the Concorde lounge doors being drawn back and my first sight of the doorway into the plane, my coat taken from me and onto the plane.

Three hours and 15mins later, we landed. I was met at JFK international airport and driven in a black limousine downtown near Wall Street.

The high rise buildings were enormous. I was taken 50 floors up and shown to a corner office, with a view straight out of Working Girl.

The nervous client waiting alongside her slick New York attorney, I understood why her parents wanted her hand holding.

I had a job to do, and hours later we were ready to attend a roundtable meeting fixed for the following day.

What would Katherine Parker do with free time in New York – especially at Christmas?

My hotel was next to FAO Schwartz, a toy shop like no other. It was festooned for Christmas, as was the entirety of 5th Avenue.

I shopped for my baby, then I shopped for my husband, and finally it was my turn in the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman across the road.

The following day the case settled, the client was happy and I looked forward to going home.

After an almost vertical take-off, Concorde circled the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and Lady Liberty in a moving salute, then headed for London.

I wrote a lengthy report on the plane to the client’s parents.

I gave no thought to the customs officers, standing with arms folded, as I walked through the green channel weighed down with carrier bags – until one stopped me.

Satisfied I wasn’t a drug smuggler, he stared at my carrier bags. “Have you spent more than £120 in New York?”, he asked.

Uh oh, I was in trouble. My inner Katherine Parker came to the rescue.

I toughened up and decided on charm.

“Yes I have”, I said.“I’m very sorry. I’ve bought Christmas presents.

"I’ve been working in New York and now I can’t wait to go home and see my baby.”

“As it’s Christmas”, said the officer, softening and ignoring all the expensive bags. “Don’t do it again.”

It was a kind end to an unforgettable three days. Christmas that year, was magical.

Marilyn Stowe is the retired founder of Stowe Family Law