Katy Rensten obituary


My friend Katy Rensten, who has died of cancer aged 57, was a solicitor turned barrister who specialised in family law and the family justice system.

Her commitment to her clients and their cases was well known among her colleagues, as was her calm determination to find the best outcome for all parties – something that ensured she was often valued as much by her opponents as by those she represented. Similarly outstanding were her generosity and kindness to junior members of the family bar, as well as her support for law students from diverse backgrounds.

She was a member of the Law Society’s children and family law panel as well as its children’s law subcommittee, plus the Family Law Bar Association’s equality and diversity committees and the Family Justice Council committees on domestic violence and diversity. In 2017 she was judged to be the family law junior barrister of the year by Family Law magazine.

Katy was born and raised in Cuffley, Hertfordshire, the middle child of Ivor Rensten, a teacher, whose Jewish family came from eastern Europe to the East End of London at the turn of the 20th century, and Mary (nee Morton), a teacher and writer who, as the daughter of a Methodist minister, grew up in Jamaica. The household was both politically aware and playful.

After Goffs school, Cheshunt, in 1984 she gained an English degree (and a half-blue in judo, in which she was a black belt) from St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. She spent a year at the Greenham Common peace camp protesting against the siting of US nuclear weapons on British soil, and then took various jobs before converting to law at Guildhall University (1991-95).

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Katy began to practise as a solicitor in family law, followed by work as a freelance advocate and consultant in children’s law, before joining the bar and Coram Chambers in London in 2010.

There she specialised both in public and private children’s law cases, with a particular interest in representing parties involved in adoption and in acting in cases involving “alternative families”. She viewed family law as “a complex, endlessly fascinating and intellectually demanding discipline”.

Katy loved life, travelled widely, rode a motorbike for many years, and loved nothing better than building a bonfire and seeing the new year in with fireworks. She was unassuming, genial, joyful, never happier than when nattering and having a laugh.

In the mid-1990s she set up home in north London with Marcia Willis-Stewart, a lawyer, whom she met when they both served on the management committee of Camden Women’s Aid, and whom she married in 2012.

She is survived by Marcia, their children, Laura and Robert, her mother, and her siblings, Nicki and John.



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