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  1. Charities and not-for-profit
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The service from Birketts LLP is ‘genuinely excellent, prompt and well informed’. The specialist charities and social enterprise team has ‘superb expert knowledge’ and works cross-office, bringing together capabilities from practices such as employment, property, corporate and dispute resolution. Team head and senior associate Sara Sayer is ‘first rate – clever, knowledgeable and personable’. Legal director Erika Clarke has ‘in-depth knowledge of the charity sector and a sensible approach’. Clients also pick out agricultural specialist and legal director Stuart Jones; ecclesiastical law specialist James Hall, who works as a diocesan registrar and ‘has extensive knowledge of church law’; and senior corporate associate Liz Brownsell, who joined from Blake Morgan LLP and who ‘has in-depth knowledge of charity law’. Senior associate Clare Hedges is recommended for employment and immigration matters. The team acted for a health and hospice charity on transactions involving the acquisition of leasehold properties for charity shops and the development of a new site for a purpose-built hospice. Its long list of clients includes the Diocese of Norwich, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, East Anglia Children’s Hospice and the London Diocesan Fund.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP is ‘clearly knowledgeable in the sector and is always commercial, approachable and good value for money’. Clients praise Glynne Stanfield, head of the firm’s UK governance and external relations practice and head of international education group, who works from the Cambridge and London offices. Principal associate Stephen O’Reilly acts for a wide client base of charities operating in the health, social care, education and scientific research sectors. He assists clients with the establishment and registration of new charities, releasing permanent endowment restrictions, completing charity mergers, corresponding with the Charity Commission and advising charities on governance issues, such as payments to charity trustees. Senior associate Sasha Willmott advises charities on employment matters. The firm hired associate Elen Griffiths from Farrer & Co to assist clients with charity law and governance matters. The team recently acted for The Alan Turing Institute on a multimillion-pound agreement with HSBC to enable its data scientists to carry out long-term research into economic data. The firm also advised the National Land Based College on its registration as a charity with the Charity Commission and assisted the Further Education Trust for Leadership with its provision of a grant to fund a research position at University College London. The firm’s clients include the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Turning Point and the Medical Research Council.

The level of service is second to none’ at Hewitsons, which impresses with its willingness to ‘leave no stone unturned’. The firm acts for more than 400 charities, educational organisations and social enterprises, and is known for its deep sector knowledge and its specialist expertise, which includes a complete grant making, governance and administration service for grant-making charities. ‘Very thoughtful and responsive’ team head Chris Knight and solicitor Martyn Robinson are ‘polite, reassuring and easy to talk to’. Robinson specialises in charity governance and regulation. Clients also praise the work of highly experienced rural and property partner Denise Wilkinson, who advises land-owning charities such as the RSPB and Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, estate planner Bernadette O’Reilly, planning and environment specialist Deborah Sharples and construction expert Colin Jones. Knight and Robinson recently advised tourism destination management organisation Visit Cambridge and Beyond on its spinout from Cambridge City Council and on the establishment of its governance arrangements. The team also acted for Paradise Wildlife Park Limited on the transfer of charitable assets, activities and income streams to associated charity The Zoological Society of Hertfordshire. The firm’s extensive list of charity clients includes the Canal and River Trust, The Rothschild Foundation, United Church Schools Trust, the Henry Moore Foundation and Riders for Health.

Mills & Reeve LLP is ‘excellent across the board and stands out for its responsiveness, gravitas, experience and knowledge’. Part of the firm’s sizeable national charities practice, a strong core of this ‘knowledgeable, understanding and direct’ multidisciplinary team resides in its Cambridge and Norwich offices. Neil Burton leads the team and is known for being ‘approachable and able to grasp issues quickly’. He continues to be a key adviser to clients such as Kidney Cancer UK and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Other key figures include David Catchpole, who leads the firm’s legacies practice, Sarah Seed, who has a thriving charity fundraising practice, senior associate and charity law specialist Mark Ashton, and associate Harriet Edwards, who handles philanthropy matters including high-value gifts to charities. The firm can also call on the expertise of property partner Caroline Dean, HR specialist Nicola Brown and associate Patrick Gass in the employment team. Burton advised The Federation of European Biochemical Societies on potential liabilities arising from the cancellation of its annual congress in Turkey in light of the country’s political unrest. The matter involved complex insurance implications and regulatory issues. Other highlights included acting for an overseas alumnus of a Cambridge College who established a special structure to leave a property legacy to the college.

Spread across its three offices, Stone King LLP has a leading charities practice that acts for more than 200 organisations in the sector including the Royal Horticultural Society, British Heart Foundation, Stroke Association, RSPCA and Alzheimer’s Society. The firm’s charity and social enterprise sector group works on a national basis and Robert Meakin in the Cambridge office is a key player in its countrywide practice. He has more than 25 years’ experience in charities law and canon law. He has a particular interest in faith charities. He is a trustee of four faith charities including ACAT and his local diocese. His recent highlights include advising The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East on governance issues and an inquiry by the Charity Commission following allegations against trustee Canon Andrew White. He also acted for Hospice Aid UK in a high-profile Charity Commission inquiry that led to a High Court challenge of the Charity Commission’s powers not to make directions.

Clients of Taylor Vinters are ‘very pleased with the thorough service and thoughtful advice’. The firm has a strong multidisciplinary team that acts for numerous charities in the scientific research, healthcare and education sectors, as well as for professional membership bodies. The firm also operates a highly regarded international counsel model for the management of staff across multiple jurisdictions, enabling it to assist multinational charities. Caroline Eade leads the firm-wide charities practice and acts as lead lawyer on projects requiring specialist charity law and governance expertise. Clients note that she is ‘excellent to work with – quick, sharp-witted and experienced’. Employment and governance expert Christine Berry is also highly recommended. She works closely with executive boards, bursars, trustees and governing bodies, dealing with high-level strategic, operational and HR issues. Associate Emma Millar has become an integral part of the charities team and deals with matters that combine charity governance with commercial arrangements. Eade advised the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket on its launch as a centre for education about the horseracing industry. She also led advice to international aid charity SOS Children’s Villages on charity and commercial matters including corporate fundraising agreements. The firm’s client list also includes the Royal Society of Chemistry, Teenage Cancer Trust, the Workers’ Educational Association and Papworth Trust.

Greenwoods Solicitors LLP has a particularly strong presence among independent schools operating as charities. The team frequently advises on reorganisations, partnerships, joint ventures, mergers, employment matters, data protection and changes to constitutional documents. Head of the employment and employee benefits team John Macaulay, corporate and commercial team head David Woods, regulatory team leader Kathryn Gilbertson and commercial property partners Karin Horsley and Stephen Illingworth are all recommended. In addition to its work for educational institutions, the firm’s other clients include public land trustee Nene Park Trust, leading national charity Barnardo’s and animal welfare charity the RSPCA. The team recently advised a leading name in the UK charity sector, which has a large workforce across the country, on changes to its negotiated pay structure.

Howes Percival LLP is ‘an exceptional firm with a great focus on ensuring satisfactory client outcomes’. Team head Catherine Scott is particularly adept at dealing with land transactions and has experience acting as the trustee of a large grant-making charity with endowed and investment property. Richard Lovett advises clients on all aspects of charity law including formation and registration, mergers, joint ventures, land sales and development projects. He is trustee of two grant-making charities. Corporate and commercial partner Nathan Horton is also recommended. He recently acted for an education charity on a proposed merger and property sale valued at more than £2m, with Lovett handling charity law and compliance matters. Further highlights for the team included advising on the formation of a new educational charity for an agricultural body, assisting trustees of a charity with significant land assets on managing its property investments, and acting for a sports club on its conversion to charity status. Clients include Paul Bassham Charitable Trust, Theatre Royal (Norwich) Trust and Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.

Hunt & Coombs LLP’s team comprises experts from across its many practice areas and is led by Diocesan Registrar Anna Spriggs and Paddy Appleton, who is ‘exceptionally helpful and answers any question speedily’. Appleton’s clients note that ‘his advice is invaluable and the rest of the team is also extremely professional and helpful’. The firm is the regional leader for advice to ecclesiastical charities throughout Northamptonshire, Rutland and the Peterborough Diocese, and it acts for numerous churches. Spriggs and Lynne Ayres are trustees of Peterborough Cathedral Development and Preservation Trust. Henry Anstey is trustee of many charities including The Leprosy Mission. The team also acts for several schools and other educational establishments in the region, which often call on its strong commercial property team. Peter Izod is known for his work for local parish councils and education charities.

At Leathes Prior, ‘the service is of the highest standard’ and the firm’s ‘efficient and quick service makes it extremely easy to work with’. Corporate partner Paul Warman leads the team; clients remark that he is ‘always available and provides answers very promptly, showing a good understanding of clients’ structure and methodology’. Senior partner and trusts experts William Riley, employment specialist Dan Chapman, litigator Darren Bowen and estate planning solicitor Tessa Bonser are other key figures within the charities team. Clients praise the firm’s subscription-based Employmentor service, which provides access to legal materials and advice on HR matters and in which associate Sarah Appleton plays a key role. Commercial property solicitor Cara Keen is a regular advisor to OPEN Youth Trust. The firm’s recent highlights include advising the Foundation for Environmental Education on its worldwide branding strategy. Other clients include Active Norfolk, Healthwatch Norfolk and The Great Hospital.

Clapham & Collinge Solicitors in Norwich launched its new charities team in 2016, building on its existing reputation for advising clients in the sector. Neale Grearson leads the team and brings together specialist commercial and property lawyers including senior partner Hugh Berridge, ‘pleasant, helpful and efficient’ solicitor Jade Tinney and consultants Michael Olmer and Chris King. The firm’s client base includes a wide variety of local and national charities, charitable trusts and associations and in 2016 it won contracts to provide legal services for The Benjamin Foundation and Norfolk Samaritans. The team also acted for the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, which trades as Rethink Mental Illness, on property matters such as lease renewal. Hoveton Parish Council and Community Action Norfolk are also clients of the firm.

Steeles Law provides ‘excellent, timely and affordable service’ and clients report that the team is ‘very efficient and knowledgeable’. Real estate partner Michael Fahy leads the team; in 2016 he provided property advice to charities such as the Church Commissioners for England, The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and numerous academies. Also recommended are corporate partners Nigel Lubbock and Richard Bailey, and employment specialist Oliver Brabbins. The firm’s recent highlights include advising Lambeth Accord on the letting arrangements for a building in London that operates as a serviced office for disability charities.


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