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The service from Birketts LLP is ‘very good and extremely reliable, particularly on property issues’. The team, which is led by Abigail Trencher (who counts several Cambridge University colleges among her clients) features a number of experienced charities practitioners, including legal director and corporate specialist Erika Clarke, senior associate Sara Sayer, who focuses on disputes, and employment partner Tim Tyndall. Charity law specialist and senior associate Liz Brownsell, who joined from Blake Morgan LLP, brings additional strength in academy conversion matters. Tyndall and immigration-focused senior associate Clare Hedges advised a Cambridge University college on a termination of employment and fellowship matter involving complex aspects of employment law and college statutes. Sayer acted for Ipswich School on contentious and regulatory issues including a formal challenge to an exam board decision. Employment associate Tom Sharpe acted for Sapienta Education Trust in a tribunal claim brought by a former employee who alleged unfair dismissal for whistleblowing. The firm also advises education clients on property matters and construction partner Andrew Rush acted for Seevic College on its purchase of a bespoke modular building for teaching purposes.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP is ‘commercial, approachable and good value; the firm has good industry knowledge and good depth in its team’. A market leader nationally, the firm is known for advising universities on domestic and international matters; sixth form colleges on academisation; and schools on governance and employment matters. The ‘highly committed and client-orientedGlynne Stanfield leads the international education and corporate governance practice and combines ‘sector knowledge with the appropriate pragmatism’. Stanfield and senior associate Nathalie Jacoby-Danesh (who is ‘impressive and highly experienced around contracts with higher education providers’) advised Apollo Education Group on the sale of shares to a private equity consortium. Employment partners Matthew Kelly and Geoffrey Mead advised 28 further education and sixth form colleges in the East Anglia region, as well as industry bodies such as the Association of Colleges, on the implications of the national Strategic Area Review exercise reviewing the delivery of post-16 education. Cambridge Regional College and Global University Systems are also clients.

Mills & Reeve LLP is ‘a firm that really understands and is invested in the higher education sector; it is very much respected for its up-to-date knowledge and expertise among universities’. ‘Highly personable and responsive’ higher education expert Gary Attle heads the firm’s national education practice and is ‘exceptional in every respect – strategic, far-sighted and extremely accomplished’. Attle and associate Alison Williams, who provides ‘very pragmatic advice on student issues’, advised Queen Mary University of London on a Freedom of Information Act request for patient data it held as part of a £5m clinical trial. Attle, property partner Caroline Dean, corporate partners Clare Clarke and Jonathan Greenwood, and senior associate and barrister Monika Sobiecki, who is ‘a consummate professionalwhoalways responds with pragmatic advice’, assisted University of Suffolk with the launch of its new campus. Property partner Andrew Wood and projects expert Raith Pickup stand out for student accommodation developments. Alex Russell handles student immigration and lead employment partner Nicola Brownhas good knowledge of HR and managing client relationships’. She is assisted by associate Emma Tuck, who ‘demonstrates an absolute commitment to achieving client objectives – she is the lawyer you want on your side in times of crisis’.

At Hewitsons, ‘the overall level of service is very good; the firm has shown its expertise in this area over the years and the advice is thorough and comprehensive’, say clients, who value the firm’s ‘pragmatic and commercial advice’. The practice’s expertise encompasses real estate and construction projects, school restructuring and academisation projects, commercial matters and freedom of information issues. The ‘very knowledgeable and highly expert’ Chris Knight, who leads the charities and education teams, and solicitor Martyn Robinson are ‘highly knowledgeable, professional and responsive, always providing strong customer support’. They advised Morris Education Trust on its conversion into a multi-academy trust. They draw support from across the firm, including private wealth partner Bernadette O’Reilly, construction specialist and managing partner Colin Jones, and real estate partner James Simpson. Jones acted for City of Cambridge Education Foundation on the development of a new school site.

Clients of specialist higher education firm JG Poole & Co. LLP consider it ‘a very attractive and bespoke alternative to the big firms’, and praise the firm for its ‘fast, responsive and authoritative service, and for its wealth of experience and industry knowledge’. Recent highlights include advising the University of Salford on an £80m project for the construction of 1,367 residential units as part of the university’s wider campus development scheme. Key figures include Jason Poole, who is singled out for his ‘highly professional and personalised service’; and Jan Harris, who has ‘a wealth of experience in higher education and the ability to find sustainable solutions’, and who instils confidence in clients, who ‘value and trust her judgment and know she will always give a straight answer’. ‘Exceptionally bright, able and energetic’ associate Jo Farrington, who joined from Weightmans LLP, ‘has a fantastic grasp of the issues and fully understands the nuances of working with the HE sector; she is superbly responsive and will become a go-to lawyer for many clients in years to come’. Consultant Helen Bolton is also recommended.

Penningtons Manches LLP is highly regarded for its employment expertise, which it applies to both individuals and institutions in the higher education sector. The firm is also active in technology transfer and property work. The ‘knowledgeable and astuteHilary Aldred is ‘great with clients in stressful litigation’ and has ‘unrivalled in-depth knowledge of academic employment and contractual matters’. She advised Florida State University on a review of staffing for its provision of courses in the UK. Aldred and senior associate Sophie Whitbread also acted for the commercial arm of a UK university on an HR audit that resulted in proposals for the restructuring of part of its business. Other clients of the firm’s Cambridge office include SAE Institute UK and fashion college Istituto Marangoni.

Steeles Law impresses with the amount of experience of the academisation process and provides additional advice on property issues. The education team is led by corporate partner Richard Bailey, who ‘has a thorough knowledge of the process of academy conversion and can negotiate effectively with the local authority’. Bailey and employment specialist Oliver Brabbins ‘have extremely good knowledge of the education sector; in many ways they are on a par with national firms’. Among the firm’s recent highlights include advising on the creation of a multi-academy trust that involved five schools, and for which Bailey continued to provide ongoing advice to the trustees and governors; and providing employment advice to a local college. Tom Bailey recently handled sensitive allegations of historic sexual abuse. Michael Fahy is recommended for property matters.

Stone King LLP’s Cambridge office is noted for its ‘in-depth knowledge and timely and robust advice presented in a way that is not confrontational but focused on finding solutions’. The firm excels in academisation, governance and academy funding agreements, and it acts for more than 200 schools in East Anglia. Head of education Roger Inmancan explain complex issues to the school executive as well as to the governors in a clear and understandable way’. Ranking high among Inman’s many recent highlights is his work for Cambridgeshire schools in negotiations with the Minister of School Standards to commence implementation of the government’s "fair funding" policy in 2018. He also advised John Milton Academy on the formation of a multi-academy trust involving a secondary school and three primary schools in Suffolk.

Greenwoods Solicitors LLP is know for its work with schools and has separate teams that advise state schools, academies and independent schools. Its Cambridge office has increased its workload for Cambridge University colleges, 11 of which instructed the firm in 2016. Head of the corporate and commercial team David Woods also leads the education practice, and is supported by employment partner and managing director Robert Dillarstone, property specialist Stephen Illingworth, and a strong team of associates including the ‘efficient and effectiveKelly Peck. Woods advised a local school on a multimillion-pound bank facility to develop its facilities, and associate Joanna Scally advised a Cambridge college on employment matters. The firm’s new clients include Pembroke College.

Leathes Prior’s education team is led by litigation partner Mike Barlow and draws on the strengths of an experienced, multidisciplinary team to advise many of the largest schools and universities in the region. Widely respected associate Polly Langford specialises in both commercial litigation and education law. She advised Hethersett Old Hall School on three matters involving unpaid fees. She also acted for Town Close House on contractual matters and assisted with the drafting of its data protection policy. Other key figures include employment specialist Gareth Stevens, property partner Darren Bowen, mediator Martin Plowman and regulatory specialist and part-time immigration judge Tim Cary. The firm counts Norwich School among its clients.

At Taylor Vinters, partner Caroline Eade oversees a team that focuses on charities, non-profits and social ventures, and has excellent insight into the governance needs of clients in the education sector. She advised a longstanding client on the establishment of international schools, including one in Asia. Experienced partner Christine Berry leads the charities and education employment team, which counts many University of Cambridge colleges, the University of Leicester, the University of Essex and numerous schools and academies among its clients.

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