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The ‘highly professional and responsive’ team at Browne Jacobson LLP assists educational providers, including multi-academy trusts, with restructuring and academisation as well as providing regulatory advice and representing institutional clients in discrimination claims. Practice head Mark Blois guided an academy through permanent pupil exclusion proceedings following the outcome of an Independent Review Panel and advised on a parent complaint pertaining to special educational needs and disability discrimination. Adrian Shardlow led a team advising on the creation of multi-academy trusts, including the Yorkshire and Humberside Co-operative Academies Trust comprising five schools in Hull, the Lincolnshire Learning for Life Trust bringing together four special needs schools and Symphony Learning Trust formed of existing academy trusts and maintained schools. The group also advises on mergers and acquisitions of academy trusts, while on the contentious side, it acted for educational institutions in health and safety, defamation, employment and property-related disputes. Venn Academy Trust, Community Inclusive Trust and The Priory Federation of Academies Trusts are also clients.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP advises schools, higher and further education institutions and associations of colleges on mergers and wider corporate and commercial matters. It also assists colleges with challenging governmental reviews, including Ofsted inspections and regional school commissioners’ decisions. On the contentious side, Nicola Bennison defended University of Derby against a disability discrimination claim filed by an employee. She also assisted New College Nottingham and Central College Nottingham with their proposed merger prior to a strategic area review. James Fry is providing IP and licensing support to Loughborough University and continues to assist Aberystwyth University on matters including the licensing aspects of research collaborations. The firm also advised a university on grant funding agreements for the establishment of an overseas institute.

Freeths LLP assists independent schools and further and higher education institutions with a range of property, employment, contractual and regulatory matters, including academy conversions, funding arrangements for colleges and drafting research agreements. Practice head Stephen Pearson assisted two members of the Diamond Learning Partnership Trust with their conversion into academies and managed apprenticeship agreements for Birmingham Metropolitan College. Pearson also advised the University of Nottingham on the creation of an international college for foundation training, guiding the institution through procurement process, contract drafting and immigration compliance matters. Loughborough University, Oxford Brookes University and Landau Forte Charitable Trust are also clients. ‘Technically excellent’ property specialist Gillian Roberts, who advises charitable and educational trusts on ownership matters, ‘strikes the right balance when working with in-house counsel to establish a strong client rapport’.

Led by Paul Hilsdon, the team at Geldards LLP assists universities, further education colleges, schools and academies with a range of commercial matters. It is best known for performing due diligence on the academy programmes and providing general support with academy conversions. Academy mergers and employment-related advice are other areas of focus. Clients have included Lichfield Diocesan Board of Education, Leicestershire County Council and The Eden Academy.

Hewitsons’ client base includes schools and higher education institutions such as United Learning, Kimbolton School, and several Cambridge University and Oxford University colleges. Led by Chris Knight, the department’s workload includes advising independent schools on property matters and regulatory issues; it provided governance advice to a group of schools and advised an independent school on the renewal of its existing lease from a private sector landlord. Other recent work includes reviewing internal policies and risk management in light of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse as well as assisting a multi-academy trust with acquiring a secondary academy.

Howes Percival LLP handles a range of employment matters for institutional players in the education sector. For example, Alex Payton represented an educational institution regarding race and religious discrimination claims before the employment tribunal. Practice head Graham Irons also assists with parental complaints and Alan Millband is another name to note. Other work includes advising schools on conversion to academies and assisting governing bodies with issuing disciplinary proceedings. Elston Hall Multi Academy Trust, The LEARNERs’ Trust and Heart Education Trust are clients.

Langleys Solicitors LLP’s team is ‘incredibly efficient and knowledgeable’. In addition to employment matters and managing several academy conversion projects, the group assists academy trusts with acquisitions, policy drafting and governance. On the contentious front, it defends special educational needs schools against discrimination claims and recently guided a local authority through a grievance investigation. ‘Astute, erudite and user-friendly’ employment expert Kate Hindmarch has a ‘good eye for detail’ and ‘legal knowledge that knows no bounds’.

Nelsons Solicitors Limited recently strengthened its contentious education practice when barrister Ian Jones joined the firm. The group advises institutional clients on policy changes, governance strategy and corporate matters surrounding joining multi-academy trusts. Data protection issues are another area of focus, including managing subject data requests. Laura Kearsley assists educational institutions with handling disciplinary cases, allegations of discrimination and gross misconduct grievance procedures. Advising parents on matters such as admissions, exclusions and special educational needs is a growing area of practice. John Walker left the firm.

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