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Browne Jacobson LLP’s education department acts for schools and academies on a vast array of issues, including discrimination claims, academy conversions, regulatory work and funding agreements. Mark Blois heads the team, which includes Adrian Shardlow, an academy conversion specialist whose recent caseload includes advising the Minerva Learning Trust on its expansion by way of converting two further maintained Sheffield secondary schools into the trust and transferring an existing secondary academy from its trust into the multi-academy trust. The group also assists multiple Roman Catholic Dioceses, including the Dioceses of Nottingham, Westminster and Salford, with academy conversions and multi-trust academy reorganisations. Other clients include Greenwood Academies Trust, The Priory Federation of Academies and Community Inclusive Trust.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP's education practice is particularly strong in student issues and employment law, with a focus on equality and diversity issues, thanks to the Nottingham-based Nicola Bennison. Bennison recently led advice for several Russell Group universities on challenging the awarding of a bronze award in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Bennison also acted for De Montfort University in several employment-related instructions, including holiday and strike pay, industrial action and changes to collective agreements, as well as pensions. The group acts for higher and further education institutions, schools, academies and institutions such as Nottingham Trent University, Moulton College, the University of Derby and Oak Lodge School. James Fry  joined Mills & Reeve LLP.

Freeths LLP focuses on academy conversions, including advising on private finance initiative structures, and on commercial and outsourcing matters. Employment law is another key area, mainly covered by David Potter. Practice head Stephen Pearson advised Nanaksar Thath Isher Darbar Trust, a specialist Sikh school charity, on its transfer to a new academy trust and associated financial support packages from the Department for Education. Other highlights included advising The University of Nottingham on the negotiation of complex property and nomination agreements regarding an 805-bed student accommodation project with Unite. Birmingham Metropolitan College, Shrewsbury Roman Catholic Diocese Board of Education and Landau Forte Educational Trust also feature on the client roster.

Geldards LLP specialises in commercial work for universities, further education colleges, schools and academies. Practice head Paul Hilsdon is the main practitioner and especially well-versed in conducting high-value due diligence. Highlights included advising Lichfield Diocesan Board of Education on its academy programme.

Hewitsons' multi-disciplinary education team advises on real estate and construction projects, data protection law and freedom of information matters, as well as assisting with the restructuring of academies and independent schools and a range of commercial issues, including student and pupil issues and service and outsourcing agreements. Chris Knight heads the team, with key support from associate Virginia Henley. Real estate partners Marc Carter and Patricia Kempson regularly act on behalf of education sector clients.

Howes Percival LLP is particularly adept at assisting with group academy conversions, a specialism of practice head Daniel Banton, and employment-related advice ranging from restructuring to the management of parental complains, which are areas of expertise of Graham Irons. In addition to advising the Learners’ Trust on its growth strategy from a six-school multi-academy trust to one that includes eighteen schools, the group also assisted the University of Coventry with changes to its data protection policy in view of expected General Data Protection Regulation changes. Elston Hall Multi-Academy Trust and Services 4 Schools are also clients.

Langleys Solicitors LLP combines ‘outstanding service’ with ‘exemplary legal knowledge’. Academy conversions make up the largest part of the caseload, but the team is also experienced in education-specific employment work and investigations by local authorities. Practice head Kate Hindmarch recently led advice for the Humber Education Trust on the establishment of a new twelve-school multi-academy trust, involving a mix of existing academies, community schools and a private finance initiative school. Property specialist Peter Horner impresses with ‘fantastic advice’.

Nelsons Solicitors Limited's ‘very good’ team takes on a broad spectrum of instructions, ranging from academy conversions to employment law advice, corporate governance, commercial issues and property-related mandates. Child protection and safeguarding, admission policies and disciplinary issues are other key areas. Laura Kearsley heads the team that includes ‘very competent’ barrister Ian Jones. The client base consists of a mix of schools, colleges, higher education and further education institutions as well as governing bodies, teachers and parents.

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