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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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United Kingdom > London > Public sector > Education: schools > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Education: schools
  2. Leading individuals: Hall of Fame
  3. Leading individuals

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Who Represents Who

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Bates Wells Braithwaite has 'a specialist team of outstanding experts in education backed up by first-rate solicitors in employment, property and public policy'. It provides advice to early years education providers, schools, academies, multi-academy trusts and their sponsors on the full range of practice areas including charity law. Practice head Caraline Johnson assisted the Mulberry School for Girls with setting up the Mulberry Schools Trust and continues to advise on its expansion. Emma Dowden-Teale, who was recently made up to partner, has a focus on the regulatory side, investigations and appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal and Paul Jennings has a wealth of experience advising educational establishments on employment law. Mary Groom has retired from the practice but continues as legal adviser to the secretariat of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools.

Browne Jacobson LLP provides 'five-star service every time' across areas such as company structures, academy conversions, governance, safeguarding, funding and land issues. It is advising on the creation of the Westcountry Schools Trust, which involved the transfer of six schools. In other work, it is handling whistleblowing issues, a disability discrimination claim and parental complaints. The highly experienced Mark Blois heads the education team nationally and Nick Mackenzie, who specialises in governance and corporate matters, heads the Birmingham team and has 'exceptional knowledge of the sector and is always able to provide sound, clear advice'. Other key partners include Adrian Shardlow, Richard Freeth and Dai Durbridge, 'who is just an outstanding presenter who can make the dullest of topics interesting'.

'Market-leader' Farrer & Co 'provides excellent value for money, legal acumen and sector knowledge'. Practice head Sam MacDonald is highlighted for his 'excellent, pragmatic advice' and is noted for his blend of charities and education expertise. David Smellie has 'unrivalled knowledge of safeguarding' and is also a key name for contentious employment matters. Head of the schools practice Jonathan Eley's work ranges from child protection and special needs matters to disciplinary and exam administration cases. Paul Jones advises independent schools on a range of commercial matters including international joint ventures. The team is advising a number of boarding schools on the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and in other work, a multi-disciplinary team assisted King's College School in Wimbledon with the sale of the business and assets of pre-preparatory The Rowans School to Shrewsbury House School.

Stone King LLP's team has long-standing expertise in the education sector and operates from the firm's offices in  London, Bath, Birmingham, Cambridge and Leeds. Core strengths include advising on academy set-ups and transfers, governance, capital funding and construction. Graham Burns heads the education team and has considerable expertise advising on multi-academy trusts and PFI projects. Roger Inman heads the education sector group and specialises in school governance, funding and academy reorganisations. Laura Berman is acting for an educational trust in connection with complaints regarding disability discrimination and Stephen Ravenscroft's work includes advising a number of schools on the various challenges involved in their closures, including handling the sale and purchase of assets, liability issues and employment relationships. Lee Coley, Helen Tucker, Graham Shaw and Ciara Campfield are other notable names.

VWV 'has a strong team and some excellent individual lawyers', who collectively have an impressive range of education-focused specialisms such as charities law, regulations, employment, real estate and commercial matters. The team's client list includes well-known independent schools, academies and colleges. It assisted with the establishment of the Reach South Academy Trust and is currently advising on its acquisition of two academies. It is also handling an exam malpractice matter and is acting for various schools in disputes raised by parents and pupils. Barney Northover, who is based in Bristol, and Yvonne Spencer jointly head the practice and Simon Bevan, who specialises in employment law, leads the firm's safer recruitment training programme. Other noted practitioners include Emma-Jane Dalley and Naseem Nabi. Tabitha Cave  and John Deakin  handle a range of regulatory compliances and Chloe Brunton has notable charities expertise in the education sector.

Barlow Robbins LLP 'is an extremely personable firm that seems to pride itself on its warmth and expertise' and the team provides 'an excellent level of service and very knowledgeable and pragmatic advice'. It deals largely with the independent sector and also advises organisations such as the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, the Boarding Schools’ Association and the Independent Schools Bursars’ Association. Joanna Lada-Walicki heads the practice and attracts praise for her level of experience and knowledge of the independent sector and for being 'sensible and thorough'. Ben Collingwood, who has recently promoted to partner, is 'quick-witted, intelligent and an excellent support for schools'. Gordon Reid has considerable expertise in charity law matters. The team's work includes advising on mergers and acquisitions, historic sexual abuse allegations, a safeguarding matter and defending schools and individual teachers against various parental complaints.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP's team provides 'good response times and quality advice'. Its clients span schools, academies, technical colleges, academy trusts, local authorities and independent schools. Recent work includes advising Reigate College on its conversion to an academy, which involved assisting the college with pension, corporate and HR matters, as well as education law. The team also continues to assist ACS International Schools with an array of matters ranging from construction to IP, charity law and governance. The well-respected Diane Gilhooley  heads the practice; Ben Wood advises on employment and governance matters; and Helen Cairns has long-standing experience of working with academies and 'impresses with her industry knowledge'.

Kristine Scott heads the education sector practice at Harrison Clark Rickerbys. The firm, which has a national reach, acts for an impressive range of schools, predominantly in the independent sector. The team is acting for Cranleigh School with regard to negotiating a master franchising agreement with a number of schools in China, headed by the Elite K-12 education fund which operates schools across China. In other work, Scott advises the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association on the formulation of new safeguarding and child protection policies. The team is also able to draw on the firm's wider expertise to provide support to education clients on real estate, trustee matters, data protection and employment law. Emilie Darwin, who was promoted to partner in April 2017, has is a key name for employment matters.

Winckworth Sherwood LLP's team provides 'an excellent service' and supports clients 'through challenging issues'. The group advises on areas ranging from academy conversions and expansions to leadership challenges and governance matters and has a growing reputation for its work for faith schools. Practice head Andrea Squires, who is 'consistently good, knowledgeable and approachable', has a focus on governance, charity law and company law issues applicable to academies and James Lynas has extensive employment experience, including handling dismissals and pay and conditions grievances. The group is assisting Green Spring Education Trust/Green Spring Academy in Tower Hamlets with regard to allegations of historic exam malpractice. Other clients include the Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust, the London Borough of Haringey and Thomas’s London Day Schools.

Bircham Dyson Bell stands out for its 'excellent knowledge of charity law and its impact on the independent sector and for its thorough and timely advice'. Practice head Penny Chapman advises independent schools and other charitable education institutions and is 'trusted for her clarity of advice'. Jonathan Fewster, who heads the real estate practice, advises clients such as the Westminster School and Queens College on various property development and leasing matters. In highlight work, it is advising independent Quaker girls' school, The Mount School, on amendments to its constitution, which includes liaising with the Charity Commission. 

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP's team is 'consistently outstanding' for comprehensive advice and senior partner engagement. Lynn Povey, who has a focus on charities and property law, heads the practice and employment specialist Ben Smith is noted for providing 'timely and effective guidance and action'. The group provides multi-disciplinary services and broad charity law expertise to clients such as Eton College, the City and Guilds of London Institute and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. In recent work, it is advising education sector clients on refinancing matters, governance and contractual issues and real estate sales.

Michelmores LLP provides 'a fantastic, five-star service: response times are almost immediate and nothing is ever too much for ask for'. Practice head Antony Power is advising Tring School (now part of the Ridgeway Learning Partnership) on public relations matters and  strategic issues regarding its conversion from a single academy trust to a multi-academy trust, as well as assisting the client with a capital-funded building project. Charlotte Antoniou's workload includes advising on academy conversions, admissions and exclusions, matters pertaining to special educational needs and data protection issues. Barrister Russell Holland routinely assists schools and colleges with issues including special educational needs, disability discrimination and Ofsted inspections. The team is also advising Sigma Academy Trust on matters including new governance arrangements.

RPC's client list includes the Mill Hill School Foundation, St Clement Danes School and St Clement Danes Holborn Estates Charity, and the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference. The team is also able to leverage the firm's wider expertise in corporate and investment matters, mergers, HR and employment to provide a full spectrum of service to clients. Geraldine Elliott heads the practice and has a focus on governance matters, as well as staff and pupil issues such as disputes concerning admissions. Corporate practitioner Anthony Shatz advises schools on M&A and investment matters.

Sharpe Pritchard LLP has a strong public law background, which includes advising local authorities (and governing bodies) on the full range of education-related mandates. The team is advising the London Borough of Southwark on its primary school expansion programme, which involves extensions, refurbishments and new builds in connection with 12 primary schools. It also advised the governing bodies of four schools in the Midlands on a number of matters concerning governing body agreements. The team has a focus on construction projects in schools, work which is led by Annie Moy. Recently promoted partner Catherine Newman is able to draw on her previous experience working in-house in local government and advises on a range of matters including governance. Timothy Farr and Paul O’Sullivan are other key team members.

Kevin Robertson, who heads the education practice, and Emma Moody  who specialises in charity law, are the key names at Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP. The team is advising numerous governing bodies such as Waterton Trust, Carmel Education Trust and St Hilda’s Catholic Academy Trust on matters relating to academy conversions. Robertson is assisting the Education and Skills Funding Agency on its Free Schools programme and is also advising the Northern Education Trust on academy conversions and HR matters relating to its schools. Other clients include the Carmel Education Trust in Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School and the Vision Academy Trust.

Blake Morgan LLP's multi-disciplinary team, which is made up of litigators and corporate, real estate and employment specialists among others, provides 'an excellent service'. Matthew Smith, who is the head of the education sector practice, assisted Hereford Sixth Form College with its conversion to academy status, which included preparing a funding agreement with the Department for Education, and advising on due diligence issues, revised governance arrangements and asset transfers. Tim Forer led a substantial team that handled a large-scale title review and academy conversion project for a schools trust. In other work, the team advised the National College for Teaching and Leadership with disciplinary actions taken against a number of teachers in connection with the so-called Trojan horse letter, which alleged a strategy by some individuals to take over and run schools on strict religious principles. Penny Rinta-Suksi and Ruth Leadbitter are other names to note.

At Mills & Reeve LLP, a substantial multi-disciplinary team handles diverse domestic and international work. Practice head Stuart Pemble advises the Academies Enterprise Trust on all aspects of its operations, ranging from safeguarding to commercial contracts, and Gary Attle, the education sector head, has expertise in higher education legislation, governance and data protection. Other key members of the group include Richard Sykes; Christian Bull, who advises on real estate matters; and Nick Abbott, who has a focus on employment cases.

Bevan Brittan LLP is a key name for construction and refurbishment projects concerning schools and academies. Andrew Tobin heads the commercial and infrastructure department and advises a range of local authorities on such matters. David Hutton leads the work relating to project finance education-related regeneration projects. Recent work includes acting for the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the delivery of over 120 new schools, academies and free schools under the government’s priority school building programme. Other clients include the London Borough of Hackney, the London Borough of Barnet, Bristol City Council and Newham Local Education Partnership.

The team at Bird & Bird LLP advises a wide range of schools and colleges, particularly those in the independent and private sectors. It also has an established expertise in international matters; it advised the Westminster School on its dealings with the Hong Kong Melodious Education Technology Group concerning the establishment of six schools in China. Practice head Mark Abell has substantial expertise in this area - he assisted Wellington College and its prep school, Eagle House, in setting up an additional school in China. 

BLM's team, which is headed by Elliot Pound, is, according to one client, 'quite excellent in all respects and always very responsive'. It advises clients in the schools sector on risk management issues pertaining to disciplinary procedure policies, admissions and academy conversions. The group acted for St Olave’s Grammar School on a controversial issue pertaining to the grades required to progress to A-level courses, which included a contentious element. The well-regarded Richard Wilkins and Tim Smith are other noted names and associate Geneviève Rich is also 'excellent'.

Alison Paines, who has long-standing expertise in charities law, jointly heads the team at Withers LLP with Chris Priestley, who focuses on domestic and  international commercial projects such as joint ventures and other collaborations. Special counsel Alana Petraske advises educational institutions, charities and their donors on a range of regulatory and finance issues. The team advises on conversions to academies and other school restructurings together with governance and operational issues. It advised an Australian co-ed school on all aspects of the establishment of a charitable organisation in order to raise funds from UK- based alumnae. In other work, it advised a faith school on the exit of its head teacher following a decline in the school's academic performance and safeguarding concerns.

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