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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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Index of tables

  1. Education
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Rising stars

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Rising stars

  1. 1

The education team at Burnetts provides HR professionals that specialise in the day-to-day advice required by schools and other education sector clients, notably property-related matters. Natalie Ruane is head of the employment law and HR team, and is an expert in employment law working exclusively in the education sector.

Practice head(s):Natalie Ruane


'Highly skilled professionals who know the sector well'

'The team always ensure they have an accurate clear understanding of the issues'

'The firm offers clear advice and guidance, which is accurate and focuses on a schools needs'

Key Clients

Cumbria Education Trust

Furness Academy

Furness College

Bury College

Lakes College


Austin Friars

Riverside College

Cockermouth School

St Benedict’s Catholic High School

St Bernard’s Catholic High School

Westfield Primary School

Work highlights

  • Represented Cumbria Education Trust in its high profile acquisition of Whitehaven Academy from the Bright Tribe Trust.

Muckle LLP has experience across the sector, acting for HE and FE institutions nationally, as well as multiple MATS, academy trusts and independent schools in the region. Tony McPhillips leads the practice and focuses on multi academy trusts, colleges and universities. Also notable in the team is Joanne Davison, who specialises in academies work.

Practice head(s):Tony McPhillips

Other key lawyers:Joanne Davison


'Muckle has a responsive, commercial and proactive approach'

'The firm has developed relationships with key stakeholders such as local authorities in the region and the department for education which means they understand how to progress matters in the most appropriate way in the sector'

Key Clients

Newcastle College Group

Tyne Coast College

Bishop Auckland College

Newcastle University

University of Northumbria

Sunderland University


Sedbergh School

Dame Allan’s Schools

Three Rivers Trust

Emmanuel Schools Foundation

River Tees MAT

East Durham College

Park View MAT

Balmoral MAT

Valour MAT

Southmoor MAT


Durham Diocesan MAT

Tyne Coast Academy Trust

Hadrian Learning Trust

Kenton MAT


Pele MAT

Balmoral MAT

1590 Trust


Work highlights

  • Continue to provide legal support to Newcastle University on the design and construction of the new teaching and learning facility at Richardson Road and the provision of advice regarding liabilities for replacement of plant within shared buildings.
  • Advised on the creation of the Pele Multi Academy Trust.
  • Advising as to whether the recipient (R.C. School) of a nil consideration transfer of land was in breach of the covenant restricting use, thus triggering an obligation to transfer back to The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • Providing a specialist service across multiple disciplines at Dame Allan’s Schools.
  • Providing training and support to Diocese of Durham Education Board by running  a programme for all Church of England schools across the Diocese.

With a national coverage, Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP¬†provides a comprehensive range of services. The firm handles advice and support to school clients across various legal disciplines, including academy conversions, FE College mergers, governance and SEN tribunals. The ‚Äėprofessional and principled‚Äô Kevin Robertson¬†leads the practice and ‚Äėhis reputation in the field goes before him.‚Äô Also notable in his team is associate Peter Cantwell, who specialises in property work for education sector clients.

Practice head(s):Kevin Robertson; Simon Rowland; Barbara Painter; Emma Moody; Ian Atkinson; Ian Greenshields

Other key lawyers:Peter Cantwell


'Womble Bond Dickinson is a superb and professional legal firm that supports schools and academies with education matters in a highly proficient manner.'

'Swift and pertinent advice enables all actions to be met within agreed time scales and with highly satisfactory conclusions.'

'The team supported academy conversions to an exceptional level.'

'Provide outstanding service and attention to ensure all matters are dealt with in a timely fashion that supports superb outcomes.'

'Kevin Robertson is the consummate professional. His engagement with clients, married with his exception legal knowledge have made all matters of business seamless.'

Key Clients

Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)

Department for Education (DfE)


St Oswald's Catholic Academy Trust

Trent Academies Group

Zaytouna Education Trust

North View Academy

Whitworth Park School

Woodham Academy

Tees Valley Education Multi Academy Trust

St Lawrence Education Trust (which operates Ampleforth College))

Carmel Education Trust, Darlington

Waterton Academy Trust, Wakefield

Newcastle City Council

Castle Trust

Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School

Pocklington School

Illuminare Multi Academy Trust

Vision Academy Learning Trust

Liverpool City Council

The Constellation Trust

Northumberland County Council

Nicholas Postgate Academy Trust

St Hilda's Catholic Academy Trust

Our Lady of Light Catholic Academy Trust

Skills for Life Trust, Kent

FocusEducation (Lincolnshire) Limited

Sewell Education York Limited

Sewell Education Hull Limited

Romero Catholic Academy Trust

Trinity Multi Academy Trust

Horizons Specialist Academy Trust

Extol Academy Trust

Durham University

Northumbria University

Gateshead College

East Durham College

Durham Students Union

City Of Sunderland College

Work highlights

  • Continuing to advise the ESFA and DfE on the flagship Free Schools programme which includes UTCs and Studio Schools.
  • Advising multiple governing bodies on their conversion to Academy status.
  • In May 2018 the firm were successfully appointed by the Department for Education (DfE) under a call off from the Crown Commercial Services Framework to provide general legal advice services.
  • Advised St Hilda's Catholic Education Trust, St Oswald's Catholic Education Trust and Our Lady of Light Catholic Education Trust on the transfer of their 20 academies to the Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust.
  • Advise this four-school well established Tees Valley Education Multi Academy Trust on all of their commercial, contract, property and employment legal issues.

Ward Hadaway in known for expertise in governance and school to academy conversion, as well as being experienced in a range of matters for a diverse clientele, notably multi-academy Trusts. Frank Suttie co-leads the national team with Tim Care, who specialises in issues arising from the Government's current academisation programme; and Graham Vials, who focuses on employment and HR issues in the sector.

Practice head(s):Tim Care; Graham Vials; Frank Suttie


'A calm, common sense approach supported by years of knowledge and experience within the Academy Conversion setting.'

'The team has extensive experience.'

'Tim Care, Chris Bowen and Jennifer Patterson all provide critical and welcome support in all aspects of academy conversions, specifically, CTAs Buildings/Leases.'

'They always make time and are easily accessible.'

'Michelle Fleming is very supportive, practical and clear in her advice.'

Key Clients

Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT)

Delta Academies Trust

Co-operative Academies Trust

WISE Academies

The Durham Diocesan Multi Academy Trust

North East Learning Trust

Advance Learning Partnership

Northern Education Trust

Balmoral Learning Trust

Eden Learning Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising on the transfer to Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) of six academies from the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT), which has transferred all of its schools during the course of the year.
  • Act as sole legal advisers to Delta, which provides education to primary and secondary school children at 50 academies.
  • Advise The Co-operative Academies Trust (CAT) on its programme of expansion and in the past 12 months have completed 7 school to academy conversions or transfers (from a previous Academy Trust), with a number of other projects of this kind ongoing.
  • The sole legal advisers to this small but growing WISE Academies Trust. During the course of the year it has grown from 6 to 13 schools and we have acted on each of those transfers into the Trust.
  • Appointed as sole employment law advisers to Durham Diocesan MAT (DDMAT) and instructed in 2018 to review and redraft staff employment contracts and policies and procedures, including advise on the collective consultation process with the recognised trade unions.

The Watson Burton LLP¬†team is comprised of experts in corporate, commercial, employment, real estate and litigation. The firm supports educational institutions from schools and academies to further education colleges, universities and providers. It particularly specialises in advising institutions looking to convert to academy status. Practice head Paul Wigham¬†focuses on advice to academy trusts on expansion and major capital build projects, as well as providing advice to further education and higher education clients on corporate issues. Also notable is solicitor Olivia Brown, who is ‚Äėthorough, organised and reliable.‚Äô

Practice head(s):Paul Wigham

Other key lawyers:Olivia Brown


'Watson Burton provides good support in conversion processes.'

'Olivia Brown is excellent. She builds confidence with clients.'

Key Clients

Northumberland College

Biddick Academy Trust

Gosforth Federated Academies Limited

Hurworth School Limited

Redcar and Cleveland College

Meadowdale Academy

New College Durham

Nunthorpe Academy

Iris Learning Trust

University of Leicester

University of Northumbria

University of Sunderland

Work highlights

  • Acted for long-standing client Stockton Riverside College in relation to its merger with Redcar and Cleveland College by way of a “type B” merger under the provisions of the Further and Higher Education Act. The merger successfully completed in August 2018.
  • Acting for Wellspring who have agreed with Leeds City Council to take a lease of 3 new school sites which are to be constructed by the council in 3 separate phases for Social, Emotional & Mental Health provision.
  • Acting on behalf of Academies Enterprise Trust in employment tribunal proceedings brought by a teacher for breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
  • Acted on behalf of Gosforth Federated Academies in the academisation of a large comprehensive school.
  • Provided advice to client and its insurer in respect of a grievance raised by a pregnant employee who had been involved in an incident whereby she was subjected to verbal and threatening abuse and subsequently went on sick leave.


Index of tables

  1. Health
  2. Leading individuals
  3. Next Generation Partners

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Next Generation Partners

  1. 1

DAC Beachcroft LLP acts for NHS and private sector clients working in the health sector in range of matters, including those related to corporate, commercial, regulatory, employment and governance issues. The firm is known for combining insight into the NHS landscape and the challenges facing the independent health sector. Nigel Montgomery leads the national practice, while in Newcastle, healthcare regulatory specialist Gill Weatherill co-leads with Guy Bredenkamp, who has particular experience in advising NHS employers on employment matters.

Practice head(s):Gill Weatherill; Guy Bredenkamp; Nigel Montgomery


'The firm has subject knowledge in relation to Mental Health'

'The team provides supportiveness, flexibility, a safe pair of hands and responsiveness'

'Gill Weatherill, Jemma Gillson and Amy Fishburn are good team players'

Key Clients

City Hospitals Sunderland NHS FT

Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT

North of England Commissioning Support Unit

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust

NHS England

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS FT

North West Boroughs NHS FT

York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

City Hospitals Independent Enterprises Ltd

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Improvement

Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust

Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Tees Esk and Wear Valley NHS Foundation Trust

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group

The Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

QE Facilities  Ltd

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Work highlights

  • Provided information governance and contract advice to NHS Digital in relation to the new NHS App for English patients.
  • Defence of an unfair dismissal and race discrimination claim from a doctor at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS FT.
  • Concluded the successful defence of over 1600 equal pay claims over the course of more than 12 years.
  • Advised Foundation Trusts in relation to a judicial review brought by Save South Tyneside Hospital campaign group against the service reconfiguration decisions of local CCGs.
  • Instructed by the NHSR to act as lead on all vaginal mesh claims against the NHS in England relating to mesh products used in surgical management of stress urinary incontinence (SUI) and pelvic organ prolapse (POP).

Hempsons’ provides healthcare advisory and healthcare litigation teams for clients that include public and private healthcare organisations, charities and social enterprises. Corporate-commercial specialist Crispin Pettifer handles a range of contracts in health and social care contexts. He co-leads the practice with Deborah Ramshaw, who is an expert procurement lawyer focused on advising contracting authorities and bidders in various matters. Also notable in the team are Stephen Maratos, who specialises in claims litigation on behalf of NHS Trusts and clinicians, and Alison Oliver, who joined in 2019 from Ward Hadaway and bring expertise in GP and dental practice issues.

Practice head(s):Crispin Pettifer; Deborah Ramshaw

Other key lawyers:Stephen Maratos; Alison Oliver


'One of the strongest teams dealing with NHS Trust work with a good connection in the North.'

'Martyn Hughes is a very able solicitor with a calm approach to sensitive cases and perceptive judgment.'

Key Clients

NHS England

Work highlights

  • Represented NHS England in the relicensing process for the 15 national Academic Health Science Networks.
  • Represented Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust (“TSD”) on all aspects of clients successful and timely competitive dialogue procurement process to appoint a strategic estates partner. Project value circa £100m.

Well regarded for its knowledge of the NHS and the healthcare sector, Sintons LLP also specialises in acting in a trusted advisor role to various trusts. Amanda Maskery leads the team and her expertise includes advising on corporate and commercial issues relating to governance, new model care structures and procurement.

Practice head(s):Amanda Maskery

Key Clients

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Harrogate and District FT

Gateshead Community Based Care

North East Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust

Lloyds Bank


The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Trust) and QE Facilities (QEF)

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Trust)

Freeman Clinics Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Trust) in connection with a national procurement run by NHS England for the provision of genomic testing services through a single national testing network of 7 Genomic Laboratory Hubs (GLHs).
  • Advised The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Trust) in relation to the establishment and operation of the CEPA Biobank in Newcastle.
  • Advised Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (Trust) (as provider) in relation to its contract with Stockton on Tees Borough Council for the provision of public health services as well as its sub-contracting arrangements with Family Action.
  • Advised Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (Trust) in relation to the establishment of a private patient healthcare service arm known as Harrogate Harlow Private Healthcare Service.
  • Advised Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in relation to a loan from Newcastle City Council to fund the construction of a new staff car park at the Trust’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) site in Newcastle’s city centre.

Ward Hadaway provides support to healthcare organisations across the UK, specialising in a number of areas including devising anti-fraud initiatives for the NHS, establishing NHS Foundation Trust trading companies, childcare matters and procurement. The team is led by Jeffrey Keeble, who focuses on high-value birth injury claims; public sector expert Melanie Pears; Stuart Craig, who has experience acting for NHS Trusts; and Saji Bratch, who is particularly adept at advising public and private bodies on property transactions.

Practice head(s):Jeffrey Keeble; Melanie Pears; Stuart Craig; Saji Bratch

Key Clients

Connect Physical Health

North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust

Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Bexley CCG

NHS North Cumbria CCG

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Greenwich CCG

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Work highlights

  • Acted for Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (and a representative of the Trust who was a named individual to the proceedings) in defending Employment Tribunal a multi-day race discrimination, age discrimination and disability discrimination claim.
  • Acted for Tees Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust in relation to offering employment to employees of Carillion who carried out essential work at one of its hospital sites via its wholly owned subsidiary company.
  • Established a wholly owned trading company for North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust with bespoke articles of association which addressed lessons learned from first generation trading vehicles.  Many decisions are reserved to the shareholder.
  • Seconded commercial associates into NHS Business Services Authority to work alongside their team to ensure an essential procurement was conducted and concluded appropriately.
  • Act for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust on its procurement for its new Belmont Diagnostic and Treatment Centre facilities.

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