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Anderson Strathern's clients include universities, colleges and schools, for which it handles safeguarding, governance and regulatory work, in addition to peripheral matters such as employment, procurement and construction. The group acts as the external solicitors for the General Teaching Council for Scotland, which it advises on the spectrum of regulatory and disciplinary issues. Practice head Alun Thomas has niche expertise in education-related contentious work, particularly in the area of student contract disputes; he is assisting Perth College with a review following a critical tribunal decision relating to an aggrieved former employee. Fiona Killen stands out for having ‘a strong grasp’ of regulatory and legislative detail, as well as in the management of relations between the higher education sector and government, when changes to internal legislation are being considered. Highlights for Catriona Watt included representing two independent schools in relation to allegations of historic abuse being investigated by the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry. Solicitor advocate Jonathan Guy often represents clients at Additional Support Needs Tribunals (ASNTs) in cases under the Equality Act.

Brodies LLP fields a team of ‘effective communicators’ which acts for an extensive client roster of further education (FE) and higher education (HE) sector clients, local authority education provers, and government agencies such as the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The group advises on governance matters (including legislation, new governance arrangements and sensitive reputational issues), sector-specific employment issues, overseas work, immigration, real estate strategy and joint ventures. The practice is co-led by corporate and commercial specialist, Brenda Scott (who has ‘a good eye for detail’); government, regulation and competition lawyer Christine O’Neill (who ‘provides spot-on advice’); and Lynne Marr, who focuses on education sector-specific employment issues. The group is on the University of Edinburgh’s panel and advises it on a number of commercial initiatives, including an ongoing joint venture arrangement with Milltrust Agricultural Investment, to commercialise IP from the Roslin Institute and the Rosalind Franklin Institute. Jackie McGuire advised Falkirk Council on a number of challenges to decisions to refuse placing requests for children with additional support needs. Associate Niall McLean is also recommended for his ‘particularly strong understanding of the finer points of procedure’ in relation to education law.

CMS is particularly focused on the HE sector, and advises a wide range of prominent Scottish and English universities, including the University of Glasgow and Heriot-Watt University, on corporate and commercial matters, as well as governance, regulatory and employment law issues. Possessing ‘second-to-none knowledge and experience’, Carina Healy is advising University College London on the various high-profile strategic projects, including the transfer of an academic research facility, the Prion Unit, combined with Medical Research Council strategic funding, to the University – a matter that involves academic employee transfers, pension rights, complex IP licensing arrangements and governance. Practice head, Laurence Ward assisted the University of Aberdeen with the decision of the returning officer to annul the 2017 rectorial election, after the emergence of electoral misconduct allegations. Construction and projects specialist Christine Worthington has ‘a unique understanding of the higher education landscape in Scotland’ and provides ‘a high-quality service’.

MacRoberts LLP acts for an impressive roster of Scottish NHS health boards and private companies operating in the health space, which it advises on the spectrum of non-contentious matters. It also has a significant medical product liability practice. Highlights for practice head David Wylie included advising healthcare entrepreneur Robert Kilgour, on various projects, including securing development funding for the refurbishment of a portfolio of care homes, and an investment in HealthTech software, Storii Care. Projects specialist Duncan Osler advised NHS Orkney on the procurement and funding for the new General Hospital in Kirkwall under the NPD model developed by the Scottish Futures Trust. Rod Munro is assisting NHS Lothian with The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh PFI project, which involves the preparation of documentation for the capital investment programme and operational management issues.

The team at Pinsent Masons LLP predominantly advises universities and other HE providers, in addition to companies involved in the EdTech sector on the range of education-related matters, including setting up branch campuses in other jurisdictions, private sector partnering for student accommodation, governance and constitutional projects, IT procurement and IP protection. The group also supports institutions with preparations for Brexit, in terms of employment and other affected areas. Chris Martin leads the practice and is advising EdTech start-up, Jisc, on its strategic and technology procurement projects, including a learning analytics framework through which education institutions can procure learning analytic solutions. He is also advising the University of Edinburgh on the replacement of IT business systems with a cloud-based system, whilst Jonathan Kirkwood  is assisting the client with a proposed joint venture with a Chinese healthcare provider which is investing in the university.

Thorntons Law LLP draws on its ‘good business acumen and sector knowledge’ to advise Scottish universities, HE and FE institutions on a diversity of commercial operations, governance issues, academic and disciplinary appeals, guidance on government policy and funding, strategy and political considerations, regulatory compliance and collaborations with international partners. The team is led by IP expert Lesley Larg, who also has a wealth of experience in governance issues. Other key figures include Liam McMonagle, who focuses on technology transfers, commercialisation and procurement, and corporate specialist Michael Royden, who advises clients on structural change, institutional mergers and shared services projects. The group is currently advising Abertay University on the implementation of the Higher Education Governance Act, which includes guidance on the provisions of the act and attendance at University Court in connection with the proposed changes. It is also assisting Glasgow Caledonian University on a collaboration with an east African health organisation partner for the delivery of healthcare qualifications.

BTO Solicitors LLP handles the spectrum of education sector work, but it excels in employment, cyber security and data protection matters (for which it is noted as ‘outstanding’), where it is instructed by a variety of major Scottish educational establishments. Team head David Hoey has an ‘in-depth’ knowledge of the Equality Act, and is experienced in representing institutions before the Sheriff Court and specialist tribunals. He advised the University of Strathclyde Students’ Association (USSA) on the employment aspects of an asset transfer, which included TUPE and employment processes. Associate Marion Davis is assisting the USSA with various aspects of its move to an incorporated company structure. Data protection and cyber security expert Laura Irvine advised a Scottish college on data protection concerns, including the Named Persons Legislation, complex subject access requests, consent forms and some GDPR compliance issues. She is currently advising the Glasgow Academy on the implementation of GDPR throughout the school, and the legal basis for processing fair notice provisions, contracts, fundraising and data retention.

Burness Paull LLP  has an extensive track record advising on the establishment of research facilities for Scottish HE institutions, project work (including high-value and complex deals, often with cross-border aspects) and contentious matters. The ‘authoritative’ James Forbes is advising the University of St. Andrews on contractual and regulatory matters in relation to a newbuild music centre, as well as the procurement process for the centre’s construction. Stephen Phillips is advising the governors of the Donaldson Trust on the charity’s change from a trust to an SCIO. Phillips is also advising the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on the legal framework behind a collaborative arrangement with the Royal College of Physicians of London to deliver post-graduate examinations, training and continuous professional development. The practice is led by Chris MacKay, who specialises in project dispute resolution in the public sector. ‘Calm and organised’ senior associate Chris Horsley is another key contact.

Clyde & Co LLP’s clients include a range of further and higher education institutions, local authorities and independent schools on the defence of claims for failure to educate, judicial reviews, exclusions and disciplinary action against students, human rights and equalities matters. Highlights for Graeme Watson included successfully defending an independent school at the Scottish ASNT against a disability claim brought under the Equality Act by the parents of a former pupil, concerning a delay in identifying the child’s dyslexia and discrimination of the child by a teacher. The practice is led by Graham Mitchell who is often called upon to advise local authority education departments on employment law and regulatory issues. Another employment practitioner, Frances Ross, is also recommended. Former practice co-head, Gina Wilson, moved to an in-house position in January 2018.

Dentons stands out for its ability to provide support services to a range of HE institutions relating to construction projects, employment and the commercialisation of intellectual property. Highlights for Amanda Jones included advising the Educational Institute of Scotland and its members on voluntary severance packages offered by Fife College and Glasgow Caledonian University by settlement agreements. Morag Campbell assisted the Glasgow School of Art with setting up a new creative campus in the Highlands of Scotland, including funding matters and lease documentation. Alyson Bryce is currently handling the delivery of IP Protect, an intellectual property advisory service, for the University and College Union. Practice head, Mark Macaulay acted for Glasgow Academy in relation to the refurbishment of the old Newlands Bowling Club into a new nursery and kindergarten for the school.

Morton Fraser acts for employers in the school, college and HE sectors on immigration issues, particularly in relation to Brexit, as well as handling sensitive parental and student complaints and local authority school projects work, in addition to real estate development and student accommodation projects. The group recently advised Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) on a development agreement with a major property developer in relation to a significant redevelopment of the client’s campus. It is also advising SRUC on its strategy for the commercialisation of its IP. Austin Flynn is currently assisting and Edinburgh independent school with the implementation of GDPR policies. David Hossack,  (who is praised for his ‘depth of knowledge across a number of specialisms’) is advising a university researcher who is Italian national, on various options for the client to apply for permanent residence.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s education practice includes ‘very pragmatic’ employment practice head Neil Maclean, who has vast experience advising Scottish universities, colleges and independent schools on employment matters and business support. He is providing ongoing HR and employment support for Skills Development Scotland, in relation to its organisational restructure, and the TUPE and employment implications of the client’s assumption of responsibility for various employability services for the Scottish government.  Project specialist Rhona Harper is currently advising South Ayrshire Council on its £23m Queen Margaret Academy procurement project, which is structured under a Design, Build, Finance and Maintain contract over a 25-year period. Ed Mustard advised the trustees of the University of Edinburgh on its £420m staff benefits scheme on all aspects of pension law, in addition to other projects relating to GDPR compliance.

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