Education in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP has a multi-disciplinary practice that works in every part of the education sector including pre-schools and nurseries, preparatory and independent schools, academies and academy trusts, and FE and HE colleges. Employment partner Abigail Trencher leads the practice and calls on specialists in construction, planning, property, commercial law, litigation, student issues, charities and governance. Other key lawyers include Katherine Herbert for strategic land transactions, charities specialist Erika Clarke and employment partners Catherine Johnson and Matthew Newnham. Senior associate Liz Brownsell  leads the academies group.

Practice head(s):

Abigail Trencher

Other key lawyers:

Kath Herbert; Catherine Johnson; Erika Clarke; Matthew Newnham; Liz Brownsell


“The team is very responsive to our needs and can be relied upon to give summary advice or in more depth where required.”

“They are knowledgeable in our field and can draw on experience with other similar organisations. This gives me confidence that my issues are understood and that the advice is appropriate.”

“I find Birketts very accessible and for a relatively large firm it engages and brings in the range of services it provides very well.”

“They give the impression that they are keen to be a part of my wider team and consequently I treat them as such. I trust the advice I am given which is clear, relevant and fairly billed.”

“I have worked with a number of legal firms in the sector and I have been impressed with the attention Birketts give to the client. There is a personal approach and a good understanding of the context within which legal advice is being provided.”

Key clients

Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Ipswich School

Royal Hospital School

The Leys and St Faith’s Schools Foundation

College of West Anglia

Sapientia Education Trust

Hartpury College

Kelvedon Academy Trust

Believe Engage Succeed Trust

Apollo Academies Trust

Easton & Otley College

Work highlights

  • Acting for Jesus College Developments (Oxford) Limited in connection with the demolition of an existing building and the construction of others.
  • Advised Believe Engage Succeed Trust on the academy conversion of a pupil referral unit, converter special school and sponsored converter special school to join the newly formed multi-academy trust.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Nationally, Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP has one of the largest education sector practices in the UK and its Cambridge office houses substantial expertise. It handles employment, student, charity law, disputes, real estate, corporate and commercial, intellectual property, health and safety, constitutional and regulatory matters for HE and FE colleges, schools, academies and private education institutions. Education and corporate governance expert Glynne Stanfield and real estate specialist Clare Whitaker are the lead partners. Matthew Kelly is a key partner in the firm's education employment practice. Also recommended are Stephen O’Reilly for charity law and senior associate Martyn Robinson who joined from Hewitsons.

Practice head(s):

Glynne Stanfield; Clare Whitaker

Other key lawyers:

Matthew Kelly; Stephen O’Reilly; Martyn Robinson

Key clients

Natural Environmental Research Council – National Oceanography Centre

Richmond, The American University in London

Medical Research Council

Newnham College

Bolton College

Hartpury College


Collab Group

Lambeth College

Work highlights

  • Advised Natural Environment Research Council (“NERC”) on the establishment of National Oceanography Centre as an independent charity.
  • Advised Richmond, The American University in London Inc. (“RAUL”), on the registration process with the Office for Students  (OfS).
  • Advised the Medical Research Council on the establishment of Health Data Research UK, a charitable research institute.
  • Advising Newham College of Further Education on its application to establish an Institute of Technology (IoT) with its higher education partner Queen Mary University of London and various partners from industry.
  • Advised New City College Corporation and Epping Forest College on all aspects of their merger.

Mills & Reeve LLP

At Mills & Reeve LLP, Gary Attle is head of the firm's national education practice group with a special focus on clients in London, Cambridge and the south east. HE legislation, governance, equality law, public and administrative law, freedom of information, data protection, litigation and liability issues are all covered. Head of projects and construction Raith Pickup is a leading light for student accommodation projects and Andrew Wood is a key partner for projects and finance in the HE sector. Employment specialist Nicola Brown and charity law expert Sarah Seed are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Gary Attle

Other key lawyers:

Raith Pickup; Andrew Wood; Nicola Brown; Sarah Seed; Tim Allsop; Richard Noble; Neil Burton; Jonathan Greenwood; Poppy Short; Alex Russell


‘The team consists of bright and innovative individuals who have a real depth of knowledge but are willing to push boundaries and test the limits of the law’.

‘Gary Attle is the go-to partner for all matters related to Higher Education. He has a solid depth and breadth of experience including complex and sensitive litigation that serves clients well each time. He is a great team player and a very good instructing solicitor who works intelligently and collaboratively with counsel’.

Key clients

The University of Northampton

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

University College London

University of Exeter

Kingston University

University of Durham

University of York

University of Surrey

University of Cambridge

St John’s College Cambridge

The Royal Veterinary College

Trinity College, Cambridge

Queen Mary University of London

Work highlights

  • Advising universities on their requirement to register with their new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS).
  • Acting for a number of higher education institutions in relation to a significant number of complaints and potential claims by students arising from strike action by lecturers in 2018.
  • The sale of part of the The University of Northampton’s old campus in Northampton for demolition and redevelopment for 800 dwellings by Persimmon Homes
  • Advising London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the transfer to it of two MRC research units in the Gambia and Uganda.
  • Advising University College London on its strategic options for student accommodation at its Stratford campus, including s106 planning issues and funding options, as part of a wider Design, Build, Finance and Operation project with the university at its Pool St West site.

Stone King LLP

Stone King LLP has a national specialist education practice with full-service teams in Cambridge, London, Bath, Birmingham and Leeds. Roger Inman in Cambridge is the national leader of the practice group, which acts for state and independent schools across the UK, and for FE and HE colleges in East Anglia. The firm has deep sector knowledge in all aspects of school law, notably governance, educational provision for students, employment, property, capital funding and construction. Employment partner Tim Tyndall, who joined from Birketts LLP, has particular expertise in advising schools and higher education institutions.

Practice head(s):

Roger Inman

Other key lawyers:

Tim Tyndall; Robert Meakin

Key clients

United Learning

Unity Schools Partnership

Cambridge Meridian Academies Trust


West Suffolk College

Cambridge Academic Partnership

CAM Trust

Active Learning Trust

Raedwald Trust

Peterborough Diocesan Education Trust

South Suffolk Learning Trust

Inspiration Trust

Felsted School

Wycombe Abbey School

The Chelmsford Learning Partnership

Work highlights

  • Advising on West Suffolk College’s bid to establish one of the country’s first institutes of Technology, based on the German polytechnic model.
  • Advising an academy trust on a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, breach management procedure and the ICO reporting process.
  • Advising on the creation of an entirely new 15-school MAT comprising both Church of England and community primary schools with the Diocese of Chelmsford.

Greenwoods GRM

Greenwoods GRM has a long track record of advising high-profile clients in the education sector, among which are FE colleges, academies, large independent schools and 15 Cambridge colleges. The firm's academies schools team frequently advises on setting up multi-academy trusts. Head of corporate  David Woods leads the practice with support from managing partner Robert Dillarstone. Employment partner Joanna Scally and property partner Kelly Peck also play key roles.

Practice head(s):

David Woods


“The employment team, with which we deal, has taken time to get to know the specific challenges and circumstances of our business which allows it to provide realistic tailored advice.”

“We value the level of engagement and proactive relationship management, as the firm has invested time and resources in providing valuable legal training and legal update events.”

“Jo Scally and Siobhan Thomspson provide reassuringly reliable and realistic advice. They collaborate effectively ensuring that the service is always responsive and that someone is available when we need them.”

Key clients

Churchill College

St. Catharine’s College

Homerton College

Kamiya Schools Limited

Cambridge Academy of English

Four Cs MAT

Work highlights

  • Advising Cambridge Academy of English, an institution in the top 2% of all UK English language schools, on complex property matters.
  • Acting for a MAT generally and on all property-related matters.
  • Advising a MAT on the conversion of a joining school, the fourth school to join the group.
  • Advising a MAT on the conversion of a school, this being the 11th school to join the group.
  • Advising a MAT on the conversion of a joining school, the third school to join the MAT.


Hewitsons has a diverse range of clients that includes schools and FE and HE colleges. Head of the charities and education practice Chris Knight now works predominantly from the Northampton office but spends time in Cambridge to advise the firm's university, school and college clients. The firm's services include charity law and governance, data protection advice, dispute resolution, employment, environmental law, pupil issues and M&A. James Simpson and Susanne Hinde frequently work on property matters for clients in the education sector, while Andrew Priest handles commercial matters.

Practice head(s):

Chris Knight


“The particular knowledge of our trust since becoming a foundation school through to a multi-academy trust makes their relationship with us unique. With their specialist education knowledge we find Hewitsons to be an invaluable part of our team.”

“Their strengths, in particular regarding our sometimes quirky approach to running a trust, we find to be very useful. It is this that makes them stand out in our view against others.”

“The firm provides excellent partner expertise at highly competitive rates.”

Key clients

University of Cambridge

The Colleges in the University of Cambridge (31 in number)

Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board

Stephen Perse Foundation

Morris Education Trust

Bush & Bennett charity

Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst

Culford School

Kimbolton School

Sancton Wood School

City of Cambridge Education Foundation

Work highlights

  • Advised the Stephen Perse Foundation in respect of its acquisition of Cambridge Centre for Sixth-Form Studies.
  • Advising the not-for-profit Open Innovation Bioscience Park in relation to all lettings in the Incubator and Accelerator Buildings as well as various licences to occupy, licence for alterations and wayleave agreements.
  • Advising on a strategic £9m site purchase for Pembroke College, Cambridge.
  • Review and modernising the articles of association of a school foundation and preparation of application for Charity Commission consent for regulated alterations.
  • Advice on a charity’s powers relating to a school development.

JG Poole & Co. LLP

Specialist HE firm JG Poole & Co. LLP is known for 'an excellent level of subject matter expertise combined with a logical, pragmatic and empathetic mode of delivering quality, measured, relevant advice and support'. The firm mainly handles major development projects for schools and universities. Jason Poole predominantly handles student accommodation projects, while Jan Harris has almost 25 years' experience in the education sector. Legal director Katherine Souter is the key partner for construction, procurement and state aid advice. Consultant Helen Bolton and associate Jo Farrington are recommended for structured finance and disputes respectively.

Practice head(s):

Jason Poole; Jan Harris

Other key lawyers:

Katherine Souter; Helen Bolton; Jo Farrington; Rebecca Quinn


“Jason Poole is clearly a knowledgeable and highly intelligent solutions-orientated advisor.”

“Helen Bolton is tenacious and thorough in driving to a client-focused solution.”

“The JG Poole team has offered unrivalled responsiveness to our queries and requests in the area of state aid advice.”

“JG Poole is one the sector’s leading sources of advice on EU state aid compliance. The team offers a rapid response to establish the brief, a collaborative dialogue to assess and comprehend the issues, and professional guidance to establish the client’s position. The team also achieves a rapid turnaround and concise drafting and document review service.”

“On the whole, JG Poole differs from its competitors in offering a responsive and deeply collaborative partnership in fulfilling its services.”

“Katherine Souter is without a doubt one of the country’s leading sources of commercial advice on state aid compliance and regulations. She is a leading advisor of national reputation for compliance with research, development and innovation aid schemes with EU state aid regulations.”

“Katherine Souter’s communication and personal response with the client stand out in the sector for a partner.”

“A practical and pro-active approach. Always available to help with the quickest and the most complex queries.”

“Katherine Souter stands out for her knowledge, responsiveness and problem-solving. We enjoy working with her too!”

“The firm’s knowledge of higher education is exceptional and they are an invaluable resource to in-house university legal teams.”

“Rebecca Quinn can always be relied upon to provide practical and considered advice quickly and efficiently.  She has a very clear, common sense style which is easy to understand yet always very insightful.”

“The firm’s knowledge and experience of the HE sector is exceptional. The firm is extremely friendly and supportive whilst providing informed and pragmatic advice.”

“Rebecca Quinn is the ideal commercial lawyer – technically excellent, extremely pragmatic and balanced whilst being lovely to work with. She is completely reliable and always keen to help in any way she can. She adds value every time I speak to her and I have learnt a lot from her. Rebecca is an absolute pleasure to instruct.”

Key clients

London Metropolitan University

University of Greenwich

University of Hertfordshire

Canterbury Christ Church University

Harper Adams University

Buckinghamshire New University

Glyndwr University

Colchester Institute

University of Brighton

Work highlights

  • Advising on Harper Adams University’s Sustainable Transformation Energy Project, designed to make a major contribution to reducing its carbon footprint and managing energy costs into the future.
  • Advising on a £45m project for the provision of student accommodation at Swansea University.
  • Advising Glyndwr University on its acquisition of Wrexham Student Village and associated development site for future student accommodation.
  • Advising the University of Hertfordshire on state aid matters in setting up and running Hertfordshire Science Partnership.
  • Advising the University of Brighton on state aid matters in the Green Growth Platform.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is best known for its work on employment and governance matters in the higher education sector, and it is on the panel of the London Universities Purchasing Consortium. Hilary Aldred is co-head of the firm-wide education practice and an employment specialist. She has specialised in both contentious and non-contentious employment work for more than 20 years and is recognised for her expertise on a wide range of education issues, acting both for and against institutions. Sarah Coates advises education clients on property matters.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Aldred

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Coates; Sophie Whitbread


“The team has very strong expertise in both education and employment law, which makes them ideally placed to assist on crossover topics.”

“Hilary Aldred and Sophie Whitbread really go the extra mile for clients.”

Key clients

Florida State University

UCL Business Plc

Fitzwilliam College

University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate


ICMP Management Limited

Farriers Registration Council

King’s College London

Work highlights

  • Ongoing employment advice to Florida State University, including in respect of their policies and procedures which need adapting from the policies adopted in the US.
  • Advising a university client on a pay dispute.
  • Provided a university client’s legal team with HR and employment advice on numerous issues especially in respect of worker status.
  • Reviewing the terms and conditions for a local private school in respect of the recruitment of the new principal, as well as on the question of service occupancies for some key staff.
  • Advised a group of higher education institutions on a claim being brought against all of them based on the same facts.

SEN Legal

'They are a force to be reckoned with and will go far', remarks a client of SEN Legal in Bury St Edmunds. The firm works for clients across the UK in the niche area of special educational needs, in which it is regarded as a national leader. In 2018, it recorded a 97% success rate in representing families in their dealings with education institutions and local authorities. The founder of the firm, Melinda Nettleton, and many of its staff have personal experience of SEN and disability matters, and clients describe the lawyers as 'stand-out experts on the law relating to special educational needs, particularly in relation to First Tier Tribunal work'.

Practice head(s):

Melinda Nettleton; Hayley Dawn Mason


“Melinda Nettleton could well be called the Godmother of education law. Her knowledge of this area is exceptional. She is a fierce advocate for those with special educational needs and fights her clients’ cases fearlessly.”

“Hayley Mason is a rising star. At a very young age she made partner as a result of her considerable hard work, strong knowledge base and good client care skills. Her attention to detail is remarkable.”

“They know exactly what evidence is needed from where and are able to call on a range of relevant experts who are experienced in giving evidence to the First Tier Tribunals.”

“Their client service seems to me to be very good – they are highly responsive and genuinely care about getting the right result. They are not afraid to give difficult advice where necessary and are pragmatic in their dealings with local authorities.”

“Hayley Mason is a rising star and a class act. She gets exceptional results for clients. Highly responsive and always makes time to deal with issues that arise suddenly. She really knows her stuff.”

“SEN Legal is a highly specialist firm with a wealth of experience in education law but a particular emphasis on special educational needs law. As a firm, it is this high degree of specialism which sets them apart from others.”

“They really are masters of their field and this shows in the outstanding results they get for their clients. They prepare incredibly thoroughly and are always pushing their clients’ cases forward at every opportunity.”

“Angela Tyrrell brings significant knowledge and experience to the firm and her calm manner is reassuring to all those that work with her as well as clients.”

“Nicole Lee is a dedicated practitioner who is able to build a good rapport with clients.”

“James Brown holds his own despite only being recently qualified.”

“I have worked with SEN Legal for more than ten years. They are an extremely approachable team and are very supportive towards clients and expert witnesses alike.”

“From the administrative team through to its solicitors, they are all brilliant!”

“Melinda Nettleton, Hayley Mason, Nicole Lee and Angela Tyrell are all highly insightful, dedicated and extremely hardworking in supporting clients involved in the SEN appeals process.”

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP joins the ranking this year having handled a growing volume of real estate work for clients in the education sector. Steven Beach and Michaela Henson are highly experienced property partners who act for the firm's growing client base, which includes the University of Cambridge and Norwich University of the Arts. Simon Murphy is recommended for contentious property matters. Nathan Horton leads the firm's academies team, which handles academy conversion and ongoing post-conversion matters. Legal director Nicola Curle handles land disposals for FE colleges.

Practice head(s):

Steven Beach; Nicola Curle


“The team at Howes Percival LLP is a small, focused operation that possesses a wide knowledge of our property portfolio and is able to handle every kind of instruction that is passed to them.”

“The individuals take an interest in what they do and see the wider context in which the tasks sit and are therefore able to provide detailed and relevant advice in all situations.”

“We appreciate the depth and breadth of Steven Beach’s knowledge of the law associated with the property sector as well as his specific knowledge of our property portfolio. His ability to provide concise and succinct advice is a particular quality that we have appreciated.”

Key clients

University of Cambridge

North Hertfordshire College

Girton College, Cambridge

Cambridge Union Society

Norwich University of the Arts

Cambridge University Endowment Fund

South Essex College

Work highlights

  • Representing Cambridge University Endowment Fund in the sale of a long lease over a hotel in Bath.
  • Representing Cambridge University Endowment Fund in the sale of a development site in Northampton to Bovis Homes for £7.7m.
  • Development of a 325 student room accommodation facility for Girton College.
  • ADvising Norwich University for the Arts on the purchase of freehold land from Norwich City Council to transform an existing site into new teaching and student accommodation while also improving a neglected riverside location within the city centre.

Steeles Law

The education practice at Steeles Law is led by corporate partner Richard Bailey and focuses predominantly on advising multi-academy trusts. The firm has converted more than 30 schools to academy status and Bailey is currently acting for six multi-academy trusts. The firm also undertakes work for further education colleges and a local specialist university. The scope of its work also covers property and employment law.

Practice head(s):

Richard Bailey

Key clients

Rightforsuccess Trust

Consortium Multi-Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advice to a further education institution following its conversion to a multi-academy trust.
  • James Hopgood has advised a major house hold name in the FMCG sector on making the most of its payments under the apprenticeship levy.
  • Advising on single to multi-academy trust mergers.
  • Advising on allegations of historic sexual abuse.
  • Specialist financial advice to a multi-academy trust.

Taylor Vinters

Taylor Vinters calls upon its expertise in charity and employment law to advise clients in the education sector. The firm's charities and social enterprise practice focuses on the needs of clients with a world-class reputation for research and teaching, which lead their field in science and medicine, technology, conservation and education. Charity law specialist Chris Willis Pickup and employment partner Christine Berry are the key contacts, although the firm also calls in resources from its IP, technology and property teams.

Practice head(s):

Chris Willis Pickup

Other key lawyers:

Christine Berry; Helen Mutucumarana;

Key clients

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

King’s College, Cambridge

Jesus College, Cambridge

Workers’ Educational Association (the UK’s largest adult education provider)

Animal Health Trust (charity which provides clinical/veterinary training)

Villiers Park (education trust providing adult education/vocational training)

Royal Society of Chemistry (and other learned societies)

Rambert School of Ballet and Dance

Association for Cultural Exchange (the ACE Foundation)

Work highlights

  • Advising an HE provider in relation to exercise of academic freedom of speech (and associated issues) in highly sensitive and high-profile circumstances.
  • Advising in relation to senior academic staff issues and litigation in relation to a former student.