Public sector in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP has 'in-depth knowledge, experience and expertise in state and boarding education and safeguarding issues' . Beyond the education sector, it also has a broad skill set, advising on health and local government matters in a 'responsive and effective way, with first-rate knowledge'. Ruth Neave, who works across all four of the firm's office, is head of the firm's public sector and local government practice, with head of education Abigail Trencher in Cambridge and lead health partner Matthew Newnham in Norwich also heavily involved. They call upon Cambridge-based litigation partner Sara Sayer and Ipswich-based senior associate Claire Jones, who advises on grant funding arrangements and the exercise of statutory duties. In Ipswich, corporate expert Liz Brownsell, who focuses on education work, and planning senior associate Nicky Doole are core members of the practice.

Practice head(s):

Ruth Neave; Abigail Trencher; Matthew Newnham

Other key lawyers:

Liz Brownsell; Sara Sayer: Nicky Doole; Dwight Patten; Claire Jones


‘We particularly valued Dwight Patten’s extensive knowledge of the higher education sector gained from working with our university previously; together with his willingness to clearly understand the clients objectives whilst adopting a conscientious, commercial and practical solution focused approach to the legal work he co-ordinated on our behalf.’

‘In depth-knowledge and experience of development management practice, which I have seen in particular relating to Section 106 agreements. The ability to advise on the best position for the local planning authority, and foresee any elements missing or that would adversely affect the matter are invaluable. The cross-team cover provided has also been excellent, ensuring legal agreements could progress in the timeliest manner.’

‘What makes this practice stand out to others I have worked with is the speed and effectiveness of the advice given, I do not have to chase for updates and I am always clear each week what is happening on the cases we are working on. Nicky Doole in particular is excellent at providing clear, effective and timely advice on legal agreements and always making sure I know the current position on our work together.’

‘Nicky Doole provides clear and effective advice, with excellent client-side manner. Very approachable.’

‘The employment team at this firm is excellent. The advice, and quality of opinion is outstanding, and highly pragmatic. The knowledge is first rate, and the linking to other specialist areas of the firm to support the client is very good.’

‘The organisation has been supported by Matt Newnham for some time now. He is able to understand the context of a political environment, and anticipate potential outcomes/consequences, and how they may be portrayed in the press. He provides clear, pragmatic and commercial legal opinion. Highly recommended.’

‘Expertise and understanding of state and boarding education and safeguarding issues.’

‘95% available at short notice and always refer to someone who has particular knowledge and skills if not able to respond, as often quick response required for casework.’

Key clients

South Norfolk Council

Babergh District Council

Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust

The Broads Authority

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Trust

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Teaching Regulation Agency

Cambridgeshire County Council

Ipswich Borough Council

Suffolk County Council

CIFCO Capital Limited

Mid Suffolk District Council

Breckland Council

Diamond Learning Trust

Anglia Ruskin University

College of West Anglia

Sapientia Education Trust

Big Sky Living

Concertus Design and Property Consultancy Limited

Hartpury University

Work highlights

  • Acting for Breckland Council in an enforcement dispute regarding lawful commencement and compliance with conditions at a development site within the district following various challenges by an affected landowner involving the highway boundary and the ability of the developer to comply with conditions.
  • Acting for Cambridgeshire County Council on the £28m deal/acquisition of a partially new build business park comprising a mix of mid-tech and warehousing/distribution tenants.
  • Acting for Concertus D&P Limited (a Suffolk County Council owned company) on a JV with Derbyshire County Council for the provision of professional construction services back to Derbyshire County Council.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

The Cambridge office of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP is home to a substantial part of the firm's education practice, which is the largest in the UK. Acting for clients across the UK, as well as assisting major institutions in East Anglia, it counts numerous HE and FE colleges among its clients, as well as schools, academies and private education institutions. The multi-disciplinary team provides support on both domestic and international matters concerning employment work, student issues, charity law, litigation, real estate matters, corporate and commercial work, intellectual property mandates, health and safety claims, constitutional issues and regulatory matters. Glynne Stanfield leads the practice's international education and corporate governance group, with experience in the formation of HE and FE  group structures and the establishment of overseas campuses. Employment partner Matthew Kelly is central to the practice, as are legal director Stephen O’Reilly and senior associate Martyn Robinson for charity law matters.

Practice head(s):

Glynne Stanfield; Matthew Kelly

Other key lawyers:

Stephen O’Reilly; Martyn Robinson

Key clients

ACS International Schools Limited

ACS Schools

Activate Learning

Bangor University

Barnet and Southgate College

Basingstoke College of Technology

Birmingham City University

BPP University

Bromley College

Canterbury Christ Church University

Capital City Colleges Group

Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Global University Systems

Hult Education

National Oceanography Centre

New City Colleges Group

Newham College

Northeastern University

Portsmouth University

Reading University

Richmond, the American University in London

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama



University of York

University of Wales Trinity St David

Vanta Education

Work highlights

  • Provided funding, marketing agreement and collaboration advice to Richmond, the American University in London, involved in an investment by China Education Group.
  • Acting for the University of Reading on its development agreements with US investor Commonwealth to allow the creation of a new 1 million sq. ft film studios on University land.
  • Advised Bromley College on a highly sensitive matter involving the summary dismissal of a senior lecturer who breached safeguarding standards.

Mills & Reeve LLP

The 'very attentive and user-friendlyMills & Reeve LLP has a substantial national education practice and large health group that are 'honest, realistic and responsive at times when there is significant pressure'. In Cambridge, Gary Attle is co-head of the education and research sector practice, in which the 'approachable and positive' Duncan Astill has 20 years’ experience in public and regulatory law. Charity law partner Sarah Seed, construction specialist Raith Pickup, employment partner Stuart Craig and education group principal associate Poppy Short also play key roles. In Norwich, Stephen King and Natalie Wade are key partners in the health and care practice.

Practice head(s):

Gary Attle

Other key lawyers:

Duncan Astill; Raith Pickup; Sarah Seed; Natalie Wade; Stephen King; Stuart Craig; Poppy Short


‘I have always found Mills & Reeve to be responsive at times when there is significant pressure. They are honest and realistic and very up front when it comes to setting out the amount of work required and the potential costs of this. For the quality of support received, Mills & Reeve are competitive and offer value for money in the long-term.’

‘Very attentive and user-friendly. Used the team for a corporate transaction in the first two weeks of lockdown in very trying circumstances for all, and the adaption to the new norm of working from home was seamless, with no noticeable difference to the level of service provided.’

‘I currently work with Duncan Astill. He is approachable and positive about the levels and type of support he can offer. He will attend site if need be and sometimes this is required to add context to a particular concern or situation. He is reliable and extremely friendly and in times of stress, this is a really important thing.’

Key clients

University of East Anglia

University of Cambridge

Trinity College

University of Suffolk

St Edmund’s College, Cambridge

King’s College London

Kingston University

University of Bedfordshire

Norwich School


Royal Veterinary College

University of London

University of East London

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Herefordshire and Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group


Cleveland Clinic

NHS England

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust

Black Country Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Health Education England

NHS Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group

Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

NHS Property Services

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust

NHS East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group

East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust

Shaw Healthcare (Northants)

Keys Group

Work highlights

  • Representing the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust in a leading case concerning whether overtime pay needs to be included in the calculation of holiday pay.
  • Advised Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust on its high-profile procurement of a multimillion-pound 10-year contract for a new electronic health record system, with the option to extend to further London Trusts, Royal Brompton & Harefield and King’s College Hospitals.
  • Updating various higher education institutions across England and Wales on changes to the regulatory landscape including highlighting concerns with clients and sector bodies about a) the regulator’s approach to “reportable events” and b) a new condition of registration relating to unconditional offers to undergraduate students.

Greenwoods Legal

Greenwoods GRM supports education institutions with safeguarding, corporate and governance matters, HR, property developments, contracts, regulatory issues and data privacy work. The firm is counsel to numerous Cambridge colleges, schools and academies, as well as local councils. Practice head Joanna Scally and senior associate Siobhan Thomson provided several Cambridge Colleges with support on employment issues arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic, and assisted Emmanuel College with changing the terms and conditions of the contract of a long-serving employee with at least one disability. In Peterborough, Robert Dillarstone advises on employment matters and associate Claire Banks provides corporate support.

Practice head(s):

Joanna Scally

Other key lawyers:

Siobhan Thomson; Robert Dillarstone; Claire Banks


‘The employment team at Greenwoods have taken the time to understand and develop relationships within the educational sector.’

‘Joanna Scally and Siobhan Thomson always deliver high quality and pragmatic employment law advice, always with a personal touch.’

Key clients

Emmanuel College

Churchill College

Murray Edwards College

St Edmunds College

Pembroke College

Peterborough Keys Academies Trust

Bedford Borough Council

Uppingham School

Stamford Endowed School

The Diamond Learning Partnership Trust

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP has a growing education and healthcare practice that advises on corporate, employment, insolvency, property, construction, commercial contract and data protection matters. In Norwich, insolvency specialist Morris Peacock and new hire from Browne Jacobson LLP, Oliver Pritchard, who has a national reputation in healthcare matters, are key partners. Up-and-coming name Nicola Curle frequently acts for FE institutions in surplus land disposals and development projects including new student accommodation developments. In Cambridge, Michaela Henson is a leading adviser on commercial developments and site assembly work, Simon Murphy handles contentious property issues for Cambridge University, and Steven Beach advises on investment property transactions.

Practice head(s):

Michaela Henson; Morris Peacock; Oliver Pritchard

Other key lawyers:

Nicola Curle; Simon Murphy; Steven Beach; Tom Skinner


‘A very approachable law firm with customer care at its heart.’

‘Tom Skinner is a standout commercial property associate at Howes Percival. Tom has brought a huge of amount of expertise to the contracts he has worked on for our councils, always finding solutions to issues which arise and eager to provide clarification on issues when needed.’

Key clients

Cambridge University Endowment Fund

Girton College, Cambridge

Norwich University of the Arts

Norse Care Limited

University of Cambridge

Braintree District Council

South Norfolk Healthcare C.I.C

South Holland District Council

JG Poole & Co. LLP

JG Poole & Co. LLP in Ely is a specialist higher education boutique firm that provides 'timely and workable advice from a friendly and accessible team'. Initially launched in 2013 to handle major projects and pure education law matters for universities, the firm now provides advice on litigation, commercial matters, construction law and property transactions. Lead partner Jason Poole 'consistently delivers innovative solutions and guidance', while Helen Bolton has 'outstanding knowledge of complex financial transactions' and Katherine Souter is 'knowledgeable, approachable and a joy to work with'. Legal director Jo Farrington and associate Rebecca Quinn also receive high praise from clients.

Practice head(s):

Jason Poole

Other key lawyers:

Helen Bolton; Katherine Souter; Jo Farrington; Rebecca Quinn


‘A small team which has the time to understand our requirements as an institution, and to tailor the advice provided to our specific requirements. You do not feel that they are trying to increase billable hours – they want to provide the best solution for us.’

‘We have found Jo Farrington, Legal Director, to be outstanding – no waffle – she gets straight to the point. Her guidance on student welfare matters has been invaluable.’

‘Excellent understanding of Higher Education sector. Timely and workable advice. Friendly and accessible team. Regularly send information updates about relevant issues within the sector.’

‘Excellent interpersonal skills. High quality contract drafting abilities. Flexible and accessible individuals.

‘This practice has an unrivalled knowledge in relation to the public sector and in particular education. The individuals within the firm have a long history of commitment to the sector and are very well placed to advise across different areas which impact on the public sector. For example, whilst you may raise a commercial matter with the team, they are well placed to proactively pick up on public law elements of procurement, state aid, charity law etc. The team also work across the sector and they regularly help to share knowledge and advice to improve best practice.’

‘Rebecca Quinn is an outstanding lawyer, probably the best I have come across. Rebecca can advise on a wide range of matters with excellent technical ability, but a very keen interest to support the organisation’s commercial interests. Rebecca is a true “business partner” in how she approaches her work. Rebecca is extremely proactive, flagging issues before they arise and constantly sharing knowledge and best practice amongst the sector.’

‘Jason Poole is an individual who is technically brilliant. Jason has a long history of experience in the sector and you are able to run very technical and difficult issues (such as pensions, charity law and governance issues) past Jason and he can advise very quickly and make a decision. He does not sit on the fence and is willing to give clear advice. Jason’s experience in the education sector is vast and there are not many issues he has not encountered before, and he always finds a solution for this clients.’

‘Jason Poole has provided exemplary counsel from a commercial lens and has consistently delivered innovative solutions and guidance to our project. Helen Bolton compliments this with her outstanding knowledge and experience of executing complex financial transactions. Having both of them client side has been invaluable in the successful completion of our funding in 2020.’

Key clients

London Metropolitan University

University of Greenwich

University of Hertfordshire

Canterbury Christ Church University

Harper Adams University

Glyndwr University

Colchester Institute

SEN Legal

Based in East Anglia, SEN Legal has a truly nationwide client base for education, special educational needs and disability work. The 'very bright, super-organisedHayley Dawn Mason in Cambridge and, in Bury St Edmunds, founding partner Melinda Nettleton (who is 'a trailblazer in the field of SEN law'), senior solicitor Nicole Lee and the 'bright and proactive' James Brown act on behalf of parents to solve complex problems and secure special educational provisions for children and young people.

Practice head(s):

Hayley Dawn Mason; Melinda Nettleton

Other key lawyers:

Nicole Lee; James Brown


‘This firm is a seriously well-oiled machine. Every single member of the team has in-depth expert knowledge of the law and practice relating to SEN, disability discrimination and Court of Protection work. They have a firm-wide systematic approach to case preparation that guarantees a well-prepped case in advance of the hearing. Most importantly, they are passionate about the welfare and interests of children and young people with special educational needs and that shines through in every aspect of their work.’

‘Hayley Mason – very bright, super-organised, huge depth of experience and unparalleled knowledge of FTT practice and procedure. A star.’

‘Nicole Lee is a highly experienced and approachable practitioner who is always on top of her cases.’

‘James Brown – a bright, proactive member of the team – one to watch.’

‘Melinda Nettleton, the founding partner of the firm and a trailblazer in the field.’

‘SEN Legal’s knowledge of education law is really second to none. Their particular strength lies in the field of special educational needs and disability law but they are also developing a strong Court of Protection Team. They have an impressive knowledge base and really are leaders in the field.’

‘Hayley Mason is wise beyond her years. Hayley is knowledgeable, incredibly resilient and will fight her client’s case utterly fearlessly.’

‘Melinda Nettleton brings a wealth of experience to the table. An established practitioner, there is little she does not know. She is exceptionally good with clients, particularly those who are vulnerable themselves.’

‘Nicole Lee has considerable experience in complex cases and cases involving young adults, adult social care and the Court of Protection.’

Work highlights

  • Successfully obtained an “Education Otherwise than at School” arrangement for a client of 2 days within a therapeutic educational setting, and 3 days at home education programme, with SALT, OT and Clinical Psychology integrated across all environments.
  • Acted for clients to secure an additional year at a specialist provision despite the young person being older than the schools registration. Successfully applied to the Department of Education to vary the school’s registration in relation to this pupil.
  • Achieved a 52-week waking day specialist residential setting for a young person, fully funded by the Local Authority at the cost of £305,000 annually.

Stone King LLP

Stone King LLP provides 'an outstanding level of service, detailed knowledge and understanding of the sector, timely responses and practical advice'. The firm has more than 30 years' experience in assisting state-funded schools, and also has extensive experience acting for independent schools. Roger Inman in Cambridge, who 'brings a high level of pragmatism and political astuteness to his support', is head of the education sector group, which spans the firm's other offices in Bath, Leeds and London. Employment expert Tim Tyndall and immigration specialist Julie Moktadir are also key members of the Cambridge team.

Practice head(s):

Roger Inman

Other key lawyers:

Tim Tyndall; Julie Moktadir


‘Stone King offers us a wide range of specialists and a lot of practical experience in the sorts of queries we bring to them. Their responsiveness is much better than other firms with which we have worked and this is aided by a quickly-developed understanding of our context, corporate personality and our risk appetite – invariably, Stone King solicitors meet us where we are.’

‘Roger Inman – brings a high level of pragmatism and political astuteness to his support for us. Julie Moktadir has been invaluable to us as an inexperienced licence holder to sponsor overseas workers.’

‘Stone King provide our trust with Legal and HR advice and support. The service they provide us is excellent.’

‘The team at Stone King is extremely knowledgeable and have been able to provide us with excellent support for a number of years now. I can safely say that Stone King provide an outstanding level of service.’

‘One of the real strengths of the company is the value they place on making sure that you know the people you are working with. As part of our service with Stone King, we are linked with key colleagues and they provide us with support and advice. What makes Stone King stand out is the consistency of approach you get when you contact them and the fact that you have dedicated, named people at Stone King who you deal with on a regular basis. Roger Inman is a standout individual.’

‘Detailed knowledge and understanding of the sector. Timeliness of response and practical advice.’

‘The team are very knowledgeable, personable and highly efficient. They respond immediately to our needs and are meticulous and consistent in their delivery of high-quality support.’

Key clients

United Learning

United Church Schools Trust

Unity Schools Partnership


West Suffolk College

Anglian Learning

CAM Trust

Active Learning Trust

Peterborough Diocesan Education Trust

Diocese of St Albans Multi Academy Trust

South Suffolk Learning Trust

Inspiration Trust

Felsted School

Wycombe Abbey School

The Chelmsford Learning Partnership

Milton Keynes College

Work highlights

  • Advised Boswells School on defending a claim that it had unlawfully excluded a pupil with special needs when his behaviour was unsafe for other pupils.
  • Advised a local primary school multi-academy trust (the MAT) on successfully defending a tribunal claim by a parent that it had discriminated against their disabled child.
  • Advised Milton Keynes College on its relationship with the IoT (which is a subsidiary of the College), including from a contractual perspective.

Ashtons Legal

Ashtons Legal acquired Steeles Law in December 2021 - the team moving over is particularly well known for academy conversion work. Key names include corporate partner Richard Bailey, employment partner Oliver Brabbins, and commercial property specialist Michael Fahy .

Practice head(s):

Richard Bailey

Other key lawyers:

Oliver Brabbins; Michael Fahy


‘Strong expertise in the education sector.’

‘Richard Bailey has great knowledge of our sector and provides impeccable support when required. He is proactive and clearly an expert in his field with connections that are able to help us achieve our aims. Oliver Brabbins also provides a great service.’

Key clients

Consortium Multi-Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised on the dismissal of a senior individual from a client institution.
  • Advised academies in relation to the impact of certain Procurement Policy Notices in relation to contractual relationships with external service providers in light of the pandemic.
  • Assisted with an outside of school disciplinary matter.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP has '‘national coverage, with quality offerings in all offices’. In Cambridge, employment specialist Hilary Aldred is co-head of the firm-wide education practice, which excels in assisting Higher Education clients, including Cambridge and Oxford colleges, with matters encompassing student/institution relationships, commercial contracts, public procurement work, governance matters and issues relating to the commercialisation of research. Senior associate Sophie Whitbread has 'exceptional organisational skills' and frequently assists education institutions and charities with the management of employees.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Aldred

Other key lawyers:

Sophie Whitbread


‘National coverage, yet quality offerings in all offices.

‘Sophie Whitbread has exceptional organisational skills.’

Key clients

Florida State University

UCL Business Plc

Fitzwilliam College


ICMP Management Limited

Christ Church

King’s College London

Work highlights

  • Assisting the student complaints team of a Russell Group university with student complaints which have been escalated through their complaints process and where there was a risk that the students concerned would take the complaints to either or both of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator or the County Court: all of the cases related to issues arising under the Equality Act.
  • Advised an Oxbridge college on a number of information issues including advising on several Freedom of Information Act requests as well as on a data subject access request.
  • Advising Christ Church on a range of employment matters, including three Employment Tribunal claims which have been issued against it by the Dean.