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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: individuals > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

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

Leading individuals

  1. 1

Douglas Silas Solicitors is best known for its exclusive focus on special education needs (SEN), led by specialist lawyer and founding director Douglas Silas. The team has considerable expertise in this area and regularly acts for children, vulnerable people and young adults with SEN, as well as undertaking vast advisory work for parents. The firm's client base ranges from primary school children up to individuals in post-16 education and training. Silas is regularly described as the 'go-to' practitioner for this sub-area of work.

Practice head(s):Douglas Silas

Doyle Clayton is renowned in this area of education for its breadth of expertise, with practice head and standout practitioner Simon Henthorn being described as 'a class act'. The team is seasoned in handling a wide range of matters combining its experience in education and employment law, regularly acting for clients in the education sector in high-value and high-profile dismissal, retirement, disciplinary and harassment cases. Senior associate Elizabeth Timmins and business immigration specialist Anna Blackden are also key names to note.

Practice head(s):Simon Henthorn

Other key lawyers:Elizabeth Timmins; Anna Blackden


'The team at Doyle Clayton is strong at the interface of employment law and education law due to its considerable experience in both fields.'

'Simon Henthorn is extremely personable, intelligent and committed. He speaks with authority and expertise, is engaging and personable, and goes out of his way to ensure regular contact is kept.' 

'Simon Henthorn is a particularly impressive individual. He is thorough with a keen eye for detail, which adds to the strategic overview of any case that he deals with. An extremely likeable individual who is also very knowledgable.'

'Elizabeth Timmins is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a pleasure to work with.'

Key Clients

Professor Peter Edwards

Dr Jonathan Dronsfield

National Education Union

Work highlights

  • Represented Dr Jonathan Dronsfield in his claims against the University of Reading in the Employment Appeal Tribunal and High Court.
  • Acting for a professor at the University of Oxford in campaigning for a change to its statutes.
  • Acting for a professor at the University of Cambridge in challenging compulsory retirement under the university's statutes and byelaws.
  • Acting for a professor at the University of Oxford facing allegations of bullying and harassment by his students.
  • Advising a senior lecturer who was facing disciplinary allegations on negotiating an exit.

The 'excellent' education law team at Irwin Mitchell is led by public law specialist Polly Sweeney and undertakes a considerate amount of matters pertaining to SEN, disability discrimination and judicial review. The practice group also provides personal injury expertise to clients, with Sweeney being particularly experienced in community care and healthcare. Other team members include Cambridge-based Caroline Barrett, who acts for disabled adults and children in judicial review proceedings; Steven Baylis, who also represents families in SEN tribunals, and Manchester-based James Betts.

Practice head(s):Polly Sweeney; Yogi Amin

Other key lawyers:Caroline Barrett; Steven Baylis; James Betts

Work highlights

  • Acted for the parents of a 14-year-old boy with cerebral palsy to enable their child to be homeschooled to meet his individual health and education needs.
  • Bringing a challenge to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and/or Secretary of State on behalf of severely disabled children who have been affected by the education system being significantly underfunded.
  • Advised the parents of a child with profound disabilities and helped them secure a package of education tailored to his individual needs and split between an independent school and the home.
  • Challenged Somerset County Council’s proposal to reduce SEN funding and re-allocate the funds to support high-value residential placements.
  • Challenged a local authority's decision to move a child with severe health and learning difficulties from a specialist school that supports children with cerebral palsy to a different special school which would not be set up to cater to her individual needs.

At Simpson Millar LLP, the 'pre-eminent' education team, led by Imogen Jolley, advises on a range of matters for its broad client base, including cases before the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Tribunal and issues relating to home-to-school transport, failure to provide education, discrimination, admissions and exclusions. 'Top-flight' partners Dan Rosenberg and Angela Jackman are also key names to note. New partner Sarah Woosey, who joined from Irwin Mitchell, has a focus on community care and judicial review proceedings, and Samatha Hale, who also recently made partner, is expanding the Bristol office's education team and is adept at securing education provisions for children with SEN. Other team members include public law solicitor Oliver Studdert, who has experience in Court of Protection cases.

Practice head(s):Imogen Jolley

Other key lawyers:Dan Rosenberg; Sarah Woosey; Angela Jackman; Oliver Studdert


'The education law department works well within the public law team, including lawyers with expertise in community care and mental health, giving them a depth that other firms don't necessarily have. They have a particular strength in complex and high-profile cases, including the ability to take the lead in complex challenges on issues such as SEN funding.'

'Dan Rosenberg has a particular strength in complex public law and his knowledge is excellent. He is very good at thinking through the relevant strategies, and is very thorough in preparing cases.'

'Sarah Woosey exudes the right balance of empathy and skill in achieving well-targeted and highly effective responses to tricky situations regarding the needs of the child. She has the highest levels of professional skill and motivation in evaluating the situation and executes this exceptionally.'

Sinclairslaw is a specialist education firm providing a wide spectrum of services for its clients, strengthened by the recent merger of Sinclairslaw with two other leading education practices, Match Solicitors and John Ford Solicitors. The team is experienced in all areas of education law and has a particular focus on representing parents in judicial reviews claims against unlawful decisions made by institutions. Key members of the group include managing director John Ford, who has over three decades of experience, SEN specialist Michael Charles, and Marian Shaughnessy.

Practice head(s):Michael Charles

Other key lawyers:John Ford; Marian Shaughnessy; Helen Gill


'The team combines excellent expertise in education with pragmatic common sense. Their advice is always sound. They can't be faulted.'

'Sinclairs are thorough and committed, with good client care, knowledge of the subject matter and a passion for representing individuals.'

Payne Hicks Beach handles a wide range of contentious and non-contentious education matters, led by newly promoted partner and 'standout player in this field' Ane Vernon, who is noted for her litigation experience. Vernon and Dominic Crossley are skilled in handling time-critical and sensitive matters such as admissions and exclusions for a range of private individual clients.

Practice head(s):Ane Vernon; Dominic Crossley


'Ane Vernon is driven, tenacious and has a keen eye for detail; she is excellent in a crisis situation. Clients are reassured by her empathetic and reasoned approach to problems.'

'Payne Hicks Beach have carved out a niche for this work, and have unparalleled expertise in the field. They are able to work effectively and strategically and demonstrate a multi-disciplinary approach.'

Eva Akins heads the education team at Russell-Cooke LLP, which has experience acting for children with SEN and disabilities, as well as for transgender and non-binary pupils who face marginalisation and difficulty accessing school facilities. Associate Georgina Downard assists clients with securing education provision and with appeals. Specialist children law solicitors Samantha Little and Sarah Richardson are also key practitioners in the team; they also handle complex cases involving vulnerable adults.

Practice head(s):Eva Akins; Samantha Little

Other key lawyers:Georgina Downard; Sarah Richardson


'Eva Akins and Georgina Downard both worked late to hit deadlines and were proactive in ensuring the right evidence was in place.'

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