Charities and not-for-profit in North West

Brabners LLP

Brabners LLP provides advice to local and national charities on issues including charity mergers, fundraising and governance. The Liverpool-based practice also handles the registration of new charities. The team experienced some turnover in 2020, with Graeme Hughes being promoted to partner in May and Robert Nieri departing the practice in September to join Shoosmiths LLP. Stephen Claus and Hughes co-lead the practice; Claus has deep experience in the charities sector, including previously working as a lawyer for the Charities Commission and serving as a judge on the Charities Tribunal, while Hughes works exclusively in the charities sector.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Claus; Graeme Hughes


‘There is a Charity specialist team at Brabners LLP which means you feel confident you are getting the right advice for a charity rather than a business in general. ’

‘Graeme Hughes is very knowledgeable and helpful. I always feel well supported. ’

‘Our case was dealt with entirely by Graeme Hughes. Very user friendly – held our hand and was responsive, efficient, level-headed and used his knowledge and judgment to best effect to get the merger completed as close to the target date as possible. Turn around time, communications and responsiveness were very good and he compared very favourably to the London lawyers used by the other side. ’

‘I like the ‘we’ approach of the practice, their understanding of our business and the commitment and drive to succeed for us. We are a not for profit and the charity expertise of practice is excellent, and their advice and support is essential for our business. We are a people organisation, and as a charity this also comes with some unique sensitivities that the employment specialists within the practice thoroughly understand when we have to navigate through some difficult situations with employees.’

‘Knowledge and experience of the sector and the organisation, and the ability to lay out options with identified risk, which enable us to informed strategic decisions. We experienced this with Stephen Claus.’

‘The support offered by Brabners in our particular area of charity (quite unique and specialised) is exceptional. Knowledge of the complexities that we deal with is very good and cannot be duplicated by other firms. ’

‘Stephen Claus has provided us with exceptional service during the year. He has always provided a timely response, has made himself available to attend at virtual meetings where necessary, and has been hugely supportive of our direction of travel, pre-empting barriers to our ultimate goals. ’

‘We are an infrastructure organisation, supporting charities and community groups in Cheshire East and we come up against legal sticking points re governing documents, covenants etc which Brabners have always helped us with. They have provided us with advice and training and have invited us to their training sessions where relevant. They are approachable and timely in their responses, which is much appreciated, knowing how busy they are. ’

Key clients

Adoption Matters


Age Concern West Sussex

Alder Hey Children’s Charity

Anne Duchess of Westminster’s charity

Autism Alliance UK

Autism Initiatives

Autism Together

Birmingham City Council

Bolton Council of Mosques

Bracknell Islamic Cultural Society

British Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Cheshire Wildlife Trust

Cheshire Deaf Society

Chester Municipal Charities

Chester Zoo


College of Paramedics

Community Integrated Care

Co-operative Community Investment Foundation

Edward Mayes Almshouses

EMDR Association

Everton in the Community

The Factory Trust

Fisheries Society of the British Isles

Furniture Resource Centre

Gas Safety Trust

Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre

Grey Gables

Groundwork Greater Manchester

Hackney City Tennis Club

Hoylake Cottage

Kingsmead School Hoylake Trust Limited

Leadership Through Sport and Business

League Against Cruel Sports

Lenchs Trust


Liverpool Homeless Football Club

Work highlights

  • Advising Anne Duchess of Westminster’s Charity on its merger with another charity.
  • Advising National Communities Resource Centre on it becoming incorporated within the group structure of another charity.
  • Advising EMDR Association on the impact of COVID-19 on its governance arrangements.

Counterculture Partnership LLP

Specialist firm Counterculture Partnership LLP has a proven track record in advising not-for-profits, particularly in the creative sector. The team's broad practice includes advising on the registration of new charities, employment and HR matters, internal governance, and a range of other issues. The practice's client base includes theatres, museums, art galleries, and other cultural and educational institutions. Keith Arrowsmith leads the practice, and in addition to advising on regulatory and governance matters, also acts as a consultant to a number of the firm's clients. The Manchester team frequently collaborates with the firm's office in London.

Practice head(s):

Keith Arrowsmith

Other key lawyers:

Grace Astbury


‘CounterCulture took the time to understand the unique situation of our organisation and provide support accordingly. We have really appreciated their understanding of the arts sector and they have taken time to clearly explain legalities and requirements in areas that are completely new to us. At all times through the process we have been kept informed of progress and status of our developments. With CounterCulture’

‘Really supportive team and that clear with information and requirements, listen and provide support specifically relevant to your organisation.’

‘From my experience, the team have specific Arts sector knowledge and expertise which has been of benefit in handling a trade mark opposition case and are also aware of pressure on available charitable resources and keen to minimise any impact of necessary legal action.’

‘Keith Arrowsmith was the lawyer who lead on the action and appeared extremely knowledgeable on the subject, answering any queries, taking time to explain complex terminology in an accessible way. I felt he was honest about possible success, but also explained the risks involved and advised solutions that were least onerous on the charities resources. Grace Astbury supported Keith in ongoing communications very efficiently and effectively. She continually kept me updated with actions and expectations, both in terms of timescales and potential costs to the charity, accommodating my need to refer to trustees for final decision making within timings. She had a good level of knowledge and was also happy to answer questions within her experience and to obtain answers outside of this. ’

‘The team’s specialist knowledge of the cultural sector sets them apart from other legal teams – in particular their understanding of governance issues and their experience of working with a range of clients, of varying sizes, from across the creative and cultural world. ’

‘Keith Arrowsmith is particularly good at gaining the confidence and trust of his clients quickly in order to complete the work successfully. For example, he can communicate quite complex legal ideas and solutions to a wide audience who have no legal backgorund. He is a good listener and is abe to incorporate address the questions of different people in a meaningful way without being dismissive or high handed. This is especially important in a charity where trustees and staff members need to feel that their concerns are taken seriously. ’

‘Extremely knowledgeable about charities and the theatre. Provided excellent guidance throughout.’

‘Keith Arrowsmith in particular showed a really knowledge of the subject and guided our organisation through the process with great professionalism.’

Key clients

National Union of Students

National Operatic and Dramatic Association

The Clore Leadership Programme

Leeds Culture Trust

Revoluton Arts CIC

Islington Mill Arts Club CIC

Thamesmead Arts and Culture Office (TACO!)

Freelancers Make Theatre Work

PK Porthcurno CIO

National Museum of Art, Architecture & Design,Norway

Work highlights

  • Assisted Revolution Arts CIC in the creation of a new organisation from an internal project of a parent charity. Assisted with advice across breadth of project to enable the new organisation to deliver required outcomes.
  • Supporting Thamesmead Arts and Culture Office (TACO!), an artist-led not-for-profit organisation, working in partnership with a large regional housing association on a major publicly funded four year programme.
  • Continuing to provide legal advice and support to Leeds Culture Trust across the full range of the charity’s activities to deliver the Leeds 2023 festival and other artistic events.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP's cross-disciplinary charities practice provides advice on matters including governance, intellectual property, data protection and commercial transactions to a range of non-profit clients. The key partners in Manchester are Paul Knight, who handles IP, IT and commercial matters, and litigator Simon Pedley. Senior associate Rona McPherson is also noted for her work on grant arrangements, as well as on the acquisition and development of new IT systems and projects. In advising national charities, the team draws on its offices around the country, including in Birmingham, London and Cambridge.

Practice head(s):

Paul Knight; Simon Pedley

Other key lawyers:

Rona McPherson

Key clients

British Council

BBC Children in Need


National Citizen Service Trust

Royal Institute of British Architects

Alan Turing Institute

Greater Manchester Sports Partnership

Hallé Concerts Society

Contact Theatre

Children’s Investment Fund Foundation

James Milner Foundation

Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

Work highlights

  • Advising BBC Children in Need on data protection and copyright licensing.
  • Advising the British Council on strategically critical investments to respond to the challenges of Covid-19.
  • Completing a major project to update the governance and contracting process at the Royal Institute of British Architects, as well as advising on the successful transition of the RIBA Pension Solution to Smart Pension.

Addleshaw Goddard

Addleshaw Goddard's charities team advises clients on matters including governance, investments and commercial agreements. Pervinder Kaur in Leeds and Yorke Eaton in Manchester are the key contacts in the team. Eaton, a private client specialist, frequently acts for family charitable trusts and also handles estates left to charities, including those with complex and contentious elements. Managing associate Laura Woffinden works across the Manchester and Leeds offices and is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Yorke Eaton

Other key lawyers:

Pervinder Kaur; Laura Woffinden


‘The team were very knowledgable about their field and helped us reach a good solution.’

‘Laura Woffinden provided us with excellent knowledge in her field.’

Browne Jacobson LLP

Browne Jacobson LLP's charities team is led by national head Catherine Rustomji, who splits her time between North Yorkshire and the firm's Nottingham office. The practice handles the full range of matters in this area, including mergers, governance issues, HR and the management of property portfolios. Dominic Buckley is the key figure in the Manchester office; a real estate lawyer, he specialises in handling property-related matters.

Practice head(s):

Catherine Rustomji

Other key lawyers:

Dominic Buckley


‘A wide-ranging Team covering all necessary disciplines. Excellent contacts with expert counsel again across required disciplines’

‘Catherine Rustomji is outstanding and someone we chose to follow to this firm. She is extremely knowledgeable whilst being pragmatic about how to effect legal changes’

‘I have always had great service from BJ and value the work which they do, I receive helpful updates and information which is pertinent to my work and that of my Trustees. The team are capable, quick to respond and have a friendly, professionally (but not stuffy) demeanour which sets them apart from other firms.’

‘I greatly value Catherine Rustomji (Charities Partner) due to her approach and expertise. She is super capable and knowledgeable and a very effective communicator. I admire the way in which she ensures that the audience have understood her points, and engages with people on a number of levels to ensure that the advice and information is accurately received.’

‘The work Catherine Rustomji has done for us and advice given has been first rate.’

Key clients

York Archaeological Trust


Charities Trust

Cheshire Centre for Independent Living

YHA (England and Wales)

High Peak Hospice

Talyllyn Railway

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation

Northern Consortium

Active Cheshire Limited

Society of Dyers and Colourists

Henshaws Society for Blind People

A Students’ Union

Work highlights

  • Advising Birtenshaw on a number of different areas including property, construction, commercial, litigation, employment and regulatory matters.
  • Providing Charities Trust with advice on charity law compliance and related issues.
  • Advised High Peak Hospicecare in relation to its merger with another hospice charity. Complex governance advice was required in order to facilitate the merger being able to proceed, including regulated alterations consent from the Charity Commission and amendments to the Articles of Association at Companies House and the Charity Commission.   The matter was highly sensitive and time critical.

Hill Dickinson LLP

Hill Dickinson LLP draws on its expertise in commercial, IP and employment law to advise charitable and not-for-profit clients throughout the North West. In 2020, the team aided a number of clients in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, advising on reorganisations, commercial transactions and liaising with the Charities Commission. Key partners in the Manchester office are commercial, IP and TMT partner Mark Fitzgibbon and employment specialist Jeff Middleton; in Liverpool, private client partner Fionnuala Kenny is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Mark Fitzgibbon; Jeff Middleton; Fionnuala Kenny; Luke Green

Key clients

Big Life Group (incorporating Big Issue in the North Trust, Self Help Services & Big Life Centres & the Big Life Schools incorporating Longsight Community Primary and Unity Community Primary.)

Delta Philanthropies

Parkwood Holdings Limited (including Parkwood Community Leisure Limited and Legacy Leisure Limited)

The People’s Trust (Greece)

Open Hands Open Heavens

Manchester Literature Festival

Amnesty (UK) Group


Greenwich Leisure Limited

Creative Sector Services CIC (Creative United)

Medicines Discovery Catapult Limited

Star Academies

Raise Limited

ARICD (formerly known as Association for Research in Infant and Child Development)

Work highlights

  • Advising the Trustees of Delta Philanthropies on the addition of new charitable objects for the charity to be able to support COVID-19 and other related health crises across Africa in 2020 (and moving forwards). Successfully implemented with the Charity Commission in May 2020.
  • Advised Medicines Discovery Catapult Limited through a High Court procurement challenge by Diagnostics AI Limited in connection with the setting up of the Lighthouse Lab COVID-testing facilities and the resultant negotiation of analytical software licences.
  • Continuing to support the Big Life Group throughout range of COVID-19 related operational issues during lockdowns.