Education in North West

Browne Jacobson LLP

Browne Jacobson LLP's practice is led by Dai Durbridge, who is known for his expertise in frontline education issues, including admissions and exclusions, parental complaints and safeguarding. In addition, the firm is sought after for assistance with academy projects, as well as GDPR and data protection issues, and it has a growing practice advising schools on intellectual property rights and governance structures. Clients include multi-academy trusts, faith schools, further education colleges, universities and local authority-maintained schools.

Practice head(s):

Dai Durbridge

Other key lawyers:

Ian Deakin


‘The Browne Jacobson team is very competent, responsive and knowledgeable and always ready to step in with a solution.’

‘Excellent service, all legal support has been excellent quality.’

‘Dai Durbridge is extremely helpful and knowledgeable and I don’t hesitate to contact him to check on data protection issues.’

‘They deal with issues quickly and sharply, ensuring that expenses are kept to a minimum.’

‘Everyone that I have spoken to at Browne Jacobson has been fantastic in the advice and guidance. Not once have I not come away from a conversation happy and confident and fully understood what they have said.’

‘With regards to all things legal, Dai Durbridge continues to be Browne Jacobson’s greatest asset from our perspective. Nothing is too much trouble. He ‘speaks our language’ and doesn’t blindside us with legal speak.’

‘Brown Jacobson (North West) are an exceptional company to work with, as we have had a great deal of activity that has needed their sage advice, professional input and guidance. Their understanding of the education sector is exceptional and they also have access a wider range of expertise to support complex questions which have come up in these exceptional times.’

Key clients

Abbey Multi-Academy Trust

Achievement Through Collaboration Trust

Albany Multi-Academy Trust

Bright Futures Education Trust

Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form College

Consilium Academies

Cumbria Education Trust

Dixons Academies Trust


Ebor Academies Trust

Education Learning Trust

Falcon Education Academies Trust

Forward as one C of E Multi-Academy trust

Greater Manchester Learning Trust

Hope Learning Trust York

Keswick School Multi-Academy Trust

Kingfisher Learning Trust

Learning Accord Multi-Academy Trust

Legacy Learning Trust

Leodis Multi-Academy Trust

Morecambe Road School

North West Academies Trust

Oak Learning Partnership

Oak Trees Multi-Academy Trust

Omega Multi-Academy Trust

Optimus Education

Outwood Grange Academies Trust

Rainbow Education Trust

Ridgewood Community High School

Ribblesdale High School

Russett Learning Trust

Salford Catholic Diocesan Trust

Samara Trust

Sea View Trust

South Manchester Learning Trust

Southport Learning

Work highlights

  • Acted for various schools and academy trusts on numerous complex academy projects, including re-brokerages, trust to trust transfers and conversions to academy status.
  • Provided several education clients with legal advice on topics including admissions, exclusions, SEN, the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), safeguarding, GDPR, governance, employment and HR issues, commercial disputes and intellectual property advice.
  • Provided various education clients with commercial advice and support on a range of Covid-19 related issues.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP's 'responsive and personable' team has a strong profile in the education sector, as is evidenced by its work for clients such as schools, academy trusts, further education colleges, higher education institutions and private education institutions. Led by Diane Gilhooley, the department advises on employment, student matters, charity law, dispute resolution, real estate, health and safety and regulatory issues. Robert Gray, who 'always makes time for you as a client', has expertise in employment and governance issues. Senior associate Siân Jones-Davies specialises in student issues and regulatory matters.

Practice head(s):

Diane Gilhooley

Other key lawyers:

Simon Chamberlain; Robert Gray; Siân Jones-Davies


‘The Eversheds team are always responsive and personable. They provide an individual service taking time to listen to particular issues and always understand the context in which decisions are being made.’

‘Robert Gray has consistently provided outstanding professional advice over many years. He always makes time for you as a client and his legal advice in considered and clear.’

‘Good, practical, reliable advice. Easy to work with. Good at providing updates and being available. Wide expertise. Responsive. Excellent advice throughout pandemic, providing webinars on wide range of issues being considered by in-house lawyers in Higher Education.’

‘Eversheds Sutherland’s reputation is as the leading education practice. Their connectedness to government policy development and change makes them a first choice, particularly for complex matters involving difficult choices and analysis. The size of the practice belies the accessibility of partners, who are available to respond decisively at short notice. ’

‘Di and Rob are an excellent education employment team, well informed about HE sector developments as well as employment matters generally and the education sector specifically. We particularly value the speed, quality and clarity of their advice and this applies to any case, no matter the size and significance. Their free updating service on a wide variety of issues is of high quality.’

‘I particularly value the expertise around student contracts and institutional duty of care for students.’

‘There is always a quick, personable response. Where wider expertise is required around a question they will always provide a comprehensive response.’

Key clients

University of Bradford

Manchester Metropolitan University

Sheffield Hallam University

Harper Adams University

London South Bank University

University of Central Lancashire

Cardinal Newman College

Loughborough University

Middlesex University

University of Manchester

Work highlights

  • Advised the University of Manchester on the £1.5 billion landmark development of its North Campus site.
  • Advised on the merger of an FE and sixth form college to create one of the leading colleges in the North West, with around 12,000 learners.
  • Advised a higher education institution on an institution-wide staff restructuring exercise potentially affecting around 1000 staff.

Weightmans LLP

Weightmans LLP primarily focuses on the higher education sector, with a particular strength in assisting universities with large strategic projects, including collaborations between academia and industry. In addition, the team acts for universities in highly sensitive situations, including suicides and on-campus deaths. Elsewhere, the practice has been advising on the digital delivery of content to students during Covid-19.  Practice head Martin Vincent specialises in complex procurement, outsourcing and academic joint ventures that often have an international dimension.

Practice head(s):

Martin Vincent

Key clients

The Open University

Lancaster University

University of Cumbria

Newcastle University

University of Greenwich

University of Sunderland

Solent University

University of Leicester

Queen Mary University of London

Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts

Kings School Chester

Stonyhurst College

Mount St Mary’s College

Nunthorpe Multi Academy Trust Limited

Kirkham Grammar School

The Queen’s School

Leigh Academies Trust

Merchant Taylor’s School

Liverpool Media Academy Limited

The Grange School

Work highlights

  • Provided the Open University with key strategic advice on its tech partner agreements and a number of other IT agreements.
  • Assistance to University of Leicester with the procurement of £80m “Space Park”, a world-leading cluster for innovative research, enterprise and education in space. Earth Observation Space Park Leicester represents a collaborative community for academia and industry to develop and grow. Construction is now underway, with the first building being open early 2021.
  • Led a project for Lancaster University, which involved responding to circa 250 student complaints. The complaints followed unprecedented disruption to the sector and presented a high risk to the client given their focus on securing tuition refunds.

Forbes Solicitors

Forbes Solicitors, which garners praise for its 'can-do approach to things', is notably prominent in the secondary education sector; its client roster includes multi-academy trusts, academies, maintained schools, independent schools and further education colleges. The firm covers a broad cross-section of issues for clients, such as employment, governance, procurement, contracts, health and safety, risk management and corporate and commercial matters. Jonathan Holden, who is the head of the department, focuses on advising educational institutions on employment law issues. Ruth Rule-Mullen is another key individual.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Holden

Other key lawyers:

Ruth Rule-Mullen


‘Provide a flexible and responsive service with a good understanding of education requirements. Provide opportunities through a range of seminars, online updates and workshops to collaborate with other employers within the sector.’

‘Provide pragmatic support based on the sometimes unique challenges sometimes facing the business – with access to a small skilled team, which has enabled us to build relationships with the team, and in turn gives us the confidence to deal with a range of employment issues sensitively and robustly.’

‘We like the fact that we are allocated a single point of contact so over time we have built up a good working relationship and they have an excellent awareness of the school and challenges we face. We like the fact that we schedule regular catch up meetings which are useful to discuss any ongoing case work.’

‘They have a “can do” approach to things and provide us with an objective perspective to issues. Dealing with issues in a pragmatic manner that gives us clear direction and advice.’

‘Individual team members all provide an excellent customer experience. They always respond to enquiries very quickly and are very flexible. The team leader is also proactive and provides support in the capacity of a business partner. ’

‘Forbes have developed an excellent ‘offer’ to the education sector; many of their team are governors of schools and academies; members of their team have written education sector-specific handbooks on school governance and employment issues.’

‘The quality of service provided by the team at Forbes is second to none due to the highly personalised service they provide.’

Key clients

Blackburn College


Preston’s College

The Spencer Academy Trust

The Gorse Academies Trust

Rossall School

Bolton School

Penwortham Priory Academy

Lostock Hall Academy

Education Partnership Trust

Cidari Multi-Academy Trust

Nelson & Colne College

Pendle Education Trust

Chaigeley School

The Aspire Foundation

QEGS Blackburn Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised the Education Partnership Trust on an ongoing Employment Tribunal claim, from an employee who was dismissed as part of a very serious safeguarding incident.
  • Acted for Metropolitan BC Yorkshire in a multi-track case brought by a pupil who had suffered serious dental injuries when an internal door in a school collided with his face.
  • Engaged by Westhoughton High School to provide support to the school’s data protection officer in performing their additional responsibilities in accordance with the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018.

Hill Dickinson LLP

Hill Dickinson LLP has a strong presence in the education sector in the North West and it is also a go-to for clients located further afield nationally. The firm provides a wide range of services to schools in both the maintained and non-maintained (independent and academy) sectors, as well as further education colleges and universities. Its wide-ranging workload includes advice on academy school conversions, HR employment issues, admissions appeals and exclusions, as well as governance issues. Luke Green, Iain Campbell , Alan Pugh and Kerstie Skeaping are among the names to note, as is senior associate Charlotte Hart.

Practice head(s):

Luke Green; Iain Campbell; Alan Pugh; Kerstie Skeaping

Other key lawyers:

Charlotte Hart; Joe Orme


Well structured team who have both key identifiable strengths, but also have good all-round knowledge and can signpost to other colleagues for best responses when required.’

Luke Green is the main ‘go to’ for any issue and is knowledgeable, a critical sounding board when required, as well as providing a calm, professional source of advice, guidance and support that has helped our organisation get through the good and bad times of late. Other team members, like Joe Orme and Charlotte Hart, provide project specific guidance and support that has meant our conversions, re-brokerages and governance change projects have always been smooth and delivered on time.’

Key clients

Star Academies

Endeavour Learning trust

The Bay Learning Trust

The Heath Family (North West)

Wade Deacon Trust

Feversham Education Trust

Frank Field Education Trust

University of Salford

University of Liverpool

Work highlights

  • Representing the University of Salford as a participant in the ongoing Manchester Arena Inquiry into the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP has a strong track record advising higher and further education institutions on a wide variety of matters. Its work ranges from day-today advice and dispute resolution to assistance with strategically-significant projects, such as campus developments. One of the names to note at the firm is Sara Barrett, who focuses on handling employment issues for clients, such as those concerning TUPE, restructurings, union recognition, grievance and disciplinary matters, among others. She co-heads the practice with Richard Sykes, whose expertise includes liability and compliance, data protection, governance and student disputes.

Practice head(s):

Richard Sykes; Sara Barrett

Other key lawyers:

Christian Bull; Nick Abbott

Key clients

LTE Group

Edge Hill University

Manchester Metropolitan University

NCG Corporation

Royal Northern College of Music

University of Bolton

University of Bradford

University of Liverpool

University of Manchester

University of Salford

Pinsent Masons LLP

Pinsent Masons LLP stands out for its work in the higher education sector, with it advising a significant number of new entrants to the market and independent providers. Its core strengths include advice on regulatory and compliance issues, education technology, immigration, data protection and data analytics. The group also houses a strong education finance practice. Michael Pocock (who is an expert in development, planning and environment) co-heads the team with Victoria Goddard.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Goddard; Michael Pocock

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Brocklehurst; Pippa Whitmore

Key clients

Bricks Capital UK Limited

University of Chester

University of Sheffield

London Legacy Development Corporation

University of Sussex

Work highlights

  • Advised Bricks Capital on a number of student accommodation projects throughout the UK including a scheme for 457 student bed spaces in Salford.
  • Advised the University of Chester in its search for a development partner to deliver a £100m redevelopment of Thornton Science Park.
  • Advised on a variety of financing arrangements for universities and funders throughout the UK.

Simpson Millar LLP

Simpson Millar LLP's education team demonstrates particularly strong capabilities representing vulnerable children and parents at Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) tribunals and high-profile judicial reviews. In addition, other work covers matters relating to home to school transport, failures to provide education and discrimination. Imogen Jolley, who heads up the public law team, has particular expertise in school admissions and exclusion cases. In addition to Jolley, Beth Holbrook is another key individual at the firm. Dan Rosenberg , who is based in London, leads the education group.

Practice head(s):

Imogen Jolley; Dan Rosenberg

Other key lawyers:

Beth Holbrook


‘Communication between team members is excellent. There is somebody to respond to queries if your solicitor is not around. They are approachable and warm. You can imagine how stressful and anxiety provoking the Tribunal process can be but the team were brilliant and gave us confidence.

We found them to be highly efficient. Imogen is very knowledgeable and experienced about the process. She was calm and took her time to respond to queries from us or other professionals.’

‘Imogen was outstanding – not only she has authored the most comprehensive guide available on school admissions on the internet, she actually thinks out-of-the-box to achieve the best possible outcome for her clients at minimum costs!’

‘Excellent knowledge of education law; good client care and contact; detailed briefs.’

Key clients

Good Law Project