Rising Stars

Education in North West

Browne Jacobson LLP

Based in Manchester, Browne Jacobson LLP provides a wide offering to education sector clients, covering governance issues, strategic advice, employment matters, safeguarding issues as well as special educational needs. The team is adept in supporting their diverse client portfolio in complex, high-profile and media-sensitive issues. Education expert Dai Durbridge heads up the dedicated group and is specialised in safeguarding and data protection.While Ian Deakin works with academies, schools and colleges on the full spectrum of employment law issues from day-to-day advice through to complex employment tribunal claims and strategic matters, associate Tom Briant-Evans focuses on academy conversions, transfers and re-brokerages, governance matters and commercial agreements.

Practice head(s):

Dai Durbridge

Other key lawyers:

Ian Deakin; Tom-Briant Evans


‘As an education client the key for me is getting timely, robust and sensible legal advice that enable my organisation to judge risk and taken informed decisions. Brown Jacobson as our lawyers provide these requirement at an exceptionally high level, with clarity and a great deal of common sense. All their partners and associates are excellent, plus they cover the topics that effect our Trust with great expertise. The company’s unique offer is their breath and depth of knowledge and attention to detail.’

‘Dai Durbridge is our link partner and he is readily available, ensure we get to the right expert and provides expert advice in his own legal fields. He chases the work through and we always get a timely answer. As an organisation we work with a wide range of partners and associates from Brown Jacobson, for which all show the same level of diligence and Dai, which means we can run our organisation in a compliant and robust way.’

Key clients

Accord Multi-Academy Trust

Achievement Through Collaboration Trust

Aspire Education Trust

Beckfoot Trust

Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College

Champion Education Trust

Changing Lives Learning Trust

Cheshire Academies Trust

Coleg Sir Gar

Consilium Academies

Corpus Christi Catholic Academy Trust

Cumbria Education Trust

David Ross Education Trust


Ebor Academies Trust

Education Learning Trust

Empower Trust

Great Schools Trust

Hope Sentamu Learning Trust York

Keswick School Multi-Academy Trust

Learner Engagement and Achievement Partnership MAT

Learning Accord Multi-Academy Trust

Leodis Multi-Academy Trust

Northern Education Trust

Northern Star Academy Trust

North West Academies Trust

Oak Learning Partnership

Optimus Education

Pembrokeshire College

Rodillian Multi Academy Trust

Salford Diocese

Sea View Trust

SS Simon and Jude C of E Multi Academy Trust

St Joseph’s Catholic MAT

The Enquire Learning Trust

The True Learning Partnership

Three Saints Academy Trust

Trinity Multi Academy Trust

Vision MAT

Warrington Primary Academies Trust

White Rose Academies Trust

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP‘s Manchester-based education practice ‘provides a bespoke flexible approach on all occasions, with exceptional knowledge of all education matters.’ The team led by Diane Gilhooley and Robert Gray supports a wide client portfolio ranging from schools, further education providers, academies, and most notably the higher education sectors on contentious and non-contentious matters including employment, a specialist area supported by senior associate Laura Marsh, charity law, immigration, constitutional and regulatory issues. Two recent areas of focus are the issue of free speech and academic freedom as well as sexual harassment and misconduct.

Practice head(s):

Diane Gilhooley; Nicola Bennison; Robert Gray

Other key lawyers:

Laura Marsh


‘Very experienced, globally recognized lead partner, Diane Gilhooley.’

‘Diane is both able and personable. She is also pragmatic and has provided us with sound advice for almost 30 years. Rob has worked with Diane for at least two decades. Rather more cautious, but hardworking and capable.’

‘Exceptional knowledge and experience.’

‘There has been consistency over many years of the people who are working with us and therefore they are aware of our culture allowing for good advice.’

‘Di Gilhooley and Rob Grey are very knowledgeable and always there to support, with a balanced and appropriate approach.’

‘Extremely client centred gaining an understanding of the overall aims of the organisation rather than just providing legal advice. Very strong background on the education sector.’

‘Very responsive and can be trusted to provide excellent support – especially Robert Gray.’

Key clients

Westminster University

University of Manchester

University of Central Lancashire

London South Bank University

Wigan & Leigh College

Loughborough University

Trafford College

Cardinal Newman College

Wigan & Leigh College

Sheffield Hallam University

Work highlights

  • Advising on the completion of the University of Manchester on its internationally significant development – a 26 acre, £1.5 billion GDV scheme in Manchester City Centre.

Forbes Solicitors

Acting for a diverse client portfolio including further education colleges, multi-academy trusts, academies, maintained and independent schools, the specialist team at Forbes Solicitors provides ‘excellent support’ being ‘extremely approachable, knowledgeable and solution focused.’ The group led by Jonathan Holden, who has particular expertise in local government pension schemes and employment law, provides a comprehensive offering ranging from employment, data protection issues to governance, procurement and contracts. Daniel Milnes, Gemma Duxbury, Laura McHugh and ‘great legal mind and strategist’ Ruth Rule-Mullen who heads up the firm’s public sector employment team, form the core team.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Holden

Other key lawyers:

Ruth Rule-Mullen; Daniel Milnes; Laura McHugh; Lucy Harris; Gemma Duxbury; James Barron; Alice McKenna


‘It’s people are responsive, take the time to understand their clients and provide practical and innovative solutions which support and mininise risk. They continually adapt their approach in responsive to legislative change and the world in which we work.’

‘Ruth Rule-Mullen and James Barron have the personal touch, and take the time to understand the issues, which in turn enables them to provide the best solutions. They provide honest advice, with wrap around support which is invaluable when dealing with sensitive staffing situations. They run regular workshops for schools and colleges which are practical and show an understanding of the challenges facing education.’

‘We have worked with Forbes for a number of years, most recently with James Barron. We have been pleased with his practical advice and guidance over the years. He points out any risks and provides pragmatic and sensible advice. We have worked with a number of other individuals over the years who have all taken a similar approach.’

Key clients

Bolton School

CaldayGrange School



Community First Academy Trust

Corpus Christi

Dunstone Academy


Herts for Learning

Leamington Primary School

MylnhurstPrep School

Olive Tree Primary School

Parbold Douglas

PendleEducation Trust

Penwortham Priory Academy

Preston College

Romero Catholic AcademyTrust

Sea View Trust

True Learning Partnership

Zest Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised True Learning Partnership on a complex safeguarding matter.
  • Advised Leamington School prior to and during dismissal processes and representation during Employment Tribunal proceedings.

Weightmans LLP

Weightmans LLP‘s education team is particularly noted for its focus on higher education acting for the full range of universities, including several Russell Group members, handling most notably, employment issues, construction projects as well as highly sensitive matters such as on-campus deaths and suicides. Having previously held senior in-house position at universities, Manchester-based Martin Vincent heads up the team with particular expertise in projects, international ventures, collaboration, income generation and procurement arrangements. While Josh Conroy specialises in high-value litigation and contractual claims and advises upon claims brought under the Public Contract Regulations 2015  commercial litigation expert Andrew Roberts acts as lead partner for further education.

Practice head(s):

Martin Vincent

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Roberts;  Josh Conroy


‘An experience team who are clearly have depth of understanding in higher education matters’

‘They are easy to engage with and very personable which enables me to ask questions and explore complex case work with their guidance and understanding of the sector.’

Key clients

Newcastle University

Lancaster University

University of Keele

Royal Veterinary College

Solent University

University of Cumbria

Queen Mary University London

Nottingham College

The Open University

University of Leeds

Work highlights

  • Advising Newcastle University in a coroner’s inquest following the death of a student.
  • Acting on behalf of Lancaster University in successfully rebutting a claim for breach of copyright brought by a firm of US based “Copyright Trolls”.
  • Advising Solent University on its entire suite of Knowledge Transfer policies and procedures in order to drive effective KT for the entire institution.

Hill Dickinson LLP

The team at Hill Dickinson LLP offers a wide range of advice to trusts, colleges and universities, including guidance on admission issues, parental issues and regulatory matters, in particular relating to data protection and freedom of information. The team is headed by Liverpool-based Luke Green who also oversees the firm’s national education operations. Caroline Prosser has expertise in intersecting employment and education matters and carries out complex investigations covering allegations of sexual assault, safeguarding and breaches of financial obligations. Legal director Joe Orme-Paul is also noted.

Practice head(s):

Luke Green

Other key lawyers:

Joe Orme-Paul; Iain Campbell; Alan Pugh; Kerstie Skeaping

Key clients

Wade Deacon Trust

iExel Education Trust

Methodist Academies and Schools Trust

Endeavour Learning Trust

All Saints Multi-Academy Trust

Cranmer Education Trust

Endeavour Multi-Academy Trust

The Heath Family (North West)

Great Academies Education Trust

Bright Futures Educational Trust

Work highlights

  • Acted for Wade Deacon Trust in defending a significant number of term-time only claims issued following the Brazel v Harpur Trust judgment.
  • Representing Methodist Academies and Schools Trust (‘MAST’) in the development of model articles of association for academy trusts which are to take joint faith schools shared with the diocese of the Church of England.
  • Advising and drafting a licence agreement for a local partnership with language school, iExel Education Trust.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP’s education practice provides a wide offering to education sector clients with expertise in governance, research legislation and regulation, campus redevelopment and student accommodation projects. The multidisciplinary team is led by Manchester-based Sara Barrett who is particularly experienced in employment matters, and Richard Skyes who splits his time between Manchester and Birmingham. His work includes litigation, liability and compliance issues, as well as equality legislation, data protection and freedom of information issues. Associate Siân Jones-Davies, previously at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP, bolstered the practice with her arrival in October 2022, bringing expertise at the intersection of education, public law and regulatory matters.

Practice head(s):

Richard Sykes; Sara Barrett

Other key lawyers:

Paul Knight; Siân Jones-Davies; Christian Bull; Emily Revel; Miriam Guilding


‘Mills & Reeve have pooled their resources very effectively utilising specialist knowledge within the firm to address some challenging legal issues on my projects, whilst maintaining continuity with my main contacts.’

‘Emily Revel and Jennifer Lewis have both been excellent as my main contacts dealing with many varied legal issues.’

‘The team are incredibly helpful and very knowledgeable. They understand the university sector and take the time to understand individual institutions which enables them to advise appropriately. Mills and Reeve also have an Education Hub which contains a wealth of useful information for institutions.’

‘Paul Knight is exceptional at what he does and provides clear, concise and easily digestible advice.’

‘Mills and Reeve are able to cover all of our Education needs with expertise across all areas.’

‘The individuals we work with at Mills and Reeve are always personable, knowledgeable and flexible. Sara Barrett is our lead partner and we have worked a lot with Miriam Guilding too.’

‘Good sector knowledge. Experienced, skilled and approachable team who provide focused commercially sound advice.’

‘The practice has the skills, knowledge and expertise within the education sector and within the building and construction discipline. The team understands our aims and objectives and also understands the dynamic and the structure of our governance.’

Key clients

Academies Enterprise Trust

Anglia Ruskin University Higher Education Corporation

Arden University Limited

Birmingham City University

Bolton College

Bournemouth University

British Council

Buckingham New University

Cardiff University

Christ Church, Oxford University

Christ’s Hospital

Coventry University

Dragon School Trust Limited

Exeter College Oxford

Francis Crick Institute Ltd

Harrow School

King’s College London

Linacre College Oxford

London Business School

LTE Group

Manchester Metropolitan University

Merton College Oxford

Nottingham Trent University

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford University Endowment Management

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Royal Veterinary College

Sheffield Hallam University

Solent University

St Dunstan’s Educational Foundation

St Edmund Hall Oxford

St John’s College, Oxford

St John’s College

The Institution of Engineering and Technology

The United Westminster and Grey Coat Foundation

The University of Birmingham

The University of Northampton

The University of Nottingham

TOF Corporate Trustee Limited as Trustee of The Oxford Funds

Trinity College, Cambridge

University of Cambridge

University of Bath

University of Bedfordshire

University of Derby

University of East Anglia

University of Exeter

University of Hertfordshire

University of Kent

University of Lancaster

University of Liverpool

University of London

University of Manchester

University of Oxford

University of Salford

University of Southampton

University of Surrey

University of Worcester

University of York

Wellcome Sanger Institute

West Thames College

University of York

Work highlights

  • Acted for the University of Lancaster on a £60 million sustainability-linked revolving credit facility with Santander UK PLC.
  • Acting for Manchester Metropolitan University in respect of the proposed redevelopment of All Saints Square.

Pinsent Masons LLP

The practice at Pinsent Masons LLP draws on in-depth experience of advising education sector clients on campus development projects, and more frequently on strategic technology procurements and data projects as well as litigating in misconduct matters. The group’s education finance team is of particular note, regularly acting for leading banks and investors acquiring bonds as well as the education providers themselves. Manchester-based Michael Pocock heads up the team with particular expertise in student accommodation projects, together with national lead Victoria Goddard.

Practice head(s):

Michael Pocock; Victoria Goddard

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Brocklehurst; Zoe Betts


‘Zoe Betts is a very impressive, yet down-to-earth, health and safety lawyer. Her presentation and client care skills are particular strengths and she is our go-to lawyer for any health and safety training needs.’

Key clients

Bricks Capital

University of Chester

University of Huddersfield

University of Sheffield

Manchester Metropolitan University

Work highlights

  • Advising Bricks Capital on the acquisition of a site at Discovery Quay in Salford for the delivery of 859 student accommodation bedrooms.
  • Acting for the University of Chester in connection with the future of Thornton Science Park. Thornton Science Park with the aim of creating the UK’s first Net Zero Industrial Cluster in Ellesmere Port.
  • Advising the University of Huddersfield in connection with its development of the strategically important Southgate site for the development of a Health and Innovation Campus.

Simpson Millar LLP

Fielding a team which ‘excels in breadth and strength‘, Simpson Millar LLP is well-versed in a host of education law matters, including SEN assessements, Education, Health and Care Pans (EHCP), and special educational needs tribunals. ‘First class‘ Leeds-based practice head Sarah Woosey and ‘superstar‘ Lancaster-based Emma Davies are the key names to note.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Woosey

Other key lawyers:

Emma Davies


‘At a very stressful time, Sarah Woosey has been hugely patient, kind and empathetic while simultaneously offering clear, informed and really constructive advice about the way forward. We are delighted that we found her and would recommend her to anyone needing help with an education issue. She’s wonderful and has eased the strain of an extremely difficult situation. First class.’

‘Totally brilliant team. Clearly the leaders in education legal aid, and particularly for SEND work. Deep understanding of the law, wonderful with vulnerable clients and willing to push the boundaries.’

‘Emma Davies is a superstar. You can tell that she’s also a part-time judge- terrific judgement.’

‘Team excels in breadth and strength; excellent place in market representing children and families.’

‘Dan Rosenberg, Lucy Atherton stand out to me.’

Work highlights