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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 > South East > Public sector > Education > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings



Index of tables

  1. Education
  2. Leading individuals

Who Represents Who

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Blake Morgan LLP fields a 'very accessible and personable' education team that is noted for its willingness to accommodate clients, 'even when time is scarce and the need is urgent'. The firm's clients include a number of Oxford colleges, for which it handles a range of matters, including recently negotiating and redrafting an agreement with an outside education organiser for use of an Oxford college, and redrafting agreements for student accommodation. The practice also acts for a number of other universities, including Cambridge and Reading, for which it handles governance, administration, and charities regulation, among other matters. Sheilah Mackie in Southampton acts for a number of higher education clients and educational bodies. Also recommended are employment specialist Mike Wilson and commercial property expert John Deech, both based in Oxford.

Penningtons Manches Cooper provides 'an excellent level of service and responsiveness, and good value for money'. The practice handles the full range of work across the higher education sector, from advising education institutions on QAA and ISI compliance and withdrawal of accreditation, to advising early-stage university spin-out companies on technology transfer and licensing agreements with parent institutions. Other areas of expertise include employment, data protection (including GDPR), and the growing sector of alternative providers of higher education. Recent highlights include advising EdTech company Classlist on a £500,000 fundraising, and acting for St Peter's College, Oxford on its £4.1m acquisition of three buildings adjacent to the college. Practice head Daff Richardson is 'incisive, professional and very responsive'; her track record in the higher education sector reassures clients, who value her 'knowledge of the key people, awareness of the history or politics behind a particular problem area, and detailed understanding of the statutes and bylaws'. Alison Talbot has 19 years' experience in charities law and governance and is also highly recommended.

Blandy & Blandy LLP attracts praise for its 'wide range of expertise - clients are always able to speak to or get considered advice from an expert in the field whenever they need to'. The practice acts for a number of independent schools a range of corporate and commercial, employment, intellectual property, planning and environmental law matters. Other clients include the University of Reading, for which the practice provides ongoing advice on documentation - including easements, deeds of release of security, variation to overage deeds and original sale contracts - in relation to previously completed land transactions that will lead to the delivery of approximately 2,000 new homes south of Reading. Charities specialist Nick Burrows is noted for his 'sage advice'. 

Clarkslegal LLP regularly handles major projects in the higher education sector, including providing procurement advice on student accommodation projects; and handling development agreements related to research facilities at teaching hospitals. The practice is led by real estate expert Richard Higgs and includes senior consultant and procurement expert Kristin Parker, employment specialist Michael Sippitt, and construction expert David Rintoul.

Brachers fields a cross-disciplinary team that acts for a range of academy schools and further education colleges, as well as a number of free schools, foundation schools, SEN schools and private colleges. The firm is acting for Hadlow Group on the restructuring of its asset portfolio, which involves the disposal of land to government agencies and housebuilders. Other recent highlights include advising Canterbury College on its merger with East Kent College, which involved the transfer of the client's estate to East Kent College and the dissolution of Canterbury College. Commercial property specialist Bill Butler heads the practice, which includes Ash Jilani, who is leading on the Hadlow Group matter, and employment specialists Joanna Worby and Catherine Daw.

Moore Blatch LLP has niche expertise in assisting parents and families with issues concerning children with special educational needs, and has a track record of involvement in a number of landmark High Court and Court of Appeal cases. The education team works closely with the firm's personal injury, clinical negligence and community care teams to ensure children with special educational needs are identified early and supported in appropriate areas. Erin Smart heads the team and has a track record in SEN tribunal claims. Clinical negligence practice head Tim Spring is also recommended.

Boyes Turner's education team is led by Laxmi Patel and has established a strong reputation in special educational needs matters, working with families and children to provide specialist support for their schooling needs. Patel has an extensive track record handling appeals to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal, and is able to liaise with the firm's clinical negligence and Court of Protection practices where clients and children with the most severe special educational needs require funding from local authorities for their educational provision. Janata Ali assists clients with special school placements and acts in appeals to the First Tier Tribunal.

Baker Small Solicitors provides 'outstanding service' to individuals and public-sector organisations (including a number of local authorities) on a range of education issues, with an emphasis on special educational needs matters. Mark Small (whose 'approachable style and super communication skills gives clients a great deal of confidence') has an extensive track record representing parents, schools and local authorities in a range of disputes; in an example of his work for local authorities, Small acted for Worcestershire County Council in the first case to consider the weight to be applied to s19 of the Children and Families Act and the extent to which the First Tier Tribunal is able to amend outcomes during the appeal process. Other recent work includes assisting the parents of a child with autism with securing a specialist school placement after the placement had been refused by the local authority.

Birkett Long LLP fields a multi-disciplinary team that acts for a range of schools and higher education institutions, including the University of Essex, Colchester Institute and Writtle College. Recent work includes acting for the University of Essex on a service level agreement with St Bartholomew's Hospital and acting for Hilltop Junior School on the transfer of the school into Hearts Academy Trust. Stephen Avila is the key contact.

Field Seymour Parkes LLP acts for the full spectrum of educational clients, from nurseries to universities, on issues ranging M&A and commercial property work, governance matters, and issues relating to SEN and disability. Headed by Katie Burley, the team's clients include John Madejski Academy, which it advises on a range of matters, including recently acting in an equal pay claim arising from a TUPE transfer concerning some 180 claimants. Louise Smyth and Caroline Airey are also recommended.

Tees Law is 'a highly professional and competent outfit, with a justifiably growing reputation in the market for education work'. The practice's clients span a variety of player within the sector, including local authority maintained schools, voluntary aided schools, academies, and further and higher education institutions. It also acts for individuals on issues concerning access to education, particularly where special educational needs are involved. Senior associate and practice head Polly Kerr is 'a very creative lawyer who has an excellent knowledge of education law, a sharp eye for detail, and a noticeable commitment to her clients that goes above and beyond what is normally seen.'

VWV fields an education team that attracts praise for its 'excellent service and sector knowledge' and for providing 'value for money that is difficult to beat'. The practice has wide-ranging expertise in education-sector matters, although it is in the higher education and further education sectors where it is best known; illustrative clients include The University of Southampton, for which the practice advises on employment matters. Recent work includes defending the client in an employment tribunal claim brought by a former employee for constructive unfair dismissal as well as direct and indirect sex discrimination. The practice also acted for the University of East London on the university's template agreement for the delivery of degree apprenticeships under the government's Apprenticeship Standards. Bettina Rigg heads the education practice from the firm's London office; key figures in Watford include Emma-Jane Dalley and Jon Durham.

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