Education in West Midlands

Browne Jacobson LLP

With exceptional strength in depth and broad legal expertise, Browne Jacobson LLP focuses on providing 'robust' advice to academies, schools and local authorities on property law, governance, data protection, school and student relationships and employment matters. Highly regarded Birmingham team head Nick MacKenzie is an 'absolute industry expert' on all education-related issues, while the 'highly experienced' Richard Freeth handles a wide range of contentious and non-contentious work, including admissions, exclusions, discrimination claims and judicial reviews. Helen Badger handles all employment-related matters.

Practice head(s):

Nick MacKenzie

Other key lawyers:

Richard Freeth; Helen Badger


Highly professional, excellent knowledge and understanding of employment law and education from a legal perspective. We established excellent relationships with the individuals at the company‘.

The firm has a wealth of experience and understanding of education law and we can rely on them to always provide robust, reliable and timely advice and support when we need it. The firm’s approach is highly professional, consistent and conscientious.

Browne Jacobson’s advice has always been timely, well-researched and well-judged, leaving us with a clear direction of travel and, more importantly, clarity around some complex legal issues.

Highly effective and knowledgeable individuals who work effectively with our school staff. Advice and support is always of the highest level.

Browne Jacobson’s education team offers the rare commodity of legal advice wrapped up with real world risk appraisals and a genuine interest in ensuring clients make informed, best-option decisions. They don’t retreat behind the mask of an arm’s-length adviser and are time and time again willing to engage from a client-side perspective to tailor their legal expertise to the absolute benefit of the client.

The team has a culture of high performance and driven practitioners who are not interested in elongating engagements or issues – they bring a real commercial and even entrepreneurial quality to their practice. This sets them easily above any competitor firm in the sector and they remain firmly established as the go-to legal team in education.

Browne Jacobson’s advice is always robust, backed up by sound consideration of risk. My perception is there is a relentless pursuit to ensure they understand the sector inside out through proactively engaging with policy-makers and leaders

Nick MacKenzie is always available, always happy to support and provides wise counsel; Nick is someone who you trust and is happy to do whatever he can whenever he can.

Nick McKenzie is hugely energetic with a deep understanding of the law. He manages to be both highly in demand and highly accessible, and readily fits into the trusted adviser model which senior legal professionals most usefully occupy.

Nick MacKenzie is an absolute industry expert and is always my first port of call for anything governance or strategy-related. I would recommend him to anyone within education as a trusted partner.

Richard Freeth is a fantastic support to our multi-academy trust. His sector knowledge and ability to get to the heart of any matter quickly provide us with an invaluable service which is of the highest standard.

Richard Freeth is highly experienced and is sympathetic to the challenges we face as a local authority. He is easy to contact at short notice and quick to respond to any queries we have. We have developed a great working relationship with him and find him to be very friendly and approachable.

Richard Freeth’s advice is excellent. He will make every effort to respond as soon as he can to ensure we can progress rapidly with the issues we have to hand.

Helen Badger’s calm manner, persistence and tenacity make complex employment issues much more palatable to deal with. Anything asked of her is delivered.

Associate Lydia Michaelson-Yates is determined, tenacious and excellent at cutting through the noise to the pertinent issues. Excellent practitioner with great credibility and presence at board level.

Key clients

Academy Transformation Trust

Acocks Green Primary School

Arden Multi Academy Trust

Arthur Terry Learning Partnership

Birmingham Ormiston Academy

Bournemouth BC

Brooke Weston Trust

Castle Phoenix Trust

Central Learning Partnership Trust

Central RSA Academies

Community Academies Trust

DRB Ignite MAT

Excelsior Multi Academy Trust

Herefordshire Council

Inspire Education Trust

Invictus Education Trust

Lawrence Sheriff School Academy Trust

Manor Multi Academy Trust

Marches MAT

Northampton Primary Academy Trust

NET Academies Trust

PA Community Trust

Rutland CC

Severndale Specialist Academy

Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust

Sidney Stringer Multi Academy Trust

The Elliot Foundation Academies Trust

The Market Bosworth School

The Mercian Trust

The Pinnacle Learning Trust

Titan Partnership Trust

Transforming Lives Educational Trust

Tudor Grange Academies Trust


Wellspring AT

Wilson Stuart School

Wolverhampton Girls’ High School

Work highlights

  • Instructed by new client The Arthur Terry Learning Partnership to support with the academy conversions of three new schools joining the trust, one being a sponsored project.
  • Instructed by The Market Bosworth School to work with them and a number of other academies to create a collaborative approach to dealing with admission appeals with panel members being available from each of the participating schools.
  • Advising a medium-sized multi-academy trust following a data breach involving a memory stick containing personal data and special category data on it of over 1,200 pupils, which was returned to the trust in the post after it was lost by a teacher.
  • Represented Camborne International and Science Academy at an independent review panel organised by the local authority, relating to a case of inappropriate use of legal drugs whilst on an overseas school trip.
  • Advising the governing body of Hemel Hempstead School in relation to the transfer of the school site to the governing body and the redevelopment of a significant proportion of that site to facilitate the construction of a new school extension.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP, one of the most respected firms for work in the education sector, has recently been particularly busy advising universities and further education colleges on real estate matters such as transactions, developments and landlord and tenant issues. Christian Bull covers all real estate work in the education sector, often supported by principal associate Robbie Turner, while Stuart Pemble specialises in construction work. Other areas of expertise for the firm include The Higher Education & Research Act, the implications of Brexit, GDPR, and  employment and commercial matters, which are handled by Tim Winn and Midlands education sector head Nick Abbott.

Practice head(s):

Nick Abbott

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Praised for its 'deep knowledge of education law', Shakespeare Martineau LLP has outstanding expertise in advising higher education clients on a range of matters, including employment, data protection, governance, student and university relationships, development and construction. The team is particularly strong in employment litigation and handles unfair and constructive dismissal proceedings, whistleblowing, discrimination, and harassment claims as well as other senior management and student disputes. Practice head Smita Jamdar 'carries much credence and respect' in the sector, and is supported on the employment side by lead employment partner David Browne and employment litigator Tom Long. Director Geraldine Swanton and Joanna Forbes are also recommended for their 'insightful, pragmatic and clear advice'.

Practice head(s):

Smita Jamdar


The firm has a very good reputation and expertise in higher education and has a very good approach – it understands our business and priorities

Highly responsive. providing intelligent and pragmatic advice on a range of issues. The practice has a breadth of expertise and can draw on experiences across the education sector to provide informed and expert advice

The team has a good understanding of our business and the advice they provide is measured and pragmatic, based on our risk appetite providing a good sounding board for further discussion

Excellent lawyers, who are knowledgeable about the sector and pragmatic. No ‘noise’ – they are straightforward and are there when we need them but don’t bother us unnecessarily

The team’s advice is rooted in a deep knowledge of the law of education and otherwise, but its excellence derives from its experience with an impressive list of clients and its engagement with the policy, politics, and understanding of education nationally and internationally’

The advice is balanced, well articulated and clearly thought through

The service we receive from Shakespeare Martineau is always incredibly tailored and personal. Partners have developed strong relationships of trust and confidence with our executive team, meaning that they feel more like colleagues than external lawyers. The advice we receive is always relevant and practical, and we particularly appreciate the extent to which our particular context is considered and accommodated

Smita Jamdar is outstanding in her ability to analyse the issues and identify a clear way forward

Smita Jamdar is known for being a key player in the higher education sector. She is a very credible lawyer and trusted by our internal clients

Smita Jamdar is very approachable, responsive, has strength and depth of experience in the sector and is well known for her expertise. She carries much credence and respect amongst lawyers in the sector as well as my internal colleagues at the university’

Smita Jamdar gets straight to the point, is always responsive and delivers clear, cogent, pragmatic advice

The education team is led by a charismatic partner, Smita Jamdar, who is a significant presence in the higher education scene in the UK both as a policy leader, commentator, and communicator. She is also an outstanding lawyer

Smita Jamdar is one of the outstanding education lawyers practising at present. She has enviable networks, influence, and is a powerful figure on social media and in other forms of communication. She is committed, often passionate, and empathetic to the needs of clients

Smita Jamdar is personable, responsive and an expert in the field

David Browne is the employment field is clear-sighted and client-friendly

David Browne has given sage and insightful advice to major educational clients. He brings solutions where others might bring options

Tom Long is always responsive, calm, competent and approachable. He provides clear and pragmatic advice and is good with non-legal colleagues

Geraldine Swanton has particular expertise in data protection, FOI and student related complaints. She is very responsive and practical in her advice and approach

Joanna Forbes is responsive and very experienced

Joanna Forbes and Geraldine Swanton have both been very attentive to our needs and have offered insightful, pragmatic and clear advice

Geraldine Swanton and Joanna Forbes both produce strong work in good time-frames

Director Uddalak Datta is very knowledgeable and experienced in public procurement law as well as commercial contracts. He is easy to work with and provides practical and pragmatic advice

Director Catherine Savage, who handles litigation and disputes, is very experienced and efficient, helpful and clear in conveying complex legal advice to non-litigators and non-lawyers

Catherine Savage on the litigation side is a great lawyer and extremely knowledgeable about the higher education sector

Associate Anieka Sheppard is impressive in terms of her knowledge and practical advice

Key clients

King’s College London

The Open University

Writtle University College

The Courtauld Institute of Art

University of Birmingham

Cardiff University

Dudley College

Wiltshire College

Liverpool John Moore University

London South Bank University

Work highlights

  • Advising Staffordshire University on the construction contracts for the demolition of an old campus building to make way for redevelopment.
  • Supporting the University of Warwick in the development and implementation of its Brexit mitigation strategy through a partnership with European universities.
  • Successfully acted for Staffordshire University in respect of a sensitive constructive unfair dismissal and harassment case on the grounds of a sex claim.
  • Provided advice to four universities in relation to issues pertaining to their Vice Chancellors.
  • Representing a university in proceedings filed by a student claiming breach of contract and significant compensation for loss of the opportunity to study post-graduate medicine.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP advises colleges and universities on corporate, governance and regulatory issues and real estate and charity matters, with a particular focus on the higher education sector. Mark Taylor, who heads the team, has expertise in handling mergers, international collaborations and other corporate and governance related matters, while co-lead Gary Delderfield focuses on pension issues in the higher education sector. Corporate lawyer and principal associate Morag Roddick has particular expertise in charity law.

Practice head(s):

Mark Taylor; Gary Delderfield

Other key lawyers:

Morag Roddick

Key clients

University of Wolverhampton

Sandwell College

Solihull College and University Centre

University of Reading

The Greater London Authority

National College for High Speed Rail

Medical Research Council

Manchester Metropolitan University

Liverpool John Moores University

Trafford College Group

LEAD Multi Academy Trust

Nova Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising on the creation of four different Institutes of Technology across the country, including consortia of colleges from Greater Birmingham, London, Thames Valley and the North East.
  • Advised on the merger of Sandwell and Cadbury Colleges.
  • Advised on the legal aspects of establishing the university’s Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills in the Black Country.
  • Advised six different universities of varying sizes and missions on setting up collaborations and joint schools in China.
  • Acting for the National College for High Speed Rail on its set-up and continuing operation.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Well-respected for its work in the higher education sector, Pinsent Masons LLP is instructed by universities and colleges on commercial, regulatory, governance, charity and employment matters. Gayle Ditchburn, who heads the team, stands out for her regulatory, structuring and governance expertise; Helen Corden specialises in employment law and handles restructurings and redundancies linked to the pressure to cut costs as well as staff status issues. Charity head Chris Thomas acts for higher education clients on charity-related governance matters and issues relating to joint venture structuring and the acceptance of gifts.

Practice head(s):

Gayle Ditchburn

Other key lawyers:

Helen Corden

Key clients

Universities UK

University of London

University of Lincoln

University of Sussex

Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority

Dyson Technology Limited

Heythrop College

University of Surrey

University of Gloucestershire

University of Manchester

University of Greenwich

City, University of London

INTO University Partnerships Limited

OpenClassrooms SAS

Coursera, Inc

Online Educational Services Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Universities UK and GuildHE, as members of the Leadership Foundation for HE, Equality Challenge Unit and Higher Education Academy, on their merger to become Advance HE.
  • Advising the University of London on the parliamentary process to seek a new Act of Parliament and representing the university in all stages of the process in the Houses of Parliament.
  • Providing training and advice to a consortium of 43 universities on subsidiary company governance.
  • Advising the University of Lincoln on the negotiation of agreements relating to the development of sites for the provision of student accommodation, including advice as to related construction documents.
  • Advising Heythrop College on its closure as a higher education institution.


VWV stands out for its wide client roster including academies, schools, universities and further education colleges. Team head Jane Byford handles both contentious and non-contentious issues relating to restructuring, outsourcing, unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. Frances Anderson, who was promoted to partner in November 2018, advises higher education clients on commercial contracts, research collaborations and spinouts, while Clive Read handles all education-related real estate matters.

Practice head(s):

Jane Byford

Other key lawyers:

Frances Anderson; Clive Read


Everyone who I have dealt with at VWV is extremely professional yet approachable. I have had great confidence in the advice that I have been given

The team has great ability to consider and think through challenging issues, providing appropriate advice as is needed for each individual situation

Jaime Hobday is a great client manager – she inspires confidence and clearly has a great depth of knowledge in the academy sector

Key clients

Alderbrook School

Aston University

Blue Coat School Birmingham

Barnet & Southgate College

Bromsgrove School

Buckinghamshire New University

Cathedral Schools Multi Academy Trust

Challenger Multi Academy Trust

Cheltenham Ladies College

Cirrus Primary Academy Trust

Coventry University

Cranleigh School

Creative Education Trust

Doncaster Deaf Trust

Dudley College

Edge Hill University

Eton College

Evolve Academy Trust

King Edward VI Academy Trust Birmingham

Langley School


London Metropolitan University

London South Bank University

Loughborough Endowed Schools

Malvern College

Middlesex University

National Star College

Norland College

Queen Alexandra College

Queen Elizabeth’s School (Wimborne Minster)

REAch2 Academy Trust

Royal Academy of Music

Rugby School

Solihull School

South & City College Birmingham

Staffordshire University

Streetsbrook Infant & Early Years Academy Trust

The Complementary Education Academy

The Schools of King Edward VI Foundation

The Stephen Perse Foundation

University of Bath

University of Bedfordshire

University of Bristol

University of Exeter

University of Law

University of Leicester

University of Northampton

University of the Arts London

University of Southampton

Warwick Independent Schools Foundation

Windsor Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Supported a university in defending a number of inter-related employment tribunal claims led by a PhD student who had undertaken casual and voluntary work.
  • Advising a premium independent school on its licensing arrangements with an overseas investor to establish a number of international branded schools in China.
  • Advising a university on its involvement in a technology research and development collaboration.
  • Advising universities on the implications of Brexit for their EEA national members of staff and their recruitment teams.
  • Advised the University of Northampton on retail occupiers for part of its new campus.

Lanyon Bowdler

Lanyon Bowdler covers a range of matters for academies, schools and colleges, spanning school conversions to academy, collaboration agreements, academic terminations, compliance matters, development projects, employee contracts and employment disputes. Employment law specialist William Morse heads the team. Grainne Walters in Telford handles corporate matters, while Andrew Evans in Shewsbury covers commercial property law.

Practice head(s):

William Morse

Other key lawyers:

Gráinne Walters; David Brammer; Andrew Evans

Key clients

Derwen College

St Giles Primary School

Woodside Primary School

Radbrook Primary School

Greenfields Primary School

Mount Pleasant Primary School

Severnvale Academy

Central Shropshire Multi Academy Trust

Severn Bridges Academy Trust

The Priory School Trust

Meole Brace School

Mary Webb School & Science College

Belvidere School

Work highlights

  • Advised in connection with the formation of the Central Shropshire Multi Academy Trust upon the academy conversion of three secondary schools
  • Advised Great Chatwell and Great Chatwell Academy of Learning on a non-disclosure agreement with a university which accredits the courses delivered by the client.

Shoosmiths LLP

Shoosmiths LLP advises schools and universities on transactions involving land and property, development matters, research and technology contracts and IP agreements. Another mainstay of the practice is acting for individuals on student placement and negotiation of full support for children with special needs, often under the leadership of solicitor Gurvinder Samra. Other key members of the practice are property and development expert Bhavesh Amlani and Andrew Brennan, who handles work in the innovation and technology sector.

Practice head(s):

Bhavesh Amlani; Andrew Brennan

Other key lawyers:

Gurvinder Samra


Friendly, knowledgeable, open and honest team

The team is big enough that there is a breadth and depth of expertise, but also small enough that you get an individualised and personal service. The education team sits well within the firm, whose wider work involves assisting disabled children. The team has excellent knowledge, and are very personable – an ideal combination for special educational needs work

Senior associate Benjamin Smith has provided valuable advice over the past few years and is always enthusiastic and patient. He is able to ensure our deadlines can be met when dealing with urgent work

Key clients

The Open University

University of Nottingham

Manchester Metropolitan University

Cranfield University

University of Northampton

Goldsmiths University

De Montfort University

Nottingham Trent University

University of Cumbria

University of Birmingham

Bournemouth University

London South Bank University

Harper Adams University

University of Warwick

Work highlights

  • Advising De Montfort University on the acquisition of a long leasehold interest in an 11th century building and mews buildings.
  • Advising the University of Nottingham in relation to drafting, negotiating and finalising a range of IP and commercialisation agreements.
  • Advising on a full-time school placement at an independent special school providing conductive education obtained for a young child with cerebral palsy.
  • Assisting Manchester Metropolitan University with its research and knowledge exchange contracts.
  • Providing strategic land advice to Chipping Campden School.