Education in West Midlands

Browne Jacobson LLP

Fielding 'experts in the field', the team at Browne Jacobson LLP is 'able to advise from a position of experience' and is a key name for further education providers and education trusts for complex corporate governance and strategic board issues, employment work and contentious matters. Nick MacKenzie leads the practice, which also includes Richard Freeth, who has 'first-class knowledge of a wide range of education issues'. Associates Lydia Michaelson-Yeates, Hayley O’Sullivan and Philip Wood are also highly recommended.

Practice head(s):

Nick MacKenzie


‘Browne Jacobson are experts in their field. They are knowledgeable; able to talk/advise from a position of experience and in a language that is practicable and they are, by far, the easiest to work with, most professional and user-friendly. Nothing is ever too much. Partners and associates alike are always willing to take a quick call to help and support.’

‘A good team of solicitors who have a range of valuable experience to bring to different situations. They seem to work well with other departments such as property and employment to give comprehensive advice.’

‘The team at Browne Jacobson are extremely clear and transparent in their communication with clients ensuring that there is thorough understanding at different levels within the organisation which makes the process of engagement a much more enjoyable and seamless exercise. One key strength is their ability to recognise and share best practice in order to inform future development and improvement.’

‘Nick McKenzie – fabulous, challenging and thought provoking, refreshing, understands individual contexts and that a 1-size fits all is not appropriate, always looking to support with a solution that is outward facing.’

‘Richard Freeth has first class knowledge of a wide range of education issues. Ben Bentley is an outstanding advocate who is empathetic and knowledgeable.’ 

‘Richard has a wealth of knowledge of the many aspects of the education sector and I am completely confident that he will handle any of my questions appropriately.’

Key clients

Academy Transformation Trust

Alsager MAT

Bath and NE Somerset Council

Bishop Vesey Grammar School

Bridgnorth Area Schools Trust

Brine Multi Academy Trust

Brooke Weston Trust

Central Learning Partnership

Central RSA Academies Trust

City Learning Trust

Collegiate Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Successfully acted for the Northampton School for Boys in relation to a threatened judicial review arising from the decision of the head teacher to direct attendance of a year 11 pupil into alternative provision.
  • Acted for a large multi-academy trust in a judicial review challenge in relation to its behaviour policy and the use of isolation rooms.
  • Advising Inspire Education Trust and supporting the Board with putting in place new governance arrangements including drafting new articles of association as part of the transfer of Blue Coat CofE Academy.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Pinsent Masons LLP's practice is headed up by Gayle Ditchburn, who is 'an expert in her field' with a wealth of experience advising on complex regulatory, constitutional, corporate structuring and governance issues; she recently supported Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority on an ambitious project to establish a new university in Peterborough. On the finance side, Victoria Baker advises further and higher education institutions, banks and corporate borrowers on a wide variety of funding transactions. Chris Thomas is a specialist in charity law issues affecting the education sector, and senior associate Rami Labib regularly works alongside Ditchburn on outsourcings, regulatory matters, commercial contracts and collaborative arrangements.

Practice head(s):

Gayle Ditchburn

Other key lawyers:

Victoria Baker; Chris Thomas; Rami Labib


‘The team, led by Gayle Ditchburn, is very commercially minded whilst providing clear and accessible legal advice. It has a real understanding of the education sector, from both a public and private provider perspective and, as such, is exceptionally well placed to offer advice and guidance on a range of issues, whether that be regulatory, corporate, commercial or any other sector related matter. Extremely responsive and always provides a high level of service, even at the shortest notice.’

‘It is a highly skilled team, committed to responding to, and protecting, its clients interests in the most commercially minded way.’

‘Gayle Ditchburn is an expert in her field. She has a vast knowledge of the sector and offers clear, pragmatic advice. She is always responsive and makes herself available at the shortest of notice. She has taken the time to understand the nuances of our business and her advice reflects this. She is a trusted adviser to us.’

Key clients

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority

Cardiff University

City, University of London

College of Legal Practice Limited

Coventry University

Dyson Technology Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Nurture Higher Education Group on its collaboration with University of Newcastle, Australia, to allow Nurture to develop and market joint degrees to third party delivery partner universities, allowing students to enrol in joint-degrees granted by the two universities.
  • Advised University of Cardiff on the establishment of the Cardiff University International Study Centre.
  • Acted for University of Surrey on the successful grant of recognition for its veterinary degrees by the Privy Council following a lengthy recognition process involving the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Shakespeare Martineau LLP fields 'excellent lawyers, who are knowledgeable about the sector' and assist higher education institutions with a range of issues including capital projects and estate master planning work, governance matters, educational partnerships, employment work and dispute resolution. Practice head Smita Jamdar 'exudes education knowledge' with particular expertise in governance mandates, student-related work and constitutional matters. Joanna Forbes and Geraldine Swanton are singled out for their experience in drafting and advising on student regulations, academic collaborations and data protection issues. Employment partner David Browne is also of note.

Practice head(s):

Smita Jamdar


‘Excellent lawyers, knowledgeable about the sector, pragmatic. No “noise” – they are straightforward – they do what they say they will do and they get to the key issues quickly and without fuss. They always meet and usually exceed expectations.’

‘Very knowledgeable around the whole conversion process to academy status. Advice given was clear and reassuring, in a form that we understood.’

‘Smita Jamdar – always responsive, calm, competent and approachable. Very capable and gets to the key issues fast, huge knowledge of the sector and climate.’

‘Geraldine Swanton – always responsive, calm, very capable, gets to the key issues fast, knows her stuff.’

‘Smita Jamdar exudes education knowledge and understanding that can only come from being fully committed to the sector, listening and understanding her clients needs.’

Key clients

King’s College London

University of Derby

Goldsmiths College

University of Cambridge

University of York

North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College

Work highlights

  • Assisted a Russell Group university with completely revising its approach to handling allegations of sexual misconduct in an innovative and comprehensive way.
  • Advising Dudley College of Technology on its bid to establish an Institute of Technology from the initial stage of the development of the government’s initiative.
  • Represented a University in the successful resolution of substantial and complex racial and disability discrimination claims.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP is a key choice for higher and further education institutions, academies and private schools, fielding a full-service multi-disciplinary practice, which handles corporate and commercial work, constitutional and regulatory advice, real estate issues and employment mandates. Department head Mark Taylor focuses on corporate and governance work, and works closely with Gary Delderfield on the employment elements. Principal associates Rachel Soundy and Morag Roddick are experienced in corporate mandates and regularly act for private clients on M&A transactions, collaboration issues, joint ventures and charity law work.

Practice head(s):

Mark Taylor


‘Mark Taylor is knowledgeable about the sector, flexible and approachable, extremely pragmatic and can support us in weighing up options.’

Key clients

University of Wolverhampton

Sandwell College

Solihull College and University Centre

University of Reading

The Greater London Authority

National College for Advance Transport and Infrastructure

Work highlights

  • Advising on the corporate and governance aspects of several mergers in the region, including the merger between Sandwell College and Cadbury College and the combination of Herefordshire and Ludlow College and North Shropshire College.
  • Advising seven colleges and universities across Birmingham on the establishment, funding, construction and regulation of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology.
  • Assisted National Oceanography Centre with its spin out from UK Research & Innovation as an independent charity.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP is highly active in the education sector and has recently assisted universities, colleges and multi-academy trusts with their compliance with the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, real estate acquisitions, corporate governance issues and public law matters. Group head Nick Abbott advises on all elements of employment law including industrial relations issues, dismissals and complex discrimination claims. Real estate partner Christian Bull handles property sales and purchases, student accommodation matters and capital development and refurbishment projects involving university estates and facilities. Other key members of the team include construction specialist Stuart Pemble, who leads the academies practice, and corporate and IT partner Tim Winn.

Practice head(s):

Nick Abbott

Other key lawyers:

Christian Bull; Stuart Pemble; Tim Winn


‘The company ethos is to always be sensitive to the particular challenges in the client’s sector – so advice is relevant, specific and practical rather than generic and theoretical. A high value is placed on common sense, pragmatism and a realistic approach to assessing risk.’

‘They are not just good lawyers, they are thoroughly nice people. Warm, empathetic with a great sense of humour and rapport.’

‘Sector leaders, with vast experience across all areas of higher education. Thought leaders and with excellent sector insight.’

Key clients

Academies Enterprise Trust

Birmingham City University

Buckinghamshire New University

Cardiff University

LTE Group

Manchester Metropolitan University

Nottingham Trent University

Work highlights

  • Advising Birmingham City University on the sale of land to two multi-academy trusts that have developed or will develop the land for two new free schools and the sale of parts of the site to Homes England and Birmingham City Council.
  • Acted for University of Liverpool in an inquest into the death of a student who took her own life while staying in university accommodation.
  • Advising the University of Worcester on selling a large area of excess land to housebuilder Bloor Homes Limited.


VWV undertakes a variety of commercial education work, particularly for private education institutions, multi-academy trusts and further education colleges. The practice also has niche expertise in charity law and governance work, regulatory compliance issues, safeguarding matters, procurements and immigration mandates. Employment specialist Jane Byford heads up the team, which also fields Bettina Rigg and Kathy Halliday, who stands out for her experience working with independent schools and academies. Frances Anderson advises universities on commercial contracts, research collaborations and spinouts.

Practice head(s):

Jane Byford


‘An excellent team, both well led but clearly with strength in depth as whenever you ring the team member has a clear idea of where we have got to and next priorities.’

‘The teams strength and key capability is there ability to explain complex legal guidance in a very simple and easy manner.’

‘Jane Byford – Always has the time to talk through your issue and ensure that you fully understand all options available to you.’

Key clients

Alderbrook School

Aston University

Birmingham Blue Coat School

Bromsgrove School

Buckinghamshire New University

Cathedral Schools Multi Academy Trust

Challenger Multi Academy Trust

Cheltenham Ladies College

Work highlights

  • Advised the International Growth Centre, a division of the London school of Economics, on its contract with the Department for International Development and sub-contract templates and related contracts relating to intellectual property and data ownership and exploitation issues.
  • Defended a university in an employment tribunal claim brought by an existing employee alleging disability discrimination, a failure to make reasonable adjustments and injury to health as a result of discriminatory treatment arising out of her anxiety disorder and a phobia of terrorist attacks.
  • Advised Solihull School on its charitable merger with St Martin’s School.

Lanyon Bowdler

The 'approachable' William Morse leads the practice at Lanyon Bowdler and is particularly recognised for his work in relation to academy conversions in the Herefordshire and Shropshire area. Morse also advises on all aspects of corporate governance work and employment law including trade union liaisons and collective bargaining matters. The firm also has a niche offering in relation to SEN/discrimination tribunals.

Practice head(s):

William Morse


‘Very knowledgeable around the whole conversion process to academy status. Advice given was clear and reassuring, in a form that we understood.’

‘Will Morse is a very helpful partner. His is approachable, readily available and always happy to provide advice on even small matters. His advice on a range of issues, not just limited to academy conversion, has been extremely helpful and reassuring.’

Key clients

Severn Bridges Multi Academy Trust

Central Shropshire Multi Academy Trust

Lugwardine Academy Trust

Holmer Academy Trust

St Pauls Academy Trust

Stretton Sugwas Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Acted for a multi-academy trust in relation to a tier 1 SEN/discrimination Tribunal matter.
  • Advised a school in relation to a s.106 planning matter and issues arising in relation to payments due.
  • Advising a client in relation to evolutionary changes to standard contractual arrangements with teaching and support staff in the context of legacy contractual arrangements pre-dating academy conversions of schools.

Shoosmiths LLP

Shoosmiths LLP is particularly well versed in the commercial aspects of education mandates, and also has notable expertise in IP and technology issues, which attracts instructions from well-known research-focused universities and organisations. The group also represents private clients with special educational needs in appeals against refusals to issue EHCPs following an EHC needs assessment. Department head Victoria Federico divides her time between the Milton Keynes and Birmingham offices.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Federico


‘Shoosmiths stand out as for their client focused, compassionate, professional approach. The firm have extensive knowledge in the field of education.’

‘Victoria Federico deserves recognition for her amazing work. She is the kindest lady ever and has helped us through our legal process. Her kindness, personal touch yet very professional ways stand out from the rest. Whenever I talk to others about my case people can’t get over how good she sounds. I have highly recommended Victoria several times and they have also been very pleased with her work.’

Key clients

University of Nottingham

Cranfield University

Manchester Metropolitan University

Kirklees College

Work highlights

  • Assisted University of Nottingham Ventures with investment documentation and also providing tax advice in relation to an EIS qualification.
  • Represented a private client with Rett Syndrome, in an appeal against the local authority, which advised the EHCP was being withdrawn and as a result no college was being offered for her to continue her education.