David Smellie > Farrer & Co > London, England > Lawyer Profile

Farrer & Co

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David is head of the Employment team. He has wide experience of advising commercial and institutional clients including newspapers, magazines, banks and academic establishments. David advises on restructuring and redundancy programmes and on the complexities of the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, as well as handling industrial disputes, team moves and individual cases. He is a regular author of Croner’s publications and writes chapters for both Butterworths Commercial and Tolley’s Personnel precedents. David was runner-up in the Employment Lawyer of the Year award sponsored by the Insiders Guide to Employment Lawyers and is given a four star rating in the same guide. He is rated as a leading expert in the field by both Chambers and Legal 500.


Trained at Farrer & Co; qualified in 1989; made a partner 1996.




St John’s College, Cambridge (MA).

Lawyer Rankings

London > Public sector > Education: institutions

(Hall of Fame)

David SmellieFarrer & Co

Farrer & Co acts for a client roster that encompasses some of the UK’s largest universities, as well as sector associations such as the Association of Commonwealth Universities. The team is respected for its ability to handle crisis management work of a reputationally sensitive nature and is regularly instructed to handle employment matters, commercial issues, and research/IP disputes, with a record of acting in contentious mandates spanning from discrimination and unfair dismissal claims to research misconduct allegations. Under the leadership of IP and commercial specialist David Copping, the London-based team also regularly assists with high-profile projects and partnerships, including campus openings, research collaboration agreements, and acquisitions. The team benefits from the expertise of Kathleen Heycock, whose expertise in employment and safeguarding issues make her a key contact for student complaints, industrial relations, and misconduct allegations. Sam Macdonald, an experienced charity and tax lawyer who is regarded as a key contact for matters related to governance and fundraising, Jeremy Isaacson, who advises on high-profile research and IP issues, and safeguarding specialist David Smellie are also highly recommended.

London > Public sector > Education: schools

(Hall of Fame)

David SmellieFarrer & Co

As a ‘leading light in the field of education and schools‘, Farrer & Co works with a diverse client base that encompasses independent schools and associations and offers ‘pioneering guidance in areas such as safeguarding and EDI‘. In addition to its widely recognised safeguarding expertise, the team is also well-equipped to handle cross-border commercial matters, with lawyers regularly advising on partnerships and school openings, mergers, and trade marks. Increasingly, the firm also assists clients with their attempts to challenge the results of ISI and Ofsted inspections. Practice head Jonathan Eley often advises on high-profile employment matters, including strike action and crisis management, and frequently works with vastly experienced safeguarding specialist David Smellie, employment lawyer Alice Yandle, and former barrister Katie Fudakowski to handle complex safeguarding, SEN, and equality issues. Sam Macdonald continues to be a highly recommended specialist for restructuring and governance matters, and Paul Jones is a key contact for commerical contracts and partnerships. Maria Strauss is particularly noted for her expertise in safeguarding investigations.

London > Employment > Senior executives

(Hall of Fame)

David SmellieFarrer & Co

The employment team at Farrer & Co is noted for its expertise in the financial sector, excelling in contentious employee protection work with specialist investigations proficiency. The practice is led by founder David Smellie, who advises on crisis management and leads on employment related safe-guarding matters. Frequently dealing with high-profile and high-value matters, the firm is a popular choice for senior individuals in highly regulated sectors. Co-heads of the practice Eleanor Rowswell and Anna Birtwistle expand the team’s expertise to complex cross-border mediation and arbitration, with increasing focus on contractual High Court disputes. Also highly regarded is David Hunt, known for his expertise in partner moves and restrictive covenant cases. Kathleen Heycock advises on post-termination restriction issues, while Alice Cave works on high-value whistleblowing cases. Alice Yandle – praised for her ‘great tactical sense‘ – routinely handles exits in the financial services, insurance, and tech sectors.

London > Employment > Employers

(Hall of Fame)

David SmellieFarrer & Co

Farrer & Co acts for a wide range of clients in sectors including banking, insurance and sport. The firm also has a notable specialism in employment work in the academic and educational fields, representing Imperial College, the Natural History Museum and the Independent Schools Council, among others. The practice is led by David Smellie, a specialist in safeguarding work. He is supported by Rachel Lewis, who is recommended for advice on senior-level dismissals and employment reorganisations. Further key names in an extensive team include Anna Birtwistle, Alice Yandle, David Hunt and Kathleen Heycock.