Duncan Elson > Charles Russell Speechlys LLP > Guildford, England > Lawyer Profile

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Work Department

Charities and not-for-profit, business disputes, family; commercial dispute resolution, contentious trusts and estates, litigation and dispute resolution, private client.


Duncan is the head of the litigation and dispute resolution group and the specialist contentious trusts and estates group. He is also head of the Guildford office. He has over 30 years of practice covering a wide range of High Court litigation, mediation and alternative dispute resolution. His client base ranges from private individuals to charitable and corporate entities. These days the bulk of his work is involved in trust and estates (both contentious and as a professional trustee/executor and also as a court-appointed administrator and deputy) and family business restructuring and related shareholder issues. He also deals with contentious pension matters and professional negligence.

Lawyer Rankings

South East > Insurance > Professional negligence

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP has a strong reputation for representing claimants against professionals – including solicitors, accountants and financial advisors – acting for individuals and companies alike. The team has experience of cases across a wide range of industries, from architecture to financial services. The Guildford-based team is led by partner Stephen Burns, who focuses on sectors including financial services, tech, telecoms and healthcare, and is a member of the Professional Negligence Lawyers’ Association. The firm’s hugely experienced Guildford office head Duncan Elson handles claims against solicitors and financial advisers as part of a broader disputes practice.

South East > Dispute resolution > Commercial litigation: Kent, Surrey and Sussex

(Hall of Fame)

Duncan ElsonCharles Russell Speechlys LLP

South East > Employment > Pensions

As part of the firm’s wider pensions team, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP’s pensions offering is headed up in the South East by Guildford-based legal director Esther White. Michael Jones leads the national pensions team and Nick Hurley heads up the employment, pensions and immigration (EPI) group. The team works alongside colleagues across the firm and in other departments such as commercial litigation to advise a broad variety of clients, with particular strengths in the IT, media and telecoms sector. White specialises in issues arising from M&As, restructurings and automatic enrolments, while Andy Williams advises on the employment law implications of restructuring and benefit change schemes. Experienced litigator Duncan Elson is active in the team’s contentious offering.

South East > Private client > Contentious trusts and probate

(Hall of Fame)

Duncan ElsonCharles Russell Speechlys LLP

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP complements its highly regarded London practice with a Guildford base,  which is home to what is known as ‘one of the go-to teams for contentious trusts and probate work outside of London’. The Guildford practice is led by office head Duncan Elson , who ‘has extraordinary knowledge in this area’. Senior associate Rebecca Piper covers a range of matters, and  has ‘exceptional attention to detail and client handling skills‘, while complex trust disputes specialist Edward Birrell, also a senior associate, is another key contact.

South East > Private client > Agriculture and estates

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP‘s landed estates and heritage property team is spread across the firm’s bases in Cheltenham, Guildford and London. The team is led by ‘bright, practical and no-nonsense’ Guildford office head Duncan Elson, who formerly led the firm’s dispute resolution division for many years, and Cheltenham-based Henry Fea. Other key names include residential property head William Marriott, real estate disputes head David Haines, who has ‘impressive knowledge and the confidence to think outside of the box’ and family specialist Shona Alexander.

London > Private client > Contentious trusts and probate

(Leading individuals)

Duncan ElsonCharles Russell Speechlys LLP

The ‘tenacious litigatorGraeme Kleiner heads the team at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and is perceived to be ‘very effective when faced with difficult situations’. Kleiner advises trustees, executors and beneficiaries on a broad mix of national and international trust and succession disputes. The large and specialist team advises on a wide range of issues from providing probate litigation advice to court of protection work as well as assisting the family team on large international divorce cases involving attacks on trusts, asset tracing and fraud matters. Its work often spans multiple jurisdictions. Duncan Elson concentrates on large and complicated trust and estates work both in the UK and offshore. Newly promoted partner Hugh Gunson specialises in tax disputes and investigations.  Tamasin Perkins advises various wealthy individuals, trustees and fiduciaries on difficult international trust and probate disputes. Oliver Auld advises private clients and others who act in a fiduciary capacity in domestic and offshore trust and succession disputes.