Debenhams Ottaway > St Albans, England > Firm Profile

Debenhams Ottaway

Private client > Family: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx Tier 1

The ‘gifted‘ team at Debenhams Ottaway handles the full scope of family law issues for parents, grandparents and other individuals. Praised by clients for her ‘excellent forensic eye‘, Helen Young heads up the St Albans-based practice, frequently advising on high-value divorces involving overseas assets, in addition to pre and post-nuptial agreements, and the capitalisation of maintenance. Senior associate Natalie Lester has substantial expertise in financial settlements and children arrangements, taking a ‘thoughtful and unflappable approach‘ when assisting clients with co-habitation agreements and child arrangement disputes, while senior associate Helen Clyne primarily handles children issues arising from the separation of both married and unmarried couples. Stacey St Clair joined the practice from Hawkins Family Law, contributing her knowledge of private children disputes, including welfare and residence matters.

Practice head(s):

Helen Young

Other key lawyers:


‘The team at Debenhams Ottaway is very strong indeed. They have an enigmatic leader in Helen Young who is always spot on with her approach. They have a great team ethic.’

‘Helen Young works like a Trojan, has an excellent forensic eye and thinks several strategic moves ahead at all stages. She has incredibly good client care; delivering no-nonsense but empathetic advice.’

‘Natalie Lester is excellent. She understands the psychology of cases very well and uses this to shape cases in ways that optimises client outcomes. It also helps her maintain excellent trusting relationships with difficult clients in difficult cases whilst at the same time ensuring that they are able to make fully-informed strategic decisions.’

‘Annabel Andreou is excellent. Her grasp of financial matters is deep and well-beyond her years. Annabel very swiftly laid my fears to rest. Not only was she highly professional, but very courteous, friendly, empathetic. Her legal work is impressive, she is very clear about our aims and next steps, and handled the other party with diplomacy and tact. I would never have gotten anywhere without her help.’

‘Natalie Lester is incredibly dedicated, she listens to my points of view and provides sound and fair advice She is always calm and kind even under pressure and in difficult circumstances. I have no hesitation in recommending her to others seeking a family law solicitor.’

‘Natalie Lester is exceptional at looking at the bigger picture, linking seemingly separate matters together to ensure we have a holistic strategy to move forward with. I cannot recommend her highly enough.’

‘Helen Young heads a gifted team of highly motivated, client-focused and pragmatic lawyers at Debenhams Ottaway.’

‘I am impressed with Natalie Lester’s thoughtful and unflappable approach, her willingness to seek advice on difficult matters and her pragmatism. Natalie is intelligent, resourceful, practical and very able. Natalie deals with mediation professionally, carefully, calmly and ably and brings about a sensible compromise.’

Private client > Personal tax, trusts and probate: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx Tier 1

Praised for its ‘attention to detail, empathy and client service‘, the team at Debenhams Ottaway provides a diverse offering, often advising on lifetime planning for the protection of vulnerable adults, the administration of trusts, and inheritance tax issues. The ‘magicalSusan Glenholme heads up St Albans-based practice with her deep knowledge of private wealth management, the drafting of lifetime trusts and registration of enduring powers of attorney. Claire Sharp maintains a trust-focused practice, regularly dispensing advice on life interest trusts and discretionary trusts, in addition to being appointed by clients as trustee or executor. The ‘excellentRachel Hyndman is particularly experienced in advising on Court of Protection issues concerning care for the elderly and deputyship issues.

Practice head(s):

Susan Glenholme

Other key lawyers:

Claire Sharp; Rachel Hyndman; Andrew Spearman; Barry Griffin


‘Generally knowledgeable, helpful, and get back to you in a reasonable time frame.’

‘Debenhams Ottaway looks after my high-net-worth clients. I have always been extremely impressed with the team, and have only ever received positive feedback from clients. I would say that their strongest points are attention to detail, empathy, and client service.’

‘Susan Glenholme is magical. Her calm manner settles your nerves even in the most complex of situations.’

‘Barry Griffin and Rachel Hyndman are both excellent.’

‘I have never worked with more caring and considerate lawyers. They go the extra mile to ensure you understand everything that is being discussed.’

Corporate and commercial > Corporate and commercial: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx Tier 2

Andrew Yates leads the St Albans-based team at Debenhams Ottaway, which assists clients with the full scope of M&A issues regarding private company assets and shares, often advising on share schemes, and both secured and unsecured finance matters. Yates has ‘excellent knowledge‘ of issues concerning share rights and corporate structures. Praised for his ‘professionalism, expertise, and attention to detail‘, James Brawn focuses on healthcare M&A, often advising on care home business acquisitions.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Yates

Other key lawyers:


‘James Brawn is always giving decent, honest and straightforward and well thought out advice. James’s understanding of our client’s needs and goals has been invaluable in helping us navigate complex legal issues and make informed decisions. His willingness to go above and beyond is truly exceptional.’

‘James Brawn and Andrew Yates are sensible and pragmatic lawyers who are also clearly very good at what they do. They have an eye for the detail and technical aspects of the work, while also working hard to ensure that transactions are completed smoothly and efficiently for all involved.’

‘JamesBrawn, Andrew Yates and the team approach matters in a collaborative and pragmatic manner so help all involved achieve their aims. It is always a pleasure dealing with them.’

‘Strong team culture, with lawyers who are committed to their work and their clients. This leads to a more collaborative and supportive environment for clients. In-depth knowledge of law covering a wide range of specialist areas.’

‘James Brawn and his team provide excellent legal services. I am consistently impressed with James’ professionalism, expertise, and attention to detail.’

‘Debenhams Ottaway provide a full service. The partners are always efficient and knowledgeable, and have gone out of their way to help us. I can highly recommend them.’

‘Andrew Yates has excellent knowledge of his field, particularly corporate structures. James Brawn has wide ranging knowledge, is efficient, and always very helpful.’

Key clients

Veruth Holdings Limited

Europa Components & Equipment PLC

Luxottica North Europe Limited

Benchmark Fabrications Limited

Jeeves Holdings Limited

Dispute resolution > Commercial litigation: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx Tier 2

Exhibiting ‘perfect depth, excellent breadth, and a great team dynamic‘, the team at Debenhams Ottaway acts in a variety of professional negligence and boardroom disputes. ‘Super bright, pragmatic, and a delight‘, Juliet Schalker heads up the St Albans practice, often representing high-net-worth individuals and owner-managed businesses. The ‘bright and pragmaticAlex Neale has broad experience spanning contract, insurance, and recovery action-related disputes. Andrew Carter joined the team from Woodfines LLP in April 2022, contributing his expertise in partnership and agency disputes.

Practice head(s):

Juliet Schalker

Other key lawyers:

Alex Neale; Andrew Carter; Robyn Adams


‘Juliet Schalker and Alex Neale run a very capable ship. They are all very bright and pragmatic solicitors who work collaboratively.’

‘Juliet Schalker leads the team, she is an inspiration. Super bright, pragmatic, and a delight to have on the opposing bench. She is fabulous with even the most difficult of clients.’

‘Alex Neale is pragmatic and has empathy and a kindness that is rarely seen whilst always striving to achieve the very best for his clients.’

Robyn Adams is up and coming, and thoroughly excellent. Robyn is pragmatic, commercially minded and efficient. She is a formidable opponent and is able to cut through the issues to focus the parties on the real crux of a dispute.’

‘This team has the perfect recipe – perfect depth, excellent breadth, and a great team dynamic, headed by the dynamic Juliet Schalker.’

‘Juliet Schalker is a formidable opponent and an inspirational figure.’

‘Andrew Carter has an excellent grasp of Chancery commercial litigation.’

Key clients

Dermal Laboratories Limited

Access Group

Trend Tool Technology

Innoway Future Solutions PTE

MSP Capital Limited

Three Oaks Care Home

Davis & Co LLP

Squad Security Limited

St Albans City and District Council

Work highlights

  • Acted for Dermal Laboratories Limited and Diomed Developments Limited in their c£4m claim against Leumi ABL Limited, an asset-based lender. The client engaged DDD Limited as a distributor and agent to sell its products, which went into administration in February 2020, owing the client c£4m.
  • Acting in a complex and high-value director and shareholder dispute of c.£2m, spanning a consortium of inter-related companies that appear to be insolvent.
  • Advising a family owned and run business worth c.£3m in a highly fraught and contentious dispute. A claim was made by minority shareholders that the client failed to pay historic dividends correctly.

Employment > Employment: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx Tier 2

The ‘extremely passionate and knowledgeable‘ team at Debenhams Ottaway advises both employers and employees on settlement agreements, disciplinaries and grievances, and restructuring matters. The ‘brilliantLouise Attrup leads the St. Albans-based team, specialising in data theft and restrictive covenants, often advising board directors. Commended by clients for his knowledge, associate Michael Kerrigan is adept at acting in employment status disputes, and advising on the protection of confidential information after termination.

Practice head(s):

Louise Attrup

Other key lawyers:


‘Louise Attrup is very professional and provided excellent practical advice on how to take things forward. Louise always found time to explain how to progress with the case.’

‘I cannot thank Michael Kerrigan enough and unreservedly recommend him; his knowledge, his professionalism and his care, and attention to his clients is indisputable.’

‘The team is knowledgeable and take the time to understand our business and challenges in how they advise and deal with our cases.’

‘The team is extremely passionate and knowledgeable and their interpersonal skills are above any firms I have worked with, they genuinely care about their clients and the outcomes.’

‘This practice is unique in the quality of the advice given. Always high quality, but at the same time pragmatic and well reasoned.’

‘Louise Attrup is a brilliant employment lawyer who always delivers well thought out advice.’

Key clients

Brook Street (UK) Ltd

Portas Agency Ltd

Sigma Imaging UK Ltd

Fujitsu General Air Conditioning Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advised a professor who had his employment at Saint John the Baptist College and the University of Oxford terminated based on an Employer Justified Retirement Age.

Private client > Charities and not-for-profit Tier 2

Utilising support from the firm’s trusts and probate lawyers, Debenhams Ottaway often assists charities who have been labelled as beneficiaries in wills. Andrew Yates leads the team and advises many corporate charities on incorporations, mergers, acquisitions, and disposals. Jonathan Foy and Neil Mercer are noted for their expertise of the commercial property market. All of the individuals that have been mentioned are located in St Albans.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Yates

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Foy; Neil Mercer; Andrew Spearman, Claire Sharp


‘Debenhams Ottaway have a strong team with a wide range of expertise, meaning they are well placed to assist on a range of routine and complex projects for a range of client types.’

‘They are responsive, diligent and make sure we are kept informed of progress.’

‘Every contact I have had with this firm has been dealt with promptly and efficiently by all team, from the initial taking of the calls and receptionists to the prompt response of someone in the team if the lead solicitors engaged elsewhere.’

‘Neil Mercer has been the solicitor who has taken responsibility for our charity and his advice, attitude and experience has been exceptional.’

‘I would thoroughly recommend Neil Mercer and wholeheartedly recommend him and his team as an example of solicitors at their best.’

‘Neil Mercer is diligent with the work he undertakes, always ensuring that their position is fully protected given their charitable status.’

‘Neil Mercer is very knowledgeable, has an excellent manner and explains things very well. He will always make time to discuss issues and ensures work is carried out to a high standard.’

Key clients

The Church Lands Trust

The St Albans Diocesan Board of Finance

Youth Talk

Graduates Unlocked

Crohn’s & Colitis UK

The Counselling Foundation

International Society for Krishan Consciousness


The Richard III Society

Hertfordshire and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

InspireAll Limited

Hubbard Will Trust

Meher Baba Association Limited

The Trustees of the SALTO Gymnastics Club

Work highlights

  • Advised The Hubbard Trust on the legal aspects of being a charitable trust.
  • Advised Youth Talk’s CEO on the charities constitution and trustee duties.
  • Negotiated an assortment of leases on behalf of InspireAll, a leisure organisation and registered charity that provides community sport, recreational and arts services.

Real estate > Commercial property: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx Tier 2

The ‘five-star‘ team at Debenhams Ottaway handles a myriad of matters, including owner-occupied property purchases, secured lending work, and landlord and tenant issues. Ruth Boulton leads the practice alongside Jonathan Foy from Radlett and St Albans respectively. Boulton has significant experience in advising owner-managed businesses and banks on high-value residential issues, while Foy handles leases for major corporate occupiers. St Alban’s Neil Mercer advises a variety of clients, with an ‘excellent understanding‘ of consortium agreements and development deals.

Practice head(s):

Ruth Boulton; Jonathan Foy

Other key lawyers:

Neil Mercer; Kat McDonagh


‘Good competent team who get it, and just get on with transactions whilst providing good feedback. Great advice and help when needed.’

‘Their individuals make up a terrific team covering a range of law practice. They all perform to the highest standard and our clients have always been well looked after.’

‘I have worked with Ruth Boulton and Neil Mercer for many years and consistently recommend them to our clients.’

‘We have worked with this practice for many decades. The practice has progressed very well – we are always kept up to date, all communication has always been transparent.’

‘Ruth Boulton and Kat McDonagh have always maintained professionalism while being friendly.’

‘Would rate them as a five-star team. Neil Mercer and his team have an in-depth knowledge of property law which together with understanding our requirements have resulted in excellent outcomes. Highly recommended.’

‘Neil Mercer has excellent understanding of clients’ needs. He is easy to contact and provides quick responses.’

‘They all seem approachable regardless of who you see or who answers the phone. Every client is dealt with promptly.’

Key clients

Harp Group Limited

The Church Lands Trust

Global Rail Construction Limited


Stratton Land


Luxottica North Europe Limited and Luxottica Retail UK Limited

Knoops Holdings

Kier Group/ McNicholas Ltd

Work highlights

  • Acting for property developer and promoter Acorn Braintree Limited on its £12m land purchase to develop for residential housing (GDV in excess of £40m).
  • Advising Harp Group Limited on its agreement to purchase 26 sites of Welcome Nurseries by way of pre-pack, following its administration.
  • Advising Epson on the alterations to its UK headquarters.

Finance > Insolvency and corporate recovery Tier 4

Debenhams Ottaway offers clients ‘excellent service‘ when assisting clients with actions concerning distressed creditors and the defence of directors, in addition to office holder claims and general restructuring work. Juliet Schalker co-heads the St Albans practice alongside Alexander Neale. Schalker is an ‘excellent lawyer‘ who utilises her experience in commercial disputes to advise on a variety of insolvency disputes, while the ‘outstanding‘ Neale handles a variety of contentious and non-contentious insolvency matters, including recovery actions under antecedent transactions, and general restructuring options.

Practice head(s):

Juliet Schalker; Alexander Neale

Other key lawyers:

Robyn Adams


‘Alexander Neale is extremely capable, bright, great to deal with, and very pragmatic when working collaboratively with his opposing solicitor to achieve realistic outcomes for his clients.’

‘Debenhams Ottaway offers an excellent service across the firm.’

‘Alex Neale is an outstanding lawyer who gives clear legal and commercial advice at all times and is a joy to work with. Alex excels at mediation and in addition to his formidable legal skills is all over the numbers in forensic detail. He is an excellent litigator, who understands the nuances of presenting the best case while navigating a commercial conclusion for all stakeholders.’

‘Juliet Schalker and Alex Neale are an excellent and well-balanced team. They understand the pressures of our industry and are willing to commit to a matter for the long haul.’

‘Alex Neale is a top-class solicitor. He is clever, diligent and always goes the extra mile for clients. He is also a pleasure to deal with and handles the cut and thrust of litigation with maturity and a cool head.’

‘Robyn Adams is smart, hardworking and a great lawyer.’

‘Juliet Schalker is a fantastic leader and an excellent lawyer and negotiator.’

Key clients

Manolete Partners Plc

Work highlights

  • Acted for Manolete Partners, an insolvency litigation financing company, in an insolvency case against the defendant as sole director of Palms Palace Limited.

Private client > Contentious trusts and probate Tier 4

The contentious trusts and probate department at Debenhams Ottaway is led by St Albans-based Michael Henry; heis particularly well-versed in matters concerning the Court of Protection, executors, trusts, and beneficiaries, in addition to professional negligence in will writing.

Practice head(s):

Michael Henry

Work highlights

Debenhams Ottaway is the largest law firm in St Albans. It is a multi-service law firm based in Hertfordshire, known for delivering outstanding service and award-winning legal advice to its clients.

The firm: Debenhams Ottaway works with individuals, families and businesses in Hertfordshire, London and across the UK, helping them make the most of new possibilities or deal with unexpected challenges at home or in business. Debenhams Ottaway’s long and successful history as a leading private wealth adviser is now matched by the reputation of its corporate, real estate and litigation teams which work with medium-sized businesses, owner-managed businesses and entrepreneurs in a range of sectors including healthcare, real estate and charities.

Debenhams Ottaway has a strong and loyal client base.  Clients are regularly asked for feedback on their experience of working with the team at Debenhams Ottaway.  It uses the Net Promoter Score as a benchmark and has one of the highest scores in the legal sector.

Key clients include Brook Street (UK) Limited, McNicholas Construction Services Limited, Dermal Laboratories Limited, St Albans Diocesan Board of Finance, Stratton Land, The Church Lands Trust, Veruth Holdings, Seva Care Home Group and Luxottica North Europe Limited. Types of work undertaken: Debenhams Ottaway offers advice on private wealth, family, residential and commercial property, corporate and commercial, employment, litigation and dispute resolution.

Key areas of work
Corporate and commercial: Acquisitions and disposals, banking, finance and loan agreements, business structuring, commercial contracts.

Dispute resolution: Boardroom disputes, company dissolutions, contractual disputes, debt recovery, banking litigation, professional negligence, alternative dispute resolution, real estate disputes, personal injury.

Employment: Contract preparation and policy guidance, disciplinaries and grievances, workplace discrimination, unfair and wrongful dismissal, employment tribunal and court representation, redundancy and restructuring programmes, restrictive covenants and data thefts, board level advice, settlement agreements.

Family: Divorce and separation, civil partnership dissolution, financial disputes, pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements, living together and cohabitation agreements, child arrangements including international relocation, collaborative law.

Insolvency and restructuring: Office holder claims, defending director actions, distressed creditor actions, formal insolvency procedures, debt advisory and restructuring.

Private client: Protecting and managing wealth through inheritance tax, estate planning and estate administration., setting up and administering trusts, lasting powers of attorney, Court of Protection and professional deputyship services, Wills, trusts and inheritance disputes.

Real estate: Landlord and tenant work, property development, sales and purchases of owner occupied and investment property, secured lending, residential conveyancing.

Department Name Email Telephone
Managing partner/ Private client Susan Glenholme 01727 735636
Commercial property Jonathan Foy 01727 735630
Commercial property Ruth Boulton 01923 289917
Employment Louise Attrup 01727 735663
Family Helen Young 01727 738212
Residential conveyancing Nigel Drake 01727 735602
Corporate and commercial Andrew Yates 01727 735617
Litigation Juliet Schalker 01727 735618
Insolvency Alexander Neale 01727 735650
Photo Name Position Profile
Louise Attrup photo Louise Attrup Louise is a partner and the head of the employment team. Louise…
James Brawn photo James Brawn James is a partner in the corporate and commercial team. He works…
Nigel Drake photo Nigel Drake Nigel is a partner and the head of the residential conveyancing team.…
Jonathan Foy photo Jonathan Foy Jonathan is a partner in the commercial property team, specialising in commercial…
Susan Glenholme photo Susan Glenholme Susan is the managing partner of Debenhams Ottaway and also manages the…
Barry Griffin photo Barry Griffin Barry is a partner in our award-winning Wills, trusts and probate team.…
Rachel Hyndman photo Rachel Hyndman Rachel is a partner in the Wills, trusts and probate team. Rachel…
Michael Kerrigan photo Michael Kerrigan Michael Kerrigan is a partner in the employment team. He has a…
Natalie Lester photo Natalie Lester Natalie is a partner in our highly successful divorce and family law…
Neil Mercer photo Neil Mercer Neil is a partner in the commercial property team. His expertise encompasses…
Alexander Neale photo Alexander Neale Alexander is a partner in the dispute resolution and litigation team. He…
Juliet Schalker photo Juliet Schalker Juliet is a partner and the head of the litigation team. With…
Claire Sharp photo Claire Sharp Claire is a partner in the Wills, trusts and probate team. She…
Andrew  Spearman photo Andrew Spearman Andrew is a partner in the Wills, trusts and probate team. He…
Stacey St Clair photo Stacey St Clair I am a partner in the family team and have over 10…
Andrew Yates photo Andrew Yates Andrew is a partner and the head of the corporate and commercial…
Helen Young photo Helen Young Helen is a partner and the head of the family team. Helen…
Number of UK partners : 17
Number of other UK fee-earners : 57

At Debenhams Ottaway we value the diversity of our employees. To ensure our clients receive the best possible service, we encourage and support difference in our teams so that they can provide an empathetic, innovative and engaging service.

We encourage an inclusive and respectful working environment that seeks out everyone’s contributions driven by their individual and diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

We believe it is important that our staff feel supported. All employees have access to the firm’s Employee Assistant Programme service, where employees can talk to a professional about any personal problems that may impact their work. Our HR team are qualified mental health first aid champions (MHFA). They are not only able to provide support for existing staff who may be having difficulties but also are able to understand the discrimination that those with mental health issues may previously have experienced in recruitment and selection processes. We offer flexible working to our staff and are continually looking for ways to improve our working environment. We are committed to providing our teams with interesting and challenging work whilst encouraging and supporting everyone to find time for rest, relaxation and exercise.

Every year we give our staff the opportunity to complete our diversity questionnaire and the statistical information is published on our website. We strive to keep learning from any feedback we receive so that we can continue to attract and retain the best talent who will deliver the best service to our clients.

Our local community is very important to Debenhams Ottaway and each year everyone at the firm chooses a charity to support for the year. We take part in various activities to help raise funds and awareness for our chosen charities. In 2019, Debenhams Ottaway was recognised in the St Albans Chamber of Commerce Business Awards and won the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) award, which highlights our commitment and strong presence in the local community.

As part of the commitment to our chosen charity, Youth Talk, our corporate, commercial and charity sector teams have provided them with pro bono advice. In addition to this, we offer annual work placements for the students of a local St Albans school and sponsor a primary school in Radlett.

CLIENT: Lord Brett McLean
TESTIMONIAL: The entire service from start to finish was excellent, from the initial phone enquiry to the provision of notes from the lawyer and the whole process was faultless, professional, courteous, high standard from the beginning to the end. I can’t recommend this firm enough, truly supportive, helpful and understanding.

CLIENT: Merrin Harger
TESTIMONIAL: Polite, clear and understandable descriptions of work involved. Very approachable and professional in all dealings. I felt a valued client and my needs understood and always dealt with professionally

CLIENT: Saket Shrivastava
TESTIMONIAL: From day one Debenhams Ottaway have been professional, extremely knowledgeable, patient and understanding, compassionate and caring but still straight to the point as required, efficient and always on the ball. Originally Debenhams Ottaway were recommended to me and in turn I now highly recommend this firm.

CLIENT: Nick Mason
TESTIMONIAL: Exceptional, knowledgeable people who are genuinely great to work with. Our needs were totally understood and we got clear, concise advice which allowed us to get to the right outcomes.

CLIENT: Luke Sanders
COMPANY/FIRM: The Solar Centre
TESTIMONIAL: Entrepreneurs want lawyers who understand business and who aren’t afraid to innovate. Andrew Yates’ grasp of corporate law is such that he can square pretty much any circle while lesser lawyers navigate the reeds. Even when your bandwidth is limited, Andrew is always fully across the task at hand with laser-like precision, superb organisational skills and a reassuringly dry sense of humour.

CLIENT: Anonymous
TESTIMONIAL: I was dealing with a situation that I was unfamiliar with. At every stage I felt supported and that time was taken to explain things clearly and what would come next. All queries were responded to instantly and it felt like nothing was ever too much trouble. It made a very stressful time easier to deal with. I would have no hesitation in using their services again and I will recommend to anyone who needs their services.