Carson McDowell > Belfast, Northern Ireland > Firm Profile

Carson McDowell
Northern Ireland

Corporate and commercial > Corporate and M&A Tier 1

Carson McDowell are active across the full spectrum of corporate transactions and continue to build a strong reputation in Northern Ireland’s technology sector. Notably, the team advised London's Lewis Silkin on its acquisition of domestic NI firm Jones Cassidy Brett Solicitors. Richard Gray heads the department and specialises in both M&A and finance work, while senior partner Neasa Quigley has particular expertise in energy and the knowledge economy. They were joined early in 2022 by Hilary Griffith, who was previously head of corporate for Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

Practice head(s):

Richard Gray

Other key lawyers:

Neasa Quigley; Hilary Griffith; Gerard Armstrong; Rosie Timoney


‘You just know that they do not accept ‘second best’’

‘This practice is unique in the fact that they have the ability to undertake work and offer the same services that the magic circle practices would offer, however, they make it accessible to SMEs such as ours.’

‘Even though Neasa Quigley is a senior partner, her dedication to projects and guidance during them is much greater than any other senior partner that I have come across.’

‘The client service we receive is exemplary across all the departments.’

‘Level of service and attention to detail is outstanding.’

‘Gerard Armstrong works with an almost unique level of speed and intensity, relentless, but at the same time is always highly personable and a pleasure to collaborate with.’

‘Rosie Timoney is a first class associate. She is highly professional, calm under pressure, applies a high level of attention to detail and is very commercial. A star.’

I was always sure I was getting sound and advice with creativity where needed. The rest of the team were both culturally easy to work with and efficient in all of the tasks and activities needed.’

Key clients

Neueda Limited

SHS GroupLimited

AquaQ Analytics Ltd

Eakin Healthcare Group Limited

Lowe Group

Vinci Energy Holdings Limited

STATSport Group Limited

Lagan Investments Limited

SHS Group Limited

Riverridge Recycling Limited

Radius Payment Solutions Limited

Fibrus Limited

CDE Global Limited

Glenmore Generation Limited

Mediahuis UK Ltd

Aircore EV Ltd

Aiguille Investments Limited

Ubloquity Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised the shareholders of Neueda Limited on the sale of the company to Version 1 Software Limited.
  • Advised the shareholders of Acqua Q Analytics on the sale of the company to Sovereign Capital Partners.
  • Advised the shareholders of Resptor Limited to US company Integration Appliance Inc (known as Intapp).

Northern Ireland > Dispute resolution Tier 1

Carson McDowell boasts the largest commercial litigation team in Northern Ireland, with a wide sector range that includes the manufacturing, technology, energy, and education sectors. The firm is frequently active in the High Court, particularly in the construction sector, in addition to offering expertise in handling high-profile cases at the Supreme Court. Declan Magee leads the department, with specialisms including commercial disputes, public and administrative law, and professional negligence. Other key names are Stuart Murphy, head of construction, Darren Toombs, head of debt recovery, and Hugh McGrattan, head of insurance.

Practice head(s):

Declan Magee; Stuart Murphy; Darren Toombs; Hugh McGrattan

Other key lawyers:

Peter Guzhar


‘Client relationship and management is spot on. Always available when required.’

‘Declan Magee is superb. Responsive, on the ball and knows our business, and our needs as a business. Not scared to push the boundaries when required.’

‘Excellent knowledge and experience of the litigation process. Highly collaborative approach with exceptional team-working skills.’

‘Declan Magee – highly empathetic approach with exceptional interpersonal skills.’

‘Depth of knowledge and experience within the team is second to none, the ability within the team to engage the correct specialist people when and where required.’

‘Declan Magee – depth of knowledge and wide spectrum of experience, also knowledge of our business and understanding of how any query we would raise applies specifically to our business.’

Key clients

DAF Trucks N.V.

Mediahuis UK Limited – Sunday Life

Sentence Review Commissioners

Tayto Group Limited and Tayto (NI) Limited


Northstone NI Limited

FP McCann Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advised a large construction company on a procurement challenge against the Department for Regional Development over the award of the measured term contracts for resurfacing works on local road network.
  • Act in the defence of numerous competition litigation claims arising from the 2016 European Commission Decision CASE AT.39824 –Trucks.
  • Advised on an application by a notorious paramilitary prisoner sentenced to multiple life sentences that he be considered for release.

Northern Ireland > Employment Tier 1

Carson McDowell‘s ‘commercial, responsive, easy to deal with‘ employment team offers the full service of employment law for clients across Northern Ireland and England & Wales. Its role as sole provider of employment advice for both Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, in addition to its work for high-profile names such as Currys, Santander and Diageo, indicates the firm’s excellent reputation. Disputes specialist Orlagh O’Neill leads the team. Rachel Penny covers TUPE and restructuring. Clients praise the firm’s ‘consistent and professional support’. Associate Sarah Cochrane  is a name to watch.

Practice head(s):

Orlagh O’Neill

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Penny; Sarah Cochrane


‘Depth of knowledge and experience within the team easy to get proper advice promptly.’

‘The firm is lovely to deal with. I have met many people within the firm and can at they all give clear and concise advice and are always responsive. I have no problem recommending this firm.’

‘I work closely with Orlagh O’Neill and Sarah Corchrane. Both are excellent solicitors. They listen to their clients’ needs and give commercial advice with the solution being the main objective, rather than discussing obstacles.’

‘I find Carson McDowell very professional and great to work with.’

‘My experience of the employment team in Carson McDowell is that they are commercial, responsive, easy to deal with and really good at what they do.’

‘Undoubtedly the pre-eminent employment team in Northern Ireland. They are particularly strong on industrial relations issues, but their know-how makes them leaders across all areas of employment law.’

‘They have proven themselves to be incredibly responsive, despite the unprecedented challenges created by the impact of the COVID pandemic, and have delivered a first class service throughout.’

‘Rachel Penny is in a league of her own; indeed others aren’t even playing in the same game.’

Key clients


Royal Mail Group Limited

Queen’s University Belfast

Ulster University



The Irish League of Credit Unions (via Axa)

Lynas Foodservice Limited

Omexom (Vinci Energies)

Westland Horticulture Limited

ESB / Electric Ireland

Diageo PLC

Currys PLC

Santander PLC

Davy Private Client

British Medical Association

Work highlights

  • Advised Queen’s University Belfast on a dispute with one of its recognised trade unions, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance.
  • Advising US company Benchling Inc on the employment aspects of its acquisition of Overwatch Research Limited.
  • Representing Sport NI, government sports council (funding body) for Northern Ireland, in the defence of a trade union detriment claim in the Industrial Tribunal.

Insurance > Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant Tier 1

Carson McDowell‘s department works closely with the Dublin office to offer comprehensive service across Ireland. The practice is split into two distinct teams for clinical negligence and personal injury, offering great depth of experience in both areas. Managing partner Roger McMillan leads the healthcare team, for which he defends claims on behalf of medical organisations in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Jacqueline McAleese  supports McMillan on the clinical negligence side, specialising in birth injury, cervical cancer, and expedited cancer cases. The defence insurance litigation team is co-led by Catherine Carton, who deals with employer and public liability claims, and Cathal O’Neill, an expert in industrial disease claims.

Practice head(s):

Roger McMillan; Jacqueline McAleese; Catherine Carton; Cathal O’Neill


‘Roger McMillen leads a very strong team who are the premier clinical negligence specialists in Northern Ireland.’

‘Roger McMillen is very well regarded and the doyen of clinical negligence in Belfast.’

‘Very knowledgeable team.’

‘Focused on achieving the best outcome.’

‘The legal expertise of Carson McDowell LLP is second to none. However, what really makes them stand out is their commercial awareness and their ability to tailor their advices to deal with the commercial realities of the matter on which they are advising.’

‘The individuals we work with at Carson McDowell have a clear understanding of both our industry and our requirements. They are ALWAYS on hand to provide advice when called upon.’

Key clients

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Travelers Insurance

Axis Capital



Faraday Insurance

Chubb Insurance

Riverstone Insurance

Davies Casualty/Garwyn

TT Club/Thomas Miller Claims Management

Crawford Loss Adjusters/Broadspire

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks Limited

Beale & Co


Stena Line

Work highlights

  • Instructed by Riverstone Insurance and Crawfords Specialist Liability Services to act on behalf of a client in relation to an employer’s liability claim for £750,000 that was settled for a heavily compromised figure of £150,000.
  • Instructed by Broadspire to act on behalf of a client in relation to an employer’s liability claim.
  • Instructed by Northern Ireland Electricity Networks Limited in relation to a dispute involving a subcontractor.

Private client > Personal tax, trusts and probate Tier 1

Carson McDowell is known for its work on high-value estate planning and administration. The practice has a track record of advising on wills and trusts and is increasingly active in multi-jurisdictional matters. Private client specialist and practice head Neil Bleakley has more than twenty years experience in the practice area. Bleakley is supported by a team of associates, including Andrew Davidson and Naomi Lamont.

Practice head(s):

Neil Bleakley

Other key lawyers:


‘Very good team and always available.’

‘The Carson McDowell private client practice is run well by Neil Bleakley. Both he and his staff are very knowledgeable and personable and they are the largest independent firm in Northern Ireland that can provide for all potential legal needs that our clients may have.’

‘Neil Bleakley is a consummate professional. His attention to detail, knowledge, and experience, and his personable nature means that clients are confident in both him and his team to do what they say to a very high standard.’

‘In my view Carson McDowell offers an excellent service and can be relied on upon to address matters in a timely fashion.’

‘The Carson McDowell private client team in Northern Ireland stand out from their peers due to their extensive technical knowledge combined with a very personal approach in dealing with delicate and technical client matters.’

‘It is led by Neill Bleakley who has a extensive track record of working closely with clients, and consistently delivers high quality client outcomes.’

‘They are primarily excellent listeners and then provide wholly appropriate legal advice.’

Work highlights

    Projects, energy and natural resources > Energy, project finance and PFI Tier 1

    Carson McDowell‘s ‘excellent team’ acts on a diverse set of matters for a range of high-profile clients, including Bright Energy, SONI ltd and Octopus Investments. The caseload covers natural gas, solar energy, and wind, and the department is particularly active on electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Senior partner Neasa Quigley leads the team and brings a wealth of experience in M&A. Planning expert Gary McGhee and real estate specialists Emma Cooper and Dawson McConkey as well as Sinead McGrath, whose finance practice is highly respected, are other key names. Associate Le-ann Campbell works closely with Quigley.

    Practice head(s):

    Neasa Quigley

    Other key lawyers:

    Gary McGhee; Sinead McGrath; Emma Cooper; Dawson McConkey; Lee-Ann Campbell


    ‘I without hesitation recommend the Carson McDowell, energy and renewable team to anyone looking for legal assistance.’

    ‘Neasa Quigley is our main point of contact in the Carson McDowell team and a pleasure to work with, a leader in this field. Le-ann Campbell works alongside Neasa and is definitely an associate to watch.’

    ‘Carson McDowell’s expertise and experience in this sector is exceptional. We have worked with them on a number of transactions and found them to be easy to work with and highly efficient.’

    ‘Excellent team providing top quality advice and for reasonable fees. Very open and approachable. Make difficult concepts straightforward and always work well to achieve our goals within the required timeframes.’

    ‘Excellent at forming and cementing relationships. Availability is excellent. Fees are reasonable. Dawson McConkey is really stand-out in terms of client service and value for money. Quality of work is high.’

    Key clients

    Firmus Energy

    Evermore Developments Limited

    Octopus Investments Ltd

    AirCore EV Ltd

    DunPort Capital Management (DAC)

    SONI Ltd

    Northern Ireland Electricity Networks

    Causeway Energy Limited

    Bright Energy

    Glenmore Generation

    Work highlights

    • Advised AirCore in relation to its investment in Ireland’s largest EV charging network operator EasyGo to fund an additional 500 Rapid Chargers to its electric vehicle charging network across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
    • Represented SONI Ltd to successfully obtain planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development.
    • Advised the supply and distribution sides of the Firmus Energy business across a broad range of matters, including drafting commercial contracts with 3rd party suppliers, licence compliance, utility regulator queries and every day matters such as network damages, access issues, complaints and debt recovery.

    Real estate > Commercial property Tier 1

    Carson McDowell‘s ‘exceptional practice’ acts on high-value matters across a wide range of sectors, including retail, energy, education and transport. Dawson McConkey leads the team and is highly experienced in acquisitions, disposals and lettings. Emma Cooper advises on contentious and non-contentious matters across Northern Ireland and England and Wales. The team was joined in September 2021 by Richard Dickson, who previously led the commercial property department at Johns Elliot. Mary-Kim Doherty and Chris Phillips are other key names.

    Practice head(s):

    Dawson McConkey


    ‘Excellent at forming and cementing long-lasting relationships. Great at giving practical advice and making complex matters as straightforward as possible.’

    ‘Dawson McConkey has carried out our work for a significant number of years. Very down-to-earth, approachable and reliable.’

    ‘Have found the team to be very efficient and approachable and able to offer advice on all aspects of a transaction.’

    ‘Main contact in the organisation is Mary-Kim Doherty who is technically competent and willing to go the extra mile to provide advice and information to faciltiate any decisions that need to be made.’

    ‘Carson McDowell provides us with a range of legal services covering all aspects from property to business services, construction and litigation. They are an exceptional practice that provides the highest quality advice at all times.’

    ‘Dawson is an exceptional lawyer and manager of his staff. His team’s attention to detail and efficiency was outstanding.’

    Key clients

    The Belfast Harbour Commissioners

    Belfast International Airport

    Ulster University

    McAleer & Rushe

    Queen’s University of Belfast

    Newpark Developments

    South Bank Square


    Investec Bank

    Renewable Energy Systems

    Work highlights

    • Acted for South Bank Square on the multi-million pound sale of a 37 hectare development site in Derry/Londonderry and the drafting, negotiation and agreement of a development agreement with a social housing developer for the phased construction of over 750 dwellings.
    • Acted on behalf of a McAleer & Rushe SPV in the multi-million pound sale of a development site in Belfast City Centre to Belfast City Council.
    • Acted for Turkington Group of a new 7,000 square metre delivery station for Amazon in Portadown, only its second such station in Northern Ireland.

    Real estate > Construction Tier 1

    Carson McDowell‘s specialist construction team is composed of experts in planning, procurement, and health & safety law. The firm is particularly active on social housing, education, and office developments, acting for major infrastructure clients such as Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink. Stuart Murphy leads the team and impresses with over thirty years of experience in contentious and non-contentious work across Northern Ireland and England and Wales. John Dugdale leads on complex and high-value advisory work, but has additional experience in dispute resolution. Associate Gavin Kerr is a name to note.

    Practice head(s):

    Stuart Murphy

    Other key lawyers:


    ‘Knowledge and understanding of key issues.’

    ‘John Dugdale gets to the crux of a problem quickly, nothing phases John.’

    ‘Carson McDowell provides a very comprehensive and thorough service across all their disciplines. They embrace forward- and positive thinking throughout their business practices.’

    ‘Without question John Dugdale is an outstanding individual in his field of expertise.’

    Key clients

    Belfast Harbour Commissioners


    McAleer and Rushe



    Queen’s University, Belfast

    Northern Ireland Electricity Networks

    Education Authority

    Ulster University

    Oakland Holdings

    Work highlights

    • Advised Oakland Holdings on the development of a 175-bed aparthotel close to Belfast City Hall, the first in Belfast.
    • Acting for McAleer & Rushe on the development of a 213,000sq.ft mixed use development in Belfast city centre, which includes the conservation, refurbishment and extension of a listed building and the construction of a new 17-storey tower.
    • Advising Belfast Harbour Commissioners on the development of a major new ferry terminal at Victoria Terminal 2.

    Real estate > Planning and environment Tier 1

    Carson McDowell‘s ‘dedicated, insightful team‘ is the largest in Northern Ireland and acts on contentious and non-contentious matters across myriad industries. Team head Gary McGhee founded the department in 1994 and has since built a reputation for major planning applications, high-profile judicial reviews, and public enquiries. Grant McBurney is another key name, and alongside McGhee is advising Islandmagee Energy Limited on the development of a gas storage project expected to provide 25% of the UK’s capacity. Senior associate Sarah Dunlop has been active on infrastructure developments, while associate Faye Phillips has been developing a specialisation in energy planning.

    Practice head(s):

    Gary McGhee

    Other key lawyers:

    Grant McBurney; Sarah Dunlop; Faye Phillips


    ‘Dedicated, insightful team.’

    ‘Gary McGhee has a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental planning. He has a fantastic work-rate and ethos. He works long days to make sure our milestones are hit.’

    ‘Sarah Dunlop showed brilliant attention to detail, and excellent knowledge of the subject area in reviewing our documentation – a highly capable and motivated solicitor.’

    ‘They think broadly about client strategy and how best to get a good result for the client. Nothing is ever a trouble and however grinding the workload (particularly in the run up to a hearing) they always seem to provide their best.’

    ‘CMcD is a ferocious planning team. They have incredibly experienced and talented lawyers on their team which is not matched by any other team in NI.’

    ‘I would credit Gary McGhee for excellent creative legal and strategic thinking. He really knows how to get the best for a client; and calls on a lot of lateral thinking to formulate the right strategy both for litigation but also taking into account the wider client interests.’

    ‘Gary McGhee continues to be the best planning partner in NI. You will find that whenever a complex high profile planning or environmental case is in the High Court CMcD will be representing at least one of the parties and that is due to the practice Gary has created.’

    ‘Gary MaGhee was the partner we dealt with his wealth of experience and knowledge of the issue was outstanding.’

    Key clients


    Belfast International Airport

    The Port of Belfast

    Island Magee Energy Limited

    Northern Ireland Electricity Networks

    System Operator Northern Ireland

    Breedon Group

    Southern Regional College

    JD Sports

    Elgin Energy

    Work highlights

    • Defended consents granted to Islandmagee Energy Limited to construct and operate underwater gas caverns to store circa 500 million cubic metres of gas off the coast of County Antrim.
    • Challenged the decision to grant planning permission of a new ASDA food superstore in North Belfast.
    • Obtained planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development.

    TMT (technology, media and telecoms) > Intellectual property Tier 1

    Carson McDowell is active on a wide range of high-value contentious and non-contentious matters, covering multiple sectors such as manufacturing, education, pharmaceuticals and sport. The firm is particularly active in the technology sector, with clients including software, agri-tech and fin-tech companies. Declan Magee and Dawn McKnight form the head duo, with Magee acting on a broad range of IP disputes, particularly patent litigation, while McKnight, who is described as an ‘outstanding professional‘, covers non-contentious matters within the department. Peter Guzhar is another key name thanks to his  wealth of experience in the prosecution and defence of trade mark and patent infringement cases.

    Practice head(s):

    Declan Magee; Dawn McKnight

    Other key lawyers:

    Peter Guzhar


    ‘The practice contains laywers that know their information on the top of their head.’

    I would highly recommend this company to anyone, especially the smaller businesses as the value returned surpasses the costs.

    ‘Dawn is approachable, on time and highly organisdd and motivated. She understands our business and IP even though it is not necessarily tangible.’

    ‘For such a large company, I get a boutique service. They have a can do attitude and are very accommodating with their time. Throughout the pandemic their service levels remained very high.’

    ‘Dawn McKnight is an outstanding professional, always “free” with her experience, prompt with her turnaround and knowledgeable about the specific nuances.’

    ‘One of the few genuinely expert firms in IP in NI.’

    ‘Peter Guzhar is one of the top litigation solicitors in NI.’

    Key clients

    MOF Technologies

    University of Ulster

    Arc Regulatory

    Innovation Ulster Limited

    Royal Portrush Golf Club

    STATSports Group

    AquaQ Analytics Limited


    Neuada Limited

    Ulster University

    Work highlights

    • Advising Arc Regulatory on the IP-related aspects of its arrangements with AstraZeneca, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myer Squibb and Roche Molecular.
    • Advising MOF Technologies on protection of its IP when contracting with the likes of BASF Se in Germany.
    • Advising Ulster University on the commercialisation of its IP portfolio whether via academic/commercial collaborations, technology transfers and spin-out companies.

    TMT (technology, media and telecoms) > IT and telecoms Tier 1

    Carson McDowell field a cross-disciplinary team that is active for start-ups and global companies, as well as for major domestic clients, including Ulster University and Ubloquity Limited. The team is led by Dawn McKnight. McKnight is a specialist in cyber security, with a strong reputation for delivering IT due diligence on corporate transactions. Peter Guzhar  leads on contentious matters, with a focus on copyright infringement and licensing disputes related to software matters. Associate solicitor Aisling O’Hare is a key name for non-contentious work.

    Practice head(s):

    Dawn McKnight

    Other key lawyers:

    Peter Guzhar; Aisling O’Hare


    ‘Overall the team has a strong understanding of our business – which is relatively unique. They have built strong relationships with several key personnel across the business, which enables our work with them to be more collaborative than most.’

    Key clients

    STATSports Group Limited

    Fibrus Networks Limited

    Belfast Harbour Commissioners

    Ubloquity Limited


    Ulster University and Innovation Ulster Limited

    Queens University Belfast

    AquaQ Analytics Limited

    Xilinx, Inc

    Interlink Online Limited

    Work highlights

    • Advising STATSports in relation to its technology, the software it uses, the contracts it enters into with  customers and the high-profile investments made in the company by high-profile athletes.
    • Advised the shareholders of Neueda Limited, a global digital solutions consultancy and training company, on the sale of the company to Version 1 Software Limited, an IT service provider.
    • Advised Ulster University on an agreement for the provision of an online, web-based branded networking platform whereby students can upload profiles and ancillary documentation such as CVs to be viewed by prospective employers.

    Finance > Banking and finance Tier 2

    Carson McDowell is a well-respected firm known for expertise in real estate finance, cross-border lending, corporate lending, and energy finance. The department is active across the UK on high-value work, including advising Citibank on the acquisition of a residential mortgage portfolio worth £4.9bn. Team co-head Sinead McGrath was lead partner for this transaction, as well as on other major matters in the leisure, logistics, and manufacturing industries. Damian McElholm joined as co-head in January 2022 from Eversheds Sutherland, bringing with him experience across prominent sectors, including the renewable energy, social housing, and real estate sectors. The department benefits from the work of associates Emma Copeland and Rachel Lewis.

    Practice head(s):

    Sinead McGrath; Damian McElholm

    Other key lawyers:


    ‘Strong local law firm. Lack of national firm locations doesn’t reflect depth and strength of this firm.’

    ‘Sinead McGrath and Damien McElholm deserve particular mention.’

    ‘Sinead has an unrivalled depth of experience in banking and finance, and has built a strong team for delivering client assignments.’

    Key clients

    National Westminster Bank plc/ t/a Ulster Bank

    Danske Bank

    Bank of Ireland

    AIB Group (UK) plc ( trading as First Trust)

    Atom Bank

    Investec Bank

    Cheyne Capital

    BNP Paribas

    Barclays Bank

    Dunport Capital

    Work highlights

    • Advising Linen Mill Studios Ltd, the developer of a landmark new Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, on a £10m loan facility from Barclays Bank plc.
    • Advising NatWest on all Northern Irish law aspects of the sale of Project Mercatus, a portfolio of loans representing debt of over £400m to institutionally owned city centre shopping centres.
    • Advising DunPort Capital in relation to all Northern Irish law aspects of its financing of the EasyGo Group, the largest electric vehicle charging point operator in Ireland.

    Finance > Insolvency and corporate recovery Tier 2

    Carson McDowell‘s ‘outstanding’ practice covers contentious and non-contentious insolvencies, restructurings, and asset recoveries. The team acts for many of Northern Ireland’s leading commercial landlords, shaping strategies on property portfolios worth hundreds of millions. Well-regarded co-heads Darren Toombs and Sinead McGrath are experienced working for significant multinationals. Toombs is a regular attendee at the Bankruptcy Master’s Court and additionally covers debt recovery and banking litigation, while McGrath advises banks, borrowers, and financial institutions on all aspects of solvent and insolvent restructuring. Damian McElholm joined in January 2022 from Eversheds Sutherland, adding his experience in insolvency pieces and enforcement actions. Associate Shane McVeigh is also recommended.

    Practice head(s):

    Darren Toombs; Sinead McGrath

    Other key lawyers:


    ‘The quality of the personnel is outstanding, and clearly some of the best people in the market.’

    ‘Darren Toombs: highly commercial and tactically astute. Richard Grey: exceptional experience and black letter legal knowledge. Declan Magee: a market leader.’

    ‘A strong and experienced team.’

    ‘Darren Toombs is a very efficient and well-regarded partner in insolvency.’

    ‘The team at Carson McDowell has been very helpful in guiding me, and ensured that we work empathetically with individuals, whilst ensuring that all stakeholders requirements are met.’

    ‘I work with Shane McVeigh. I rate his understanding of the situation and ability to respond as I want in a timely manner. Good to work collaboratively with.’

    Key clients

    RSM Belfast

    Grant Thornton Belfast

    Keenan Corporate Finance Limited

    BDO Belfast

    Even Keel Financial Solutions Limited

    Begbies Traynor Belfast

    Belfast Harbour Commissioners

    Work highlights

    • Advised the owners of a major Belfast Office Block on issues arising from the insolvency of the business behind Belfast’s now infamous George Best city centre hotel.
    • Advising Belfast Harbour Commissioners on issues with tenants and occupiers within the Harbour Estate.
    • Advising a major local maritime construction business in relation to Insolvency and Restructuring matters, resulting in the survival of an important trading business, essential to the local economy.

    Ireland > Insurance

    Carson McDowell has continued to develop its Dublin practice following the appointment of Sinéad Keavey as head of the office in November 2020. She is building an offering that leverages the expertise of other senior colleagues that split their time between the firm’s Belfast headquarters and its office in Dublin; this includes Jacqueline McAleese, the head of clinical claims, and clinical negligence specialist Claire Harmer. Personal injury, employer’s liability and public liability claims are also a forte for the team.

    Practice head(s):

    Roger McMillan; Jacqueline McAleese; Sinéad Keavey; Claire Harmer

    Other key lawyers:

    Cathal O’Neill; Sam Francey


    ‘Very efficient, client focused firm. High standard of partners and associates. The detail and clarity of instructions to barristers is second to none.’

    ‘The team is very well managed and there is appropriate supervision of junior members of the team at all times. However, they are also utilised effectively. They are good at discerning what we as an organisation actually want and need from them and they respond appropriately. When necessary they work well with their IT colleagues to come up with solutions to assist. For example, during a recent trial their IT department brought monitors to court and set them up so that the other parties could look at medical scans in a meaningful way.’

    ‘Jacqueline McAleese is a thorough, excellent and incredibly hardworking solicitor. She is a pleasure to work with and for. She utilises a collaborative approach to solving problems arising during the course of litigation. She is smart and practical and a true people person.

    ‘Jacqueline McAleese is an extremely capable lawyer- one of the best I have come across. She is forensic and insightful in her analysis of cases and yet at the same time she is friendly and easy to work with. She always tries to take the pressure off those instructing her. She is definitely someone you would want on your side.’

    ‘Principally I deal with Claire Harmer. She is always prepared to go the extra mile. Her technical knowledge of personal injury litigation is first class. Claire communicates in detail and regularly. She has good social skills and relates well to our clients. Cathal O’Neill is also an excellent solicitor, particularly in handling liability claims and NIHL cases. He is also prepared to take on board our views and that of the client.’

    ‘Claire Harmer: exceptional, expert and always available.’

    ‘Cathal O’Neill: exceptional in knowledge and response times.’

    ‘Sam Francey is very smart, responsive, always available and very hard working. He is a pleasure to work for.’

    Key clients

    Medical Protection Society

    Dental Protection

    Associations of Optometrists

    Faraday Underwriting

    Enstar Group

    Axis Capital Insurance

    Irish Ferries

    Thomas Miller Claims Management

    London P&I Club


    Willis Towers Watson

    Sedgwick (formerly Cunningham Lindsey)

    McLarens Loss Adjusters

    The firm: Carson McDowell LLP is Northern Ireland’s largest commercial law firm with 34 partners and over 200 staff. The firm is one of the few genuinely full-service commercial legal practices in Northern Ireland, and has a considerable reputation built upon its experience and expertise across corporate, banking, mergers and acquisitions, commercial litigation, real estate, energy, renewables, regulation, planning, environment, employment, projects and procurement. The firm continues to be the favoured Northern Ireland counsel to a number of leading law firms in the City of London and internationally. It also has a strategic relationship with Dublin-based law firm, Mason Hayes & Curran, ensuring it can offer an all-island legal solution when required and is uniquely placed to advise on cross-border matters.

    Types of work undertaken
    Banking and finance: the firm has one of the leading specialist banking and finance teams in NI. The team has built sound relationships with financial institutions locally and across the UK and is regularly instructed by leading London law practices. It has extensive experience in project and asset finance, secured, unsecured, senior, mezzanine and subordinated lending, funds, derivatives and insurance.

    Construction: Carson McDowell advises a significant number of the larger Northern Ireland contractors both locally and in relation to their projects throughout the UK and has a long history of providing specialised construction law advice to clients, offering expert advice to contractors, developers, design teams and funders.

    Corporate: the firm’s experience and reputation speaks volumes and it is widely recognised as one of the leading corporate and M&A legal practices in NI. The partner-led team has over 100 years combined experience, delivering a results-driven, problem-solving approach.

    Dispute resolution: this team is distinguished by the number of specialist areas covered and has unrivalled experience in insurance, product liability, personal injury, defamation, planning, environmental and intellectual property. The firm handles commercial litigation work such as contractual claims, employment disputes, contentious corporate insolvency and recovery actions. The firm has considerable judicial review and public law expertise.

    Employment: this dedicated employment team is one of the busiest in Northern Ireland, acting on both contentious and non-contentious matters. It has vast experience acting for respondent companies in the industrial and fair employment tribunals as well as in the civil court system. The firm is a leading adviser on TUPE, senior executive departures, complex disciplinary and grievance issues and drafting and advising on employment contracts and policies.

    Energy: this leading multi-disciplinary team advises on, among other things, project development, finance issues, power purchase agreements, renewables, energy trading and dispute resolution. The team also provides advice on energy regulation, procurement, EU and competition law, environmental law and planning law.

    Intellectual property: the intellectual property team advises on both contentious and non-contentious matters and team members have significant expertise across a number of sectors

    Planning and environmental: this is the largest dedicated planning and environmental teams in Northern Ireland. The firm acts on behalf of a diverse range of clients and is involved in most of the leading planning and environmental judicial reviews currently taking place in NI. Clients are drawn from every sector including: retail, transport, energy, renewables, manufacturing, mining and quarrying.

    Private client: the firm is one of only a small number in NI having a specialist and dedicated private client team. The team advises across a broad range of private client issues, but has particular experience in high-value, complex estate administration and estate planning matters.

    Procurement and competition: Carson McDowell is a leading NI procurement law firm, with a team of five lawyers working across both contentious and non-contentious procurement issues. The team has a wealth of experience advising both public and private sector clients on procurement law, competition and merger control issues.

    Professional negligence: the firm has the largest number of lawyers working in this area in NI and has become a major defence firm in the area of medical negligence, acting for indemnifiers in this field. The firm also acts on behalf of solicitors, architects, engineers and other non-medical professionals.

    Project finance and PFI: this team is highly regarded by peers and clients alike, continuing to advise clients involved in PPP, NPD and large-scale infrastructure projects throughout the UK and Ireland.

    Real estate: this team, incorporating specialist licensing and property litigation sub-teams, is the largest in NI. Core strengths include site assembly and development, investment acquisitions and disposals, and it has an unrivalled stable of retail clients.

    Banking and finance Sinead McGrath
    Corporate Richard Gray
    Commercial Dawn McKnight
    Commercial Gerard Armstrong
    Commercial Richard Gray
    Construction Stuart Murphy
    Construction Declan Magee
    Senior Partner Neasa Quigley
    Dispute Resolution Declan Magee
    Healthcare Roger McMillan
    Dispute Resolution Leigh Linton
    Dispute Resolution Darren Toombs
    Dispute Resolution Hugh McGrattan
    Dispute Resolution Jacqueline McAleese
    Dispute Resolution Peter Guzhar
    Employment Orlagh O'Neill
    Employment Rachel Penny
    Energy Neasa Quigley
    Energy Dawson McConkey
    Intellectual Property Dawn McKnight
    Intellectual Property Peter Guzhar
    Intellectual Property Declan Magee
    Planning and environmental Gary McGhee
    Planning and environmental Dawson McConkey
    Planning and environmental Grant McBurney
    Private client Neil Bleakley
    Procurement and competition Kerry Teahan
    Procurement and competition Declan Magee
    Professional negligence Roger McMillan
    Professional negligence Hugh McGrattan
    Professional negligence Declan Magee
    Project finance and PFI Gerard Armstrong
    Project finance and PFI Michael Johnston
    Real estate Emma Cooper
    Real estate Dawson McConkey
    Real estate Cathy Colton
    Real estate Mary-Kim Doherty
    Construction and Property Litigation John Dugale
    Gerard Armstrong photo Gerard ArmstrongGerard is a member of Carson McDowell’s corporate and projects teams. A…
    Ashleigh Birkett photo Ashleigh BirkettSenior Associate at Carson McDowell LLP, Ashleigh advises and represents companies and…
    Neil Bleakley photo Neil BleakleyPartner in private client department, specialising in administration of estates, wills, trusts,…
    Olivia Carroll photo Olivia CarrollA Senior Associate at Carson McDowell LLP, Olivia defends professionals in a…
    Catherine Carton photo Catherine CartonPartner
    Sarah Cochrane photo Sarah CochraneSarah is a partner in the employment team advising clients on contentious…
    Timothy Cockram photo Timothy CockramTimothy is a senior associate with Carson McDowell LLP. He works closely…
    Emma Cooper photo Emma CooperPartner commercial property. Advises in respect of the acquisition, disposal and leasing…
    Mary-Kim Doherty photo Mary-Kim DohertyPartner in Carson McDowell’s real estate team. Mary-Kim has experience in all…
    Sarah Dunlop photo Sarah DunlopSarah is a Senior Associate at Carson McDowell and specialises exclusively in…
    Richard Gray photo Richard GrayRichard is a partner and heads Carson McDowell’s corporate team. His main…
    Hilary Griffith photo Hilary Griffith
    Peter Guzhar photo Peter GuzharPeter is a partner in the commercial litigation team at Carson McDowell…
    Niall Hargan photo Niall HarganSenior Associate Solicitor in the real estate team advising on the acquisition…
    Michael Johnston photo Michael JohnstonMichael is a consultant at Carson McDowell, having previously been managing partner…
    Gavin Kerr photo Gavin KerrGavin is an associate in Carson McDowell’s Construction and Engineering team. He…
    Leigh Linton photo Leigh LintonPartner and specialises in defending professionals in regulatory proceedings brought by the…
    Francesca Lowry photo Francesca LowryFrancesca is a partner in the litigation department at Carson McDowell LLP…
    Declan Magee photo Declan MageeDeclan is a partner and jointly heads the dispute resolution team. The…
    Rachael McAdorey photo Rachael McAdoreyRachael is a senior associate at Carson McDowell LLP. She specialises in…
    Jacqueline McAleese photo Jacqueline McAleeseJacqueline is a partner in the litigation department at Carson McDowell LLP…
    Grant McBurney photoMr Grant McBurneyPartner. Grant advises on planning and environmental matters with an emphasis on…
    Dawson McConkey photo Dawson McConkeyDawson is a partner at Carson McDowell and advises clients on a…
    Gary McGhee photo Gary McGheePartner with specialist areas of practice in planning and environmental law. Types…
    Sinead McGrath photo Sinead McGrathAs a partner at Carson McDowell, Sinead heads the banking and finance…
    Hugh McGrattan photo Hugh McGrattanPartner
    Dawn McKnight photo Dawn McKnightDawn is a partner in the corporate and commercial team at Carson…
    Roger McMillan photo Roger McMillanManaging partner of Carson McDowell and head of the healthcare team. Considerable…
    Stuart Murphy photo Stuart MurphyStuart heads up Carson McDowell’s construction practice and works on a dedicated…
    Stuart Nelson photo Stuart NelsonStuart is a Senior Associate with Carson McDowell LLP.  Advises corporate, individual…
    Orlagh O'Neill photo Orlagh O'NeillOrlagh is a partner and head of the employment team. She has…
    Orlagh O'Neill photo Orlagh O'NeillOrlagh is a partner and head of the employment team. She has…
    Rachel Penny photo Rachel PennyRachel is a partner in the highly regarded employment team at Carson…
    Chris Phillips photo Chris PhillipsChris is a Partner in Carson McDowell’s real estate team. Chris is…
    Faye Phillips photo Faye PhillipsFaye is a Senior Associate in the Planning and Environmental team at…
    Neasa Quigley photo Neasa QuigleyNeasa is Senior Partner at Carson McDowell. She specialises in mergers and…
    Darren Toombs photo Darren ToombsPartner within the commercial litigation team. Darren heads up the firm’s insolvency,…
    Number of UK Partners : 34
    Number of other UK Lawyers : 120
    Number of female Lawyers : 62