Carson McDowell > Belfast, Northern Ireland > Firm Profile

Carson McDowell
Northern Ireland

Corporate and commercial > Corporate and M&A Tier 1

As a leading Belfast firm, Carson McDowell has longstanding experience in the manufacturing sector and is also becoming a key name in Northern Ireland’s emerging tech sector. Richard Gray heads up the ‘very professional' team and is highly skilled in M&A, corporate finance and competition work. Senior partner Neasa Quigley is a respected name for private equity work, with a particular emphasis on technology and more specifically IT infrastructure. On the manufacturing side, Gerard Armstrong is active in the agri-foods sector, with additional strengths in the waste and construction sectors.

Practice head(s):

Richard Gray

Other key lawyers:

Key clients

Eakin Healthcare Group Limited

Fibrus Limited

James Leckey Design Limited

Options Technology Limited

Armstrong Medical Limited

Mellanox Technologies UK Limited

STATSports Group Limited


SiSaf Limited


Work highlights

  • Advised Eakin on its acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Armstrong Medical Ltd.
  • Advised the successful bidder Fibrus on its successful bid for Project Stratum, the project to deliver full fibre broadband across NI.
  • Advised Mellanox Technologies UK Limited on its purchase of the entire issued share capital of Titan IC Systems Limited.

Northern Ireland > Dispute resolution Tier 1

Carson McDowell’s broad commercial litigation practice has standout strengths in handling procurement challenges as well as assisting manufacturing companies in disputes concerning their commercial agreements with suppliers and other parties. Declan Magee heads the 'professional, efficient and thorough' commercial litigation and dispute resolution team and has extensive experience in procurement challenges, counting Translink as a key client. Another key area of expertise is insolvency litigation, with head of debt recovery Darren Toombs regularly acting on restructuring and debt recovery cases. Commercial litigator Peter Guzhar is another key name in the team; he acted for Tayto in a widely publicised trade mark infringement case against a supplier which was selling the Republic of Ireland’s similarly named yet separate crisps in bars and restaurants in Northern Ireland. Head of insurance Hugh McGrattan and head of construction Stuart Murphy are also highly recommended for disputes in their respective areas of expertise.

Practice head(s):

Declan Magee; Stuart Murphy; Darren Toombs; Hugh McGrattan

Other key lawyers:


‘The team are practical, commercial and costs conscious, in addition to being subject matter experts.’

‘I have always found the team to be very professional, efficient and thorough in everything they do.’

‘A busy practice which is able to provide first-class service to clients.’

Key clients

Tayto Group Limited and Tayto (NI) Limited

Sunday Life (Independent News & Media NI)

Sentence Review Commissioners

Northstone NI Limited


FP McCann Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advised FP McCann on a judicial review against the Department for Regional Development’s decision to treat its tender for the A8 dual carriageway project as abnormally low.
  • Acted for Tayto in highly publicised trade mark infringement proceedings against an unlicensed supplier.
  • Acted for Translink in a procurement challenge to the award of the enabling works for the new Belfast Transport Hub, challenged by an unsuccessful tenderer.

Northern Ireland > Employment Tier 1

Carson McDowell's client roster contains a number of public and quasi-public employers such as Translink, Royal Mail and Ulster University. Orlagh O’Neill leads the 'commercially astute' practice and is also vice chair of the Employment Lawyers Group NI, with a strong reputation for handling contentious employment matters. She works alongside the 'outstandingRachel Penny, who is highlighted for her expertise in TUPE regulations as well as redundancies and reorganisations. Clients have also singled out senior associate Sarah Cochrane for her 'ability to stay abreast of the ever-changing legislation and guidance around the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme'.

Practice head(s):

Orlagh O’Neill

Other key lawyers:


‘Carson McDowell’s employment law team offered a number of helpful free seminars during the pandemic. The employment law team is extremely professional and commercially astute and they focus on the best outcome for clients. They go the extra mile and are a very safe pair of hands.’

‘Rachel Penny and her team are swift negotiators and offer intelligent, pragmatic and concise advice. Rachel herself is an outstanding lawyer to work with. I would recommend Rachel Penny and her team without hesitation.’

‘Carson McDowell has been a valuable source of expert professional advice on a number of complex employee relations issues. They have responded quickly to any queries, even outside of normal business hours, and have attended meetings at short notice when requested.’

‘Orlagh O’Neill continues to provide us with a pragmatic approach to navigating complex employee relations issues. Orlagh understands our organisation, which saves time in arriving at the most appropriate solution for us.’

‘They are very professional and strong technically. I find their can-do attitude to be excellent – it makes a change from the sit-on-the-fence approach, that other employment practices use.’

‘An unparalleled blend of knowledge, expertise and skill, combined with an uncommon sense of pragmatism, in a team that is wonderful to work with and a pleasure to do business with. Nothing that we have thrown at them has fazed them in any way and the level of service has always been exceptional.’

‘Rachel Penny is in a league of her own; indeed others aren’t even playing in the same game. Her knowledge of the law, combined with a sense of understanding of the needs of the client, wrapped up in a personality that is joyous to work with, makes the usual drudge of employment relations and litigation much more of a pleasant experience.’

‘Sarah Cochrane’s ability to stay abreast of the ever-changing legislation and guidance around the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has made our lives considerably easier over the last year. No question was too large or too small and her expertise was always expertly delivered with a smile to go with it.’

Key clients

Ulster University

CDE Global Limited

Royal Mail Group Limited

Grand Opera House Trust


Queen’s University Belfast

Eason & Sons (NI) Limited

Santander plc

Diageo Plc


Dixons Carphone Plc

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Bryson Charitable Group


Eakin Healthcare

Work highlights

  • Advised Queen’s University Belfast on matters including TUPE transfers, complex and sensitive investigations and disciplinary matters.
  • Defending a claim on behalf of Translink in the industrial tribunal which subsequently went to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.
  • Advised various clients, including CDE Global, Lynas Foods, Sketchers Shoes and Invest NI, on the myriad issues surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.

Insurance > Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant Tier 1

Carson McDowell has expertise in both personal injury and clinical negligence matters, with a client roster spanning medical associations, insurers and private companies. Managing partner Roger McMillan leads the medical negligence side with additional expertise in professional indemnity work. Leading the personal injury work is Claire Harmer, whose speciality lies in motor accidents as well as employer and public liability issues. The team also features Jacqueline McAleese, who is an expert in clinical negligence work, and Catherine Carton, who focuses on public and employer liability claims.

Practice head(s):

Roger McMillan; Claire Harmer


‘Excellent client service, market knowledge and most of all delivery of a premium service.’

‘Claire Harmer is client focused, stand out levels of service and strategically astute.’

‘They provide an excellent service with detailed, quality advice. Cases are progressed to a conclusion without any unnecessary delay where possible and a satisfactory outcome is nearly always achieved. They have adapted well to Covid and are available to discuss cases and tactics.’

‘Claire Harmer: Partner – Professional, very responsive – excellent advice and always available to discuss cases.’

Key clients

Medical Protection Society

Dental Protection Limited

Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland

National Pharmaceutical Association

Association of Optometrists

Beazley Group

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Travelers Insurance

Axis Capital



Faraday Insurance

Chubb Insurance

Davies Casualty/Garwyn

TT Club/Thomas Miller Claims Management

Crawfords Specialist Liability Services/Broadspire

Riverstone Insurance

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks Limited

Beale & Co


Work highlights

  • Advised Faraday on a claim involving traumatic amputation of left index finger and serious injury to the plaintiff’s hand.
  • Advised NIE on a property damage claim which arose from laying underground cables.
  • Advised RSA on a claim where a trailer and vehicle were stolen after being left unsecured.

Private client > Personal tax, trusts and probate Tier 1

Carson McDowell operates under the leadership of Neil Bleakley, who is noted for his expertise in private client and charity law. Bleakley also has extensive experience in estate planning and administration work, and his recent workload has involved advising on a number of high-value estates involving complex issues including multiple jurisdictions, and assisting vulnerable people. Fiona Kirkpatrick joined Tughans.

Practice head(s):

Neil Bleakley


‘The discrete professionalism, competence and client chemistry is what in my experience typifies what makes the the firm’s private client team so special.’

‘I have continued to work with Neil Bleakley, Partner in charge of the Trusts and Probate matters. In these areas I would have no reason to approach any other firm.’

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

Carson McDowell has a diverse offering and particularly stands out for its expertise in advising private equity houses on energy investments; it assisted Brookfield Renewables with its investments in Northern Ireland. Other core areas of focus for the group span wind energy work, natural gas mandates and electricity regulations. The team is led by Neasa Quigley, who is an expert in corporate energy deals. Corporate partner Gerard Armstrong is also active in this area, along with planning specialist Gary McGhee, financing expert Sinead McGrath, as well as property experts Emma Cooper and Dawson McConkey.

Practice head(s):

Neasa Quigley

Key clients

Air Core Limited

Firmus Energy

Bright Energy

Belfast Power

Brookfield Renewables

NIE Networks Limited

SONI Limited

RES UK & Ireland

Elgin Energy

Work highlights

  • Advised Air Core on the sale of 11 onshore ROC accredited wind turbines via the purchase of 100% of the issued share capital of Windmills No.3 Limited.
  • Advised the founders of Ever Energy Supply Limited t/a Bright Energy in relation to a private equity investment, and commercial and corporate governance matters.
  • Provided significant and varied advice to the SONI project team in respect of the project management of the North-South interconnector project.

Real estate > Commercial property Tier 1

Carson McDowell acts for clients from Great Britain and the island of Ireland on a wide range of high-value and complex real estate matters. Dawson McConkey heads up the team, which is prominent in high-profile investment transactions, lettings and large-scale development projects. The work covers a number of key sectors, including retail, education, transport, manufacturing, leisure and food and drink. McConkey is notably active in the renewable energy sector. In the offices space, Emma Cooper led the advice to PwC on the negotiation of its £70m lease agreement at Merchant Square in Belfast in 2020. Rosemary Carson, who focuses on development and site assembly work, is particularly noted for her work in the retail sector. Mary-Kim Doherty and recently-promoted partner Chris Phillips are also key individuals.

Practice head(s):

Dawson McConkey


‘Highly approachable team who provide clear, concise advice and are experts at cutting through complicated scenarios and situations to simplify things and achieve results.’

‘Dawson McConkey – exceptional lawyer who brings a common sense solution-focussed approach to achieving the best result for his client.’

‘They were knowledgeable, efficient and helped deliver completion of all transactions within a tight timescale. The fee structure is fair and overall the experience was excellent. Thoroughly recommended.’

‘Dawson McConkey and his team are excellent at what they do and have a strong presence in the market. We dealt mainly with Dawson McConkey – he was very quick to act on all matters and ensure the transactions completed smoothly and without delay. All communication was clear and concise and he was able to give pragmatic solutions and comments on issues where required.’

Key clients

The Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Belfast International Airport

Ulster University

McAleer & Rushe

Queen’s University of Belfast

Mapeley Estates

Rapid7 International


Investec Bank

Renewable Energy Systems

Work highlights

  • Advised Mapeley Estates on the disposal of the iconic Custom House on Belfast’s waterfront.
  • Advised Lagan Investments on its multimillion pound acquisition of the Currys/PC World superstore at Sprucefield, Lisburn.
  • Advised The Belfast Harbour Commissioners on the disposal of the Amazon logistics base in Northern Ireland.

Real estate > Construction Tier 1

Carson McDowell’s team is led by Stuart Murphy, who has nearly 30 years of experience handling non-contentious and contentious construction mandates. John Dugdale and associate Gavin Kerr  are other names to note at the firm, which is a first port of call for challenging projects, with it being able to draw upon expertise in ancillary disciplines, such as procurement, planning and health and safety. In 2020, the group was sought after for advice on matters with a nexus to the social housing and education sectors. In addition, the offices market was another key driver of activity. Notwithstanding the challenges caused by Covid-19, the practice was able to secure new client wins in 2020, in addition to continuing to acting for existing clients. Recent work has included Murphy assisting Linen Mill Studios Limited with the construction contracts and professional team appointments related to a new Game of Thrones Studio Tour visitor attraction.

Practice head(s):

Stuart Murphy 

Other key lawyers:


‘An excellent legal practice with an extremely strong and very capable team. Carson McDowell has provided sound legal advice and guidance to me for many years.’

A strong resilient firm and their response to the public health emergency was seamless in terms of productivity.

Stuart Murphy is a vastly experienced and extremely capable legal expert. Stuart is well versed in dispute resolution and his advice is always very sound.

‘Subject matter expertise and a thorough and practical understanding of construction works’

‘Stuart Murphy is adept at working cheek-by-jowl with construction professionals and lawyers alike to get the job done and the right result.’

‘Carson McDowell are leaders in dealing with real estate and construction matters with a very proactive and positive approach providing us with confidence and reassurance. Nothing is ever a problem – promptness in responding to our queries is always their priority.’

‘Working with John Dugdale, in particular, is a pleasure. John is a very pleasant individual and has great interpersonal skills. His approach is always well planned and thought through.’

‘Carson McDowell have a great team of people who can cope with a project of any size. It is very clear that some of their partners have relationships with many leading retailers and developers. Carson McDowell can tackle a project of any size always in a professional manner.’

Key clients

Belfast Harbour Commissioners


McAleer and Rushe



Queen’s University, Belfast

Actavo (Northern Ireland) Limited

Linen Mill Studios

Ulster University

Oakland Holdings

Work highlights

  • Advising Belfast Harbour Commissioners on its City Quays regeneration project.
  • Acting for Oakland Holdings on the development of a 175-bed aparthotel close to Belfast City Hall.
  • Advising McAleer & Rushe on the development of an £85M 213,000 sq ft mixed-use development in Belfast city centre.

Real estate > Planning and environment Tier 1

Carson McDowell's first-rate practice is led by one of the few planning specialists in the area, Gary McGhee, who has ‘an encyclopaedic knowledge of planning and environmental law’. His recent workload has spanned matters connected with the energy, infrastructure, housing, education and tourism sectors. In 2020, a highlight for the team involved acting for Linen Mills Studios on the planning and environmental law aspects of an application for a Game of Thrones Studio Tour attraction. McGhee works with Grant McBurney, who acts for clients such as Belfast International Airport and Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Senior associate Sarah Dunlop is another key figure, as is associate Faye Phillips.

Practice head(s):

Gary McGhee


‘Very good practice with excellent team who fully understand the workings of our system here in Northern Ireland. They have a great network of contacts who are able to provided expert advise on a vast range of subjects.’

‘They are very focused and approachable with great interpersonal skills.’

‘The team at Carson McDowell are the most formidable in NI. They have a wealth of experience and the largest team which other firms in NI simply can’t compete with. ’

‘Gary McGhee is the partner you want on your side. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of planning and environmental law. A great strategist on large complex cases but is also incredibly personable.’

‘We found the practice to be extremely proactive throughout the process. they were easy to engage with, highly knowledgeable in all aspects of the industry. We were able to carry out all our meetings in these difficult times with ease and they had very good use of technology to ensure that the processes ran smoothly.’

‘Gary McGhee is extremely knowledgeable in the area of planning and has excellent communication skills. He was very assured in all aspects of the case.’

‘They have a flexible approach and are available when needed, they can also flex their approach based on our needs and the needs of our clients, which is invaluable to us as a business.’

Key clients

Linen Mill Studios


Northern Ireland Electricity Networks


Curley Properties Limited

Tesco Stores

Ards & North Down Borough Council

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Belfast International Airport

Royal Portrush Golf Club

Neptune Group

Lough Neagh Sand Traders

Work highlights

  • Advised Linen Mill Studios on its planning applications for a proposed “Game of Thrones” studio tour.
  • Advised a consortium of construction companies on their requests to extract 1.5 million tonnes of sand per year from Lough Neagh.
  • Assisted System Operator Northern Ireland with obtaining planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development.

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

Advising on contentious and non-contentious matters, Carson McDowell is a highly respected name for IP work and recently assisted Linen Mills Studios with its agreement with HBO for the new Game of Thrones tour. The team has also carved out a niche in the university sector, and advises Queens University and Ulster University on IP matters. Other sectors of interest include the life sciences, technology and financial services industries. Co-chair Declan Magee is highly experienced in IP disputes, especially patent litigation. Dawn McKnight also leads the team and advises on the IP aspects of commercial agreements and corporate transactions. Peter Guzhar, who excels in trade mark litigation, is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Declan Magee; Dawn McKnight

Other key lawyers:


‘One of few firms in NI who can genuinely say they are experts in this area. Great client base.’

‘Peter Guzhar – one of few genuine IP experts in NI.’

Key clients

STATSports Group

Linen Mill Studios

Denroy Plastics Group

Ulster University

Queen’s University Belfast

Prestige Insurance Group

Lowe Rental

ARC Regulatory

Tayto Group

Neutron Bidco Limited and Tenzing Private Equity II LP

Work highlights

  • Advising Linen Mill Studios on its ongoing discussions with Warner Brothers regarding the Game of Thrones studio tour.
  • Advising Ulster University on the implications of Brexit for certain IP rights within its portfolio and further development and exploitation issues.
  • Advised the Tayto Group on the successful enforcement of its registered trade marks against an infringing third party.

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

Carson McDowell is a key name in the market for advising on IT infrastructure agreements, most recently assisting Fibrus with Project Stratum, a public initiative to develop broadband across rural areas. The team has also been advising Statsport, which has attracted investment from footballer Raheem Sterling. Dawn McKnight leads the team and excels in IT contracts and software development agreements. The team also has a contentious offering, with Peter Guzhar focusing on copyright infringement and licensing disputes. Associate Aisling O’Hare is a key name for non-contentious work.

Practice head(s):

Dawn McKnight

Other key lawyers:


‘The team is extremely flexible and never fails to go the extra mile when working to deadlines.’

‘The practice is very quick to identify appropriately qualified and experienced individuals who make themselves readily available to discuss issues and to volunteer solutions to even the most complex and confusing situations.’

‘Team members are very personable and patient when it comes to explaining the law and teasing out relevant legal issues, uncertainties and potential solutions.’

‘They strive to ensure that they fully understand the brief and will present options in a concise fashion that encourages further discussion to crystallise the optimum course of action in even the most uncertain of circumstances.’

‘The firm was able to flex to provide a speedy response on a contractual issue where time was of the essence.’

Key clients

STATSports Group Limited

Probit Consulting Limited

ISDM Solutions Limited

Go Testify Limited

Evermore Group

MOF Technologies Limited

Interlink Online Limited

Fibrus Limited


Xilinx, Inc

Work highlights

  • Advised Fibrus Limited in respect of its successful bid for Project Stratum, a £350m investment project which aims to radically transform broadband connectivity across Northern Ireland.
  • Advised Neutron Bidco in respect of its acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Metacompliance Limited, a Northern Ireland based business with substantial expertise in cyber security and data protection.
  • Advising STATSports in relation to the technology it develops and how to protect it, the software it uses, the contracts it enters into with customers and the high profile investments made in the company by footballers Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Finance > Banking and finance Tier 2

Carson McDowell’s standout strengths are in real estate finance, SME lending and project finance. It is frequently instructed to act as the Northern Irish counsel on cross-border finance transactions. Clients include major Irish banks, as well as Citigroup and Bank of America/Merril Lynch. Sinead McGrath, who leads the team, recently advised Linen Mill Studios on its loan facilities from Whiterock Finance towards the development of the Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Northern Ireland. McGrath works with senior associates Emma Copeland (who specialises in real estate finance) and Orla Hanna, who was hired from Baker McKenzie in 2020, and focuses on real estate and energy finance. Associate Fearghal McVey is another key individual.

Practice head(s):

Sinead McGrath


‘The partners we deal with are always available 24/7 and provide extremely pertinent and succinct advice’

‘All the partners go the extra mile to ensure we receive excellent customer service and have always ensured our very tight deadlines.’

‘They are very responsive in terms of timeframes, and also provide detailed, understandable advice and options in areas they have been asked to advise on. People are very easy to deal with and provide recommendations and solutions, while working with clients, understanding their needs.’

‘Have dealt with several of the Carson McDowell team over the years. Specifically on banking and financing, have worked with Sinead McGrath and Fearghal McVey and have always received very timely, knowledgeable advice. The people involved are easy to deal with, making things as straightforward as possible for the client.’

Key clients

Lynn’s Country Foods Limited

AIB Group (UK) Plc

Donegall (Jersey) Limited

Linen Mill Studios


National House Building Council

Bank of America Merrill Lynch International

The National Lottery Community Fund

Danske Bank

Work highlights

  • Advising Linen Mill Studios Ltd, in relation to funding including a loan facility for the development of a landmark new Game of Thrones Studio Tour in Northern Ireland.
  • Advising Lynn’s Country Foods which trades as Finnebrogue Artisan in connection with new loan facilities to support construction of new factory.
  • Advising Citibank on the NI aspects of Northern Irish aspects of a loan portfolio acquisition from UK Asset Resolution.

Finance > Insolvency and corporate recovery Tier 2

Carson McDowell is able to leverage its strengths across a number of disciplines to provide full-service support on the entire ambit of contentious and non-contentious mandates. Its client roster includes insolvency practitioners, banks, corporates and directors. The core restructuring and insolvency team is ably supported by practitioners in areas such as banking and finance, corporate, employment, property and litigation. It is a strong choice for advice on a myriad of complex mandates, including administrations, bankruptcies, receiverships and liquidations. In addition, the group also handles restructurings, as well as debt and asset recovery work. Darren Toombs is highly skilled in insolvency litigation and other recovery-related matters, and he is experienced in advising liquidators, trustees in bankruptcy and administrators. Toombs co-heads the practice with Sinead McGrath, who is knowledgeable about all aspects of solvent and insolvent restructurings.

Practice head(s):

Darren Toombs; Sinead McGrath

Other key lawyers:

Shane McVeigh


‘Legal advice is all about individuals – their competence, their “commerciality” and their ease of relationship. The individuals I have interacted with at Carson McDowell excel in these areas resulting in clear, commercial advice in an efficient and effective manner.’

‘The team stands out among its peers for sector expertise, availability and commerciality.’

‘Darren Toombs stands out for his expert, commercial and pragmatic approach. A stand out practitioner in the area. Trusted by clients and peers.’

‘There is a strong and well regarded team. They have very strong technical background and access to a wide and multi disciplinary practice.’

‘Darren Toombs is very well regarded and is technically very knowledgeable. He is extremely efficient with a turn around time that is second to none. He is excellent at communicating and very commercial in his approach.’

Key clients

Wrightbus Limited (Associated Businesses and Directors)

Van Oord Offshore Wind GMBH

WDR & RT Taggart Limited

Keenan Corporate Finance

HNH Partners

Keenan Corporate Finance

Grant Thornton NI LLP

John Graham Limited


EY Belfast

Work highlights

  • Advising the company and the directors of Wrightbus in an accelerated merger and acquisition process prior to its administration.
  • Advising Van Oord Offshore Wind on a construction matter involving an insolvent party.
  • Advising Belfast Harbour Commissioners at a time when one of their most high profile tenants, Harland & Wolff entered Insolvency.

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 27 partners and over 150 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.

Michael Johnston
Banking and finance Sinead McGrath
Banking and finance Richard Gray
Commercial Dawn McKnight
Commercial Gerard Armstrong
Commercial Richard Gray
Construction Stuart Murphy
Construction Declan Magee
Senior Partner Neasa Quigley
Corporate Richard Gray
Corporate Gerard Armstrong
Dispute resolution Declan Magee
Dispute resolution Roger McMillan
Dispute resolution Leigh Linton
Dispute resolution Darren Toombs
Dispute resolution Hugh McGrattan
Dispute resolution Claire Harmer
Dispute resolution Jacqueline McAleese
Dispute resolution Peter Guzhar
Dispute resolution Olivia O'Kane
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 Rosemary Carson
Real estate Emma Cooper
Real estate Dawson McConkey
Real estate Cathy Colton
Real estate Mary-Kim Doherty
Gerard Armstrong  photo Gerard Armstrong Gerard is a member of Carson McDowell’s corporate and projects teams. A…
Clare Bates  photo Clare Bates Clare works in the healthcare team of the litigation department, and represents…
Ashleigh Birkett  photo Ashleigh Birkett Senior Associate at Carson McDowell LLP, Ashleigh advises and represents companies and…
Neil Bleakley  photo Neil Bleakley Partner in private client department, specialising in administration of estates, wills, trusts,…
Deborah Boyd  photo Deborah Boyd Deborah is an Associate Solicitor in the litigation department at Carson McDowell…
Olivia Carroll  photo Olivia Carroll An associate at Carson McDowell LLP, Olivia defends professionals in a range…
Rosemary Carson  photo Rosemary Carson Consultant, Rosemary specialises in landlord and tenant matters and in particular the…
Catherine Carton  photo Catherine Carton Partner
Sarah Cochrane  photo Sarah Cochrane Sarah is a senior associate in the employment team advising clients on…
Timothy Cockram  photo Timothy Cockram Timothy is a senior associate with Carson McDowell LLP. He works closely…
Emma Cooper  photo Emma Cooper Partner commercial property. Advises in respect of the acquisition, disposal and leasing…
Mary-Kim Doherty  photo Mary-Kim Doherty Partner in Carson McDowell’s real estate team. Advises in respect of the…
Sarah Dunlop photo Sarah DunlopSarah is an Associate at Carson McDowell and specialises exclusively in the…
Richard Gray  photo Richard Gray Richard is a partner and heads Carson McDowell’s corporate team. His main…
Peter Guzhar  photo Peter Guzhar Peter is a partner in the commercial litigation team at Carson McDowell…
Niall Hargan  photo Niall Hargan Associate Solicitor in the real estate team advising on the acquisition and…
Claire Harmer  photo Claire Harmer Partner and specialises in defence litigation. Claire acts for a number of…
Michael Johnston  photo Michael Johnston Michael is a consultant at Carson McDowell, having previously been managing partner…
Fiona Kirkpatrick  photo Fiona Kirkpatrick Associate in the private client team specialising in all areas of private…
Leigh Linton  photo Leigh Linton Partner and specialises in defending professionals in regulatory proceedings brought by the…
Francesca Lowry  photo Francesca Lowry Francesca is a senior associate in the litigation department at Carson McDowell…
Declan Magee  photo Declan Magee Declan is a partner and jointly heads the dispute resolution team. The…
Rachael McAdorey  photo Rachael McAdorey Rachael is a senior associate at Carson McDowell LLP. She specialises in…
Jacqueline McAleese  photo Jacqueline McAleese Jacqueline is a partner in the litigation department at Carson McDowell LLP…
Shauna McAuley  photo Shauna McAuley Senior associate within the Litigation Department specialising in Professional Negligence and Dispute…
Mr Grant McBurney  photo Mr Grant McBurney Partner. Grant advises on planning and environmental matters with an emphasis on…
Dawson McConkey  photo Dawson McConkey Dawson is a partner at Carson McDowell and advises clients on a…
Gary McGhee  photo Gary McGhee Partner with specialist areas of practice in planning and environmental law. Types…
Sinead McGrath  photo Sinead McGrath As a partner at Carson McDowell, Sinead heads the banking and finance…
Hugh McGrattan  photo Hugh McGrattan Partner
Dawn McKnight  photo Dawn McKnight Dawn is a partner in the corporate and commercial team at Carson…
Roger McMillan  photo Roger McMillan Managing partner of Carson McDowell and head of the healthcare team. Considerable…
Laura Menary  photo Laura Menary Laura is a senior associate within the healthcare team. Laura acts on…
Stuart Murphy  photo Stuart Murphy Stuart heads up Carson McDowell’s construction practice and works on a dedicated…
Stuart Nelson  photo Stuart Nelson Stuart is an Associate with Carson McDowell LLP.  Advises corporate, individual and…
Orlagh O Orlagh O"Neill Orlagh is a partner and head of the employment team. She has…
Victoria O'Hara photo Victoria O'HaraSenior Associate in Carson McDowell’s real estate team. Victoria specialises in landlord…
Olivia O'Kane photo Olivia O'KaneOlivia is a partner and head of Carson McDowell’s Media and Entertainment…
Rachel Penny  photo Rachel Penny Rachel is a partner in the highly regarded employment team at Carson…
Neasa Quigley  photo Neasa Quigley Neasa is senior partner and joint head of Carson McDowell’s corporate team.…
Niall Skelton  photo Niall Skelton Associate Solicitor in the insurance litigation team. Niall represents insurers and clients…
Darren Toombs  photo Darren Toombs Partner within the commercial litigation team. Darren heads up the firms debt…
Number of UK partners : 26
Number of other UK fee-earners : 74