Carson McDowell > Belfast, United Kingdom > Firm Profile

Carson McDowell
United Kingdom

Corporate and commercial > Corporate and M&A Tier 1

Carson McDowell‘s team has expertise in the full range of corporate transactions, and is particularly strong in the technology sector. The firm also has experience handling transactions under the new National Security and Investment Act. Team lead Richard Gray, who has been active in the area for more than 30 years, is a respected name for M&A and finance work. Core team members include senior partner Neasa Quigley, who has expertise in the energy and knowledge economy sectors, and M&A and private equity specialists Paul McGuickin and Hilary Griffith. Griffith joined the firm in 2022 from Cleaver Fulton Rankin alongside associate Kathryn Laverty.

Practice head(s):

Richard Gray

Other key lawyers:

Neasa Quigley; Hilary Griffith; Gerard Armstrong; Paul McGuickin; Kathryn Laverty; Rosie Timoney


‘The team at Carson McDowell demonstrate understanding and commercial interpretation combined with an efficiency of response and action which differentiates the team from most other commercial law firms.’

‘The corporate and M&A team at Carson McDowell are very strong in their respective field of expertise, and would be treated more as trusted advisors as opposed to a ‘formal supplier.”

‘Richard Gray exhibits a keen understanding of complex issues, and will always deliver an honest and frank opinion on what would be best for us as a client. Richard’s personable nature also greatly assists in maintaining momentum in projects involving other parties.’

The ability to have both empathy and understanding of our sector and the risks, challenges and opportunities we face daily is exceptional. The depth in the Carson McDowell team is always in evidence when required, with partners acting with humility, focus and unrivalled talent.’

‘Neasa’s great strength is the ability to identify the key commercial points relevant to our company and articulate to non lawyers the potential implications and actions required. This focus allows for a more streamlined process, both from a cost and resource perspective.’

‘Excellent levels of corporate advice, always pitched at the correct level. Very accessible team and excellent response times.’

‘Richard Gray – unrivalled corporate partner in the NI market. Highly commercial thinker and very practical lawyer. Paul McGuckin – excellent corporate partner.’

‘Carson McDowell’s service is superb. They’re commercially minded and customer focused when it comes to M&A. Their advice and the way they run M&A processes is exceptional and unparalleled in our experience in the Northern Ireland market.’

Key clients

SHS Group Limited

Bowmark Capital LLP

Eakin Healthcare Group Limited

Lowe Group

Vinci Energy Holdings Limited

MML Ireland

Lagan Investments Limited

Riverridge Recycling Limited

Fibrus Networks Limited

Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings) Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Bowmark Capital on their investment into the Xperience Group, following a competitive auction process.
  • Acted for shareholders of Decision Time LImited in connection with its acquisition by Advanced Business Software and Solutions Limited.
  • Acted for MML Ireland (MML) in connection with its £11 Million investment in the Vyta Group following a competitive auction process.

Northern Ireland > Dispute resolution Tier 1

Carson McDowell‘s sizable litigation team works across a number of disciplines, providing comprehensive dispute resolution expertise. The group is active in high level and complex matters both within Northern Ireland and internationally, with experience acting in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court. Declan Magee is department head, while Stuart Murphy leads on construction matters, Darren Toombs is head of debt recovery, and Hugh McGrattan heads insurance. Peter Guzhar covers a range of commercial disputes, and has particular specialism in contentious intellectual property matters. John Dugdale is a key name for construction and real estate litigation. Senior associate Lucy Clarke, who is dual qualified in Northern Ireland and England and Wales, leads the English litigation team.

Practice head(s):

Declan Magee; Stuart Murphy; Darren Toombs; Hugh McGrattan

Other key lawyers:


‘The practice is unique in that they blend legal competency with commercial awareness which is what we look for in a law firm. They are concise, efficient, thoughtful and continually follow up. Compared to other firms we have used they are head and shoulders above.’

‘Peter Guzhar is an exceptional lawyer. He provides clear, concise advice and is not afraid to provide his opinion. He appreciates that the decision lies with the client but will provide all information necessary for the client to give an informed decision.’

Key clients


DAF Trucks

A utilities provider

Sentence Review Commissioners

An operator in the plumbing, heat and air conditioning industry

Mediahuis UK Limited

A transport, storage and distribution company

A construction main contractor

Two former shareholder of a large construction company

A global manufacture of screening machines

Work highlights

  • Advised a global manufacturer of adhesives for the commercial and consumer construction sectors in a dispute with a competitor.
  • Advised one of NI’s main utilities provider in a contractual dispute in relation to the provision of their fleet vehicles.
  • Defended an urgent injunction seeking to prevent Mediahuis UK Limited, publisher of Sunday Life, from publishing an article in relation to the leadership of a paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, with costs being awarded to Mediahuis.

Northern Ireland > Employment Tier 1

Carson McDowell's team caters to prominent domestic and multinational clients, with experience in the full spectrum of employment law. The group has notable strength in contentious matters, particularly complex workplace investigations. Team lead Orlagh O’Neill has more than 20 years' experience in the practice area, and works for a diverse range of public and private sector clients. Rachel Penny, described by clients as being 'in a league of her own', is noted for her expertise in TUPE, restructuring, and senior executive recruitment, incentive, and severance arrangements. Sarah Cochrane, who is dual qualified in Northern Ireland and England and Wales, made partner in September 2022.

Practice head(s):

Orlagh O’Neill

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Penny; Sarah Cochrane; Hannah McGrath


‘Carson McDowell are a pragmatic, customer driven legal firm with exceptional talent across all disciplines. They focus on relationship management, understanding the needs of the client to provide an exceptional level of quality and service.’

‘Rachel Penny is in a league of her own. An exceptional legal mind coupled with pragmatism and a personality that is endearing. She is so focussed on the needs of the client that she has become like one of the family.’

Key clients

The English Bar Offshore


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

SHS Group

Eakin Healthcare Group

Currys Group

Work highlights

  • Advised Queen’s University Belfast on senior management restructuring, industrial action, the defence of numerous industrial and fair employment tribunal claims, a wide-ranging policy review, complex and sensitive investigations, whistleblowing allegations and disciplinary matters.
  • Advised Bowmark Capital on the employment aspects of its investment in the Xperience Group.
  • Advised SHS Group on restructuring/re-organisation projects which included collective consultation, redundancy obligations and changes to terms and conditions.

Insurance > Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant Tier 1

Carson McDowell‘s dedicated personal injury and clinical negligence teams provide clients with ‘prompt and detailed service’, with experience acting in the full range of matters. The clinical negligence group is jointly led by managing partner Roger McMillan, who is active in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and Jacqueline McAleese, who focuses on high-value birth injury, expedited cancer, and complex cervical cancer mandates. Catherine Carton and Cathal O’Neill lead the personal injury team, with Carton particularly active in the retail, engineering, education and social housing sectors, while O’Neill is noted for his expertise in industrial disease claims, including asbestos-related matters.

Practice head(s):

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

Other key lawyers:

Anna Haines-Smith


‘A very prompt and detailed service is always provided.’

‘The team has a wide breadth of experience and there is excellent collaboration across the different teams within the firm. I find the team very approachable and quick to respond to any queries.’

‘The individuals I work with pay great attention to detail, with any advice being comprehensive yet easy to follow. I value how approachable the solicitors are, they are easily contactable and willing to discuss any issues.’

‘This team is particularly well recognised in clinical negligence, with a very broad and experienced team.’

‘Roger McMillan is very well regarded and one of the leading lawyers in this area of practice.’

‘The casualty/personal injury team have always provided comprehensive advice on legal liability, causation, quantum and tactics to achieve the best resolution for their clients at the earliest opportunity.’

‘Catherine Carton provides excellent guidance on personal injury claims in Northern Ireland and has very good interpersonal skills when dealing with both defendants and their insurers.’

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 Adjustors/Broadspire

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks Ltd

Beale & Co


Stena Line


Work highlights

  • Acted in defence of an employer’s liability claim on behalf of an insurer (Riverstone) which had declined policy indemnity in the case due to a failure to report the accident as per the terms of the insurance policy.
  • Defending a series of cases arising out of alleged carbon monoxide poisoning at domestic premises for NIE Networks Ltd.
  • Defending a public liability claim for Enstar where the claimant fell from a defective ladder provided by her building contractor, the claim having significant potential elements of fraud.

Private client > Personal tax, trusts and probate Tier 1

Carson McDowell is a prominent name for its work in high-value and complex matters, with expertise in wills and trusts, as well as advising in relation to mental capacity matters. The group also has experience in contentious estate matters. Neil Bleakley, who has led the department since 2002, is well known for his expertise in estate planning and administration. Senior associate Andrew Davidson, who has experience in the preparation of wills and the implementation of trusts, and associate Naomi Lamont, who joined from Elliott Duffy Garrett in 2021, are names to note.

Practice head(s):

Neil Bleakley

Other key lawyers:


‘Neil Bleakley heads up a very impressive and improving private client team of solicitors and assistant solicitors.’

‘Neil brings a wealth of experience to his specialist area and can therefore offer a range of solutions to the challenges and needs presented by clients. Neil is attentive and also sensitive when dealing with the personal affairs of his clients, and takes a close personal interest in each case that he deals with.’

‘Carson McDowell makes clients feel at ease and can deal with all matters pertaining to their personal affairs.’

‘I mainly deal with Neil Bleakley who provides excellent advice to clients and is relaxed and knowledgeable when I have introduced clients to him.’

‘Attention to detail is excellent here, with a real personal touch to relationships.’

‘Neil Bleakley has worked in this area for many years and is rightly proud of the expertise, care and diligence he brings to his client relationships.’

‘The practice demonstrates capability, proactive approach, reliability together with up-to-date technical expertise.

‘This is a long-established and highly reputable legal practice with a very broad range of experience and expertise across a wide spectrum of legal services. This background offers clients confidence that their affairs will be dealt with professionally, effectively and efficiently.’

Work highlights

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

Carson McDowell acts for a broad range of energy clients, including utilities, electricity network owners and operators, and conventional and renewable generators. The group works as part of the firm’s full service offering, and offers comprehensive coverage of real estate, corporate, banking, and regulatory matters. Senior partner Neasa Quigley is team lead, and specialises in M&A and equity funding work. Core team members include planning expert Gary McGhee, real estate specialist Emma Cooper, and Dawson McConkey, a key name for on-shore wind farm projects. Senior associate Le-ann Campbell specialises in mergers and acquisitions, and is experienced in the renewable energy sector.

Practice head(s):

Neasa Quigley

Other key lawyers:

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


‘They are professional, punctual and have the same attention to detail be it a small or large transaction. The team are very professional, always at the end of a phone and never miss a deadline.’

‘The renewable team is headed by Neasa Quigley who is just outstanding in her field.’

‘The team has a broad range of skills and knowledge and are efficient and helpful at all times. They have excellent contacts within their industry.’

‘They are extremely knowledgeable, professional and helpful. They are accessible and available when needed, with impressive response times. Neasa Quigley requires specific mention as she provides an excellent, professional service at all times.’

‘The team at Carson McDowell are dynamic and responsive with a genuine collaborative and tailored approach to the required scope or task. Having access to a wide breadth of expertise within one firm provides confidence and connection as required.’

‘Neasa Quigley and Le-Ann Campbell bring vast experience in what is a highly technical and challenging sector. They understand both the policy and commercial landscape and provide honest and clear advice on all elements of deal structure.’

‘Commercial, pragmatic, approachable, collaborative.’

‘Neasa Quigley – commercial, highly skilled, approachable.’

Key clients

Firmus Energy

Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company t/a Translink

Newry Energy Storage Limited

Firmus Energy

Evermore Energy

Renewable Energy Systems

Islandmagee Energy Limited (part of Harland &Wolff Group Holdings PLC)



Glenmore Generation

Work highlights

  • Advising the Firmus Energy business on the Energy Price Guarantee Scheme for domestic customers introduced by BEIS that Firmus was obliged to join in response to the cost of energy crisis.
  • Advising Islandmagee Storage Limited in relation to the judicial review proceedings launched against its recently approved Marine Licence, Discharge Consent and Abstraction Licence obtained to construct the Gas Storage Project. Planning Permission has previously been successfully obtained.
  • Advising RES, a longstanding client in respect of the disposal of a consented eleven wind-turbine in County Londonderry to ERG SPA. Subsequent to sale, RES have been retained by the buyer to develop out the 47MW project, with construction due to begin in 2024.

Real estate > Commercial property Tier 1

Carson McDowell‘s large team of real estate specialists covers a diverse range of sectors, including retail, education, manufacturing, and leisure. The group acts for prominent national and international clients, in addition to private clients and local companies. Team lead Dawson McConkey has expertise in acquisitions, disposals, and lettings, and is a leading name in the renewable energy market. Emma Cooper is dual qualified in Northern Ireland and England and Wales, and advises public and private sector landowners and funds in all real estate matters. Richard Dickson is a key contact for site acquisitions, landlord and tenant matters, and project finance. Chris Phillips and Mary-Kim Doherty are core team members.

Practice head(s):

Dawson McConkey


‘Outstanding people with a huge range of skills, experience and knowledge.’

‘Great quality service with sector leading response times.’

‘Dawson McConkey provides an excellent service and has a thorough knowledge of the NI property sector demonstrated in his ability to navigate negotiates and provide robust solutions, to often complex cases.’

‘Partner-led service. Very strong in renewables. Friendly and approachable. High quality. Collaborate well with business.’

‘Dawson McConkey – commercial, pragmatic, approachable, diligent.’

‘My experience with Carson McDowell is that I have always found them to be helpful, knowledgeable, and willing to help, sometimes to very tight timescales. I do think that billings are fair and reasonable.’

‘We have dealt specifically with Mary-Kim Doherty for the past 10 years, and she has always provided an exceptional level of service and technical ability, introducing other disciplines in the firm when the need arises. They to have been very efficient and knowledgeable on their subject matter.’

Key clients

The Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Queen’s University of Belfast

Belfast International Airport

Ulster University

McAleer & Rushe

Heitman (London)

Newpark Developments

South Bank Square

Renewable Energy Systems

Forestside Acquisitions Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised on the purchase of two Belfast properties as part of Project Lough, an Ireland-wide, corporate-led project in relation to the acquisition of an Irish self-storage business by Heitman for in excess of €100m.
  • Advised McAleer & Rushe’s SPV ES Little Vic Street Limited on its multi-million pound disposal of a site benefitting from a planning consent for a 15-storey purpose built student accommodation building.
  • Advised both Ulster University and the Belfast Harbour Commissioners in respect of a Development Agreement for Lease for the construction and fit-out of ‘Studio Ulster’, the first Virtual Production Studio in Northern Ireland.

Real estate > Construction Tier 1

Carson McDowell's large team of dedicated construction law specialists offers comprehensive expertise in planning, procurement, and health and safety, in addition to contractual and dispute resolution matters. The group has broad sector expertise, with areas of strength including social housing, education, and the agri-food sector. Heading the team is Stuart Murphy, who has significant experience working in both contentious and non-contentious matters across Northern Ireland and England. John Dugdale is experienced in litigation and arbitration, and advises on the project delivery process of high value and complex mandates from end to end. Associate Gavin Kerr is a key name.

Practice head(s):

Stuart Murphy

Other key lawyers:


‘The construction team are well versed in contemporary issues, always commercially astute and provide clients with value for money.’

‘John Dugdale – really excellent demeanour, very approachable and makes sense from madness. Stuart Murphy – very experienced, can quickly cut to the chase of the issues that matter.’

Key clients

Belfast Harbour Commissioners


McAleer and Rushe



Queen’s University, Belfast

Royal County Down Golf Club

Education Authority

Ulster University

Oakland Holdings

Work highlights

  • Acting for Queen’s University Belfast in relation to several major projects being funded under the Belfast Region City Deals scheme, including the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
  • Representing John Graham Construction in a significant ICC arbitration and other related proceedings arising out of a renewable energy project.
  • Acting for Historic Royal Palaces in proceedings arising out of works to a unique major historic building in Northern Ireland.

Real estate > Planning and environment Tier 1

Carson McDowell fields a large team of planning specialists, with experience in planning applications, judicial reviews, and public enquiries for a broad range of major planning and environmental matters. Team lead Gary McGhee, who has almost 30 years’ experience, and initially founded the department in 1994, is a recognised expert in the field, and covers both contentious and non-contentious matters. Grant McBurney is a key name for waste and contaminated land matters. Also prominent within the team are senior associate Sarah Dunlop, who has experience in infrastructure developments, and senior associate Faye Phillips, who specialises in renewable energy.

Practice head(s):

Gary McGhee

Other key lawyers:


‘The planning and environment team is widely regarded as the leading planning team in Northern Ireland. This is a long-established specialist team with a very loyal client base in the property and residential development sector. The judicial review specialist lawyers are particularly sought after for planning judicial reviews.’

‘Gary McGhee – superb planning lawyer with unrivalled specialist experience in his field. Extensive and invaluable contacts in various planning chambers in London.

Grant McBurney – excellent partner in the planning team. Has worked alongside Gary McGhee for many years and is highly competent in his specialism.’

‘This is the best planning legal team in Northern Ireland and would rank very well in the comparison to legal teams in the UK generally. They have considerable experience, skill at advisory work and litigation tactics and provide an excellent service to their clients. They are also a great team to deal with and to work with.’

‘Gary McGhee is an outstanding planning lawyer – very experienced, quick thinking, tactically shrewd and with great client skills. His teamwork is outstanding, and he is always very easy to deal with.’

‘Grant McBurney is also excellent, though a more junior planning partner than Gary. Also excellent, both in terms of good legal advice and sound tactical thinking, client care and communication. As with all the Carson McDowell planning team, the teamwork is excellent.’

‘Highly-capable and experienced team. Always willing to work to demanding timescales.’

‘Gary McGhee and Sarah Dunlop are the staff I engage with most. Both are excellent legal professionals, and experts in their field.’

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

Ards and North Down Borough Council

Elgin Energy

Work highlights

  • Defended consents granted to Island Magee Energy Limited to construct and operate underwater gas caverns to store circa 500 million cubic metres of gas off the coast of County Antrim.
  • Instigated legal proceedings challenging the lawfulness of a decision to grant planning permission for a new ASDA food superstore in North Belfast. The permission was granted by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council and was the subject of a High Court hearing in 2021.
  • Obtained planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development. The permissions authorise the construction of 34km of pylons and the largest infrastructure project in Northern Ireland.

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

Carson McDowell has expertise in both contentious and non-contentious IP matters, and is highly active across UK jurisdictions and internationally. Declan Magee and Dawn McKnight co-lead the department. Magee leads on IP disputes, and has particular expertise in the electronics and engineering sectors, while McKnight heads the non-contentious group, and specialises in the manufacturing, technology, and life sciences industries. Peter Guzhar is a key name for contentious IP matters, with experience in the prosecution and defence of trademark and patent infringement proceedings. Senior associate Helen Cosgrove is a name to note.

Practice head(s):

Declan Magee; Dawn McKnight

Other key lawyers:


‘The service that was provided was personal and tailored precisely to our needs, and so we were very pleased with the outcome.’

‘The team is agile and willing to support our business as the work comes in.’

‘Dawn is methodical, approachable and clear. If there are any terms or nuances we don’t understand, she is there to explain to our level of thought. She is wonderful to work with.’

‘From my initial contact with the team at Carson McDowell, their response was speedy and empathetic. They proved capable of very quickly and accurately assessing our particular difficulties and promptly issued a clear action plan to deal with same. The plan was meticulously followed and executed just as swiftly.’

‘In my dealings with both Peter and Helen, I was left in no doubt that the knowledge and expertise they had in this field coupled with their operational efficiency and responsiveness meant that I was in extremely good hands. It doesn’t get any better!’

‘Carson McDowell are very attentive and commercially minded. They just understand what we want as a business from our IP portfolio.’

‘Carson McDowell are a pragmatic, customer focussed firm with expertise in all disciplines.’

‘Peter Guzhar is an expert in his discipline who puts the client first. His expert guidance has smoothed many a potentially bumpy road.’

Key clients

Prestige Insurance Holdings Limited

Angel Eyes NI Services

Ulster University

Options Technology Limited

Kilwaughter Minerals Limited

Royal Portrush Golf Club

AquaQ Analytics Limited

Education Authority

Aiguille Investments Limited

BSG Civil Engineering Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising the Education Authority on its procurement of strategic partner services and school management system solution for the Education Information Solutions Programme (to replace C2K).
  • Advising Ulster University on the commercialisation of its IP portfolio whether via academic/commercial collaborations, technology transfers or spin-out/spin-in companies.
  • Advising the Prestige Insurance Group on its trademark Portfolio.

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

Carson McDowell‘s cross-disciplinary team acts for prominent clients in a range of contentious and non-contentious matters. The department has particular strength in the area of cybersecurity, and provides thought leadership in this area. Litigator Declan Magee co-leads alongside Dawn McKnight, who is a cybersecurity expert with experience in the negotiation of ICT contracts and software development agreements. Peter Guzhar is a key contact for contentious commercial, corporate, and IT matters. Senior associate Helen Cosgrove specialises in contractual telecommunications disputes.

Practice head(s):

Dawn McKnight; Declan Magee

Other key lawyers:


‘The Carson McDowell team bring solutions to problems and have a range of resources that they can call on to cover all potential eventualities. The team work with us collaboratively to ensure we deliver the best outcomes in a legally compliant way.’

‘Each of the individuals in the Carson McDowell team have their own particular strengths and capabilities which we as a client require.’

Key clients

Education Authority

Fibrus Networks Limited

Belfast Harbour Commissioners


Ubloquity Limited

Ulster University and Innovation Ulster Limited

Queens University Belfast

AquaQ Analytics Limited

STATSports Group Limited

Veriteer Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advising the Education Authority on its procurement of strategic partner services and school management system solution for the Education Information Solutions Programme (to replace C2K).
  • Advising Firmus Energy on its contract with a new cloud-hosting provider and associated SaaS arrangements.
  • Advising Ubloquity on its global customer contracts which are drafted to reflect the blockchain technology which sits behind Ubloquity’s services.

Finance > Banking and finance Tier 2

Carson McDowell's 'professional, knowledgeable, articulate' team is active on banking matters across numerous key sectors, including energy and renewables, manufacturing, healthcare and logistics. Team lead Sinead McGrath, described by clients as 'knowledgeable, responsive and efficient', has a broad practice which covers acquisition finance, real estate finance, and general corporate lending. Damian McElholm, who joined from Eversheds Sutherland in January 2022, has experience in debt restructuring, security enforcement strategies, and loan sale transactions. Associate Rachel Lewis acts for domestic and international clients.

Practice head(s):

Sinead McGrath


‘Market leading commercial acumen and interpersonal skills make Carson McDowell a unique practice.’

‘Always available, willing to proactively solve complex legal problems whilst maintaining strong client relationships. Sinead McGrath and Damien McElholm are very strong.’

‘Sinead McGrath is exceptional – very knowledgeable, responsive and efficient.’

‘The team are professional, knowledgeable, articulate and are easy to discuss complicated matters with. They get on with the job and are very responsive and only seek guidance where required.’

‘They are very knowledgeable and know what they are talking about. They explain issues and discuss these in detail to ensure the best outcome. They are approachable, and their work is always of a high standard.’

Key clients

The Governor and Company of Bank of Ireland / Bank of Ireland (UK) plc

Northern Bank Limited trading as Danske Bank

AIB Group (UK) plc

Barclays Bank plc

National Westminster Bank plc trading as Ulster Bank


WhiteRock Capital Partners LLP

European Investment Bank

JP Morgan

Work highlights

  • Acted as local NI Counsel to Heitman, a global real estate investment management firm, in relation to its €125,000,000.00 investment in U Store It, the island of Ireland’s largest self-storage platform.
  • Advised Allied Irish Banks, p.l.c. in relation to the NI aspects of the funding of the acquisition by Cardinal Capital (an Irish private equity growth fund) of a majority stake in Uform (a Northern Ireland-based manufacturer of kitchen doors and furniture).
  • Acted as NI advisers to Davidson Kempner in respect of a residential mortgage-backed securitisation, which was backed by a pool of buy-to-let, owner-occupied and right-to-buy mortgage loans from across the UK.

Finance > Insolvency and corporate recovery Tier 2

Carson McDowell‘s team acts on a broad range of restructuring and insolvency matters for prominent domestic and international clients. The group also handles contentious insolvencies, financial litigation, and asset recovery matters. Team lead Darren Toombs has experience acting for liquidators, trustees in bankruptcy and administrators on recovery matters, and has expertise in financial litigation. Sinead McGrath advises clients on all aspects of solvent and insolvent restructuring.

Practice head(s):

Darren Toombs

Other key lawyers:


‘Exceptional knowledge and commerciality.’

‘In depth knowledge of the law, commercial and pragmatic.’

‘This is a strong team with a depth of knowledge and is widely recognised.’

‘Darren Toombs is very efficient, diligent and competent in dealing with all insolvency related matters.’

‘Carson McDowell dealt with my company when it was under stress, and I can only praise them for how they dealt with everything. I had Darren Toombs from the Carson McDowell team; he did a very professional job.’

‘Darren Toombs was very professional and explained everything; his knowledge was the key factor why I am still in business today.’

‘All the individuals I have worked with have been professional and competent.’

‘Good technical knowledge with plenty of support. Ability to handle large and complex matters.’

Key clients

Directors of Wrightbus Limited and Wrights Group Limited

Cavanagh Kelly & Active Maintenance Services Limited

Grant Thornton Belfast


RSM Belfast

Insolvency Practitioners – BDO Belfast

Keenan Corporate Finance

Medical Protection Society

Work highlights

  • Acting for various directors and alleged de facto directors of Wrightbus in defending Director Disqualification actions. The largest Director Disqualification action ever brought in N Ireland.
  • Acting in a significant share restructure for AIB by way of an application to the High Court in N Ireland for a reduction in issued share capital.
  • Acting for Cavanagh Kelly Insolvency Practitioners in relation to the Administration of Active Maintenance Solutions Limited a large provider of maintenance contracts to the NIHE.

Ireland > Healthcare and life sciences

Carson McDowell, the Belfast-based firm, has brought its extensive clinical negligence defence expertise to the Dublin market. Growing its team in recent years, and with a number of Belfast-located practitioners also spending time in the Dublin office, it has gained considerable traction in the Irish market. Clients include the Medical Protection Society and Dental Protection. Sinéad Keavey leads the Dublin office and has extensive experience in defending healthcare professionals and indemnifiers. Kathleen Byrne is another key clinical negligence defence specialist, having joined the office from Clyde & Co in 2022. Jacqueline McAleese splits her time between Belfast and Dublin.

Practice head(s):

Sinéad Keavey

Other key lawyers:

Roger McMillan; Jacqueline McAleese; Leigh Linton; Francesca Lowry; Kathleen Byrne; Ciara Hanratty


‘I am familiar with the Dublin office. It is a small but strong team. There is an excellent balance of fighting hard for clients where possible and pragmatism when necessary.’

‘Sinead Keavey is an excellent addition. Ciara Hanratty is excellent in quickly grasping the essentials of a case and analysing strengths and weaknesses.’

Key clients

Medical Protection Society

Dental Protection

Associations of Optometrists

Work highlights

Ireland > Insurance

Carson McDowell has a giant insurance practice split between its Dublin and Belfast offices. It has a formidable presence in clinical negligence, with further expertise in personal injury. Much of the Dublin team’s work centres on representing the Medical Protection Society. Head of clinical claims Jacqueline McAleese works across both Dublin and Belfast and continues to defend large claims in Ireland. Managing partner and head of healthcare Roger McMillan also practises in both jurisdictions. Head of the Dublin office Sinéad Keavey is a senior name in clinical negligence defence, along with fellow Dublin partner Kathleen Byrne.

Practice head(s):

Roger McMillan; Jacqueline McAleese; Sinéad Keavey; Francesca Lowry; Kathleen Byrne; Cathal O’Neill; Catherine Carton


‘This is a fantastic cross-border practice that puts a big emphasis on providing sound and timely advice to a large range of corporate clients.’

‘Cathal O’Neill is meticulous in his preparation, always ensuring every angle is covered when it comes to briefing Counsel and so as to provide the best possible advice to his clients.’

‘Cathal O’Neill is very proactive in a plaintiff-favourable jurisdiction. Certainly obtains the best results for his clients.’

‘I would work closely with a number of solicitors within the firm. I feel we are always kept up to date with our cases and the team is always available if we have any queries. The team is very approachable and helpful and always comes back in a timely manner.’

‘Each solicitor is the firm is very helpful and always willing to go that bit extra to help out if they can. They provide clear advice and rationale for their reserves. Over the years, we have developed a very good relationship with this firm and I can honestly say they provide a great service.’

‘Carson McDowell has a deep understanding of our sector and are a trusted defence firm. We have a longstanding relationship with them. We have no hesitation in instructing them to defend various types of claims – from RTA liability disputes, injury and credit hire, to employers and public liability, including disease claims. We trust Carson McDowell will use their expertise to defend our claims in order to achieve the best outcome. They have also delivered various training seminars to help up-skill our people.’

‘We work closely with Cathal O’Neill and Catherine Carton and have built strong relationships with them and their team. We trust them implicitly and know they are working to achieve the best outcome for us on our cases.’

‘What makes the practice unique is their personal approach. We have a great working relationship and it’s never an issue to get in contact with them and emails are responded to promptly. Carson McDowell have completed several training sessions on market trends and changes and the feedback has been extremely positive. Cathal O’Neill and Catherine Carton’s team have been invaluable in defending cases and providing technical advice.’

Key clients

Medical Protection Society

Dental Protection

Associations of Optometrists

Irish Ferries


Willis Towers Watson

Sedgwick (formerly Cunningham Lindsey)

McLarens Loss Adjusters

Work highlights

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.

Department Name Email Telephone
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
Photo Name Position Profile
Gerard Armstrong photo Gerard Armstrong Gerard is a member of Carson McDowell’s corporate and projects teams. A…
Neil Bleakley photo Neil Bleakley Partner in private client department, specialising in administration of estates, wills, trusts,…
Olivia Carroll photo Olivia Carroll A Senior Associate at Carson McDowell LLP, Olivia defends professionals in a…
Catherine Carton photo Catherine Carton Partner
Sarah Cochrane photo Sarah Cochrane Sarah is a partner in the employment team advising clients on contentious…
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. Mary-Kim has experience in all…
John Dugdale photo Mr John Dugdale John Dugdale is a Partner in Carson McDowell specialising in construction and…
Sarah Dunlop photo Sarah Dunlop Sarah is a Senior Associate at Carson McDowell and specialises exclusively in…
Richard Gray photo Richard Gray Richard is a partner and heads Carson McDowell’s corporate team. His main…
Hilary Griffith photo Hilary Griffith
Peter Guzhar photo Peter Guzhar Peter is a partner in the commercial litigation team at Carson McDowell…
Niall Hargan photo Niall Hargan Senior Associate Solicitor in the real estate team advising on the acquisition…
Michael Johnston photo Michael Johnston Michael is a consultant at Carson McDowell, having previously been managing partner…
Gavin Kerr photo Gavin Kerr Gavin is an associate in Carson McDowell’s Construction and Engineering team. He…
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 partner in the litigation department at Carson McDowell LLP…
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…
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…
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 a Senior Associate with Carson McDowell LLP.  Advises corporate, individual…
Orlagh O'Neill photo Orlagh O'Neill Orlagh is a partner and head of the employment team. She has…
Orlagh O'Neill photo Orlagh O'Neill Orlagh is a partner and head of the employment team. She has…
Rachel Penny photo Rachel Penny Rachel is a partner in the highly regarded employment team at Carson…
Chris Phillips photo Chris Phillips Chris is a Partner in Carson McDowell’s real estate team. Chris is…
Faye Phillips photo Faye Phillips Faye is a Senior Associate in the Planning and Environmental team at…
Neasa Quigley photo Neasa Quigley Neasa is Senior Partner at Carson McDowell. She specialises in mergers and…
Darren Toombs photo Darren Toombs Partner 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