Cleaver Fulton Rankin > Belfast, Northern Ireland > Firm Profile

Cleaver Fulton Rankin
Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland > Dispute resolution Tier 1

With 'broad sector experience and the ability to manage numerous cases', Cleaver Fulton Rankin is a reputed name for construction and procurement disputes in particular, with a client roster consisting of major banks, public bodies and construction companies. Practice head Patrick Fleming excels in these particular fields, and acts in arbitrations, adjudications and mediation. Firm managing director Jonathan Forrester, who is described as a 'clear communicator', has a similar focus on property and construction disputes, with additional skills in probate and trust cases. Lisa Boyd, a 'solicitor of the highest calibre who is the consummate professional', is a key name for procurement litigation and quite uniquely holds a postgraduate degree specifically in public procurement.

Practice head(s):

Patrick Fleming

Other key lawyers:


‘Broad sector experience and the ability to manage numerous cases, ensuring case deadlines and court appearance dates are met. ’

‘This teams’s innovation (especially tech-related) means a higher quality of service for less time and money on our part. They really are determined to disrupt the market to make their service better and it’s great to be involved when working with them.’

‘There is a culture of working together with their clients – their approach is really constructive in getting to where we need to be, with our needs always coming first.’

‘CFR develop relationships with their clients, get to know their clients’ businesses and provide advice based on this knowledge. Their procurement expertise is of the highest calibre – they keep themselves up to date with case law and are then able to provide up-to-date advice based on the latest case law.’

‘I have worked closely with Lisa Boyd. Lisa is a very personable individual and has always gone the extra mile to provide the required advice, even when that meant working out of hours to achieve tight deadlines. I have valued Lisa’s commitment to the relationship we as an organisation have with CFR, her prompt responses, her attention to detail and her preparation for meetings. Lisa is a solicitor of the highest calibre who is the consummate professional.’

‘Lisa Boyd has been our main contact. She has been very responsive, working lengthy periods out of hours to meet urgent needs. She demonstrates extensive knowledge and commercial awareness.’

‘Professional and responsive. This team has your back. They provide professional advice in simple terms and go out of their way to protect your interests. I really feel that this team has provided us with excellent advice, without raising expectations, and has offered solutions as to the best outcomes.’

‘Johnny Forrester is a clear communicator who acts at all times in the best interests of his client. He communicates legalese in simple and understandable terms, and is responsive and always on hand to offer advice and support.’

Key clients


Victoria Housing Estates Limited

Linfield Football Club

Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

Northern Ireland Housing Executive

North West Regional College

DB UK Bank Limited

HSBC Bank plc

Ulster Bank Limited

Bank of Ireland

Work highlights

  • Advising BAM McCann JV on a procurement challenge related to the procurement procedure for a road scheme project.
  • Advising a social landlord in relation to a tender process for the procurement of maintenance contracts.
  • Acting for a national waste management company in a High Court challenge to the procurement process run by one of Northern Ireland’s largest councils for its waste collection.

Finance > Banking and finance Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is prominent in a large number of high-value transactions in Northern Ireland, and its first-rate reputation is further evidenced by the fact that it acts for all of Ireland’s Big Four banks, as well as major banks headquartered in Great Britain, Europe and the US. Led by practice head Caroline MacLaughlin, the team demonstrates strong capabilities in a wide range of transactions, including those involving corporate finance, project finance, real estate finance, asset-backed lending and structured finance. MacLaughlin works with Stephen Cross, who has notable expertise acting for funders and developers on the financing of major energy projects. He has over 20 years of banking and finance experience. Elsewhere, the group's other banking work has a nexus to industries, such as technology, private equity and real estate. Associate solicitor Peter Moorhead is another key individual.

Practice head(s):

Caroline MacLaughlin

Other key lawyers:


‘The team have good expertise in the fields of property development and finance and the ability to complete large complex transactions in an efficient manner.’

‘Their legal expertise combined with lengthy experience in dealing with us makes them invaluable. ’

‘Excellent at detail and seeing upcoming potential issues. Worked well to a tight and changing deadline. Understood the issues that I would need to be contacted about, rather than having to feedback on every point. Overall, understanding how the transaction was likely to ‘play out,’ added value and reduced stress. Worked well on Zoom by phone last year.’

‘Caroline MacLaughlin, excellent overall knowledge’

‘The practice is one of the leading firms in Belfast and justifiably so. ’

‘The banking team are proactive in managing workload and following up with bank client legal teams. Proactivity is a key feature we look at when appointing a legal team.’

The team have also proven themselves knowledgeable and creative in mitigating risk for the bank whilst ensuring relationships remain positive with our clients’ legal teams.’

Key clients

Danske Bank

HSBC Bank plc

Ulster Bank Limited

Titanic Quarter Group/Harcourt Developments

Bank of Ireland

AIB Group

Bowmark Capital LLP

Virgin Money plc

Close Brothers Asset Finance

Silicon Valley Bank

Work highlights

  • Advised Infrastrata plc on the funding required to provide continued investment into the Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast.
  • Advised Bowmark Capital LLP on the funding of its multi-million-pound acquisition of the Totalmobile Group.
  • Advised Danske Bank on its provision of loan facilities to Andras House Limited.

Private client > Personal tax, trusts and probate Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin has 'one of the few dedicated private client departments in Northern Ireland'. Private client specialist Michael Graham leads the practice and is a fellow of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners and a member of the Solicitors for the Elderly in Northern Ireland. Managing partner Jonathan Forrester is a key name for contentious work, particularly in relation to land and property matters. Clients also single out Timothy Rankin who is 'very knowledgeable and helpful on tax queries and setting up enduring powers of attorney'.

Practice head(s):

Michael Graham


‘Family firm with which my family has worked for three generations. In all respects reliable and wise.’

‘Michael Graham is an excellent and well informed advisor in family matters.’

‘Timothy Rankin has been very knowledgeable and helpful on tax queries and setting up enduring Powers of Attorney and the service has been excellent.’

‘Knowledgeable and approachable team who work well together.’

‘Michael Graham – top of his field – very professional and well informed. Excellent presenter to large groups. Tim Rankin – wide knowledge and very easy to deal with.’

‘The team at CFR are extremely professional, and knowledgeable, they are well informed on any legal changes that are happening in NI.’

‘Cleaver Fulton Rankin have one of the few dedicated private client departments in Northern Ireland and have other dedicated departments to cover every legal need. All solicitors are approachable and personable. They have shown initiative being able to work and deal with clients remotely and set safety measures in place when face to face visits have been necessary.’

Work highlights

  • Advised the beneficiaries of a Chinese Estate that included Northern Irish property.
  • Advised the trustees of family trusts for the owners of a property development company that included a corporate restructuring.
  • Advised a client considering a complex capacity challenge and a propriety estoppel claim.

Real estate > Commercial property Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin has a 'good solid real estate team', which is notably adept in the retail, manufacturing, telecoms, leisure and hospitality sectors. The firm is also a major player in the energy industry, with it having advised clients on large-scale solar and wind energy projects in Northern Ireland. Other cornerstones of the practice include residential and commercial development work, and the firm is also prominent in major office lettings in Belfast and further afield in Northern Ireland. The client base includes public sector bodies, developers, housing associations, household-name retailers and investment funds. Department head Joe Marley works with Kathryn Collie who is skilled in acquisitions and disposals of development land, as well as commercial leasing, among other matters. Alan McAlister and associate Shane Conlan are also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Joe Marley


Alan McAlister has a wealth of experience, gleaned over many years. His legal knowledge is excellent and we know he has been involved in some very significant retail investment deals in recent years.’

‘This practice provides an excellent service meeting our requirements and during the current pandemic have provided innovations in place to continue to service our needs.’

‘CFR offer a good solid real estate team to deal with our acquisition and management requirements.

Their approach is uncomplicated and enables us to ensure our expansion in Northern Ireland is managed with certainty and little risk.’

Key clients

T. J. Morris Limited (t/a Home Bargains)

Hammerson plc

Victoria Housing Estates Limited

InfraStrata plc

Northern Ireland Science Park Property Limited

Invest Northern Ireland

Harry Corry Limited

Primark Stores Limited

Dalradian Gold Limited

ESO Solutions

Kuehne + Nagel

Dune Group

Work highlights

  • Advised T. J. Morris Limited on the acquisition and development of new stores throughout Northern Ireland.
  • Advising Harland & Wolff (Belfast) Limited on the completion of its high-profile acquisition of a Belfast ship yard.
  • Acted for Hammerson (Abbey) Limited on the sale of Abbey Retail Park in what was one of the highest-value property investment deals of the year.

Real estate > Construction Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin demonstrates strong capabilities in both contentious and non-contentious construction matters, and its team attracts a strong flow of work from contractors, employers and property developers, among other clients. Aaron Moore heads up the contentious construction practice, which is prominent in proceedings at the Commercial Court and Northern Ireland Court of Appeal. On the non-contentious side, practice head Patrick Fleming is experienced in drafting the complex construction and project documentation associated with public and private sector schemes. He is working with Lisa Boyd to advise Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council on the redevelopment of Dundonald International Ice Bowl.

Practice head(s):

Patrick Fleming

Other key lawyers:

Lisa Boyd; Aaron Moore; Anna McClimonds; Paul Tohill


‘Patrick Fleming has a wealth of experience and knowledge of construction law.’

‘CFR deliver high quality strategic advice at all stages of the construction cycle, from project inception right through to final account and operation of an asset. Their team is (by local standards) young, extremely motivated and led by some of the best local lawyers in the business.’

‘Their extensive knowledge of the construction market has been invaluable to us as an organisation. Their procurement expertise is of the highest calibre, they keep themselves up to date with case law and are then able to provide up to date advice based on same and pertinent to the case they are advising on.’

‘Lisa has always gone the extra mile to provide the required advice, even when that meant working out of hours to achieve tight deadlines. I have valued Lisa’s commitment to the contractual relationship we as an organisation have with CFR.’

‘Very engaging staff and a willingness to accommodate client requirements at all times.’

‘Strong, well-resourced firm with solid relevant experience.’

‘Patrick Fleming – clear thinker and strong communicator.’

Key clients

Northern Regional College

Northern Ireland Housing Executive


Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

Baker Tilly Mooney Moore


Lyric Theatre

Conway Group

Work highlights

  • Advised Northern Regional Colleges in relation to 2 new further education campuses in Coleraine, and Ballymena, Northern Ireland, worth a combined £85million.
  • Advised the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in relation to the procurement of 13 planned maintenance contracts across their entire housing stock of 89,000 properties at a value of £455million.
  • Advised BAM FP McCann JV on a procurement challenge related to a major roads and infrastructure scheme in Northern Ireland, namely the York Street Interchange, having an estimate project value of £165million.

Corporate and commercial > Corporate and M&A Tier 2

Manufacturing and technology are two core areas of focus for Cleaver Fulton Rankin, which has expertise in M&A, private equity and VC transactions. Practice head Hilary Griffith is a council member of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and and jointly leads the firm’s technology sector group; her client base includes fintech, e-commerce and e-learning businesses. The energy sector is another area of focus for the practice, largely due to the expertise of Stephen Cross. Senior associate Kathryn Laverty, who assists Griffith on most matters, is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Griffith

Other key lawyers:


‘The team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin handled our recent investment and made the whole process very straightforward. They explained all of the legal paperwork so that it was easy to understand and made sensible, workable suggestions.’

‘Both Hilary Griffith and Kathryn Laverty are extremely knowledgeable in what they do and have great experience behind them to guide us in the right direction. We found them very approachable and easy to work with.’

‘I was impressed with the team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin, who had all the skills to help our company complete the business transaction in a timely manner. Advice was co-ordinated in an efficient way to achieve the best outcome. My engagement with CFR was very positive’

‘My engagement with CFR was mainly with Hilary Griffith. Hilary was very professional and logical in her approach and kept me informed at all times. Despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, Hilary managed all the communications and document exchanges in an efficient manner. I had a high degree of confidence in her analysis of the priorities. Hilary employed the skills of her team to the company benefit. She provided her personal contact details and was available at all times to take a call to help maintain momentum in the deal.’

‘They are large enough to cope with any project and have the appropriate individuals to cater for my needs. They differ from others as it’s not always about how much they can charge, they thrive on building relationships – the bottom line is they care!’

‘They are all commercially focused and make me feel at ease when going through commercial legal issues.’

‘ Kathryn Laverty has grown with our business – she did the paperwork on our first VC investment and now leads our VC investments. She does an outstanding job’

‘Hilary Griffith is very grounded and keen to understand what is going on in the business behind the legal matters at hand. She is much more approachable than the typical partner at a big law firm. Kathryn is extremely responsive to our questions and issues. No matter how big or small the request, it never seems too much trouble. Both ladies seem to enjoy what they do and this comes across in their day to day interactions with clients such as myself.’

Key clients

Vox Financial Partners Ltd

IRP Commerce

LogicEarth Learning Solutions Ltd

Sabina Properties Limited

Grays Clip Limited

Northern Pharmacies Limited

Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings) Limited

Regen Waste Limited

RA Irwin & Company

Phion Therapeutics Limited

Made to Engage Limited

The Momentum Group

Catalyst Inc.

Effidac Limited t/a Truestock

Lakeland Dairies

Millicent Pharma (NI) Limited

The Conway Group

Klas PDT

Work highlights

  • Advised the shareholders of Logicearth Learning Services, an elearning company on its acquisition by The Creative Engagement Group.
  • Advised Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings) Limited on the purchase of the underlay business from Axfelt (In Administration).
  • Advised Grays Clip Limited on its first six figure funding round from private investors through the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN).

Northern Ireland > Employment Tier 2

Described as a ‘one-stop shop for any employment law enquiry‘, Cleaver Fulton Rankin advises both public and private sector clients, covering a broad range of both contentious and non-contentious matters. Practice head and ‘excellent advocate‘ Michael Black advises on all aspects of employment law, but has a particular interest in equality and discrimination matters.

Practice head(s):

Michael Black

Other key lawyers:

Nathan Campbell


‘We have received excellent legal advice relating to employment law. The staff are very approachable, knowledgeable and extremely professional. Many of our staff have attended training provided on a variety of employment issues and have found the training excellently presented and very informative.’

‘I would particularly like to mention Michael Black. He has guided us through tribunal hearings and employment disputes and helped with a variety of HR queries. His advice is always excellent. Emails are replied to promptly, often out of business hours. He is very professional and has also made our staff feel welcome at training events.’

‘The support and guidance given by the employment practice to our organisation has been exceptional. The extremely difficult and sensitive challenges the board has faced could not have been resolved without the help of Michael Black and his team.’

‘Apart from excellent support through some difficult employment issues, the team also run very helpful, innovative lunchtime briefing sessions for local businesses on a variety of hot topics relating to employment issues, including updates on legislation and how this impacts in practice.’

‘Michael Black takes the time to fully understand each situation and give great clarity on potential issues from both the employer and employee perspective, providing both a ‘letter of the law’ view and also a common-sense approach to understanding possible personnel attitudes and potential outcomes. His advice has rarely failed to hit the mark and has been invaluable on many occasions.’

‘CFR has a strong multi-jurisdictional team allowing them to act as a one-stop shop for any employment law enquiry. Their retainer billing system allows for peace of mind in terms of cost and transparency.’

‘Michael Black is an excellent advocate who presents a calm assurance when dealing with contentious circumstances. He always considers the commercial implications for clients when navigating the legal matters under dispute.’

‘Nathan Campbell assisted us with defining our employment contracts and policies relating to employment law. He has first-class knowledge of employment law and is also very responsive.’

Key clients

Tourism NI

Belfast Metropolitan College

Titanic Belfast

Vox Financial Partners

Belfast Central Mission

Velocity Mobile Limited


Logic Earth

Cancer Focus


Work highlights

  • Advised Tourism NI on employment issues raised by Covid-19 for the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland.
  • Advised Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council on the full spectrum of employment law issues ranging from day-to-day HR advice to assistance in defending tribunal claims.
  • Advised National Museums Northern Ireland on day-to-day employment law matters and provided representation in tribunal cases.

Finance > Insolvency and corporate recovery Tier 2

Jeanette Donohoe leads Cleaver Fulton Rankin's practice, which demonstrates strong capabilities in administrations, liquidations, corporate and financial restructurings, and voluntary arrangements. On the transactional side, the team handles disposals of assets, as well as purchases and sales of distressed loans. In addition, contentious work is another mainstay of the practice, including directors disqualification proceedings and fraud-related matters. The client base consists of major Irish banks as well as big UK names such as HSBC and Grant Thornton. The team is equipped to handle disputes and advisory work, with strengths in transactions involving distressed assets as well as debt and equity swaps. Practice head Jeanette Donohoe is highly skilled in insolvency litigation, particularly in cases involving property assets. Stephen Cross and Caroline McLaughlin also have restructuring and insolvency experience. In addition, associate Maria McNally is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Jeanette Donohoe

Other key lawyers:

Stephen Cross; Caroline McLaughlin; Maria McNally; Rachel Kelly; Peter Moorhead


‘Jeanette is a stand out solicitor in the field of insolvency. Her focus is on solutions for borrowers, directors, shareholders. She always aims to drive commercial solutions. She is pragmatic, knowledgeable and patient; a results-driven professional in every respect. Jeanette is one of our ‘go-to’ insolvency solicitors.’

‘Jeanette Donoghue – very experienced, great ability to summarise processes into understandable language.’

‘ Cleaver Fulton Rankin are pragmatic and easy to work with. A straightforward approach and a highly professional service. We feel well guided and reassured at all stages. A very personal service.’

‘ Jeannette Donohue and Maria McNally stand out by virtue of their attention to personal service. They respond quickly and make themselves available at short notice.’

‘I have found working with the Insolvency and Business Restructuring department of Cleaver Fulton Rankin a very positive experience. They were able to understand my requirements and explained the process and outcome in a clear and concise manner.’

‘Jeanette Donohoe is someone you want on your side. Her passion for client service is clear and there is confidence that the best case will be put forward.’

Key clients

Cool Data Centres (Lincoln) Limited

FRP Advisory

Duff & Phelps LLP

Crawfords Accountants

Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

McCambridge Duffy LLP

Heavac B.V.


Bank of Ireland PLC

HCA Business Recovery Limited

Danske Bank

AIB Group (UK) Plc

Begbies Traynor

BDO Northern Ireland

Keenan CF

Department for Economy for Northern Ireland

Triodos Bank UK Limited

Grant Thornton UK

Harbinson Mulholland

Ipsum Capital

Work highlights

  • Advising the Department on the Scheme of Arrangement made in respect of the Presbyterian Mutual Society. Transaction is worth £225m.
  • DefendingnCool Data Centres (Lincoln) Limited in injunction proceedings brought by the Cool Data Centre’s majority creditor preventing the client company entering administration and subsequently placing the company into administration.
  • Acting on behalf of the administrator on the sale of the former Flagship Shopping Centre in Bangor, Co Down.

Projects, energy and natural resources > Energy, project finance and PFI Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is ‘diligent and effective in the Northern Ireland renewable energy sector’, advising on wind and solar farms in the region. The team also handles traditional energy work, especially projects involving natural gas and mining issues. Stephen Cross leads the practice and is also equipped to handle projects involving the tourism sector and agribusinesses. Also supporting the team is corporate partner Hilary Griffith and property expert Joe Marley, who both have expertise in energy and infrastructure matters.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Cross

Other key lawyers:


‘The CFR team are diligent and effective in the Northern Ireland renewable energy sector. Very knowledgeable yet approachable regarding queries or guidance.’

‘Staff are always welcoming regardless of novel circumstances or a challenging environment. Special recognition must be awarded to Stephen Cross and Joe Marley who are exceptional assets for the CFR team. Their knowledge, understanding and approachability have been greatly appreciated during recent engagement.’

‘Good sector knowledge across the local industry including regulatory interfaces.’

‘Good knowledge of the peculiarities of the local market.’

‘A very professional Firm, which always gave a prompt reply to any query I may have had concerning my particular project. I found this firm very knowledgeable, and I had a first class service!’

‘It was Joe Marley I was dealing with. He did his utmost to get the best deal for me, I found him to be very dependable, thorough, very knowledgeable, and was always quick to respond to any query I had about anything. It was a real pleasure working with him, and he was always willing to go the extra mile to make sure I was happy with everything.’

Key clients

Equitix Investment Management

Dalradian Gold Limited

Axpo UK Limited

Arena Capital Partners

EirGrid Plc / SONI Limited

Blackrock Asset Management

Power NI

Canadian Solar

AIB (NI) (formerly First Trust Bank)

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks

Close Brothers Asset Finance

Assured Energy LLP

Gravis Capital Partners

Work highlights

  • Advised Dalradian on its ownership of mineral prospecting licences for the consent it seeks for a proposed gold, silver and copper mine in County Tyrone.
  • Providing cross-border consultancy advice to EirGrid / SONI on the operation of the Single Electricity Market and the Trading and Settlement Code in Ireland.
  • Advised Assured Energy on its portfolio of 10 Anaerobic Digestion Plants and on the sale of one plant.

Real estate > Planning and environment Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin draws upon its strengths in planning, environment and public law to advise key stakeholders on a full range of intricacies associated with significant projects in Northern Ireland. Noted for its particular capability in judicial reviews, the practice is led by Karen Blair, who ‘remains a benchmark for excellence in the field’. Blair has worked on some of the most noteworthy mandates in the market, which includes advising Dalradian Gold on the consenting and operational aspects of its gold mine development in County Tyrone. Associate director Brendan Martyn assists Blair with most matters and also separately advises Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

Practice head(s):

Karen Blair

Other key lawyers:


‘In-depth knowledge of the area of expertise and attention to detail. The capacity for hard work and attention delivers outstanding benefit and value to clients. The firm has engaged in highly complex and multi-faceted planning and environmental maters that requires very considerable tactical awareness.’

‘Karen Blair remains a benchmark for excellence in the field. Brendan Martyn has been a critical addition to the senior team and that has added significantly to the strength of the group. He has proved cool under pressure, providing sound direction and advice.’

‘All team members encountered were friendly, professional and had the ability to discuss matters in terms that were understandable to someone that does not have full knowledge of the law and its reference terms. Billing was clear concise and accurately laid out.’

Key clients

Dalradian Gold Limited

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Choice Housing Ireland Limited

Assured Energy LLP

Belfast City Airport

Glasgiven Contracts Limited

Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council

Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited

Translink (Northern Ireland Transport Holdings Company)

Don Holdings Limited

Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos CLH S.A.

Work highlights

  • Advising Dalradian Gold Limited on all consenting and operational aspects of its proposed gold mine development in Co Tyrone.
  • Advising Assured Energy LLP on two controversial anaerobic digestion sites, which have attracted enforcement and abatement notices from two local councils.
  • Advising Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council on the defence of an unprecedented number of concurrent judicial reviews representing over 20% of all judicial reviews in Northern Ireland in 2020.

TMT (technology, media and telecoms) > Intellectual property Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s IP team operates under the leadership of Hilary Griffith, who is notably adept in the technology and life sciences sectors; she is particularly skilled in the IP aspects of commercial agreements and corporate transactions. The team also has a contentious arm, led by Michael King, who has recently been active in trade mark and copyright litigation. Clients also single out associate Kathryn Laverty.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Griffith

Other key lawyers:


‘We enjoy working with CFR because of the empathy they show through the different situations we are in when we call on them to help. Everything about them is considerate and reasonable.’

‘Kathryn Laverty is our prime contact, engaging, empathetic, sympathetic, responsive, and understanding of our priorities, our needs, our timescales. It is like having our own inhouse legal counsel at a fraction of the cost! Equally anybody that she has directed us to at the firm have been of equal high standard.’

‘A good example of expertise and experience combining to create a friendly, knowledgeable legal team.’

‘Michael King – an excellent communicator with great knowledge and expertise within the field of Intellectual Property law.’

‘What makes this practice unique is its ability to organise and prepare for trial in a cohesive and comprehensive fashion with clearly defined timelines.’

‘The Cleaver Fulton Rankin team has a culture that is client-centric and upholds the highest professional standards. They offer clear guidance and assessment of risk put in clear terms and in a manner that is appropriate for each client to understand and to assess, based on their business.’

‘Michael King stands out for me as a commercial, time-efficient practitioner. He understands complex matters quickly and most importantly, he asks the right questions that drive to the heart of a matter quickly and efficiently.’

‘Michael’s knowledge of IP is superb and he works diligently to keep the wider context in view all the time so we don’t end up going down side tracks that are not relevant. Michael gives clear advice and looks at the bigger picture even when the level of detail could otherwise seem all-consuming to others.’

Key clients

Tourism NI

Invest NI

Effidac Ltd t/a Truestock

Phion Therapeutics Limited

Catalyst Inc

Grays Clip Limited

Photonic Measurements Limited

IRP Commerce

Millicent Pharma

Regen Robotics Limited

Bellamoon Limited

Klas PDT

IRP Commerce Limited

3EN Cloud Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised Grays Clip Limited on the IP aspects of an investment from a group of nine private investors through the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN).
  • Advised Catalyst Inc on the IP matters arising from the establishment of the Belfast Maritime Consortium.
  • Advised IRP Commerce on IP matters arising as part of a full contract review.

TMT (technology, media and telecoms) > IT and telecoms Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is particularly prominent in the telecoms sector in Northern Ireland and counts Vodafone, BT and Telefonica among an impressive roster of clients. Recent work of note has covered a range of real estate projects, transactional matters and contractual advice. The firm's telecoms practice is led by 'vastly experienced' director Joe Marley, who also leads the commercial property team. He works alongside corporate and commercial head Hilary Griffith.

Practice head(s):

Joe Marley

Other key lawyers:

Hilary Griffith; Aaron Moore; Shane Conlan


‘Joe Marley is vastly experienced in the telecommunications sector. He has acted in the acquisition and management of countless telecommunications sites throughout Northern Ireland. He is very experienced, very knowledgeable. Very few lawyers in Northern Ireland have the level of experience that Joe has in this space. He is skilled at navigating complex property cases involving telecoms.’

‘Shane Conlan is a rising star in this area. He has an impressive property management portfolio for very prominent telecoms companies.’

‘Aaron Moore is a skilled litigator of telecommunications cases. He is assured and knowledgeable and understands the complexities.’

‘I have dealt with Joe Marley for many years – there is no one I have worked with over the years who would have the depth and breath of knowledge has Joe. One of Joe’s strengths is his ability to expedite transactions. Joe can effectively can create solutions to any issues which may arise that always make both the landlord and tenant respectively feel that they got the better deal!, and that’s not an easy task.’

‘Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s team have acted in the telecommunications space for longer than any other firm in Northern Ireland. They have been consistently at the forefront of the roll-out and development of mobile technology in this jurisdiction. Their knowledge is unrivalled in this sector. They are the ‘go-to’ firm.’

‘The telecoms team whom I have dealt with for nearly 15 years have a collective wealth of knowledge both from the landlord and tenant perspectives which easily enables the resolution of any issues that arise.’

Key clients

BT Plc

Vodafone Limited

Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited (“CTIL”)


Invest Northern Ireland

Urban Innovation Company (UIC) limited

Vox Financial Ltd

IRP Commerce Limited

Logicearth Learning Services

JC Deceaux

Atos IT Services


Work highlights

  • Advising a joint venture company made up of Vodafone and Telefonica (O2) on all aspects of its telecommunications sites throughout Northern Ireland.
  • Advising Urban Innovation Company Limited on the acquisition and leasing of various sites for Pulse Smart Hubs around Belfast to help provide better telecommunications coverage.
  • Advised on acquisition of e-learning company Logicearth Learning Services by international communications group, The Creative Engagement Group.

Insurance > Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant Tier 3

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is notably adept in employer and occupier liability claims, with additional expertise in handling road traffic accident claims. Michael King, who advises the insurers AON and RSA, leads the team and handles personal injury work, and is supported by associate Rachael Gamble and senior solicitor Marc Kelly.

Practice head(s):

Michael King

Other key lawyers:


‘Very professional firm to work with.’

‘Michael King, very professional to deal with and lead us to a successful resolution of a case.’

‘Dedicated point of contact at all times. Quick response to any contact made and knowledge of our competitors. Strong advice given at all times, however will always respect the direction the client wants to proceed.’

‘Going above and beyond in many cases. Works very closely with our insurance company and with a single point of contact, means that knowledge of all open cases without delay.’

Key clients

RSA Insurance

AIG Insurance

AON Claims Management

Musgrave Retail Partners (NI) Limited

Equine and Livestock Insurance Company


Work highlights

  • Instructed by a public body to defend a claim from the employee of a subcontractor who had an accident on the client’s premises.
  • Advised AON on behalf of a national retailer in respect of an employer’s liability claim, brought by an employee who slipped whilst at work.
  • Advising a national retailer in the defence of an occupier’s liability claim which relates to significant bodily injuries requiring complex medical evidence.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is a leading commercial law firm in Northern Ireland, providing a full legal service to both commercial and private clients, including national and local private companies, developers, financial institutions, public institutions and quasi-public bodies, not for profit organisations and other government funded organisations.

The firm’s primary areas of work are described below and comprise of company and commercial, property, employment, dispute resolution, consultancy and private client, supplemented by niche units specialising in areas such as construction law, planning and environmental and insolvency. All departments within the firm work closely to ensure a client receives expert advice to achieve commercial objectives.

While  the firm is an independent Northern Ireland owned, and managed practice, it has an alliance with Matheson Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland to provide an all-island service; it is a member of LawNet, an association of independent UK law firms, and is a member of the International Lawyers Network. This network gives the firm’s lawyers access to commercial law firms in 66 countries across six continents.

Principal areas of work
Banking: the banking team has recognised expertise in acting on the full range of finance transactions,  corporate finance and project finance transactions, acquisition finance, commercial property finance transactions, asset backed lending, invoice discounting, factoring, restructuring and specific services relating to the securitisation of Northern Irish assets. We also advise on applicable regulation, compliance and best practice.

Company and commercial: the company and commercial team has a long-standing reputation for providing sound practical advice to clients in both the private and public sectors and across a wide range of industries on all types of commercial transactions, including intellectual property, construction, energy, IT, banking and charities law.

Employment: the employment team is widely acknowledged for its expertise both locally and nationally. It offers guidance to clients, many of whom are businesses and lawyers operating in other jurisdictions, on the differences in employment law that exist in Northern Ireland and practical advice on measures which should be taken in specific circumstances.

Dispute resolution: the dedicated dispute resolution team has an impressive clientele in a variety of practice areas, including general commercial litigation, construction, property, defamation, disputes about wills and trusts, corporate recovery, insurance, intellectual property and IT, personal injury, product liability, procurement and debt recovery.

Planning and environment: Cleaver Fulton Rankin is at the forefront of this specialised area of law, with a wealth of experience in providing practical legal advice throughout the planning application process, appeals and inquiries. The firm also provides environmental and planning due diligence for property transactions and company acquisitions.

Private client: the private client team is dedicated to providing high-quality specialist advice on inheritance tax and estate planning, including the use of lifetime and testamentary trusts where appropriate. In addition, the team regularly advises on the administration of trusts and estates, enduring powers of attorney, nursing care issues and matters involving the Office of Care and Protection. The team also includes a residential conveyancing team and a family and matrimonial team.

Property: the firm’s property team has extensive experience in all aspects of non-contentious commercial and residential property matters with a broad client portfolio, including developers, investment institutions, national retail chains, PPP projects and joint ventures. The team is well used to working seamlessly with other professionals to deliver on major projects for clients.

Managing partner Jonathan Forrester
Company/commercial Paul McBride
Property Kathryn Collie
Property Alan McAlister
Property Joe Marley
Dispute resolution Patrick Fleming
Dispute resolution Jonathan Forrester
Dispute resolution Aaron Moore
Private client Michael Graham
Employment Michael Black
Environment and planning Karen Blair
Public law Karen Blair
Banking Stephen Cross
Construction Patrick Fleming
Construction Aaron Moore
Licensing Karen Blair
Projects Patrick Fleming
IP and Technology Michael King
Insolvency Jeanette Donohoe
Procurement Patrick Fleming
Debt recovery Jonathan Forrester
Debt recovery Patrick Fleming
Debt recovery Aaron Moore
Energy Joe Marley
Energy Stephen Cross
Energy Karen Blair
Family Lorraine Keown
Energy Paul McBride
Charities and Social Enterprises Stephen Cross
Employment Suzanne Keenan
Dispute Resolution Michael King
Business Immigration Nathan Campbell
Legal Technology Kerry McCloy
Michael Black photo Michael BlackMichael is the head of the employment law team and has been…
Karen Blair photo Karen BlairKaren is Chairman and Director at Cleaver Fulton Rankin and specialises in…
Kathryn Collie photo Kathryn CollieKathryn is a partner/director in Cleaver Fulton Rankin and specialises in real…
Stephen Cross photo Stephen CrossStephen is head of Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s corporate finance and banking department.…
Jeanette Donohoe photo Jeanette DonohoeJeanette is a partner/director in the dispute resolution department and heads up the insolvency…
Patrick Fleming photo Patrick FlemingPatrick is a Director in the Dispute Resolution department. He specialises in…
Jonathan Forrester photo Jonathan ForresterJonathan is the Managing Director of Cleaver Fulton Rankin specialising in real…
Michael Graham photo Michael GrahamMichael is the head of Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s Private Client Department which…
Suzanne Keenan photo Suzanne KeenanSuzanne is an Employment Director at Cleaver Fulton Rankin, specialising in all…
Michael King photo Michael KingMichael King is a commercial litigator with particular expertise in intellectual property…
Joe Marley photo Joe MarleyJoe is a Director and Head of Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s commercial property…
Alan McAlister photo Alan McAlisterAlan is a partner/director working in the firm’s commercial property department. He…
Paul McBride photo Paul McBridePaul is a Director and Head of the Corporate & Commercial team…
Kerry McCloy photo Kerry McCloyKerry is the Innovation and Legal Technology Director at Cleaver Fulton Rankin,…
Aaron Moore photo Aaron MooreAaron is a Partner/Director in Cleaver Fulton Rankin and specializes in Construction,…
Timothy Rankin photo Timothy RankinTim is Director in the Private Client department. He specialises in the…
Number of UK partners : 18
Number of other UK fee-earners : 25
Number of Paralegals and Trainees : 10