Firm Profile > Cleaver Fulton Rankin > Belfast, Northern Ireland

Cleaver Fulton Rankin
Northern Ireland

Banking and finance Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is praised for its 'positive, "can do" approach'; its areas of specialist advice include corporate finance, large-scale project finance and property finance, as well as funding for charitable and not-for-profit organisations. The team acts for major Northern Irish financial institutions, as well as international banks and investment funds, and advises specialised lenders on asset finance transactions. Its client base also includes a growing number of borrowers. Practice head Stephen Cross is 'very experienced and goes the extra mile to deliver for his client'; he specialises in energy project finance, while Deborah Archer is also a key contact.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Cross

Other key lawyers:


Cleaver Fulton Rankin is approachable and proactive, with prompt turnarounds on all queries and requirements.

The team is diligent, thorough and responsive.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is approachable and proactive. They provide prompt turnarounds on all queries and requirements.

Key clients

Danske Bank

HSBC Bank plc

Bank of Ireland

Ulster Bank Limited

First Trust Bank

Lakeland Dairies Group

Titanic Quarter Group

Northview Group

Nationwide Building Society

Close Brothers Asset Finance

Charity Bank

BNP Paribas

European Investment Bank

Commercial property Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin's 'responsive and attentive' team is highly active advising local developers on major residential, commercial, hotel and office developments. In addition, it regularly assists investors with the purchase of property assets and advises on large energy sector projects; other areas of expertise include retail, renewables and telecoms. The team includes the 'well-respected' Kathryn Collie; Joe Marley, who provides 'clear and concise' advice; and Alan McAlister, who specialises in city centre developments.

Practice head(s):

Joe Marley; Kathryn Collie; Alan McAlister; Jeanette Donohoe


Cleaver Fulton Rankin is well resourced to provide comprehensive advice on all aspects of real estate transactions, including planning and environmental. It provides a “one-stop” shop, with strong leadership throughout transactions. Its local knowledge and experience is invaluable.

Kathryn Collie provides consistent leadership and she has an excellent understanding of clients’ key concerns and objectives. Her knowledge of the market means her advice is pragmatic and effective. Her good humour and calm manner are welcomed.

Kathryn Collie is a very experienced property solicitor with a wide range of knowledge. Kathryn is also more pragmatic and commercial than many other lawyers, and focuses on the most important aspects of potential deals.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is an excellent firm with an impeccable tradition. The team is one of the longest-established dedicated commercial real estate teams in Belfast and the best in Northern Ireland. It boasts a number of exceptional real estate lawyers: their standards are outstanding, they take the time to understand the client’s business, and their attention to detail is excellent.

Joe Marley has excellent legal knowledge and always acts in the client’s best interests He is a very hard worker and always makes himself available. He is a strong negotiator, but respectful of his peers.

Alan McAlister has many years experience acting in real estate transactions. He has wide-ranging legal knowledge, both in real estate transactional work and real estate litigation. He is a smart guy and a very easy to deal with.

Associate Nemonie Fulton is very organised, with great experience and legal knowledge. She is very thorough, patient and diligent.

The team is well resourced and highly skilled in the delivery of legal solutions.

Key clients

Dalradian Gold Limited

T J Morris (Home Bargains)

BT plc


Telefonica UK Limited (O2)

Titanic Quarter

JMW Farms

Aberdeen Asset Management

Catalyst Inc

Vodafone Limited

Chart Forte (Belfast) Limited

Construction Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin has expanded its non-contentious construction practice, advising on major local hotel, leisure and education sector projects. The team is also noted for its strength in advising public sector clients and charitable organisations. On the contentious side, the firm has a strong track record of handling high-value disputes. Practice head Patrick Fleming regularly advises local authorities on large projects; Lisa Boyd has expertise in procurement-related construction disputes; and Aaron Moore specialises in dilapidation disputes. Julie-Ann McCaffrey-Flynn moved to an in-house role.

Practice head(s):

Patrick Fleming

Other key lawyers:


The construction team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin is always a pleasure to deal with. It is the leading team of its kind in Northern Ireland. The expertise and efficiency of the team knows no bounds; it has a wealth of knowledge and experience in this and other fields.

Lisa Boyd is an exceptional lawyer with vast experience in construction matters. No task or request is too great for her. Lisa is always willing to go the extra mile and provides clear, concise and accurate advice in a timely manner.

Solicitor Marc Kelly is an up-and-coming member of the team. His work ethic is insatiable and his ability to advise on an ad hoc basis very impressive.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s construction team gets to grips with the important issues efficiently and accurately. It always offers considered solutions to difficult issues, whether in adjudication or arbitration.

Aaron Moore’s pragmatic approach delivers sound advice, quality submissions and clarity at all stages of a dispute. He quickly determines the critical issues to be addressed and evidenced and develops those issues in great detail. He is a formidable person to be on your side of a case.

Aaron Moore and Lisa Boyd stand out in terms of service provision. They are prepared to give strong early advice to clients so that informed decisions are made at an early stage of a dispute.

Key clients

Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Northern Regional Colleges

Armagh Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council

The Charles Sheils Charity

Corporate and M&A Tier 1

The 'strong' Hilary Griffith leads the practice at Cleaver Fulton Rankin; she specialises in the higher education, life sciences and technology sectors, and has extensive M&A experience. The team handles corporate finance, M&A, private equity investment, joint ventures and corporate restructurings, among other matters. Agri-business, energy, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals are also areas of particular strength. Stephen Cross, who heads the firm's banking and finance and energy practices, advises on energy-related matters.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Griffith

Other key lawyers:


The firm is particularly customer-focused and commercially aware.

Hilary Griffith is very commercial and very approachable, seeking to add value for clients wherever possible. She has a strong understanding of contract and commercial law, but take a pragmatic approach, listening to a client’s needs.

Key clients

Ulster Carpet Mills (Holdings)

Lakeland Diaries

JMW Farms


Power NI


Dixons Contractors

Decora Blind Systems

Phion Therapeutics

Equitix Investment Management

Dispute resolution Tier 1

Patrick Fleming leads the team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin, which counts construction and commercial disputes as particular strengths, although it is also active in energy-related, insolvency, procurement and public sector litigation. In addition, the team has developed niche practices in a number of areas: managing director Jonathan Forrester specialises in probate and trust litigation; Aaron Moore has a growing product liability practice; and Michael King handles IP litigation. Clients include major financial institutions, plcs and public bodies.

Practice head(s):

Patrick Fleming


The team is very client focused. Within Belfast I do not think there is anyone to beat them on commercial dispute resolution.

The outstanding feature of Jonathan Forrester is that he sets out the position and options in terms that clients can understand and shows great patience and understanding when explaining the situation.

Solicitor Rachel Gamble is most helpful and obviously very clued up on the case.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin provides a market-leading service in construction, procurement and commercial dispute resolution. The firm combines a strong traditional client base with a modern and efficient approach to litigation. It is in the top tier of Northern Irish law firms in these fields.

Jonathan Forrester is a strong team leader who has taken the practice forward.

Michael King stands out for his calmness under pressure.

Key clients



Ulster Bank

Debenhams Properties

Sainsbury’s Supermarkets


Invest Northern Ireland

Fossil UK

General Motors (UK)

Personal tax, trusts and probate Tier 1

Cleaver Fulton Rankin is noted for advising on tax and estate planning for high-net-worth individuals and the administration of complex estates. The team acts for the trustees of large charitable trusts, and is also 'very well regarded in the charity legacy sector', assisting UK-based charities with the administration of Northern Irish estates. Practice head Michael Graham  has expertise in issues affecting elderly clients and Office of Care and Protection work. Managing director Jonathan Forrester handles contentious probate and trust litigation. Associate director Timothy Rankin stands out for his 'personal service' and 'specific specialist advice'.

Practice head(s):

Michael Graham


Cleaver Fulton Rankin are consummate professionals. They are all very approachable, speak in plain English and respond promptly to enquires. The depth of knowledge which they are able to seamlessly draw upon between different specialist departments has proven to be invaluable.

I have full confidence in Michael Graham that his recommendations are without doubt and that he has the client’s best interests at heart.

Associate Paula Gibson is utterly professional and meticulous in her approach.

Michael Graham has built a strong and competent team of individuals. They are approachable, professional and diligent in their manner with clients.

Michael Graham is a strong leader and will be the main go-to person in the firm in respect of all private client matters. He is very professional, very good technically and instills confidence in his area of expertise.

The team is highly efficient and excellent at communicating. Nothing is too much trouble for them and they will react swiftly to requests. All of the individuals are extremely professional and highly capable.

The team’s engagement with clients is first class and they will go the extra mile for clients. They focus on the client, which makes working with them a pleasure. Stand-out individuals are associates Judith Jones and Paula Gibson.

Johnny Forrester is extremely approachable, knowledgeable about the charitable sector, and responds in a timely manner.

Tim Rankin is polite with a good sense of humour and can always answer any specialist queries on trusts, probate or personal taxation.

Key clients

The Esme Mitchell Trust

The Blackburn Trust

The Alzheimer’s Society

Bryson Charitable Group

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Focus

Age NI

Employment Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin's 'attentive, available and on-the-ball' team represents a number of large employers in contentious disputes, as well as advising on the employment aspects of corporate transactions and matters ranging from pensions to business immigration. It is noted for its strength in acting for public and education sector clients. The 'supportive and forward-thinkingMichael Black leads the team, which also includes associate director Aisling Byrne, who specialises in TUPE and procurement advice.

Practice head(s):

Michael Black

Other key lawyers:

Aisling Byrne; Nathan Campbell


Michael Black and Nathan Campbell are straight talking, helpful and able to handle the toughest challenges with a cool and calm manner.’

The team has a very tactful, supportive and pragmatic manner.  You are always confident of having received very sound advice.

Michael Black offers exceptional support; he is very pragmatic and empathetic and the advice he gives demonstrates his sound knowledge and understanding of the client’s business.

Aisling Byrne sensibly understands the context of the client’s sector and organisation and crafts her advice accordingly.

The team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin has excellent knowledge of the sector and the challenges being faced and the advice and support is always provided with this in mind.

Michael Black has an excellent understanding of the sector and always provides clear advice and solutions for the client.

Aisling Byrne is an outstanding solicitor: she has vast knowledge of employment law and is also commercially and business savvy. She takes a real interest in the client’s business, which means her advice is always grounded in a practical context, ensuring the best possible outcomes.

Key clients

Titanic Belfast Ltd

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Regen Waste Ltd

Invision Software

H&MV Engineering Ltd

John Brown University

Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Livestock & Meat Commission for Northern Ireland

JC Decaux


Energy Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin's wide-ranging client base includes renewable developers, UK and international investment funds, banks, large utilities, system operators and regulatory bodies. The 'strong' team advises on the financing of significant energy projects, high-profile M&A transactions in the energy sector, and regulatory issues. Stephen Cross, who has particular expertise in energy regulation and project finance, leads the team. Karen Blair and Joe Marley handle the planning and real estate aspects of energy transactions.

Practice head(s):

Stephen Cross

Other key lawyers:

Key clients

Equitix Investment Management

EirGrid Plc

SONI Limited


Wirsol Energy

Assured Energy

Close Brothers

BNRG Energy


Electricity Supply Board

Insolvency and corporate recovery Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin has recently expanded its client base to include a number of international corporations, advising on complex, high-value corporate insolvency matters. The team's clients also include domestic and regional insolvency practitioners and financial institutions. The firm is also noted for its debt recovery practice. Practice head Jeanette Donohoe is 'definitely the go-to person for company and insolvency matters in Belfast'. Associate director Caitriona Morgan specialises in personal insolvency.

Practice head(s):

Jeanette Donohoe

Other key lawyers:


The team is excellent. The lawyers really know their stuff and the subtle differences between Northern Irish and English company and insolvency law.

Jeanette Donohoe is outstanding: she is very client focused and supportive of the team, and also deeply knowledgeable in her area of expertise.

Key clients

Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals

Tridos Bank NV

Pepper Group (trading as Engage Commercial)

HSBC Bank Plc

Bank of Ireland (UK) Plc

AIB Bank (UK) Plc

McCambridge Duffy LLP

Danske Bank

Begbies Traynor LLP

Ulster Bank Limited

Intellectual property Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin advises leading Northern Irish companies on the exploitation and protection of IP assets and the IP aspects of corporate transactions, as well as handling a variety of trade mark and copyright disputes. Growing areas of expertise include advising on research collaborations and clinical trials. Hilary Griffith, who has extensive experience in IP matters in the technology, life sciences and education sectors, leads the non-contentious side of the practice, while Michael King handles IP litigation.

Practice head(s):

Hilary Griffith

Other key lawyers:


Primarily, the team is knowledgeable about the client’s industry. They are available, fast to respond, and flexible to work with. Their depth of knowledge and guidance has been a great benefit, and they are solution focused rather than protectionist or problem focused.

The team stands out for its awareness of the client’s industry, the availability of additional experience and expertise, and its responsiveness.

Solicitor Kathryn Laverty’s willingness to walk us through areas we are not experts in, and her ability to communicate clearly and then listen to our plan and objectives, is fantastic.

Key clients

Export Technologies

Linen Hall Library

The Belfast Hotel Group

Barclays Telecoms

Age NI

Phion Therapeutics Limited

Photonic Measurements Limited

Planning and environment Tier 2

Cleaver Fulton Rankin has particular expertise in judicial review, as well as advising on planning applications and environmental impact assessments for high-profile local developments, particularly in the infrastructure, natural resources, energy and waste sectors. In addition to major Northern Irish companies, the team counts several local planning authorities among its clients. Karen Blair leads the team, which was bolstered by the arrival of associate Brendan Martyn from Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP in February 2018.

Practice head(s):

Karen Blair

Other key lawyers:


The team stands out for its professionalism and expertise, coupled with the capacity for very hard work.

Karen Blair presents calm and focused advice in high-pressure, high-value cases. Her commitment serves as the benchmark for the team, and is an exceptionally high standard to aim for.

The addition of Brendan Martyn is a significant plus that will pay dividends. He  is demonstrating the same high standard that is expected of this firm.

Solicitor Jane McManus is a recent addition showing promise in complex case work.’

The in-depth knowledge that the team has in the relevant sector is second to none. It would possibly be seen as one of the leaders, if not the leader, within planning and permitting legal advice within Northern Ireland.

Karen Blair particularly stands out; she has a great ability to articulate any issues and risks and the mitigation in relation to planning and permitting in a really clear, concise manner.

Key clients

Dalradian Gold Limited

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Choice Housing Ireland Limited

Assured Energy LLP

Belfast City Airport

C&V Developments Limited

Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council

The Old Bushmills Distillery Co Limited

Intu Properties

Mid Ulster District Council

Natural World Products Limited

MJM Group Limited

Personal injury and clinical negligence: defendant Tier 3

Cleaver Fulton Rankin handles high-value personal injury claims for a number of large insurers, and also acts for several retail clients in employers' liability matters. The team's expertise also covers public liability, RTAs and occupational disease claims. Practice head Michael King has also expanded the firm's medical negligence practice. The team was strengthened by the addition of solicitor Marc Kelly from Hool Law in June 2018.

Practice head(s):

Michael King

Other key lawyers:

Key clients

RSA Insurance

AIG Insurance

AON Claims Management

Musgrave Limited

Equine and

Livestock Insurance Company


Irish Cycling Federation

BMI Healthcare Limited


Cleaver Fulton Rankin is one of Northern Ireland’s leading corporate law firms, 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.


Department Name Email Telephone
Managing partner Jonathan Forrester
Company/commercial Hilary Griffith
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
Construction Lisa Boyd
Licensing Karen Blair
Projects Patrick Fleming
Projects Lisa Boyd
IP and Technology Michael King
Insolvency Jeanette Donohoe
Procurement Patrick Fleming
Procurement Lisa Boyd
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 Hilary Griffith
Charities and Social Enterprises Stephen Cross
Banking Caroline MacLaughlin
Employment Aisling Byrne
Dispute Resolution Michael King
Photo Name Position Profile
 Deborah Archer  photo Deborah Archer
 Michael Black  photo Michael Black
 Karen Blair  photo Karen Blair
 Lisa Boyd  photo Lisa Boyd
 Sarah Burrows  photo Sarah Burrows
 Aisling Byrne  photo Aisling Byrne
 Kathryn Collie  photo Kathryn Collie
 Stephen Cross  photo Stephen Cross
 Jeanette Donohoe  photo Jeanette Donohoe
 Patrick Fleming  photo Patrick Fleming
 Jonathan Forrester  photo Jonathan Forrester
 Michael Graham  photo Michael Graham
 Hilary Griffith  photo Hilary Griffith
 Michael King  photo Michael King
 Fergal Maguire  photo Fergal Maguire
 Joe Marley  photo Joe Marley
 Alan McAlister  photo Alan McAlister
 Julie-Ann McCaffrey-Flynn  photo Julie-Ann McCaffrey-Flynn
 Aaron Moore  photo Aaron Moore
 Caitriona Morgan  photo Caitriona Morgan
Number of UK partners : 18
Number of other UK fee-earners : 25
Number of Paralegals and Trainees : 10