Schools and academies face ever-changing commercial and political challenges. Our lawyers are experienced in the legal issues that affect both the public and private education sector and will identify and support opportunities for development.
We provide taliored, pragmatic and relevant support across a full range of legal services to the operators and managers of schools and colleges. Our team has extensive experience of working very closely with Headteachers, Bursars and Governors.
Outside their work as lawyers several members of our team have experience as School Governors and they use this knowledge and experience to tailor and adapt their advice to meet clients’ ongoing and future requirements
We have handled some extremely high-profile projects for higher and further education sector clients and our reputation in this sector continues to grow and develop, reflecting our ability to provide legal advice in the context of commercial and political issues and challenges that face our clients in this sector.
We have experience of liaising with the Charity Commission on compliance issues and often advise clients in the education sector on the Charities Act.
We are highly experienced in advising clients on setting up charitable trusts, trust deeds and other aspects of charity law. We advise on corporate structures, including companies limited by shares, companies limited by guarantee, LLPs, joint venture arrangements and subsidiary companies. We have often attended Board and committee meetings, advising Directors on contractual, procedural and governance issues, including preparation of Board minutes and resolutions.
Our commercial team has extensive experience in acting for universities and a wide range of other clients on commercial collaborations, partnerships, franchising and international arrangements. Through our international legal network, TAGLaw, we undertake significant work with an overseas element and are able to seamlessly tap into the large network of legal providers in almost every legal jurisdiction in the world, so where clients need foreign law advice, we are able to provide this from trusted and known advisers.
Our company lawyers have an in-depth knowledge and extensive experience of working with a range of corporate and constitutional structures and can advise on constitutional and regulatory matters. We have advised university clients on a range of matters, including academic mergers, closure of departments, severances, boards of inquiry, drafting of statutes and ordinances, rationalisation of prize funds and many other day-to-day issues.
The team has considerable experience of drafting, negotiating and advising on the terms of building contracts, consultant appointments and related surety documents, and pro-actively resolving disputes that arise under those documents, for a range of clients, contractors and specialist sub-contractors.
On every construction project we always start the dialogue with our clients at the earliest possible stage in order to be able to advise fully and identify their project-specific requirements and strategic objectives to be met for the successful procurement of the construction project. Issues we seek to identify from the outset include design risk, value engineering requirements, environmental requirements, any specific security and payment requirements, defects protocols and requirements relating to other agreements affecting the project or the site.
Another highly contentious area has involved advising on student conduct and the formulation of, and compliance with, policies ranging from social media use to the prevention of harassment. In addition we can advise on regulatory documents such as student charters and formulating academic rules and regulations. Our IP/IT specialists are also adept at handling data protection issues including requests for information. The team also provides legal training and policy guidance, tailored written advice and compliance documentation.
Many of the disputes on which we are asked to assist are resolved by negotiation before proceedings are commenced. Very often we will handle those negotiations ourselves, but sometimes clients choose to negotiate directly, with the benefit of our advice in the background. Sometimes it is necessary to use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedures and once again this would be handled by our team: the majority of our dispute resolution lawyers are trained mediation advocates.
Our top rated employment team has extensive experience stretching over many years of advising employers on the full range of employment issues, with particular expertise in restructuring, TUPE and outsourcing, trade unions, industrial relations, equal pay, individual and collective engagement and discrimination - areas which we know are highly relevant to universities and expensive to get wrong. We advise on a wide range of issues, from dismissal, disciplinary and grievance matters, to renegotiating terms and conditions of employment. We are regularly asked to review pay and benefits packages, together with advising on employment issues relating to workplace pensions.
The employment team is proud of its reputation for providing business-focused and cost-effective legal advice. It is our aim to assist HR teams to work as efficiently as possible to abide by university policies and procedures in order to minimise the number of employee relations issues and/or tribunal claims which so easily disrupt operations and take up significant management time. An important focus is helping HR to up develop line managers as well as developing their own skills and experiences.
Our specialist immigration team is particularly experienced in advising the higher education sector on complex immigration matters, including compliance with sponsorship licences for both students and employees, developing policies, visa applications, audits and appeals. We are fully aware that the situation of a student with a cancelled visa could present numerous risks to universities, including the suspension, downgrade or revocation of the Tier 4 sponsorship licence. This could restrict the ability of a university to take on overseas students which in turn would have a significant impact on finances. We therefore take a proactive role in managing potential issues and ensuring that, where possible, the correct procedures are put in place to prevent serious problems arising in the first place.
Our technology team has extensive experience of advising universities and other educational organisations on the protection, exploitation and enforcement of intellectual property and all IT law. Our considerable expertise in this area means that we hold membership of a pan-European network of specialist IP and IT law firms (The IT & IP Law Group Europe).
Our expertise includes IP licensing and portfolio management, technology transfer issues, advising on IP in relation to mergers and freedom of information issues, including the storage of data in the cloud and data transfer, social networking and other policies, mobile apps and collaborative projects. We have supported many clients by negotiating, drafting and advising on large scale IT and telecoms service agreements, covering issues such as technical specifications, acceptance testing, warranties and limitation of liability. We are also assisting clients in their IP creation and assignment for EU Social Funded Projects.
In addition, we regularly advise on IP issues arising on technology transfer, spin out companies, licensing, audits/strategies and infringement/enforcement. Given the importance of data management and protection today, we are increasing helping clients with Non-Disclosure Agreements and the protection of confidential information.
Mergers and acquisitions
We were an integral partner to the University of Reading during their merger with Henley Management College (now Henley Business School), where we provided strategic expertise and attention to detail on process to ensure a smooth pre and post merger service.
We also have extensive experience in acting for universities and a wide range of other clients on commercial collaborations, partnerships, franchising and international arrangements. Through our international legal network, TAGLaw, we undertake significant work with an overseas element and are able to seamlessly tap into the large network of legal providers in almost every legal jurisdiction in the world, so where clients need foreign law advice, we are able to provide this from trusted and known advisers.
Outsourcing and procurement
We have considerable experience of all four EU procurement processes, working closely with clients at the start of the process to set the timetable, identify the agenda and ensure compliance.
In addition to large-scale, high value agreements, the commercial team advises on a wide range of day to day agreements for higher education clients, dealing with the procurement of goods and services, consultancy agreements, IT and technology agreements and Non-Disclosure Agreements. These agreements may be drafted from scratch or, quite commonly, we are required to provide a high level review of key issues at a fixed price.
Our commercial property has considerable experience in drafting, negotiating and advising on the terms of sale contracts, leases, development agreements and a wide range of other property related documents for a range of higher and further education clients.
We are pleased to have been involved in a number of major projects for longstanding client, the University of Reading, some of which have been of wider significance to the higher education sector generally.
Our lawyers have also advised clients in relation to the establishment of their organisations, including drafting of detailed constitutions and governance documents which set out the way in which the organisation is managed. As part of this they have advised on regulatory requirements and reporting measures to ensure ongoing compliance with relevant monitoring organisations’ rules.