Womble Bond Dickinson LLP

Introduction In a constantly evolving landscape the need for lawyers who understand the Academies and Schools Sector and who are attuned to change is paramount. At Bond Dickinson we understand the needs of the Academies and Schools Sector.  In addition to our work for our clients a number of our Education Team are themselves Governors of Schools and Academies.  Consequently we know that legal services are not your main priority but we also know how important it is to minimise the risks to your core educational purpose (and budgets) by availing yourselves of high quality legal advice.    As the number of private sector organisations who are looking to contract and interact with you as an Academy or School increases, you want the comfort of knowing that your school has available to it the best possible legal and commercial support. 

That is what we are here to provide. Our Team has a National reputation in the Academies and Schools Sector and has advised clients across the country from the Scottish Borders to Kent.  Our areas of expertise cover every service you are likely to need including:- Converting to an Academy; HR and Employment; Building Works; Health and Safety Regulations; Charities and Tax; Catering and Cleaning Contracts; Admissions and Exclusions; IT Contracts; School Companies; Shared Services with other Academies and Schools; Procurement; Dispute resolution. Our Team believes in working in partnership with our education clients, taking the time to understand your school and the particular pressures you face.  Having worked with everyone from small primaries to multi academy trusts, we are able to identify with your needs and create the right solutions for you.   We also understand that you do not want to pay for legal services that don’t add value. 

Being mindful of budgets helps us to focus on what really matters to you and how we can deliver it.  Timely advice can often represent money well spent.  If in doubt you can give us a call – a conversation costs nothing.  If we cannot help, we will say so.  If we can we will tell you how and let you know how much it will cost.  Above all, we believe in delivering results through proactive and informed advice given by lawyers who are the leaders in their field.  You will find us to be pragmatic people who know the value of money, particularly in the challenging environment of school budgets.  We will not haggle over legal points that are of no significance or benefit to you and will always look to find the most pragmatic outcome in the most cost effective way. A New Way of Working We have been involved in the Academies and Schools Sector for over ten years.  Over that time we have advised every stakeholder including:- Individuals Schools; Diocesan Bodies; “old style” academy sponsors; DfE; Local Authorities - “new style” Academies; Trust Schools; Free Schools; Independent Schools. Independent Schools have many years experience of operating their schools as companies.  This is a model of operation that the new style Academies – State Independent Schools – must learn and adapt to.  In addition to our core legal expertise we can support you with our wider commercial knowledge gained from our years of advising others in the same position as you.  We can therefore give you added value support with advice on matters such as the procurement of new suppliers be they IT Contractors or cleaning companies. Added Value Like all those who provide you with services we know that you want to see added value from your lawyers. 

We will add value to our relationship in the following ways:- HR consultancy – provides clients with access to our own HR experts considerable experience;  Helpline – our telephone helpline, which also covers email communications, provides school and academy clients with invaluable access to qualified solicitors to obtain urgent advice, the answer to a query or simply reassurance that a particular matter is being handled correctly. Training – we will provide practical training sessions on a broad range of matters of relevance to you and your school such as Employment Law, training for your Senior Management Team and Governors; Flexibility on fees – clients have the right to expect a cost effective service that delivers certainty on fees.  We adopt a number of flexible fee structures to ensure we meet those expectations, including fixed and/or capped fees for particular work, e.g. for drafting Employment Contracts or reviewing commercial contracts.


PFI Academy Conversion

Dickinson Dees (now Bond Dickinson) dealt expertly with our conversion and we are now discussing ways in which we can continue our relationship and receive further support from them post-conversion.  Our conversion was particularly complex as we are in six commercial partnerships, including PFI and BSF.  We also had difficult issues to address with both the Local Authority and a land transfer to a private sports club.  Dickinson Dees (now Bond Dickinson) steered us through this legal morass with considerable skill and expert guidance.  They drafted and redrafted legal documents and negotiated on our behalf with all the other parties involved in the conversion.  They were proactive in contacting us and prompt in dealing with issues we raised.  They are highly knowledgeable in current educational matters and solved one especially difficult concern by deploying knowledge one would normally expect only from a senior educational practitioner. In addition, the Dickinson Dees (now Bond Dickinson) team were excellent to work with, combining goodwill and good humour with their high levels of professionalism.

Academy Conversion

The process of converting to academy status is not one that you embark on lightly. Having people of the calibre of Kevin Robertson and his team on board provides great reassurance. They are immensely professional in their approach, work with great good humour and are able to make the process comprehensible. Their understanding of the conversion from both sides of the process means that their advice is of the highest quality.

We worked with a small team with whom we were able to develop excellent working relationships and who quickly got to know our school extremely well. Indeed, it is fair to say that they helped make the process surprisingly enjoyable.