Charity Lawyers

Our highly-experienced charity lawyers are ideally placed to help charities and not-for-profit organisations thrive and achieve their objectives.

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Guiding you through all aspects of charity law

With many of our solicitors and other key staff involved in their own chosen charities, as trustees or in other roles, we not only understand the relevant law but also have a full appreciation of the wonderful work undertaken by these bodies.

Our charity law team can help you navigate the many and varied issues involved in running a charity and not-for-profit organisation in the current climate. As well as a full command of the Charities Acts 2011 (including the recent substantial changes) we have a real grasp of your day-to-day challenges; from employment law and safeguarding to property matters, financial issues and contested legacies. 

This expertise, which includes first-hand experience of the Charity Commission, is aided by our multi-disciplinary wider team, which works across many legal practice areas. Coupled with our third-sector insight and our total commitment to client service, you receive a bespoke legal offering, tailored to your precise needs.

Our experienced, committed lawyers provide expert input to a range of bodies – whether operational or grant making, national or local – we assist with setup, administration, and all the associated regulatory and governance requirements.

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We help establish charities so that they can function fully and deliver the vital work to the communities they serve. We can advise and support you in creating the right structure; be it a trust, a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) or a company limited by guarantee (CLG).

Similarly, we guide not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises in choosing a structure that is best suited to their size and purpose. The options include Community and Social Clubs (CASCs), charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs), unincorporated associations, and non-charitable community benefit societies (CBS or Bencom).

By talking to our clients, listening to their objectives and then applying our own specialist legal and organisational knowledge, we can jointly identify the best route forward. Once this is agreed we make sure we achieve these aims quickly and efficiently.

Charity governance

Strong charity governance is critical in the effective running of any charity. It is essential in building trust with supporters, funders and regulators. Furthermore it helps ensure that the desired services and support are delivered effectively to your beneficiaries.

The updated Charity Governance Code, introduced in 2020, sets out seven principles of good governance practice for charities in England and Wales, being organisational purpose, integrity, decision-making, risk and control, equality diversity and inclusion, board effectiveness and openness and accountability. We can advise on the application of these principles to the operation of your charity, either as part of a full governance review, or as individual aspects need particular consideration.

With our legal expertise and our extensive first-hand sector experience, we can provide trustee training to help trustees and senior management teams to fully understand trustees’ legal obligations and duties. We can also help trustees undertake a review of the charity’s objects, ensuring that they remain fit for purpose and advising on the possibility for amendment should this be necessary, either using the mechanisms in your charity’s governing document or through a scheme of the Charity Commission.

Grant-making charities: administration service

Our experience in advising charities on the requirements for effective and efficient administration has shown us just how difficult it can be for busy trustees to confidently manage the administration of grant making charities. We provide our grant-making administration service to help private or family charitable foundations, as well as corporate foundations.

Through this we effectively provide a virtual office free from the cost and burden of overheads and the employment of staff, and in doing so, remove the risk associated with operating expensive premises and managing people.

As part of this service, we can act as secretary for your charity, taking away that worry and allowing the trustees to focus on the decisions to be made about the best use of the charity’s funds. We take responsibility for the preparation for trustee meetings, we attend the meetings and record the trustees’ decisions, and then ensure all filing with regulators is undertaken.

We process and action, as appropriate, the grant applications received and prepare and file the necessary annual accounts. We can even help with the charity’s policies and provide valuable training for the trustees. We’re delighted to be able to provide this very practical and direct support to charities.

Charity administration

Through our experience and extensive sector knowledge, we can offer valuable legal and practical input regarding the ongoing, day-to-day administration and management of charities and not-for-profit organisations.

This input covers issues such as appointments, resignations and removals of trustees, trustee remuneration, member involvement, decision-making requirements and grant-making considerations.

We can advise on the requirements for charities holding permanent endowment, and on the options to seek to release the restrictions, should that be in the best interests of the charity.

Charity structuring and restructuring

To ensure they are able to provide the greatest public benefit, charities have to be properly structured. So, much like private sector companies and public sector bodies, charities and not-for-profit organisations must ensure that their structure is best suited to their current needs and aspirations.

We help charities of all types and sizes to review and, where necessary, update their structure. This can involve the use of trading subsidiaries and groups, particularly where trading is involved, or incorporations of unincorporated entities to corporate structures. It may also entail forging new arrangements with other charities and organisations, such as mergers, joint-ventures and collaboration agreements.

Charity and regulatory compliance

Our extensive experience within the third-sector and the broader business world makes us your ideal advisor on all matters relating to compliance.

Along with our colleagues in other relevant legal disciplines, such as business services and employment, we will help you navigate all prevailing compliance matters. These may include dealings with the Charity Commission, including if subject to a statutory inquiry, or issues such as safeguarding. We can help you with your relationships with other regulators, such as Companies House, the FCA, the Fundraising Regulator, HRMC and the CQC.

Charity legal health check

A charity legal health check is an excellent way to gauge the overall status and legal wellbeing of your charity or not-for-profit organisation. It is a very worthwhile exercise, not only for new clients (as a way of really getting under the skin) but also for existing clients who may benefit from a timely refresher.

Through our bespoke legal health check we can examine any areas ripe for improvement and recommend any changes which could enhance your performance and benefit those you serve. Once prepared, we can also help you implement any agreed changes, amend appropriate documents and provide training where necessary.

"Kirsty McEwen in particular is friendly and engaging as well thoroughly professional. Her commitment to the wider sector, not just her firm’s clients, sets her apart from other legal professionals we have dealt with"

Legal 500

Charity legacies and funding

We offer extensive guidance and support to clients on all aspects of legacies and funding for charity and not-for-profit organisations. This ranges from traditional income and fundraising streams to online platforms. Our experts can steer you through the challenging world of fundraising regulations and compliance, investments (including social investment), grant making and receiving, legacies, Gift Aid, charitable pledges and donation agreements.

Charity disputes

Our expertise and experience give us an outstanding insight into the difficulties and potential for disputes sometimes faced by charities and not-for-profit organisations. We understand that sometimes disputes cannot be avoided, and we have the specialist knowledge across the firm to be able to help, both in anticipation of a dispute and throughout any legal action.

We understand the particular reputational pressures on charities and not-for-profit-organisations and how this might affect decisions taken and can assist whether the issue might be internal and relating to trustees or employees, relating to the receipt of a legacy, or regarding a dispute with third parties.

"In addition to the outstanding legal knowledge and skills the team brings, they have a strong commitment to the charity sector, regularly organising events to help build skills and knowledge for charity leaders"

Legal 500

Charity property 

As a law firm with across-the-board expertise, we can provide the legal advice and support for every aspect of charity business, including property matters. You can speak to our specialists about sales or other disposals of charity land, whether as an investment or as part of charitable activities. We can also advise on leases for charity shops and premises, purchase of freehold or leasehold properties and all related transactions.

Commercial activities 

Working with our commercial law colleagues, we can advise our charity and not-for-profit clients on such topics as partnerships, commercial participation and sponsorship agreements. Similarly, calling on support from our various legal departments as necessary, we are able to guide clients on their retail activities, e-commerce, trading, intellectual property, advertising and third-party agreements.

Data protection and privacy

Over recent years, the seismic changes in communication and technology have thrown up many new challenges for the third sector, not least in terms of managing the information and personal data they receive and store. To ensure you do not fall foul of regulations – and the resulting public opinion fallout – we have the in-house resources to guide you through the modern-day minefield of data protection (GDPR), privacy and data handling. 

Charity employees and volunteers 

Charities and not-for-profit organisations face the same legal obligations and expectations as their counterparts in the public and private sectors in relation to their employees. Moreover, the increased involvement of volunteers brings its own particular demands. Our legal experts are here to help you deal effectively with all aspects of employment law, tribunals, pension matters, health and safety observance, TUPE requirements and recruitment. 

"Expertise in the charitable sector. Kirsty McEwen is knowledgeable and experienced"

Legal 500

Who do we work with?

The range and depth of our charity expertise means that we have dealt with just about every type of organisation and individual engaged in the charity and not-for-profit sector. This includes operational or grant-making organisations, such as faith groups, almshouses, sports and recreational charities, heritage organisations, schools and universities, housing associations, and benevolent associations.

We understand the value brought by those working with charitable and not-for-profit organisations, and advise others in their dealings with the sector, such as local authorities, philanthropists, foundations and commercial partners.

Whatever your charitable cause and whatever your needs, we have the knowledge and experience to be your trusted legal guide

Why choose us as your charity lawyers

Our charity legal team is renowned for its outstanding expertise and experience, borne out of our dealings with all types of charities and not-for-profit organisations, from local concerns to national bodies.

Not only do we possess the legal know-how but we pride ourselves on our service ethic. We are dedicated to helping people reach the best possible outcome and our approach is refreshingly down-to-earth. Our clients truly value our honesty and straight-talking style.

In addition to our dedicated charity team, we can bring a vast range of legal skills and experience to the table. From commercial specialists to property, from litigators to tax, we can customise our legal support to your precise requirements.

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Meet the charity law team