Kirsty McEwen

Partner and Head of Charity & Not for Profit

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"I am a leading charity and not for profit lawyer with a special interest in complex constitutional, governance and regulatory matters. ”

I lead the Charity & Not for Profit team, having joined Higgs in March 2012.

In terms of pure charity and not for profit law, we pride ourselves on being market leaders and experts in the field.

Our sector led approach sees the team work on a multi discipline, cross departmental basis drawing on individuals with expertise and experience in the sector across the firm to advise on a full range of issues affecting charities and not for profit organisations.

I have been advising charities and not for profit organisations on all aspects of their operations for over 20 years with a particular focus on constitutional, governance and regulatory matters.

I act for clients across the sector, from embryonic start-ups and small social enterprises to long established organisations, local through to national and international charities, charities that exist in isolation to those in complex group or federated structures.

I have extensive experience in advising on complex restructuring and reorganisation projects, on mergers and collaborative working, and on arrangements with non-charitable entities (including charity trade).

I regularly advise on the formation (and registration) of charitable and not for profit organisations, working across varied areas of ‘charity’, including advising private clients on structuring their charitable giving (philanthropy).

I have significant experience in advising on strategic heritage regeneration and restoration projects for charities operating in that space.

I sit as an approved Interim Manager on the Charity Commission’s panel and act in circumstances of mismanagement and maladministration, to the exclusion of the existing Trustees.

In recent years I have developed a reputation for supporting Trustees (including acting as independent reviewer) during ongoing Charity Commission regulatory involvement, in particular during a statutory inquiry.

I am Vice Chair of Governors of Hallfield School in Edgbaston, a leading independent co-education preparatory school for children from 3 months to 13 years.

I am a Trustee of The Solicitors Charity, the profession’s benevolent society providing financial, practical and emotional support to solicitors and their dependents in times of need or crisis.

I am a full member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, and a member of the Charity Law Association, the Ecclesiastical Law Society and the STEP Charities UK Special Interest Group.

I am recognised as Leading Individual by the Legal 500.

  • Acted on a significant project arising out of the transfer of the glass museum service and collections from the Local Authority to a new charitable entity, as well as the redevelopment of a former glass works site into a brand-new museum.
  • Appointed to undertake a strategic review of the governance and constitutional structure of a complex group of entities invovled in the visitor attraction space, which included two registered charities (one trust and one company) and two trading subsidiaries. And to then lead on the reorganisation, to include the creation of a new charitable entity and the merger of the existing entities into that.
  • Advised on the redevelopment of a visitor centre for a heritage charity. The project involved complex title and grant funding arrangements and included the construction of an iconic split level building with a new swing bridge and balcony over the canal. Throughout the project we worked closely with key stakeholders including the Canal & River Trust, Dudley Borough Council, Sandwell Borough Council, Heritage Lottery Fund and the European Regional Development Fund.
  • Instructed by a worldwide membership charity which operates in the technology space to undertake a wholesale strategic review of its organisational structure and governance.
  • Advised on the need for significant changes to its structure to provide greater clarity about the roles and responsibilities of the members and the Trustees and to ensure its governing document.
  • Instructed as Independent Reviewer to a benevolent charity operating to support professional footballers and ther families which was subject to a Charity Commission statutory inquiry.
  • Instructed by the Trustees of a religious charity to provide constitutional and governance advice following the opening of a regulatory case by the Charity Commission and to support compliance with an action Plan isused by the Charity Commission.
  • Acted on the formation and registration of a grant making foundation with significant assets (millions).
  • Instructed to provide strategic advice regarding the merger of two existing citizens advice bureaux. The work included considering all matters relating to charity law, governance, regulatory and constitutional matters as they applied to the activities of the charities and their trading subsidiaires and when considering the options for reorganisation.
  • Worked strategically with a hospice charity on the reorganisation of its trading activities, in particular its 24+ retail units, recycling space and storage units, all of which are opened and operated via its trading subsidiary. Technically complex and strategic advice was provided on matters relating to charity law, company law, Gift Aid, and business rates relief for charities, given the nature of the trading activity and the options available for reorganisation.
  • Instructed to undertake an extensive review of the governance and constitutional arrangements of a charity and its trading subidiary involved in the environment space, including updating the governing documents of both organisations, advising on the relationship between the two, drafting good governance documents, and providing training to the Trustees.
  • Provided specialist advice on the statutory conversion of a Community Interest Company operating in the health space to a registered charity, including drafting bespoke Articles of Assocaition, preparing the conversion case to the Charity Commission, as well as liaising with the CIC Regulator.
  • Advised on the employment of a Trustee as CEO of a bereavement charity, including obtaining Charity Commission consent.
  • Advised on the creation of a significant endowment fund for a charity which operates a building of signifncant political interest.
  • Advised a corporate Trustee (Local Authority) on the disposal of propertt assets to another heritage charity relating to a culturally significant space in Birmingham, including obtaining Charity Commission consent as required.
  • Advised on the winding up of a charity operating in the legal support space, including obtaining consent from the Charity Commission to the release of permanent endowment restrictions on certain assets to enable funds to be spent, and seeking consent of grant funders to the dissipation of restricted funds.

More about me

Favourite quote

"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference"

Childhood career goal

To be a newsreader on TV

Most used app

Audible – I love to read but don’t have enough time

Favourite place

North Norfolk coast

"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

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

Legal 500

"Kirsty is one of the stand-out charity solicitors in the Midlands in my opinion with a deep level of knowledge of the sector, its legal issues and how these can be resolved. She speaks in a language that all Trustees can understand and makes the complex straightforward, which is a key skill."

Legal 500

"I have worked with Kirsty McEwen on a long complex and demanding piece of work this year. She is very approachable and unlike many lawyers in this day and age she listens and looks for solutions."

Legal 500

Meet the team