They are very realistic and have an integrity which has won them their reputation and means that they get listened to.

Chambers UK

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What people say about us


Strong universities practice with significant experience in Tier 4 sponsor licences, data protection and freedom of information work. Also deals with academic litigation, pensions and industrial relations. Possesses considerable strength in immigration and regulatory matters, as well as employment disputes.

Strengths: One client remarks: ‘They are a super firm that provides really high-quality advice and shows great levels of compassion.’

Another praises the team for ‘providing well thought out advice and guidance’.

Interviewees characterise the firm's lawyers as ‘very responsive and knowledgeable’.

Notable practitioners

Daff Richardson: ‘She is extremely knowledgeable on all aspects of employment law.’

Hilary Aldred: ‘She is a tremendous lawyer who has very good knowledge of the education sector and is very practical.’

Victoria Federico: ‘She is really compassionate and understanding.’ ‘She is very good at client care and matches that with excellent legal skills.’

Chambers UK - 2022 edition

The team at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP has extensive experience advising a broad range of education and public sector clients, including several Russell Group universities and independent schools.

Hilary Aldred is a well-known employment specialist, and also advises on public law and regulatory matters. She co-heads the education practice with Daff Richardson in Oxford, who focuses on student complaints and disciplinary matters, as well as data protection and freedom of information issues.

‘Hilary Aldred. Very experienced, very sensible and pragmatic, extremely hard working, excellent grasp of complex situations.’

Pat Saini is a true expert.’

‘All colleagues I have dealt with have been first rate. Student visa work – which is completely accurate – is a fairly rare commodity and Penningtons staff in this respect are outstanding.’

Gemma Woodhouse – exceptional practitioner. Her experience and expertise in the field make her invaluable. She is contactable at any time and exceptionally quick in her responses.’

The Legal 500 - 2022 edition

Strengths: Clients say: 'They understand the sector, are pragmatic and work out tactics to suit the particular circumstances.'

Notable practitioners
Hilary Aldred specialises in employment law and regularly represents universities and alternative higher education providers. She handles a range of matters, including judicial reviews and immigration issues. 'She's very knowledgeable in relation to academia and employment law and really understands the sector.'

Daff Richardson focuses her practice on employment law issues affecting clients in the higher education sector. She assists with both contentious and non-contentious matters, including contract arrangements and employment tribunals concerning whistle-blowing and discrimination allegations. 'She's good at seeing the wood for the trees and cutting through the unnecessary issues.'

Chambers UK - 2021 edition

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a well-known name among universities, for whom it handles banking and finance, dispute resolution and employment law work. Led by the 'outstanding' Daff Richardson in Oxford, the practice has a niche reputational management sub-group, which assists clients with student-related issues and social media matters. In Cambridge, Hilary Aldred is a go-to for advice on contentious and non-contentious employment issues. Also recommended are immigration head Pat Saini and Hazar El-Chamaa, who advise London-based universities on student visa matters.

The education group has a wide offering spanning areas such as employment, data privacy and data protection, immigration and corporate governance. The firm also has a specialist safeguarding sub-group that acts for schools and individuals in contentious student issues and historical abuse. The practice is jointly led by Hilary Aldred, Daff Richardson and Reading-based Gemma Woodhouse. Pat Saini and Hazar El-Chamaa are also recommended.

Daff Richardson has outstanding expertise across employment law and education law, and is well placed to advise universities and others on cross-over issues. Sophie Whitbread has similarly broad expertise, and is similarly well placed.

Hilary Aldred is a tireless worker and versatile expert on employment law and its related aspects, with a particular strength in the Universities sector.

Gemma Woodhouse is an exemplary partner. Highly commercial, dedicated, hard working. Nothing is too much trouble and solves issues.

The Legal 500 - 2021 edition

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP's education team combines cross-departmental expertise in immigration, employment, commercial property and governance to advise clients on a wide spectrum of matters, including safeguarding and child protection as well as discrimination issues. Jointly led by Gemma Woodhouse, Hilary Aldred and Daff Richardson, the team has experience in assisting high-profile clients with historic abuse issues and defending against claims arising from this. Other key team members include immigration specialists Pat Saini and Hazar El-Chamaa.

Corporate partner Simon Bickerdike advises on multi-jurisdictional transactions and projects, and also handles merger-related matters. Sarah Coates advises education clients on property matters.

The Legal 500 - 2020 edition

Penningtons Manches LLP offers 'practical, high-quality advice' and is 'sensitive to the needs and issues of higher education', according to clients. It assists a host of UK, international and alternative providers of higher education, including with immigration issues. Hilary Aldred, who provides 'no-nonsense, practical advice', and Daff Richardson, who has a focus on disputes in this sector, co-head the department. Other noted team members include Pat Saini.

Clients praise employment partner Hilary Aldred for 'trying her best to follow the client’s instructions carefully even in difficult situations'. One client in the education sector remarks that 'we receive an excellent level of service from the employment team, with immediate response times, pragmatic advice and a good understanding of the sector' and notes that Aldred has 'unrivalled in-depth knowledge and understanding of the higher education environment and academic employment and contractual matters'. Senior associate Sophie Whitbread is also recommended.

Daff Richardson is 'incisive, professional and very responsive'; her track record in the higher education sector reassures clients, who value her 'knowledge of the key people, awareness of the history or politics behind a particular problem area, and detailed understanding of the statutes and bylaws'. 

The legal 500 - 2019 edition

Strong universities practice with significant experience in Tier 4 sponsor licences, data protection and freedom of information work. Developing a strong reputation among alternative providers of higher education.

Strengths: Commentators note: ‘The firm cares about its clients. They're very knowledgeable about and interested in the education sector.’

Another source adds: ‘They give sound, practical advice and offer a great level of service and contactability.’

Notable practitioners
Hilary Aldred is a key contact.

Chambers UK - 2018 edition

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP