We work with a variety of charitable and not-for-profit organisations in Hertfordshire, London and throughout the UK, ranging from small trusts to national charities. Our lawyers provide practical and cost-effective advice on the legal needs and regulatory frameworks of charitable organisations.

We have drawn together a team of lawyers from our trusts, corporate, employment, litigation and property teams with a particular interest and focus on the sector. Many of our lawyers also sit on trustee boards and committees so have a good understanding of the day-to-day issues facing charities.

We advise a large number of charitable organisations including religious charities, educational charities and care charities.

Debenhams Ottaway’s charity team is recognised in the Legal 500, one of the UK’s leading legal directories.

Incorporated charities

Our corporate team help charitable organisations including charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs) and those limited by guarantee as well as exempt corporate charities on a wide range of issues, understanding the interplay between corporate law, charity law and best practice. Some of the areas we assist with are:

  • setting up the legal structure of incorporated charities
  • altering the constitution, objects or governing document of an incorporated charity, such as the articles of association, and liaising with the Charity Commission
  • mergers of charities
  • preparing board and shareholder resolutions advising on corporate governance/administration, director/trustee duties and company filings
  • commercial contracts
  • legal opinions relating to section 124 Charities Act compliance.

Unincorporated charities such as charitable trusts

Charitable trusts have unique requirements unlike other trusts including having to report to the Charities Commission. Our trust lawyers are able to advise and assist on a comprehensive range of services.

Our Wills, trusts and probate team help unincorporated charities on a range of matters, including, altering a trust (whether created in a Will or otherwise), acting as a trustee – powers, duties and responsibilities, advising on changes of a trust, Charity Commission Schemes, charitable legacies/bequests, probate services and estate administration.

Our lawyers work closely with charities on estate administration and how funds are distributed when a charity is involved. We advise charities on the options available to them, guide them through the administration and prompt the executors into action.

Our Wills, trusts and probate team is recognised as the top law firm in the area for private client work in the Chambers and Partners High Net Worth guide 2020.

Employment services to charities

Employment law can be complex and legislation is constantly changing. We help senior managers and trustees of charities and other not-for-profit organisations with a range of day to day employment issues such as

  • drafting employment contracts and policies
  • advising on managing performance issues
  • handling flexible working requests
  • dealing with issues surrounding pregnancy and maternity/shared parental leave
  • addressing retirement and age discrimination issues
  • handling disciplinary investigations
  • resolving issues including negotiating settlement agreements.

We always look to resolve employment disputes amicably but if necessary, we can represent our client in an Employment Tribunal.

If the charity has limited HR resource then our Employer Support Service provides, for a fixed monthly fee, immediate access to a qualified specialist employment lawyer who knows the charity. We can also arrange protection against the financial exposure of an employment dispute. If a charity signs up to this service, we will undertake a free review of your contracts, policies and practices.


Our commercial property team advise a number of educational, care and religious charities in Hertfordshire and North London. Our experienced team of lawyers provide our charity clients with the full range of legal services for their property. Our work focuses on buying and selling property, property development, property litigation, property asset management and property landlord and tenant.

We advise on the sale and acquisition of properties, as well as the ongoing management of investment properties owned by charities. We work with our clients on the whole-life-cycle of property ownership from acquiring leases and freehold property, to managing leases and property interests, through to disposing of property and terminating leases.

Our property team is nationally recognised for its work and is in the top tier in both UK legal directories, Chambers and Partners UK and the Legal 500 within the Hertfordshire area.

We regularly advise on charity properties including care homes, churches, almshouses and national headquarters.

Litigation and dispute resolution

We advise charitable organisations on contentious matters including litigation and alternative dispute resolution. Charities, like commercial entities, can become involved in commercial or property disputes. We are experienced in specialist court applications, claims and appeals which are common to the charity sector including

  • contentious Wills, trusts and probate, including rectification and claims under the Inheritance Act.
  • beddoes applications authorising trustees to become involved in litigation
  • appeals against Charity Commission decisions
  • property litigation
  • problem tenants
  • disrepair claims.

Debenhams Ottaway is a member of The Charitable Law Association.

Charities and not-for-profit news

What Clients Say
  • Debenhams Ottaway have a strong team with a wide range of expertise, meaning they are well placed to assist on a range of routine and complex projects for a range of client types

    The Legal 500 UK 2024
  • They are responsive, diligent and make sure we are kept informed of progress

    The Legal 500 UK 2024
  • Every contact I have had with this firm has been dealt with promptly and efficiently by all team, from the initial taking of the calls and receptionists to the prompt response of someone in the team if the lead solicitors engaged elsewhere

    The Legal 500 UK 2024