How long have you worked in Edwards & Co?

I joined Edwards & Co in April 2019. Before joining the team here I was head of the Charity Law and Social Enterprise team in a large corporate practice in Belfast. Prior to that I had practiced in London and North West England. I qualified in 1998 and currently hold practicing certificates for both Northern Ireland and for England & Wales.

Do you specialise in any particular area?

For 10 years or so I practiced in the areas of company/commercial and corporate law – mainly mergers and acquisitions, shareholder arrangements, partnerships, general commercial contracts and corporate governance but about 7 years ago I moved into the specialised area of charity law which I enjoy immensely. My charity clients have ranged from small charitable trusts to companies limited by guarantee with a UK and often worldwide presence.
My work in the third sector also involves advising industrial and provident societies/ community benefit societies and registered housing associations. More recently I have qualified as a mediator with the Mediation Institute of Ireland.

I have been involved with the Boardroom Apprentice training programme since its inception. My main role is training the apprentices in the area of governance.

What do you like about what you do?

The best thing about my job is being able to help my clients be better at what they do for the benefit of their service users. I tend to fully buy in to the ethos of my charity clients and always go the extra mile for them. I love to learn and I absolutely love to teach and as such have been a regular tutor at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, Queens University Belfast for the past 17 years. Due to my involvement in charity law over the last number of years and my commitment to our local community I was appointed Branch Officer and Chair of the North & West Belfast Branch of the National Autistic Society a number of years ago. More recently I have been appointed a charity trustee of the Northern Pharmacies Limited Trust and a charity trustee and director of ParentingNI. I am also a community volunteer at the Northern Ireland Hospice for which I was awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service which is the MBE for volunteers.

What’s the best case you’ve ever worked on?

During the last number of years I have advised a local voluntary grammar school in respect of its change of status from that of voluntary grammar school to that of controlled grammar school. It was the first time in the history of schooling in Northern Ireland that this has happened. Governance advice was provided together with advice in respect of all contractual documentation required to complete the transfer. Shortly after this I then advised the Interim Board of Directors/Governors of a proposed new co-educational non-denominational voluntary grammar school in Northern Ireland following a ministerial decision to close an all boys voluntary grammar school and an all girls controlled grammar school. I advised the new school in respect of joining the NILGOSC pension scheme.

Another matter that I am extremely proud of is my successful application to the High Court for cy pres / administrative schemes in respect of over 760 charitable funds of Belfast Health and Social Care Trust which had been created in piecemeal basis over the years and required modernising. The value of the funds was in excess of £42 million and after a long process of review and application to court this money is now available to be used for the benefit of the public and in accordance with the spirit of the original intention of each of the funds.

Chambers UK Quotes

Sarah has been described in Chambers and Partners Legal Directory as “excellent and very approachable”.
It also states she is held in high regard for her focused and diligent approach. A source says: "We left after our first meeting feeling greatly relieved that our trust's affairs were in competent hands."

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