Charities and social enterprise

Leaders in charity and social enterprise law 

Our broad expertise in advising charities, social enterprises, staff led mutuals and other not for profit organisations (including membership bodies and trade associations) enables us to provide pragmatic and proactive advice to the sector. We are committed to continuing to develop our services to meet the changing needs of the sector. 

Our team has worked with those operating within this sector for many years and advises on all aspects from start-up options and legal structures to expansion, reorganisation, and collaborations. Our aim is always to assist clients to maximise their impact and become more efficient. 

We have a dedicated national team operating across the firm’s five offices in London, Harrogate, Manchester, Newcastle, and Southampton. Our clients range from household names to start-ups and from National and regional organisations to local groups. 

Our clients 

We work with a range of clients from across the sector: 

  • Charities 
  • Social enterprises (in all legal forms) 
  • Co-operatives 
  • Staff led mutuals 
  • Professional bodies 
  • Trade associations 
  • Businesses supporting charities 

Our areas of expertise 

Our team is experienced in advising on all elements of law and regulation that impact on the sector, including: 

  • registrations of charities and social enterprises
  • incorporation and conversion of existing charities
  • set up of public services mutuals
  • charity, company, Community Interest Company, and Community Benefit Society regulation
  • Royal Charter corporations
  • collaborations and mergers
  • governance reviews and training
  • fundraising and income generation
  • grants and Social Finance
  • legacies
  • contracts
  • procurement and commissioning
  • employment and equality and diversity
  • intellectual property and technology
  • disputes
  • real estate
  • projects and construction
  • information governance

Our work with charity partners 

We are committed to contributing to the continuing development of the charity and social enterprise sector. We are kept at the forefront of changes and influences in the sector by operating at research and policy level with specialist umbrella bodies, often acting as thought leaders on innovative developments.  

Sharing the knowledge gained from our partnerships and wide range of clients, we work with clients at a strategic level to find ways to make their plans happen and help them appraise opportunities from recent developments and government policy. 

We are active members of ACEVO, CFG, Social Enterprise UK, and the Charity Law Association. 

We are also members of Social Club, set up by Social Minds, and regularly partner with them to support their members. Social Club is a network of charity and social enterprise leaders and exists to help them make the biggest possible impact. It brings together leaders to learn, share and engage with each other, and other influential leaders, on the biggest questions facing leaders of social sector organisations. Many are health and social care organisations, while the group also includes those providing youth and probation services.  

As part of our partnership agreement with ACEVO, we regularly run 1:1 legal surgeries with CEOs to discuss topical strategy issues. Recent topics include collaborations, mergers, and income diversification. 

We regularly partner with leading charity accountancy firm haysmacintyre, hosting joint webinars and trustee training sessions. Together, we collaborated on the release of the Hospice and Care Charity Benchmarking survey report. 

We have a strong track record of advising Public Service Mutuals on spin outs and post-spin out business growth and development, including advising under government support programmes for this agenda. Please see our Social Enterprise page for more details. 


Case studiesView all

  • Acquisition of charity headquarters

    Acted for Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health on the acquisition of its new headquarters in Theobald’s Road, London and on its related sale of its headquarters building near London Regent Street.

    View Case study
  • Charity merger: National Childbirth Trust

    We advised the National Childbirth Trust on its merger with the Midwives Information and Resource Service (MIDIRS). We advised the National Childbirth Trust on this merger including negotiating and concluding a framework merger agreement.

    View Case study
  • Conversion of a housing association to a charity

    Converted Franklands Village Housing Association to an exempt charity and subsequently complete its merger with a local charity. Franklands Village Housing Association is a community benefit society and therefore could not register with the Charity Commission.

    View Case study
  • Cross border charity merger

    Advised Outward Bound on the transfer of the Omani operations of a subsidiary charity to an NGO registered in Oman. Outward Bound operated a subsidiary charity in Oman to use its wild deserts and mountain landscape to develop life skills through challenging outdoor journeys.

    View Case study
  • Governance review of a Royal Charter body

    Advised the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the introduction of an entirely new governance structure. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is the medical Royal College for its speciality established by Royal Charter. Ian Hempseed was appointed as the legal advisor to the College’s Governance Working Party, whose recommendations were approved by the College’s Council.

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  • National rebranding of a charity

    We advised Arthritis Research UK on its national rebranding. We provided a legal project plan and then handled all stages of implementation, including obtaining consents from the Charity Commission and OSCR, passing the resolutions of the charity and its subsidiaries and licensing of the new name to its trading company.

    View Case study

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  • Chambers UK 2023
    “Hempsons has warm, friendly solicitors with superb experience and skill. They're responsive and explained everything thoroughly in plain English at every stage of our charity transition process.”
  • Chambers UK 2023
    “They provide a great level of service and always respond promptly with timescales.”
  • Chambers UK 2023
    “The team grasps the issues quickly, they're pragmatic and solution-oriented.”
  • Chambers UK 2023
    “Its lawyers are commercially astute.”
  • Chambers UK 2023
    “Ian is excellent - he's a great support and a reliable adviser. He has always offered sound, practical and timely advice.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “Led by Ian Hempseed and Helen Hirst the national team at Hempsons “combines excellent knowledge and experience with an accessible and friendly approach”.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “Hempsons is a very professional and very easy firm to work with. It has outstanding staff and is always happy to help and advise. Ian Hempseed is very well versed in our affairs, remembers issues going back over many years and is able to put everything into context. He has and remains a very valuable asset for us as an organisation.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “Hempsons is thorough, efficient and focuses on solutions and associated risks.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “Advises on complex issues in a straightforward manner. Throughout the pandemic it has offered free legal advice for all our members, this has been invaluable. They really care about the third sector.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “The team are excellent at understanding the issues of charity leaders and finding appropriate support. Their responsiveness, knowledge and expertise are second to none.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “We value the team’s ability to be flexible, their conscientiousness and their focus on details. This, aligned with a deep knowledge of our sector, is invaluable. Our contact Ian Hempseed is diligent and approachable.”
  • Legal 500 2022
    “Hempsons are the leading specialists for health and social care. For us, their key strengths are in their depth of knowledge around health and social care and in successfully challenging CQC and regulatory bodies. Their billing is very reasonable compared to other firms and they have a good solid reputation. Their expert advice and partnership makes it feels like they are part of our team – I guess they are in so many ways.”