Alison Paines


Alison is a partner in the charities team.

She has over 25 years of experience in advising charities and other non-profit bodies, and those who contract with or donate to them.

Her clients include an eclectic mix of service providers, grant-makers, educational bodies, aid agencies and research institutes, as well as individual and corporate philanthropists.

She advises on all aspects of charities’ activities but specialises in strategic and governance advice. She is particularly well known for her expertise on medical charities (especially those linked with the National Health Service), educational charities, charities associated with government and international charity issues.

Alison is well used to negotiating for clients with the Charity Commission and other regulators.

She is the past Chairman of the Charity Law Association and the current Chair of Governors at a leading school.

Secretary Claire Stent


She has an extraordinary knowledge of charity law.

Chambers and Partners, 2021

Alison Paines is simply the best charity lawyer I have had the good fortune to work with. She is simply excellent and completely unflappable in a crisis.

Legal 500, 2021

Alison ensures that the quality of the advice is always first-class; few others have such in-depth knowledge of NHS charities as she does.

Legal 500 UK, 2018

Alison Paines is a class act and the firm is a thoroughly good outfit.

Legal 500, 2021

Her technical knowledge is second to none.

Chambers and Partners UK, 2018

Track record





Governance reviews for Cancer Research UK, Girls’ Day School Trust and Orders of St John Care Trust.

Undertaking the role of interim General Counsel for the International Baccalaureate Organization.

On behalf of Sutton Trust, establishment of Education Endowment Fund, and related negotiation with Department for Education relating to £120 million funding.

England and Wales, 1981

Charities chapter to Chambers & Partners publication ‘Legal Brexit’ - August 2016

Edits and contributes to Oxford University Press’ ‘International Charitable Giving’ - published - November 2012

She writes the Department of Health’s Guidance on NHS charities’ conversion to independence’ - December 2012, updated March 2015

Charity Law Association

Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners

Law Society of England and Wales

Lectured with the Department of Health and the Charity Commission at roadshows in Manchester and London on the Department’s deregulation proposals affecting NHS charities

Spoke at a variety of events in Hong Kong and Singapore on fundraising and governance structures for international charities - November 2013

Me in a minute

I count myself very lucky to do the job I do

Almost every day brings something new and interesting - charities operate in so many different areas and have so many different projects - and the clients I work with include some truly inspiring people.

When I started as a lawyer I did property, tax and trust law; this knowledge has proved to be very useful, but in the 1990s I realised that charities needed proper legal advice which took account not only of whatever contractual, commercial or fiscal law affected them, but also of their special status as charities and their own governance arrangements. And so the charities team at Withers was born. We now have the privilege not only of acting for over 50% of the UK’s top 100 charities by income, but also of setting up and working with many others. This may include discussion with a philanthropist how best (and in what jurisdiction) to establish a charitable foundation; analysis of a charity’s service contract with government; governance advice on a board dispute; merger negotiations or joint venture structuring; fundraising projects; rationalising special purpose funds; and much more. Our work for UK charities will always be core, and close to my heart, but increasingly our work has an international angle: the good which charities seek to do often reaches across borders, but then has to deal with the laws of several different jurisdictions. One of my most fascinating, and challenging, tasks was acting as interim General Counsel for the International Baccalaureate Organization, headquartered in Switzerland, at the time when it was re-organising its operations into three regional hubs (one in Europe, one in the USA and one in Asia).

Right now, in addition to my day-to-day work, I am focusing on what Brexit may mean for charities. It is important that, in the depths of its international trade negotiations and legislative changes, the UK government still hears charities’ voice - for instance, the impact on cross-border scientific research, and the need for continuing immigration for staffing in the NHS and care sectors - and we are working with our clients to achieve this.



  • English





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