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Rachael Louise Smurthwaite



I am an experienced solicitor specialising in education law. I am based in Newcastle, however I advise clients throughout England and Wales.

I advise on all areas relating to education law with a particular focus on securing the provision of suitable education and/or services for children and young people with a wide range of special educational needs and/or disabilities. The legal framework in this area of law includes consideration of human rights law and health and social care law.

I have a particular interest in advising on cases involving children with Down's syndrome and Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

I represent families in Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal appeals in England (SEND) and Wales (SENTW) and in disability discrimination claims.

I have challenged decisions at the Upper Tier Tribunal and secured a number of high value independent school placements for children with special educational needs, including residential provision.

I regularly advise on a range of special educational needs matters such as:

  • Applying for EHC assessments
  • The contents of statements of special educational needs and EHC plans
  • Securing suitable provision and school placements
  • Transfers from statements to EHC plans

I am also experienced in advising on judicial review challenges and have successfully challenged local authorities on many issues surrounding education and school transport amongst other issues. I also advise on community care law and mental capacity law.

I assist with school admission and exclusion appeals and have dealt with judicial review claims in relation to both of these.

I conduct my own advocacy at tribunal hearings and independent appeal panel hearings.

I also advise a number of schools and colleges on their policies and procedures to ensure that they are not breaching their duties to their pupils.

I support a number of charities across the country assisting those with special needs and disabilities.

What Inspired You To Get Into Law?

Prior to working in law I worked in the housing sector. I wanted to pursue a career which would give me satisfaction and one where I could make a real difference to people's lives instead of taking all the time. I chose education law because my clients and their children are some of the most vulnerable in our society and if I can help to make their lives better then I'm making a difference.

What Is The Most Rewarding Aspect Of Your Role?

The most rewarding aspect of my role is achieving the much needed support and/or provision needed by my clients. Realising I have made a difference is why I chose law as my career.

What Do You Like About Working At Irwin Mitchell?

I enjoy working at Irwin Mitchell because they want to make a difference to their clients. They also support their staff in continuing their learning, and allow for flexible working.

What Do You Do Away From The Office?

Away from the office I am a keen equestrian. I have two horses and engage in all manner of equestrian sports with them from dressage to one day eventing.

I also enjoy discovering the world with my husband. We have visited Asia, Africa and Europe.