Francesca Quint is best known as a specialist in charity law, an area in which she has been working for the whole of her career to date. Charity law naturally overlaps with distinct areas of law in which Francesca also practises which impinge on the activities of charities. These include education, housing, ecclesiastical law and aspects of public law.
It also extends to those areas which affect people who wish to support charities, such as wills, trusts and tax, in which Francesca is often asked to advise regardless of any specific charity involvement, and where an individual or organisation has a dispute with a charity. In addition, her experience in charity law has led to Francesca being asked to advise comparable organisations which are not charities.
A good deal of Francesca’s work is non-contentious but she often finds herself advising charities in trouble, whether financial, constitutional or regulatory, or acting for one side or another in disputes within, between or involving charities.
Where possible, however, Francesca (herself a trained mediator) tries to assist her clients to find a creative solution which avoids litigation. Her advisory and drafting work has taken her into abstruse areas of many different kinds including toll bridges, fisheries, the exhumation of bodies, foreshore rights and private Acts of Parliament as well as mainstream topics such as the technicalities of company law, the law relating to unincorporated associations and local authority governance issues.
She is equally at home advising charities, clubs, commercial bodies and individuals, and has acted for several clients based in Northern Ireland as well as those in England and in Wales. She is also very flexible in accepting instructions informally as well as in more conventional ways, and apart from instructions from solicitors and other professionals on any of her practice areas is glad to receive direct instructions on charity law matters under the Bar’s Public Access Scheme.
Some of Francesca’s work of note includes:
- Bangor Provident Trust Limited v Charity Commission for Northern Ireland and another  NICA 21 – Acting in a case concerning charitable status and in particular whether the objects of a housing association are or are not exclusively charitable
- Cifci & Others v Erbil & Others (2012) – Identifying the correct constitution of a charity for the Alevi community
- Re Attorney General’s Reference (2012) – Representing the Police Federation on the question of public benefit in charities for the relief or prevention of poverty where there is a restricted class of beneficiaries: further clarification of the law in the light of the ISC case (below)
- R (Independent Schools Council v Charity Commission (NCVO intervening) (2011) – Representing NCVO in the leading case on the public benefit requirement for independent school charities: The Charity Commission’s guidance and the trustees’ duties as regards those who cannot afford school fees
- R (Parent Governors of Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School) v Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, CA (2011) – Representing the Archbishop in a dispute over the interpretation of Regulations about the qualifications of Foundation Governors of a voluntary aided school: meaning of ‘eligible’
Cases involving litigation in which she has advised on the charity law implications include cases relating to the Church Commissioners and various NHS Foundation Trusts.
Casework of particular interest not involving litigation include advising the trustees of the following charities: The Royal Society, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, Greenwich Hospital, Trinity House, Harrow School, Dulwich College and the Hastings & St Leonards Foreshore Charitable Trust.
Francesca has been keenly involved in the reform of charity law since giving evidence to the Tumim Committee of the NCVO in 2001 – recommending the strengthening of the public benefit test for charities – and has most recently commented in depth on the Law Commission’s proposals for technical changes to charity law, a project currently on hold due to Brexit.
Francesca has been an adviser to the National Association of Almshouses since 1989 and over the years has been a trustee of various charities and board member for associated entities.
Francesca is recommended by the directories as a leading barrister for charity law. Editorial has included the following comments:
- “Her knowledge of charity law and practice is unrivalled. She quickly grasps the key commercial issues, and provides clear and concise advice.” “The gold standard in charity barristers.” (Charities, Chambers UK Bar 2021)
- “Excellent with clients and provides a calm, reassuring presence.” (Chancery: Traditional, Chambers UK Bar 2021)
- “Is an absolute legend, hugely impressive she has years of experience in this sector, has been and continues to be at the top of her game for many years.” (Charities, Legal 500 UK Bar 2021)
- “She is a respected traditional chancery practitioner who is known widely for her expertise in charities work. She is highly sought after for the most complex non-profit issues, primarily in an advisory capacity.” (Chancery: Traditional, Chambers HNW London Bar 2020)
- “She certainly knows her onions, and is exceptional in terms of the breadth and depth of her charity law expertise and the way she deals with charity commissions. When you know she’s involved on the other side you take note of it. In the governance sphere in particular, she is known and loved.” (Charities, Chambers UK Bar 2020)
“In complex situations, she has a lot of empathy and clarity and puts the client at ease.” (Chancery: Traditional, Chambers UK Bar 2020)
- “An authority on charity law, which she knows back to front from her years of experience.” “She quickly cuts across complex charity law issues to give clear commercial advice.” (Charities, Chambers UK Bar 2019)
- “Thorough, quick to respond and user-friendly, she is meticulous in her approach.” (Chancery: Traditional, Chambers UK Bar 2019)
- “Provides highly technical advice in a clear and concise way.” (Charities, The Legal 500 2019)
- “Just an absolute star. She does work for us on pure charity law questions and is absolutely brilliant. She’s really quick and really clear in her advice. If you want a definitive answer on charity law, she is the person to go to.” “Refreshingly non-academic in her approach, and a calming, reassuring influence.” (Charities, Chambers UK Bar 2018)
- “Very commercial, very user-friendly and very responsive, she can adapt her style depending on what is needed.” (Chancery: Traditional, Chambers UK Bar 2018)
- “She has wide and deep knowledge of charity law and a genuine interest in the subject.” (Charities, The Legal 500 UK Bar 2017)
- “She is outstanding and enormously experienced – there is no one better to turn to.” (Charities, Chambers UK Bar 2017)
- “She is clear, practical and pragmatic and is willing to take a view on matters.” (Chancery: Traditional, Chambers UK Bar 2017)
- “She has broad experience in charity governance.” (Charities, The Legal 500 UK Bar 2016)
For many years Francesca has been involved, either alone or with others, in writing and editing charity law texts including Sweet & Maxwell’s Charities: The Law and Practice and the Charities volumes of Butterworth’s Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents, the latest issue of which was published at the end of 2018.
Francesca regularly delivers seminars or in-house courses on charity law.
Francesca regularly reviews applications to Advocate (formerly the Bar Pro Bono Unit) for free legal advice, drafting and representation. She is also committed to providing substantial pro bono assistance and advice concerning Wimbledon and Putney Commons, a statutory charity governed by an Act of 1871 which is currently in serious need of updating.
Francesca is a long-standing member of the Charity Law Association on whose executive committee she served for a number of years and for whom she has drafted model governing documents, now in their 3rd edition.
She is also a member of the Chancery Bar Association and the Ecclesiastical Law Society. She practises in Northern Ireland as well as England and Wales. She has served as a Governor of Dulwich College and as a trustee of Elizabeth Finn Care (now Turn2us) besides various other trusteeships, and regularly gives legal advice to the Almshouse Association as a longstanding member of its Advisory Body
Francesca is also a member of both Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn, and is a bencher of Lincoln’s.