John Friel

John Friel

Call 1974

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John Friel is recognised for his expertise in Chambers & Partners UK Bar Directory 2017.

Education - London (Bar) - Band 2

An impressive junior at the cutting edge of legal reform in education. He often advises on matters relating to education and disability, and is highly sought after by educational institutions in both the private and public sector. He also represents charities and governing bodies. 
Strengths: "He is well organised and extremely good at advancing clients' cases." "He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of SEN in particular."
Recent work: Advised in LW v Norfolk County Council, a case reported in The Educational Law Reports.  

Chambers & Partners UK Bar Directory 2016.

Education - London (Bar) - Band 2

One of the most experienced junior counsel in this field, he is a popular choice for individuals and parents facing educational issues that require close examination of policy, such as SEN assessment challenges.
Strengths: "He performs excellently and knows the law better than many of the judges do nowadays as he has written chunks of it. He is incredibly quick at processing large quantities of information, and is very forensic and thorough in his investigation of the facts."

Chambers & Partners UK Bar Directory 2015.

Education - London (Bar)

"A superb advocate, who is very approachable and always well prepared"
"He is a specialist in the field and he wins."

Chambers and Partners UK Bar Directory 2014.

Education - London (Bar)

"Possessed of vast experience and knowledge, he has unique forensic and analytic skills combined with a detailed understanding. You know you're in very safe hands, and he gives you the feeling that you're really supported."
"He is a very experienced SEN expert, who is approachable and always well prepared."

Chambers and Partners UK Bar Directory 2013

Education - London (Bar)

“John Friel is armed with 'incredible experience and knowledge,' and has 'detailed understanding of special educational needs cases.' 'A skilled, articulate advocate,' he 'always handles matters expeditiously.'”

Chambers and Partners UK Bar Directory 2012

Education - London (Bar)

“John Friel remains a popular choice amongst claimant solicitors. He is admired for his wealth of experience in the sector, and is recognised as 'a committed advocate who does not take no for an answer.'”

The Legal 500 - The Clients Guide to Law Firms

John Friel is recommended by the Legal 500 Bar Directory 2016 for his expertise in the London Bar - Education.
"A maverick in the area and definitely a safe pair of hands."

John Friel is recommended by the Legal 500 Bar Directory 2015 for his expertise in the London Bar - Education.

"Particularly strong on SEN issues."

John Friel is recommended by the Legal 500 Bar Directory 2014 for his expertise in the London Bar - Education.

"Noted for his experience acting for independent schools, maintained schools and governing bodies."

Education Law

John Friel has handled a large number of highly complex, complicated and difficult cases in the Special Education Needs Tribunal. The amount of tribunal cases has increased, and the cases have increased in complexity, and in difficulty.  John has achieved a commendable degree of success in such cases.


Special Needs and Legal Entitlement: The Essential Guide to Getting out of the Maze, written by John Friel and Melinda Nettleton, is a straightforward and comprehensive guide to the legal rights of children and young people with special educational needs, and to the Children and Families Act 2014.

Relevant cases

K v The School and the Special Needs Tribunal, Court of Appeal [2007] ELR 234
John Friel represented the school which established the nature of the defence of justification in Disability Discrimination.  It is the leading case on Justification.

L v Clarke and Somerset [1998] ELR 128
This is the leading case on the rights of children with statements of special educational needs.

School Admission Appeals Panel for the London Borough of Hounslow v The Mayor & Burgesses of the London Borough of Hounslow (2002) ELR 602
This case establishing at long last, despite contrary dicta in the Court of Appeal, and some first instance decisions to the contrary that the Human Rights Act does have a significant effect upon school admission appeals, and education law generally. At p.602 May LJ specifically singled out Mr Friel’s submissions for favourable comment. Confirmed Gloucestershire LEA.

Gloucestershire Local Education Authority v Gloucestershire Schools Appeal Panel (2002) ELR 309
John Friel appeared for the parents successfully.

O v The London Borough of Harrow & Sherwin (2002) ELR 195
Court of Appeal allowed the parents appeal, Mr Friel representing the parents, on the issue of the structure of the appellate process under the 1996 Education Act.

B v Hammersmith and Fulham LBC [2008] EWHC 2094 (Admin)
John presented a child who appealed against a decision that the respondent local authority had correctly decided to place her at a maintained special school for pupils with a range of special educational needs rather than an independent school for pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties.

B County Council v H [2008] EWHC 1070 (Admin)
An appeal by a LEA against the decision of a Special Needs Education Tribunal to move a child with ADHD and Autism to another school.


November 25 2016:

3PB's Education team host education law update seminar in London more

September 30 2016:

3PB’s expert education law barristers provide an informative update seminar on the 2014 Children and Families Act more

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