David Smellie


David Smellie

Contact details


  • Legal 500, 2015
  • Chambers UK, 2016


Trained at Farrer & Co; qualified in 1989; made a partner 1996.


St John’s College, Cambridge (MA).

David is 'a fantastic all-rounder, a real Rolls-Royce of an employment lawyer with a great bedside manner'.

Chambers & Partners

David Smellie heads the firm's Employment Team, is a member of the firm's Schools Group and separately leads the Safeguarding Unit.

In employment law David has consistently been rated amongst the top rated UK employment lawyers by Chambers and Legal 500.  He advises institutional employers on the discrete handling of potentially high profile employment cases.  He is also acknowledged to be one of the leading employment law advisers to senior executives, typically advising on PLC Board and private equity moves and departures.

In advising schools David focuses on issues relating to staff, pupils and parents – from sensitive dismissals to pupil exclusions and parental complaints.  David's leadership of the Safeguarding Unit stems from many years of advising schools on safeguarding and child protection.  He founded the firm's Child Protection Unit (now known as the Safeguarding Unit) in 2015 which advises organisations either working or coming into contact with children.  These include schools, universities, charities, churches and religious organisations, visitor attractions, sports clubs and the medical sector.  David advises on the full range of safeguarding issues, from creating safer systems to handling live cases and carrying out retrospective reviews.  He is particularly well known for his role in advising on the Southbank International Vahey case where he led the Farrer & Co team in conducting the Independent Review of Hugh Davies QC.

What the directories say:

"an absolutely first-class lawyer" who is "excellent with clients and very hands-on and practical" - Chambers UK

"unparalleled knowledge of the education sector" - Chambers UK

"very in tune with all of the topical issues" - Chambers UK

"Department head David Smellie ‘brings a wealth of experience, know-how, integrity and sheer charm to all his cases and clients'." - Legal 500

Who we help

David heads the Farrer & Co Schools Group and is widely acknowledged as one of the leading schools lawyer in the country. He specialises in child protection, pupil disciplinary matters, SENDA and schools related employment issues for a stellar client base that includes many of the UK’s best-known schools.

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