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David Smellie lawyer photo


Practice areas

  • Employment
  • Safeguarding

David is consistently rated one of the top employment and safeguarding lawyers in the UK. Whether advising on senior executive moves within PLCs or private equity, or the handling of serious or high-profile safeguarding cases, either past or present, David is acknowledged for the clarity and astuteness of his advice – always looking several steps ahead in an attempt to futureproof whatever action is contemplated now.

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.

Outside of employment law, David advises leading independent schools and focuses on issues relating to staff, pupils and parents – from sensitive dismissals to pupil exclusions and parental complaints. David is also probably the most experienced safeguarding lawyer in the country. 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, 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 team in conducting the Independent Review of Hugh Davies QC.

David qualified as a solicitor in 1989.


  • “Absolutely brilliant at senior executive work.” [Chambers UK, Senior Executive chapter]

    “He’s personable, thoughtful and really cares about the outcome.” [Chambers UK, Schools chapter]

  • Co-author of Protecting Children and Adults from Abuse after Savile.

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