Frances Godden


Senior Associate

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Experience

Frances joined Birketts in September 2019 as a Senior Associate in our Charities Team and is based in our Norwich office. Frances specialises in charity and ecclesiastical law, and is the Deputy Registrar for the Diocese of Norwich and the Diocese of London. She also has extensive experience in education law (particularly relating to Church of England schools and HFE institutions), as well as expertise in the law as it relates to matters of art and heritage. 

Frances acts for a wide range of clients including charities of all purposes, sizes and structures, advising on governance and constitutional matters, cy-près applications, management and restructuring of complex historical trusts and permanent endowment, Royal Charter petitions and complex gift and loan agreements in respect of works of significant academic, artistic and historical interest.

Before joining Birketts Frances was Deputy Diocesan Secretary and DAC and Pastoral Secretary at the Diocese of Ely, a role she took up having previously been Deputy Diocesan Registrar of the Dioceses of Ely and Guildford whilst based at a specialist charities, education and ecclesiastical firm in London, where she developed her expertise. Frances has worked extensively for the Church of England locally and nationally, advising Diocesan Boards of Finance and Education, parishes and clergy of the law of the Church of England and its structure, processes and application, particularly regarding charities and trusts, patronage, pastoral reorganisation and the faculty jurisdiction as it applies to church buildings and assets. She also advises clergy and others in matters relating to clergy discipline and complaints. 

Frances works for a number of educational institutions, and has much experience advising Diocesan Boards of Education and Church of England schools and HFE institutions, particularly on their constitutions and governing documents. She has established numerous single and multi-academy trusts, and has worked on multiple successful conversions (for Church of England and other faith and community schools), as well as negotiating important updates and revisions to legal documentation with the Department for Education. 

Frances trained and qualified in 2011 at a magic circle law firm, where she worked on a number of high profile and high worth transactions, focusing on mergers and acquisitions. Prior to entering the legal profession Frances enjoyed a career in the art world, working for Bonhams. She has a Master’s degree in the History of Art and a certificate in Art Law from Sotheby’s Institute, so is well placed to offer advice on legal issues as they affect matters of art and heritage, cultural property, or private or commercial clients in that sector, particularly charitable institutions with valuable collections. 

Frances is a trustee and committee member of the Ecclesiastical Law Society and is a trustee of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust. She is a member of the Charity Law Association (and was a panel member of its permanent endowment working party), Ecclesiastical Law Association, Education Law Association, Heritage Alliance and the Institute of Art and Law. Frances is also on the panel of professional advisers to the Association of English Cathedrals, providing legal advice to cathedrals and major parish churches across the country. 

Other Information

Frances is recommended by clients in Legal 500 [UK 2021]. One client notes ‘Frances Godden quickly got to grips with the matter and provided clear and purposeful advice'.