Sara Benbow is a civil mediator and a barrister, specialising in property and commercial law. She qualified as a barrister in 1990 and has been mediating since 2003. She is recommended by Legal 500 as a Mediator.
Sara has been a barrister for more than 25 years and is a senior member of Hardwicke’s Property and Commercial Teams. As well as her mediation and advocacy work, Sara is regularly called upon to write articles, to provide seminars and webinars, and to speak at conferences on various areas of property law. She is also a contributing author to Cousins: Law of Mortgages.
At the heart of Sara’s practice is property litigation, and she brings that knowledge and experience into her work as a specialist property mediator. She has considerable expertise in disputes involving real property such as boundaries, easements and adverse possession, co-ownership, mortgages, and the impact of insolvency on property rights, as well as conveyancing disputes including issues as to specific performance, rescission or registration, rectification, wills and trusts and, especially in the property-development context, cases about planning, covenants, regulated user, options or overage provisions.
Sara is also an experienced and knowledgeable commercial and residential landlord and tenant lawyer, covering both contentious and non-contentious work and understanding the perspectives of landlords, tenants and others such as beneficiaries, guarantors or insolvency practitioners who hold interests related to commercial or residential leasehold land.
Sara is a founder member of The Property Mediators, and has considerable experience and an impressive rate of success as a mediator in property disputes covering most of the areas mentioned above. Her continued parallel work as a barrister also helps her to retain a real connection with the property sector and an understanding of the needs and interests of the parties who seek assistance from her as a mediator.
Sara brings that expertise to bear also in the wider context of commercial disputes, where she is equally effective as a mediator.
The successful mediation of most disputes requires a combination of rigorous analysis, active listening and creative thought in an environment which builds trust and focuses on the way forward rather than the difficulties past. Sara manages to combine a friendly and accessible yet no-nonsense and tenacious approach with a keen practical and business sense, always seeking to keep the parties engaged and help them look beyond the confines of their adopted positions to find inventive solutions. Given her background in property and commercial law, that process often includes an element of testing with each party the strength of the arguments on which they rely to sustain them on the key legal issues rather than merely providing a conduit for discussions between them.
Some comments from clients
- “Whilst I have taken part in a number of mediations over the years, I can’t imagine that any of those practitioners could possibly have achieved your result”
- “Your patient help in guiding us to an unlikely settlement was invaluable”
- “Sara did an excellent job and gained all of our confidences”
- “Thank you for a well-conducted and highly professional mediation”
- “You brought a unique personal skill and empathy to the proceedings, without which no solution would have been possible”
Sara was trained and accredited by the ADR Group in 2003. She is a member of the Civil Mediation Council and a founder-member of The Property Mediators
Sara’s time away from work is divided between a range of musical activities, running around muddy fields across the UK and beyond umpiring women’s lacrosse, attempting to improve her rowing technique and waiting for hope to triumph over despair as a fan of West Ham United.
Sara Benbow lives in the Thames Valley and has Chambers in London, but mediates everywhere in the country.
Areas of expertise
- Commercial landlord & tenant
Commercial landlord & tenant
Sara is also an experienced and knowledgeable commercial landlord and tenant practitioner, covering both contentious and non-contentious work for landlords, tenants and others such as guarantors or insolvency practitioners who hold interests related to commercial leasehold land. As well as addressing issues relating to the 1954 Act, rent reviews, consents, dilapidations, and redevelopment, Sara has a particular specialism in the impact of insolvency on the commercial landlord and tenant relationship, and is a co-author and regular presenter of Hardwicke’s popular seminars on the subject.
- Development & planning
Development & planning
Sara has substantial experience in disputes relating to Property Development, whether in the context of the implementation and interpretation of agreements between participants (performance, overage, options etc) or in respect of practical issues which may arise with the land, its current occupants and its neighbours such as tenancy problems, planning, adverse possession claims, easements, restrictive covenants, party wall disputes, conveyancing issues and the like.
Sara is also much in demand as a mediator in such cases, where her familiarity with the subject-matter enables her to help parties find practical and effective solutions for their problems.
- Leasehold & leasehold management
Leasehold & leasehold management
Sara is an experienced and knowledgeable commercial and residential landlord and tenant lawyer. As an advocate and as a mediator she covers both contentious and non-contentious work and is noted for her understanding of practicalities of the subject from the perspectives of landlords, tenants and others such as beneficiaries, guarantors or insolvency practitioners who hold interests related to commercial or residential leasehold land.
- Real property & mortgages
Real property & mortgages
At the heart of Sara’s property practice is her work in the sphere of real property, whether as an adviser, advocate or mediator. As well as her expertise in disputes over boundaries, easements and adverse possession, co-ownership, mortgages, and the impact of insolvency on property rights, Sara provides specialist knowledge and considerable experience in conveyancing disputes including issues as to specific performance, rescission or registration and, especially in the property-development context, cases about planning, covenants, options or overage provisions.
- Trusts of land
Trusts of land
Trusts of Land have always formed a significant part of Sara’s practice, both as an adviser/advocate and as a mediator. She is particularly sensitive to the issues which often underlie such disputes, and is also conscious that third parties may well need to be involved if an effective resolution is to be found.
- Commercial landlord & tenant
- Legal professionals
Claims against solicitors and other legal professionals regularly form part of Sara’s work as a mediator, and she is noted for her skill in handling the competing interests which such claims often involve. As with all areas of her mediation practice, Sara combines a sensitive and flexible approach with many years of experience in professional liability claims and a detailed knowledge of the applicable legal principles. This enables her to test, where appropriate, the parties’ perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses in their respective cases and to help them move towards a sensible practical solution.
- Contentious Probate & Inheritance Act claims
Contentious Probate & Inheritance Act claims
Sara has considerable experience in disputes of all sorts concerning the estates of deceased individuals, both as an adviser/advocate and as a mediator. These are often extremely distressing situations for the parties, but Sara’s empathetic yet clear and practical approach does much to ease them through the process to a resolution.
- Commercial litigation
Sara undertakes work across the spectrum of commercial cases. She has extensive experience in disputes and potential disputes arising from most aspects of business dealings in the UK and abroad, with particular expertise in matters of insolvency and disputes concerning partnerships.
Her cases regularly involve complex factual issues, substantial elements of financial analysis and allegations of fraud. As well as acting and advising in the context of litigation, Sara is frequently instructed at a non-contentious stage or in relation to some form of ADR.
Sara also represents clients, drafts documents and advises in the context of arbitral proceedings both domestic and international. Her practice in this area has ranged from disputes as to the quality of goods or workmanship in respect of machinery, bulk stock, construction works and the like through issues as to the interpretation of and compliance with property development and regeneration contracts, to arguments emanating from international and domestic supply contracts with varied subject matter.
In addition to her work as an advocate and adviser, Sara is a qualified mediator with an impressive record, and is available to conduct mediations in most types of commercial dispute. Recent mediations have included disputes as to the legitimate operation of a business within the purview of a port, the dissolution of a partnership and consequent division of assets, and the serviceability of large scale mechanical plant.
- Corporate insolvency
Sara is one of Hardwicke’s senior insolvency specialists. She is regularly called upon to advise and represent insolvent or potentially insolvent individuals, partnerships or companies, those connected with them or third parties who have dealings with them in all sorts of contexts.
She is happy to accept instructions from insolvency practitioners as well as from the legal profession both in the UK and abroad.
She also provides seminars dealing with insolvency options and their implications in particular areas of law, and is a co-author and regular presenter of a frequently-requested session on “Insolvency for Property Lawyers”.
- Civil Mediation Council
- The Property Mediators
- Property Bar Association
- Chancery Bar Association
Cousins: Law of Mortgages (Sweet & Maxwell, 3rd edition – 2010)
- LLB (Hons)
- Accredited Mediator
Legal 500 recommends Sara as a Mediator: “a magnificent mediator, who is capable of cracking the hardest of disputes, and has many years of top-level property law experience behind her.”
Chambers UK says: “Sara Benbow of Hardwicke enjoys a strong profile in commercial and property mediation. Her practice has a national footprint” and “Sara is approachable and practical, and gives reality checks in a constructive way.”