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Freeths - Law firm

Ciaran Dearden


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“The work carried out by you really was first class. I cannot recall a case I have been instructed in being better handled by solicitors at every step.”
(Adam F. Griffiths, Barrister at Queens Square Chambers)

Ciaran specialises in Commercial Dispute Resolution and has a wealth of experience supporting clients in a wide range of matters including shareholder, partnership, contractual, IP, utilities and debt disputes and on matters of reputational management (including defamation) and professional liability/negligence.

As well as supporting clients in the event of disputes, Ciaran advises on dispute avoidance and risk management strategies. He has extensive experience of running litigation in the Court of Appeal, High Court and County Court as well as through Mediation and other Alternative Dispute Resolution processes.

Clients say they are “beyond impressed” by Ciaran, noting that “he was meticulous in the detail and provided a calm reassurance in what was a very difficult period for the shareholders” and that they “will definitely turn to him if we need legal advice in the future”. Barristers say that “the work carried out by Ciaran really was first class”, that they “cannot recall a case I have been instructed in being better handled by solicitors at every step”. Ciaran is noted as being “able to provide robust and well based advice which gets to the heart of the matter”, “deliberate and methodical when building a case” and is trusted by his clients to “implicitly to look out for us and our interests”.

Ciaran is recognised as a leading lawyer in both legal directories and was named as a Recommended Lawyer and Rising Star in The Legal 500 (2024 edition). He was previously shortlisted by The Law Society as Junior Lawyer of the Year and Highly Commended as a Rising Star in the Modern Law Awards.

Legal Services

Shareholder Disputes

Ciaran specialises in shareholder, director and partnership disputes and is regularly instructed to act on both the claimant and defendant sides of unfair prejudice petitions and in claims against directors in relation to breaches of directors’ duties. He has successfully litigated multi-million pound s994 petitions in the High Court but also regularly utilises alternative dispute resolution, including Mediation, recognising the value of achieving early, pragmatic and commercial settlements to mitigate disruption to businesses.

Recent Work

  • Acting for the majority shareholders and directors of a family business valued at circa £30m with interests in farming and property management in a long-standing and wide-ranging unfair prejudice dispute involving issues of quasi-partnership and allegations of excessive remuneration, breach of directors’ duties and exclusion from participation in management. Settled early on in a four-week High Court trial on terms which secured the company’s ability to continue to trade and exploit its current assets and which resolved a dispute that had been afoot for several years by exiting the dissenting shareholder.
  • Acting for two shareholders and directors of a retail business in which there was a deadlock and dispute between shareholders involving issues of quasi-partnership, successfully defending claims of wrongful trading, misuse of intellectual property, criminal damage and breach of confidentiality whilst successfully pursuing counterclaims of breaches of directors’ duties relating to allegations of wrongful trading. Obtained a quick resolution to the dispute on terms which were highly favourable to our clients by securing their exit from the company and a significant pay-out.
  • Acting for the minority shareholder and director of a private medical services company in a dispute between shareholders relating to allegations of breach of directors’ duties and unfair prejudice. Quickly forced a settlement which achieved our client’s primary objective of having his shares bought out, done on highly favourable terms which included a significant cash payment to our client and the company waiving restrictive covenants, which allowed our client to immediately set up in competition.
  • Acting for a minority shareholder and director of a healthcare supplies business in a dispute with the other shareholders and directors relating to allegations of breach of directors’ duties. Successfully negotiated an exit early in the dispute without the need to issue court proceedings and on favourable terms for our client which included the buyout of her shares above market value and an agreement that the other directors would discontinue proceedings against our client in the Employment Tribunal.
  • Acting for a finance and brokerage business and its Managing Director and minority shareholder in defending separate claims brought by two minority shareholders in relation to allegations of misfeasance, breach of directors’ duties and fraud. Achieved a highly favourable result for our client in which one shareholders’ claim was settled on terms that provided for the shareholder to pay a significant sum to the company and the other shareholders’ claim being discontinued in its entirety.
  • Acting for the shareholder and director of a leading event support and power generation business valued at circa £1.5m in High Court unfair prejudice proceedings with the sole other shareholder involving issues of quasi-partnership and relating to allegations of unauthorised withdrawals of company money, exclusion from participation in management and breaches of directors’ duties. Successfully defended claims brought by the dissenting shareholder and settled on terms that provided for monies withdrawn by the other side to be repaid to the company and the acquisition by the company of their shares at below market value.
  • Acting for the majority shareholder and Managing Director of a leading national food manufacturer valued at circa £30m in defence of a complex High Court claim brought by several individuals who sought equitable interests in the shares of the company, defending allegations of an unlawful means conspiracy and settling one of the claims on terms that provided for their interest to be acquired at significantly below market value.

Commercial Contract Disputes

Ciaran has vast experience of dealing with all manner of contractual disputes across all sectors and in any number of different contexts, including on cross-border disputes. He has taken high-value contractual disputes to the High Court and won but also regularly achieves favourable outcomes for clients at the pre-action stage, whether by correspondence or the use of alternative dispute resolution, recognising that pragmatic and commercial settlements have real value to clients.

Recent Work

  • Acting for a specialist carbon composites manufacturer in bringing a six-figure debt claim against its customer and defending a counterclaim in breach of contract relating to the production of state-of-the-art hydrofoils used on an offshore racing yacht in the prestigious Vendee Globe round-the-world race. Succeeded on the claim and defeated the counterclaim at a multi-week trial at the High Court, recovering a six-figure sum in damages and full costs recovery on account of a pre-action Part 36 settlement offer which was then beaten at trial. See judgment here.
  • Acting for the fund managers of an offshore investment fund which held multi-billion-pound investments in the UK in a complex dispute relating to sums due under management agreements for a nationwide student accommodation portfolio. Settled the dispute, valued at several million pounds, at the pre-action stage which unlocked the ability for the fund managers to achieve a highly profitable disposal of the portfolio for more than £420 million.
  • Acting for a high net worth individual in a dispute relating to overage provisions on a substantial residential property in a desirable suburb of Sheffield. Successfully contested the local council’s claim for an overage payment exceeding £1.5 million and settled on terms which provided for our client to pay less than 5% of the sum claimed.

Corporate and M&A Disputes

Ciaran has been instructed on numerous disputes arising out of corporate transactions, advising upon and acting both in bringing and defending several multi-million pound claims relating to completion accounts, deferred consideration, warranties and fraudulent misrepresentation.

Recent Work

Acting for the former shareholders of a world-leading sports equipment manufacturer in defence of several breach of warranty claims and defective goods claims brought by the acquirer of the shares in a dispute worth over £1.5 million. Successfully defended the most valuable claims and settled the lower value claims at the pre-action stage on terms that were highly favourable to our client.

Acting for the former shareholders of a global logistics company in a dispute with the Australian purchaser of the shares over completion accounts in the share purchase agreement, defending claims valued at over £5 million. Settled a High Court claim on favourable terms for our clients.

Claims against Professionals

Ciaran has acted on numerous professional negligence claims against all manner of professionals, including complex and high-value claims brought by companies and individuals against solicitors, accountants, financial advisors and surveyors.

Recent Work

  • Acting for two private individuals in a professional negligence claim against a firm of solicitors in relation to advice given to them regarding interest rate hedging products that were later the subject of a review by the Financial Conduct Authority. Settled without the need to issue court proceedings on terms which recovered significant damages for our client and a payment toward their legal fees.
  • Acting for an insolvency practitioner in a professional negligence claim against a firm of solicitors in relation to a failure to advise on the application of the statutory charge under the Insolvency Act 1986. Secured an early settlement by which the firm of solicitors agreed to indemnify our client for a six-figure sum it had been ordered to pay to its opponent in court proceedings because of steps taken based on the negligent failure to advise and to meet our client’s legal fees.

Reputation Protection, Defamation & Privacy

Ciaran has been instructed to support clients in relation to various matters of reputation protection and management, including to both pursue and defend claims in defamation and to assist clients subject to high-profile journalistic investigations, including by the BBC and Guardian.

Recent Work

  • Acting for a high net worth individual whose tax affairs were promulgated as part of the Paradise Papers leak, representing the client in discussions with a national broadcaster relating to the extent to which the client was to be featured in a televised exposé and successfully arguing against disclosure of certain of the client’s information by negotiating an agreed statement for publication.
  • Acting for a national road furniture manufacturer in defence of a claim brought by a market-leading industry competitor relating to allegations of infringement of intellectual property rights and misleading advertising over material that had been posted to YouTube. Successfully resisted a threatened application for injunctive relief and defended allegations relating to infringement of IP, resulting in our client being able to continue to use the marketing material at the heart of the dispute.
  • Acting for an international gaming and sports betting company in relation to defamatory comments made about it by a group of individuals across social media in relation to the odds stated of winning various games. Successfully obtained the early removal of offending posts across all social media.
  • Acting for a motor dealership and repairs company that had been featured on a prominent review aggregation website in a dispute regarding the veracity of reviews posted to the site. Succeeded in procuring the removal of all reviews that could not be independently verified, which resulted in the aggregation website amending its policies to require prior verification of all reviews before posting.
  • Acting for a leading operator of retirement homes and its Managing Director in a matter in which a former employee’s partner had been harassing senior managers within the business. Succeeded in quickly obtaining written assurances from the individual that such conduct would cease.

Employment Restrictive Covenant Disputes

Ciaran has acted in bringing and defending many claims relating to breaches of restrictive covenants and often-associated claims in breach of confidence or theft of confidential information, including advising on injunctive relief to prevent the use of confidential information.

Recent Work

  • Acting for a market-leading accountancy practice in a series of claims which pursued and prosecute breaches of restrictive covenants by former employees, on every occasion successfully enforcing covenants and securing undertakings from the former employees regarding their future conduct.
  • Acting for a heavy engineering company in a dispute relating to its former sale manager, who had taken confidential information to their new employer, a key competitor of our client. Quickly secured disclosure by the former employee of copies of all communications to our client’s customers and suppliers and written undertakings from the former employee regarding their future conduct.
  • Advising several companies of amendments to restrictive covenants within their employment contracts and of amendments to company handbooks to protect the clients against former employees taking and using confidential information.

International Litigation, Mediation & ADR

Ciaran regularly engages in alternative dispute resolution processes as a means of resolving matters early and avoiding the disruption, expense and exhaustion of court proceedings. Even where settlement can’t been reached through ADR, Ciaran recognises its value in narrowing issues and getting to the heart of a dispute, which makes it a useful tool in many disputes.

Recent Work

  • Acting for a healthcare services provider and its Managing Director in defence of a multi-million-pound claim brought by several claimants in relation to a joint venture agreement. Represented our client at a mediation at an early stage of High Court proceedings at which the claim was settled on highly favourable terms, providing for the client to pay an amount less than 10% of the sum claimed.
  • Acting for a charitable trust responsible for redeveloping an historical stately home of national importance in a wide-ranging and challenging dispute arising from a land and business sale agreement, which involved disputes over chattels/fixtures and abandonment (the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977).  Represented the charity at a mediation and negotiated a settlement which was hugely favourable in providing for title of chattels and other items to be transferred to the charity.
  • Acting for an outdoor event logistics company at the mediation of a dispute relating to defective products, at which a non-monetary settlement was achieved which avoided any financial liability and enabled our client to preserve its commercial relationship and future business with the other party.



To contact Ciaran or for more information…

Call: 0114 263 9438
Mobile: 0797 275 3347
Or email: Send an email


  • Former President of Sheffield & District Junior Lawyers Division

“Going above and beyond the call of duty (and the prescribed office hours!) is something that is often overlooked and I am grateful to you for your efforts in resolving this matter.”

“Ciaran is able to provide robust and well based advice which gets to the heart of the matter.”

“We are so grateful for all the help, advice and support you have provided throughout the year. We could not have made it through without your help and guidance.”

“Meticulous in the detail and provided a calm reassurance in what was a very difficult period for the shareholders.”

“Combines acumen with a strategic mindset” and is “deliberate and methodical when building a case.”

“He is able to convey often complex legal arguments in a way that is easy for us to understand.”

“We trust Ciaran implicitly to look out for us and our interests.”

‘Ciaran Dearden is a very strong, competent lawyer and easy to work with.’

(The Legal 500, 2024)

“Very hardworking.”

(The Legal 500, 2022)

Client service

‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.

Our values


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Freeths are a leading national law firm with 13 offices across the UK. If you have a query about our services or just want to find out more, why not give us a call?

Contact: 03301 001 014

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