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Asia Pacific: The English Bar

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The popularity of English law as a governing legal system for transnational commercial deals has meant that the English Bar is a popular choice for Asian businesses and law firms involved in international arbitration. Shipping is a core area of work, in part due to English law being the de facto international standard for shipbuilding agreements. Other areas of work include construction disputes, financial services matters and energy issues.

Singapore is, for many, the key hub for arbitration in Asia. Some of England’s leading sets have opened satellite offices in Singapore, although few barristers are permanently based there. Further north, Kuala Lumpur is seeking to be a leader in the region, partially competing on cost.

Hong Kong is another key jurisdiction, where the closeness to China makes it a popular arbitral venue for disputes between Chinese and non-Chinese parties. Mainland China is becoming increasingly accepted as a venue for international arbitration, with China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) leading and the Shanghai International Arbitration Centre and Beijing Arbitration Commission growing in prominence. In a separate ecosystem, many elite criminal barristers gain instructions in the region, either for strategic-level advice or representation in Hong Kong financial crime trials, where London silks can be instructed in exceptional cases.

2 Bedford Row is a preferred chambers for white-collar crime’ with a growing international workload. The clerks are proactive and helpful’, with senior clerk John Grimmer particularly so’.

3 Verulam Buildings is a leading set with good people at all levels’. Chambers has particular strength in India disputes and financial services-related work. The clerks are flexible, friendly and sensible’; Stephen Penson is a key contact.

4 Pump Court is not only a good choice for construction and energy disputes, but also equally capable of handling commercial cases involving complex legal issues’. It has a notable strength in the Sinosphere and a presence in Hong Kong through links with Arbitration Chambers Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carolyn McCombe is highly efficient and able to recommend the best fit for the client’s case’, and Carl Wall (who leads the clerking team alongside Stewart Gibbs) provides great help for law firms based outside the UK’.

5 Paper Buildings’ Jonathan Caplan QC defends in Hong Kong fraud trials but also has experience handling Singapore cases. Dale Jones is chambers’ senior clerk.

6KBW College Hill’s David Perry QC has been active prosecuting in serious Hong Kong fraud cases. Andrew Barnes is chambers’ senior clerk.

7BR’s Collingwood Thompson QC has experience in legal professional privilege and financial regulation matters in Hong Kong. On the administrative side, joint senior clerks Paul Eeles and Rod McGurk are key contacts, alongside chief executive Rachel Holmes.

7 King's Bench Walk’s particular strengths include insurance, commodities and shipping disputes. The joint senior clerks are Bernie Hyatt and Greg Leyden, with practice development and marketing manager Brian Lee also a key contact.

20 Essex Street is best known for its strengths in commodities, commercial and shipping disputes. Head of practice support Rachel Foxton is well known in Singapore’s international arbitration circles’, and senior clerk Neil Palmer is stands out for quality of service, approachability and commercial nous’.

At 39 Essex Chambers, Asian clients feel valued on the basis that the set has invested in the region through establishing Singapore and Kuala Lumpur offices’. Chambers has a broad practice, spanning the full spectrum of international arbitration, with members acting as both arbitrators and counsel. CEO David Barnes and Malaysia-based Director of Asian Business Roderick Noble are singled out for praise.

Particularly well regarded for construction matters, Atkin Chambers’ members appear in arbitrations worldwide. In the clerks’ room, senior clerk Justin Wilson is extremely responsive and easy to work with’.

Blackstone Chambers has a particular strength in India-related disputes. Chambers includes Harish Salve SA, an Indian senior advocate, as a door tenant. The key contacts are senior clerk Gary Oliver, chambers director Julia Hornor and deputy chambers director Mat Swallow.

Brick Court Chambers’ Charles Hollander QC was admitted to the Bar of Hong Kong in 2015, where he also practices out of Temple Chambers. Ian Moyler and Julian Hawes are the joint senior clerks.

Boutique criminal set Cloth Fair Chambers’ members are regularly instructed in top-grade white-collar crime matters, including in Hong Kong. Senior clerk Nick Newman is a key contact.

Doughty Street Chambers has a strong reputation for international criminal law. Key criminal clerks include business development director Maurice MacSweeney and team leader Tom Street.

Essex Court Chambers includes counsel with Asia-focused international arbitration practices spanning shipping, energy, construction and investment treaty matters. A number of members spend significant amounts of time in Singapore, where chambers has an annexe.

Fountain Court Chambers is well connected’ in the Singapore market, where it has been active since the 1980s and opened an annexe in 2014. Work includes a range of commercial arbitrations, often touching on financial services, insurance and civil fraud. Caroline McConnon is the key contact in Singapore, while Alex Taylor is chambers’ senior clerk in London.

Keating Chambers’ strong reputation for construction in London penetrates out to arbitration work in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Director of clerking Declan Redmond always recommends the right barrister for the job’.

Regarded as one of London’s leading sets for financial and international crime, Matrix Chambers includes a number of silks with strong Hong Kong practices. Chief executive Lindsay Scott and practice manager Paul Venables are key contacts.

Monckton Chambers’ Thomas Sebastian, who practised as a member of the Indian bar for over a decade before qualifying in London in 2012, advises on international trade matters. David Hockney is the senior clerk.

Well known for international commercial arbitration, One Essex Court opened its Singapore office in 2012. Darren Burrows is the senior clerk in London, while Kelly Lim is the key administrative contact in Maxwell Chambers.

Quadrant Chambers has a leading reputation for shipping and commodities, with its members regularly instructed directly by Asian law firms. While dry shipping makes up a core part of the practice, it retains a strength in wet shipping work, with some members having been admitted ad hoc to the Hong Kong Bar for such cases. Simon Slattery and Gary Ventura are the joint senior clerks.

St Philips Stone Chambers was formed in August 2016 when London shipping set Stone Chambers merged with St Philips Chambers, a major player in the English regions. Dan Tan of Dan Tan Law joined as an associate member shortly before the merger.

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