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Asia Pacific: The English Bar

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The flexibility and international expertise of the English Bar continues to make it a popular choice for arbitrations in Asia, with many barristers accepting appointments as arbitrators and counsel.

Despite Asia remaining a core region for shipping lawyers, the slowdown of work in this area continues, as exemplified by the February 2017 demise of Hanjin Shipping. Shipbreaking activity has spiked: for example, in a transaction unusually attracting some media attention, a seven-year-old Chinese-built Panamax container ship named the Hammond Grenada was sold for scrap for $5.5m – less than a tenth of her original value – in January 2017, setting a new record for the youngest container vessel to be recycled. That said, many of the new vessels being added to the world’s merchant marine are some of the largest ever seen, taking advantage of the extra 16.5m of width allowed by the 2016 opening of the Panama Canal’s third set of locks. Further regulations regarding ship emissions have the potential to create some work going forwards, due to the complexity of the modifications required to some existing ships.

Away from international arbitration, a number of members of the London criminal Bar appear in politically charged Hong Kong fraud trials, following increasingly rare ad hoc admissions, or provide strategic advice to international corporates on bribery and sanctions issues. In particular, the extraterritorial extent of the UK’s Bribery Act is becoming more visible (and in some cases almost as prominent as the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) in the light of a number of key names in the engineering sector becoming embroiled in bribery scandals across the emerging world.

This section covers individuals who practice as members of English sets of chambers, irrespective of their nationality of qualification. Most are primarily based in London and travel frequently to the region, but a small minority are located full-time in Asia Pacific – a number of leading sets have annexes in Singapore.

2 Bedford Row, which covers the gamut of criminal work in London, includes members with expertise in cross-border fraud, bribery and sanctions matters. Senior clerk John Grimmer is a key contact.

3 Verulam Buildings is ‘a go-to set’ that is ‘absolutely superb in banking and finance disputes’, with a particular strength in all manner of India-related work as well as financial services matters across the region. Stephen Penson, the senior practice manager, delivers ‘strong service and runs an excellent clerking team’.

4 Pump Court is a ‘responsive and user-friendly’ chambers that is ‘active in Hong Kong’. The set handles a range of commercial work,with a particular strength in China-related matters, and shipbuilding and energy disputes. Chief executive Carolyn McCombe ‘runs a tight and efficient business’ and provides ‘strong leadership in the clerks’ room’, which includes joint senior clerks Carl Wall and Stewart Gibbs. The set now has an office in Hong Kong rather than an affiliation with Arbitration Chambers Hong Kong.

5 Paper Buildings includes members with expertise in a range of criminal cases, some involving ad hoc admissions in Hong Kong. The senior clerk is Dale Jones.

6KBW College Hill is one of the leading sets for prosecution work in London, and has a presence in some of the top fraud trials in Hong Kong, following ad hoc admissions. Andrew Barnes is the senior clerk.

7BR’s members handle a range of work within the UK domestic criminal space, some of which penetrates internationally. Paul Eeles and Steven Wright are the joint senior clerks.

7 King's Bench Walk has expertise in work spanning from insurance and commercial dispute resolution through to aviation and shipping. Bernie Hyatt and Greg Leyden are joint senior clerks, with practice development and marketing director Brian Lee also a key contact for international work.

One of the leading sets for shipping work’, 20 Essex Street also has a considerable strength in commodities cases. At deputy senior clerk level, Arron Zitver is ‘pleasant to work with’ and Christopher Theobold is ‘sensitive and considerate when dealing with solicitors’. Amy Mellon is the set’s Singapore office’s practice manager, with head of practice support Rachel Foxton also a key contact. Jemma Tagg is the director of strategic development.

With offices in both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, 39 Essex Chambers is ‘a very good set with a good selection of barristers’ for work ranging from construction and shipbuilding arbitrations, through to commercial matters. Director of Asian business Roderick Noble ‘has done a great job of developing the Asia practice’, and senior practice manager Owen Lawrence is ‘very approachable’ and ‘spends a lot of time investing in relationships with law firms’.

Atkin Chambers is ‘a well-run set’, with a worldwide footprint in construction law. Director of clerking David Barnes, who joined from 39 Essex Chambers, is ‘always helpful and reasonable’, and senior clerk Justin Wilson is ‘well organised and always provides useful recommendations on counsel for different cases; he knows the Hong Kong market very well’. Daniel Jones, who manages arbitral appointments, is ‘very helpful and responsive’.

Brick Court Chambers handles a range of heavyweight commercial work in London, with a growing presence in international arbitration worldwide. Julian Hawes and Ian Moyler are the joint senior clerks.

Cloth Fair Chambers has a strong reputation for a range of defence work in complex corporate crime cases.

Essex Court Chambers is ‘clearly a top set, where there is great depth, and the clerks always find someone to help – even at short notice’. It includes members with experience both as counsel and arbitrator in shipbuilding and commercial disputes. David Grief and Joe Ferrigno are the joint senior clerks, responsible for providing a ‘seamless and smooth client service’.

Fountain Court Chambers is ‘powerfully matches breadth and depth with precision, strategy and efficiency’. With particularly strong links to Singapore and an established office there, the set handles heavyweight commercial disputes, and members act as arbitrator and counsel, with a strength in financial services matters. The ‘prompt and professional’ clerks include senior clerk Alex Taylor, deputy senior clerk Paul Martenstyn, and Asia practice manager Caroline McConnon, who is based in Singapore.

Keating Chambers has a particular strength in construction disputes, with connections to jurisdictions across Asia Pacific including Australia. Declan Redmond is the director of clerking.

Matrix Chambers’ criminal and international law practice manager Paul Venables is responsible for clerking the practices of several members who handle key Hong Kong financial crime litigation and strategic advice.

One Essex Court has a track record of involvement in high-level commercial disputes. Key contacts include senior clerk Darren Burrows and deputy senior clerk Jackie Ginty. The set has a Singapore office, where Kelly Lim is a key contact.

Quadrant Chambers is ‘highly regarded for shipping and insurance matters, with members who are exceptionally knowledgeable, user-friendly and supportive in complex cases’. Although best known in the shipping space, it also handles a range of commercial disputes. The joint senior clerks ‘provide a reliable and helpful service throughout’: Gary Ventura is ‘standout’ and Simon Slattery is also ‘particularly good’.

St Philips Stone contains a number of members with shipping expertise and has an office in Singapore. The group, which is part of St Philips Chambers, is also noted for its ‘very efficient clerking’, where chambers executive officer Luke Irons is a key name to note.

Three Stone is best known for its Chancery practice and has links to Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region. Justin Brown is the senior clerk.

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