Public international law in London Bar
Public international law (PIL) covers a wide variety of disciplines, but for the purpose of this section, the rankings are primarily identifying those barristers with a strong focus on state v state disputes, state immunity, sanctions, and investment treaty arbitrations. There is inevitably some overlap with other categories such as public law and international human rights law, but for a more exhaustive review of experts in those fields, please see the separate civil liberties and human rights and administrative and public law chapters.
3 Verulam Buildings is 'increasingly developing genuine expertise and depth in Public International Law at all levels' and is considered by some to be a 'premier Investor State Arbitration chambers'. Christopher Harris QC is one of the set's best-known silks in this area, and more in recent years, he has been joined by several ex-solicitors with a strong track background in this area, including Tariq Baloch, Mark Wassouf, Paul Wee, and Cameron Miles. Recent highlights include The Nova Group BV v Romania, where Harris and Miles are representing Nova Group.
Blackstone Chambers has a superb reputation for public law, civil liberties and human rights, and is also extremely strong on the commercial side. This unique combination feeds into the extremely well-regarded public international law practices of some of its members, including market-leading practitioners such as Maurice Mendelson QC. Notable highlights include Reyes v Al-Malki in which Timothy Otty QC and Paul Luckhurst acted for the claimant in this critical diplomatic immunity case concerning human trafficking. Other key mandates include Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC's advice to the Cayman Islands Government on its constitutional negotiations with the UK.
Essex Court Chambers is 'well known as an excellent PIL set' and the 'counsel are consistently of top quality and involved in some of the highest-profile PIL work around'. The set has 'recruited well recently' with the arrival of Alison Macdonald QC from Matrix Chambers and Sean Aughey from 11KBW cementing its status at the top. Recent cases include Qatar v United Arab Emirates at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where Dan Sarooshi QC and Vaughan Lowe QC appeared on opposing sides. Macdonald also represented The Republic of Mauritius in a high profile ICJ Advisory Opinion on the Chagos Archipelago, in which Sam Wordsworth QC was opposing counsel.
Matrix Chambers is an 'excellent chambers for State-to-State public international law disputes' and members such as Zachary Douglas QC are also noted for their strong expertise in investment treaty claims. Clients commend the 'very professional and well-run' set and its 'highly engaged and accommodating clerks'. It retains a strong stable of PIL specialists working at the intersection of commercial and public law. Highlights include Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh's advice to the Republic of Macedonia regarding its treaty negotiations with Greece. Philippe Sands QC also led Jessica Jones in The Gambia v Myanmar before the ICJ.
Twenty Essex is 'top of the list for public international law'. Clients appreciate that the 'powerhouse' set's 'very approachable' juniors and silks 'wear their considerable expertise lightly'. Two of the set's top members, Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC and Sir Michael Wood KCMG served as principal legal advisers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and are now highly sought after as counsel. Both Bethlehem and Wood, as well as Guglielmo Verdirame QC, Philippa Webb, and Sudhanshu Swaroop QC, are representing Italy in a dispute with India, following the 'Enrica Lexie' Incident, before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Verdirame QC was also a member of the government's legal team advising on the controversial Internal Markets Bill. Chambers' junior ranks have been bolstered by the arrival of Simon Olleson from Three Stone.