Joe Smouha QC > Essex Court Chambers > London, England > Lawyer Profile

Essex Court Chambers
Essex Court Chambers
Joe Smouha photo


Has a broad-based commercial practice with a particular emphasis on appearances in international arbitration, the Commercial Court, Court of Appeal, House of Lords and Privy Council. Regularly appointed as arbitrator. In the commercial law field he acts regularly for major international corporate clients in all sectors (particularly the financial, energy, insurance and reinsurance, film, television, music, art and advertising sectors). Also acts for many governments and government-related organisations. Has appeared in arbitrations in many jurisdictions outside England and has appeared in the courts of the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.


Called 1986, Middle Temple; silk 2003.


French (fluent).


Magdalene College, Cambridge (BA Hons; MA).

Lawyer Rankings

London Bar > Commercial litigation

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 1

Joe Smouha QCEssex Court ChambersOne of the most serious heavyweights at the Bar for heavy-duty commercial litigation, particularly with a fraud element. One to use for serious and incisive cross examination.

Essex Court Chambers is to some the ‘go-to commercial set above all others‘ and ‘the universal quality of its counsel marks it out as exceptional‘. Perhaps a mark of the set’s quality and depth is its ability to carry on despite the departure of several high profile silks in 2021, in part owing to sanctions imposed on the set by the Chinese government. A glance at the calibre of the set’s new silks and juniors  suggests the future remains bright. Among these, James Willan QC was sole counsel to Nikolay Fetisov, one of the defendants in National Bank Trust v Yurov, a matter concerning an alleged misappropriation of funds from a Russian bank, with Nathan Pillow QC, David Davies and Anton Dudnikov appearing for the claimant, and Paul Stanley QC acting for another defendant. Joe Smouha QC also led for the claimants in PCP Capital Partners LLP v Barclays Bank plc with a team that included James Sheehan.

London Bar > Fraud: civil

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 1

Joe Smouha QCEssex Court ChambersA real heavyweight in trusts and fraud matters who likes to organise every aspect of a winning strategy. He has a real cutting edge to cross-examination and delivery of submissions.

Essex Court Chambers is ‘the leading set for large, complex civil fraud cases‘, commended for its ‘number of very impressive individuals, and huge strength in depth‘. Silks such as Paul McGrath QC and Joe Smouha QC are among the most eminent practitioners in the field, and Smouha QC represented Mozambique in The Republic of Mozambique v Credit Suisse, Privinvest, and others, the ‘tuna bond’ scandal involving allegations of $200m in bribes, alongside Nathan Pillow QC and leading a team that includes Ciaran Keller.  A highlight for McGrath QC has been The Libyan Investment Authority v Credit Suisse International, GLG Partners Asset Management Ltd & Ors, in which he is leading Ruth den Besten on behalf of GLG Partners, in a claim involving allegations of bribes paid to secure a $200m investment into funds. Vernon Flynn QC left to join Brick Court Chambers.

London Bar > Banking and finance (including consumer credit)

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 1

Joe Smouha QCEssex Court ChambersOne to use for serious and incisive cross-examination. Works out every angle of a case and knows exactly how they intend to won. Absolutely brilliant tactical mind.

Essex Court Chambers is ‘strong in banking litigation‘ and has ‘unparalleled strength in depth‘ for banking fraud cases. One of the set’s most notable cases is PCP Capital Partners LLP v Barclays Plc – a long-running dispute concerning Qatari investment in the bank during the 2008 crisis – in which Joe Smouha QC is leading a team of silks and juniors from within chambers including the highly rated senior junior, James Sheehan. Another highlight case with strong fraud aspects was National Bank TRUST v Yurov, Belyaev & Fetisov in which Nathan Pillow QC is leading David Davies QC, who recently took silk, and Anton Dudnikov. Stephen Houseman QC has made a strong impression in this area and is representing the claimant in Madison Pacific Trust v Sahkoor Capital and PrivatBank, a dispute about limited recourse notes issued by a Ukranian bank which was nationalised in 2016.

London Bar > Media and entertainment (including art and cultural property)

(Art and cultural property - Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 1

Joe Smouha QCEssex Court ChambersJoe is a first-class lawyer who combines keen intellect with commercial understanding and empathy so as to ensure clients achieve the best possible outcome.

A number of barristers at ‘top-class set‘ Essex Court Chambers act for art dealers, collectors, and auction house claimants and defendants engaged in disputes involving matters of breach of contract, purchasing, and authenticity. In Sotheby’s v Mark Weiss Ltd, Joe Smouha QC (leading Claudia Renton) acted for an art dealer, and Emily Wood appeared for Sotheby’s in a contractual dispute over a painting, purported to be work of Frans Hals, but subject to dispute over authenticity – the auction house successfully sought the recession of the sale. Wood also represented the New York-based defendant in QIPCO v Ariadne Galleries, in which Qatari state-linked entities and members of the royal family alleged that it had purchased forgeries from the gallery.

London Bar > International arbitration: counsel

(Leading Silks) Ranked: Tier 1

Joe Smouha QCEssex Court ChambersAcknowledged as being one of the leading international arbitration counsel in practice today, Joe is deeply immersed in each case he takes on – always finding time for instructing solicitors and the client.