Sir Michael Wood KCMG > Twenty Essex > London, England > Lawyer Profile

Twenty Essex

Work Department

  • English foreign relations law
  • International human rights law and the laws of war
  • International law on the use of force
  • International law of the sea, including maritime delimitation
  • Public international law
  • UN law


Sir Michael is a member of the United Nations (UN) International Law Commission. He was the principal Legal Adviser to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) between 1999 and 2006. During his 35 years as an FCO lawyer, Michael attended many international conferences, including the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. He spent three years at the UK Mission to the UN in New York, dealing chiefly with Security Council matters.

Since leaving the FCO in 2006, Sir Michael has acted for many governments in cases before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and inter-state arbitral tribunals. He has written extensively on public international law.


Called to the Bar; Gray’s Inn 1968; assistant legal advisor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1970-81 and 1984-86; legal adviser to the Government of Southern Rhodesia 1979-80; legal adviser British Embassy, Bonn 1981-84; legal counsellor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1986-91 and 1994-96; counsellor (legal adviser), United Kingdom Mission to the United Nations, New York 1991-94; legal adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1999-2006; Bencher of Gray’s Inn 2000.


French, German, Italian, Spanish (all proficient)


  • Committee on the Use of Force, International Law Association: Chairman (2011–2018)
  • Law and Practice of International Courts and Tribunals: Member, Advisory Board
  • Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Heidelberg): Member of Advisory Board


  • Institute of European Studies, Brussels University (1969–70)
  • Cambridge University, MA LLB (First Class) (1969)

Lawyer Rankings

London Bar > Public international law

(Senior Counsel)Ranked: Tier 1

Sir Michael Wood KCMGTwenty Essex ‘Michael has a deeper knowledge of more fields of public international law than practically anyone at the English Bar. He is also tactically very astute, and knows how international courts and tribunals think and work pretty much more than anyone. He is a first rate advocate and, despite his seniority, a great team player. He is not a QC because he has not troubled to apply, but he is a more senior and better PIL lawyer than almost all the actual QCs in this field.’

Offering ‘perfect service‘ and ‘great breadth and depthTwenty Essex is an ‘outstanding chambers‘ that is ‘first choice for sensitive government matters and public international law‘. The set has an extremely broad selection of silks and juniors from a wide range of backgrounds, including former Legal Advisers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office such as Sir Michael Wood KCMG and Sir Daniel Bethlehem KC. Sudhanshu Swaroop KC and Penelope Nevill are currently representing the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office in Duarte Agostinho v Portugal & Ors, a claim before the ECHR brought by six Portuguese children against the Portuguese government and 32 other states including the UK over their failure to meet climate change commitments. Philippa Webb  is also representing a Filipino former domestic worker in the Saudi Arabian embassy in London in Wong v Basfar, a dispute before the Supreme Court concerning diplomatic immunity to cases of human trafficking and modern slavery.