Maya Lester QC
Year of Call: 2000 Silk: 2016
"Able to turn out high-quality work in a limited time. Her brain works at a different speed. She is delightfully modest and easy to work with and has a total grasp of the law." "She is really good with clients, gives measured, considered advice, and comes across as the voice of reason in court."
- Chambers & Partners 2017
“She is fantastic, incredibly committed to her work and leaves no stone unturned. In addition, her drafting skills are second to none. I've never met anyone who could draft as well as her in any legal context."
- Chambers & Partners 2016
Maya Lester QC has a wide ranging practice in public law, European law, competition law, international law, and human rights. She regularly appears in leading cases in the Courts of England, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, and in the Competition Appeal Tribunal. She is highly recommended and ranked in all 5 areas by the legal directories and is regularly nominated for legal awards.
Maya has a particular expertise in the law relating to economic sanctions. As the directories put it, she is “Queen of the Sanctions Bar without a doubt” and "owns the world of sanctions". She founded and co-writes the sanctions law blog (www.europeansanctions.com) and spent a year in New York at Columbia Law School lecturing and writing on sanctions. She represents and advises hundreds of companies and individuals before the European and English courts and has acted in most of the leading cases, including Kadi, Tay Za, Central Bank of Iran, NITC and IRISL.
Her most significant cases include R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State (the Chagos Islands litigation in the UK and ECHR), Enron v EWS (the first follow-on competition damages trial in the UK, and several subsequent follow-on actions), R v Goldshield (prosecuting cartels as conspiracy to defraud), the Shambo judicial review (on bovine TB). Maya appears regularly in judicial reviews of regulatory decisions (eg Cityhook, UniChem), competition appeals (including on LIBOR, Pay TV, horseracing, dairy, and construction recruitment forum) and damages actions (including Enron and National Grid). She has just succeeded in a major international arbitration in striking out documents gathered using criminal MLA powers (Croatia v MOL).
Maya was a founder of the Human Rights Lawyers Association and undertakes regular pro bono work. There is a strong US and international element to her practice; she studied at Yale and Columbia Law Schools, is a member of the American Society for International Law Program Committee, and a regular speaker at Chatham House, the ABA Antitrust Spring Meeting, BIICL, and the International Bar Association and Bar European Group conferences.
Maya Lester has a wide ranging practice in public law, European law, sanctions, competition law, public international law, and human rights.
In her public law, human rights, public international law and civil liberties practice, Maya Lester appears for and advises individuals, companies, government departments, regulators and public interest groups, and regularly appears in judicial reviews. According to the Legal 500, she is a "real star" who “combines first-class intellect with a unique ability to translate difficult legal concepts into understandable prose”, is “quite brilliant, with a profound understanding of the law”, "provides opinions, pleadngs and oral advocacy of the highest calibre", and is an "amazing team player with a calmness under pressure that is much admired". Chambers & Partners (2016) describe her as being “very impressive“, "erudite", "well versed in high-profile judicial review cases and national security matters". “She is fantastic – very bright and very hard-working."
Constitutional and international law
Maya appeared for the Chagos Islanders in judicial reviews of the removal of their right of abode on the islands and the decision to impose a no-take marine protection zone (Bancoult No 2 and 3) and in the European Court of Human Rights (Bancoult v United Kingdom); for the successful applicant in the Supreme Court of the Falkland Islands in R (Bingham) v Governor of the Falkland Islands (right to freedom of expression under the Constitution of the Falkland Islands) and for the successful applicant in Kadi v Council (No. 2) before the European Court of Justice (review of EU counter-terrorism measures implementing UN Security Council resolutions), and in a very large number of other European sanctions cases concerning sanctions against terrorism, Iran, Russia, Tunisia, Belarus, Syria, Burma/Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. She recently appeared for the Hungary energy company MOL in major international arbitration proceedings for corruption brought by Croatia (UNCITRAL and ICSID).
R (Crystal Windows & Doors) v OFT & Real Energy Assurance; R (Law Society) v Legal Services Commission (procurement of family legal aid); R (Hernadi) v National Crime Agency (European Arrest Warrant); R (British Medical Association) v Secretary of State for Health (GPs' pensions); R (Wildman) v Ofcom (broadcast licences); R (Buxton) v Advertising Standards Authority) (ASA adjudication); R (Ealing) v Audit Commission (CSCI reports); and R (Adusei) v Council of the Inns of Court (decision of the Visitors). Advice to HM Treasury in relation to the Penrose and Ombudsman's Reports into the failure of Equitable Life and to Government of Cyprus about European bailout package. Appearances in a number of cases concerning the regulation of gambling and sports, including R (British Casino Association) v Secretary of State (casino licences) and R (Poker Clubs Association) v Secretary of State. Judicial review of UK government decisions on sanctions: R (Azizi v Sedghi) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; R (Sarkandi & Ors) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (involving closed material procedures under the Justice & Security Act), and competition judicial reviews: John Lewis v OFT (extended warranties); Association of Convenience Stores v OFT (press distribution); (R (UniChem) v OFT; R (Celesio) v OFT); R (Cityhook) v OFT; R (Sports Direct) v Competition Commission.
European Court of Human Rights and Human Rights Act
Appearances for the Community for the Many Names of God in the Shambo case (R (Community for the Many Names of God) v Welsh Assembly Government (CA)), for the applicant in Walker v Innospec (equal treatment in civil partners’ pensions), for the Prolife Alliance in the leading case on freedom of political expression R (Prolife Alliance) v BBC (CA), and in the House of Lords in Chargot v Health and Safety Executive on the statutory construction of a reverse onus provision in Health and Safety legislation. Appeared in the ECHR in Georgia v Russian Federation and Yukos v Russian Federation, and for the applicants in Mattilla v Finland and Bancoult v United Kingdom and Chagos Islanders v United Kingdom.
Environmental / Agricultural / Animal law
Cases involving animal health, environmental law and agriculture including: judicial review of the decision to slaughter Shambo the temple bullock (R (Community for the Many Names of God) v Welsh Assembly Government (CA); the European Emissions Trading Scheme (R (Cemex v Secretary of State for the Environment); the Renewable Energy Assurance Scheme (Crystal v REAL); foot and mouth disease (R (Kindersley) v Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food and Pride & Ors v Institute of Animal Health, Merial Ltd & Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; advice on the CAP Single Payments Scheme, advisory work for the National Farmers Union (including on foot and mouth disease and bovine tuberculosis).
Schools / education
Wide ranging advice to schools and universities, including London Metropolitan University's challenge to the UK Border Agency's revocation of its licence, acting for six schools in the OFT's inquiry private schools' fee setting arrangements, the Secretary of State in two cases concerning the interaction between the European Schools and the EC Treaty (Duncombe v Secretary of State for Education, EAT, CA and Supreme Court).
Trade Associations, regulators and professional bodies
Cases and advisory work for a number of bodies and regulators including the Office of Fair Trading, Ofwat, National Farmers Union, Renewable Energy Assurance Limited, British Medical Association, British Dental Association, Advertising Standards Authority, Press Distribution Forum.
Maya Lester has extensive experience of all areas of competition and European Union law, including in relation to sanctions, competition investigations and appeals, follow-on damages actions, abuse of dominance, cartels, free movement, fundamental rights and freedoms, actions for annulment in the General Court, and references to the Court of Justice.
Maya is on the 2017 organising committee of the Fordham Competition Law Institute Annual Conference on International Antitrust Law and Policy.
References to the European Court of Justice
R (Milk Marque) v Monopolies and Mergers Commission (interaction between Common Agricultural Policy and competition law); R (Swedish Match) v Secretary of State for Health (challenge to the ban on oral tobacco); Den Dover v European Parliament (MEPs’ expenses).
Standalone and follow-on competition claims
Enron v EWS (first follow-on damages trial); Emerald v BA (Air Cargo); National Grid v Alstom & Ors; Streetmap v Google (abuse of dominance); British Horseracing Board v AtTheRaces (abuse of dominance and excessive pricing); R v Goldshield (prosecution of cartels for conspiracy to defraud, heard with Norris v United States of America in the House of Lords).
Appeals from competition regulatory decisions
Broadcasting (BSkyB and Premier League v Ofcom (Pay TV)); LIBOR; telecoms (Carphone Warehouse v Ofcom (Carrier Pre-selection), BT v Ofcom (080 termination charges); competition (Tesco v OFT) (dairy cartel); (Racecourse Association v OFT (collective selling)); Hays v OFT (construction recruitment forum penalty appeals).
Competition judicial reviews
Ryanair v Competition Commission; John Lewis v OFT (extended warranties); Association of Convenience Stores v OFT (press distribution); R (UniChem) v OFT; R (Celesio) v OFT; R (Cityhook) v OFT; R (Sports Direct) v Competition Commission.
Office of Fair Trading and European Commission investigations
Private schools' fees; Orders and Rules of Horseracing; cigarette pricing; construction industry cover pricing; dairy investigation; LIBOR investigation.
Sports and broadcast rights
Appeared for the European Commission re the listing of the World Cup and FIFA Championship under the Television Without Frontiers Directive (UEFA v Commission and FIFA v Commission); for the British Horseracing Board in the leading case on the collective sale of sports rights in the Competition Appeal Tribunal (Racecourse Association and British Horseracing Board v OFT) and for the Premier League in the Sky Sports challenge (BSkyB and Premier League v Ofcom).
For the Law Society (R (Law Society) v Legal Services Commission); Apcoa (Apcoa v Westminster City Council); Vale of Glamorgan, and the Royal Shakespeare Company (Stage Technologies v Royal Shakespeare Company).
Maya Lester has particular expertise in economic sanctions. As Chambers & Partners put it in 2016, she "owns the world of sanctions". She co-writes the leading sanctions blog www.europeansanctions.com. Her LinkedIn group is called Economic Sanctions.
Korea National Insurance Company v Council (DPRK); DenizBank v Council, Sberbank v Council, VTB v Council, Rotenberg v Council (Russia sanctions); Kadi (No. 2) v Council (terrorist sanctions); Tay Za v Council (Burma/Myanmar); IRISL v Council, Ocean Administration v Council, Elegant Target v Council, Good Luck Shipping v Council, Nabipour v Council, Azizi & Sedghi v Council, Ministry for Energy v Council, National Iranian Tanker Company v Council, Central Bank of Iran v Council, Iran Aluminium Company v Council (Iran); El Materi v Council (Tunisia); Al Tabbaa v Council and El Materi v Council (Syria); El Maghraby & Gazaerly v Council (Egypt); Rautenbach v Council and Tomana v Council (Zimbabwe)  4 W.L.R. 161. Judicial review of UK government decisions on sanctions: R (Azizi v Sedghi) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Sarkandi v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
Maya Lester QC’s evidence to the Canadian Parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs' review of Canda's sanctions regime is here.
Maya Lester QC's evidence to the House of Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee on the legality of EU sanctions is here.
Some of Maya’s recent broadcasts and articles on sanctions are here:
'Economic sanctions have been a foreign policy tool of choice for some time' (February 2017) Counsel magazine
Interview on Monocle Radio on Syria sanctions here (28.10.2016).
Panama Papers Sanctions interview: BBC Radio 4 - The World at One (5.4.2016).
Economist: Article (20.6.2015).
BBC Radio 4: Russian Sanctions (‘The Report’, 9.4.2015).
Australian radio broadcast on Hamas de-listing here (19.12.2014).
Profile in Christian Science Monitor here (8.5.2014).
Profile in Foreign Policy here (2.5.2014).
New York public radio on sanctions against Russia here (6.5.2014).
Webinar: A webinar on sanctions (27.9.2013).
YouTube recording of a presentation she gave on sanctions cases in the European Court here (Hague Centre for Law and Arbitration, 19.7.2013).
Public International Law
Maya’s public international cases include Kadi (the leading case on the relationship between international and EU law and on JR of UN Security Council resolutions), the Chagos Islands litigation (on the international law principles of self-determination, the right of abode & treaty obligations to overseas territories), and Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence & FCO (claims of torture & mistreatment in Iraq & Afghanistan). She is currently also appearing in a preliminary reference to the ECJ from the Croatian courts about the circumstances in which EU member states must or may execute European arrest warrants giving rise to double jeopardy concerns (AY), Croatia v MOL (ICSID & UNCITRAL arbitrations), and major Cayman Islands litigation involving Libyan & Cayman law.
Before she took silk in 2016, Maya was one of only 5 members of the Attorney General’s PIL A panel, the most senior panel for the Government’s PIL work, and a standing adviser on PIL issues relating to Gibraltar. She taught international law seminars at Columbia Law School, was on the prestigious Programming Committee of the American Society for International Law, and a Henry Fellow giving seminars to the US State Department on international law.
Notable cases include:
AY - Maya Lester QC acts (as leader) for AY in this preliminary reference to the European Court of Justice from the Croatian courts. The case raises novel and important points about the circumstances in which EU member states must or may execute European arrest warrants giving rise to double jeopardy (ne bis in idem) concerns. The PIL issues that have arisen so far in multiple jurisdictions concern the circumstances in which States should decline to enforce international arrest warrants on double jeopardy grounds, & the interaction between Croatian and Hungarian criminal proceedings and EU questions for preliminary reference on ne bis in idem.
Rahmatullah v Ministry of Defence & FCO – Maya is currently instructed (pro bono) for the claimant in this high profile PIL challenge to Mr Rahmatullah’s detention and torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, which has already been to the Supreme Court twice. She led the team in March 2017 opposing a closed material procedure under the Justice & Security Act. Complex PIL issues in the case include the extra-territoriality of the ECHR, the doctrine of crown act of state, and the applicability of Iraqi & Afghan law.
Palladyne International Asset Management BV v Upper Brook & Ors - Maya is currently instructed for the claimants in this major PIL litigation in the Cayman Islands courts. She has constructed & is running the novel PIL argument that dismissing directors of investment funds (owned by the Libyan Investment Authority) was a breach of the Cayman Islands’ implementation of United Nations prohibitions on dealing with Libyan funds. The case raises complex issues of the interaction between Libyan, Cayman & Dutch law.
Republic of Croatia v MOL - Maya was instructed in two multi-million dollar international arbitrations to argue a novel and important PIL law point in the ICSID and UNCITRAL arbitral tribunals (unled) in Washington DC, the Hague and Zurich. The PIL issue is whether it is contrary to international treaties on mutual legal assistance for States to use material gathered pursuant to MLA powers in an international arbitration in another country.
R (Bancoult) v Foreign & Commonwealth Office - Maya led the team for the Chagossians to argue a novel point of PIL in this JR of the FCO’s decision to impose a Marine Protection Zone around the Chagos Islands in the Divisional Court and Court of Appeal. The PIL point concerned members states’ international obligations to their overseas territories (including BIOT). Maya acted for the Chagossians in their high profile JR that went to the House of Lords and (pro bono) application to the ECHR. She was led by David Anderson QC in Strasbourg, and Sir Sydney Kentridge QC when the case went to the House of Lords.
Book chapters: EU Competition Law: Procedures and Remedies (Gray, Lester, Darbon, Facenna, Holmes, Oxford University Press) Co-author; Human Rights Practice (eds Simor & Emmerson, Sweet & Maxwell) Editorial Assistant and Updater on Article 10 of the ECHR); Law of the European Union (eds Vaughan and Robertson, Oxford University Press) Contributing Author; Competition Litigation (UK Practice and Procedure) (OUP), Contributing Author.
Articles: 'Economic sanctions have been a foreign policy tool of choice for some time' [February 2017] Counsel magazine. ‘Brussels lists, Luxembourg de-lists? Sanctions de-designation cases in the European Court' [May 2013] World Expert Control Review; ‘Targeted sanctions and sanctions targeted: Iranian banks in the European Court' [May 2013] Butterworths Journal of International Banking and Financial Law; 'Judicial review of sanctions decisions: "The wrong point in the wrong court with the wrong defendant"?'  Judicial Review 206; ‘Prosecuting Cartels for Conspiracy to Defraud'  Competition Law Journal; ‘Judicial Review in the UK of Competition and State Aid Decisions'  European Common Market Law (co-author); ‘UniChem v OFT'  Competition Law Journal; ‘Puzzling over Abuse of Right'  European Current Law; ‘Human Rights - The International Dimension'  The Lawyer; ‘The Chapter I Prohibition'  Competition Law Review; ‘The Bar European Group in Budapest'  European Advocate.
Click here to see Maya appearing in the Supreme Court defending the assassins of Julius Caesar in a charity trial.
U.K: James Allen's Girls' School; Clare College, Cambridge University (BA in History, First Class in Pts I & II); Diploma in Law at City University (Distinction, 1st place); Bar Vocational Course (Inns of Court School of Law); called to Bar at Lincoln's Inn (2000); Pupillage at Brick Court Chambers.
Awards: Clare College Foundation Scholarship; Clare College History Award; Paul Mellon Fellowship to Yale Law School; Lincoln's Inn Hardwicke Entrance Award; Lincoln's Inn Mansfield Scholarship; Winner of 2000 Lincolns Inn Robert Wright Mooting Competition; Worshipful Company of Arbitrators Prize; Pegasus Scholarship from the Inns of Court; Bingham Centre Fellowship; Henry Fellowship at US State Department.
U.S.A: Master of Studies in Law and Visiting Scholar (Yale Law School, Paul Mellon Fellowship); Researcher at the Open Society Institute (New York); Summer Associate at Williams & Connolly (Washington DC); Judicial Extern to Judge Thelton Henderson (Federal District Court, San Francisco); Visiting Scholar at Columbia Law School (New York); Seminars at Yale, Columbia and NYU on targeted sanctions (2011-2012); Henry Fellowship at the US State Department, 2012.
European and International experience: Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice (Advocate General Francis Jacobs); International Law Intern at the Supreme Court of Israel; Part-time Tutor in European Law, City University (London). Training for judges, lawyers and prosecutors on human rights and European law for the Slynn Foundation, Interrights, the Council of Europe and the Turkish Chief of Staff (including in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Serbia, Poland and Turkey); Speaker at the Anglo-Finnish Competition Law Trust (in Finland and Estonia), the University of Amsterdam, the Italian Antitrust Association.
Appointments: Bar Council European Law Committee.
Maya Lester is recommended by the legal directories in Administrative & Public Law, Competition & European Law, Civil Liberties & Human Rights, and Public International Law. She was selected by The Times as one of the 10 Future Stars of the Bar in 2008, and nominated in 2010 and 2011 for Competition/EU Junior of the Year at Chambers Bar Awards. She is ranked in the 'Chambers 100 UK Bar', a list of the top 100 barristers practising at the Bar of England and Wales. Maya has been ranked as being among the world's leading competition lawyers by Who's Who Legal 2016.
Chambers & Partners UK
2017: "Able to turn out high-quality work in a limited time. Her brain works at a different speed. She is delightfully modest and easy to work with and has a total grasp of the law." "She is really good with clients, gives measured, considered advice, and comes across as the voice of reason in court." (Administrative & Public Law)
2017: "Her brain works at a different speed, and she's delightfully modest and easy to work with." "She's one of the leading lights for sanctions." (Civil Liberties & Human Rights)
2017: "She is particularly good on complex cases, and very positive and definitive on points of law." (Competition Law)
2017: "She is happy to answer queries at all hours and really knows her stuff." (European Law)
2017: "Queen of the Sanctions Bar without a doubt. She is just phenomenal." "Beyond responsive. First-class." (Sanctions)
2016: "An excellent junior with a particular speciality in sanctions work, one of the leading experts in that field." "Owns the world of sanctions." (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)
2016: "An erudite human rights junior who is well versed in high-profile judicial review cases and national security matters. Advises a diverse list of clients including individuals and large businesses." (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)
2016: "A very bright and diligent junior." "She's good with clients, gives measured and considered advice, and comes across as the voice of reason in court." (Competition Law)
2016: "A hugely gifted public and competition law expert who receives consistent praise for both her advocacy skills and her thoughtful and creative approach to cases. Over the years she has acted in a number of headline cases, including the dairy cartel affair and the Premier League pay-TV affair. (Chambers Global, Competition Law Band 1)
2016: "She is very measured and persuasive on her feet, managing to clearly cut through a case to its core issues." "A real team player who rolls up her sleeves." (Chambers Global, Competition Law Band 1)
2016: "She is fantastic, incredibly committed to her work and leaves no stone unturned. In addition, her drafting skills are second to none. I've never met anyone who could draft as well as her in any legal context. She is able to distil arguments on all sorts of legal issues from international law to European law and synthesise them in a way which is brilliant." (European Law)
2017: ‘Collaborative, efficient and clear-eyed in her judgement.’ (Administrative and Public Law)
2017: ‘Fantastic knowledge of terrorism and sanctions laws.’ (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)
2017: ‘A busy silk with a fast-growing practice.’ (Competition)
2017: ‘The voice of reason in court, a superb drafter and a precise advocate.’ (EU Law)
2017: ‘Her drafting skills are exceptional and she is extremely persuasive in court.’ (Public International Law)
2016: ‘The voice of reason in court.’ (Administrative and Public Law)
2016: ‘An excellent lawyer, who is diligent and creative.’ (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)
2016: ‘She fully deserved silk, and is a top-drawer advocate and adviser.’ (EU & Competition)
2016: ‘Efficient, effective and undaunted by unknowns.’ (Public International Law)
2015: ‘Provides opinions, pleadings and oral advocacy of the highest calibre.’ (Administrative and Public Law, Tier 1)
2015: ‘An amazing team player with a calmness under pressure that is much admired.’ (Civil Liberties and Human Rights)
2015: ‘Her drafting skills are excellent and unique.’ (EU & Competition)
2015: ‘Her oral advocacy is of the highest calibre, displaying meticulous preparation and captivating delivery.’ (Public International Law)
Who's Who Legal (Competition 2016 and UK Bar 2016 - competition)
2016: “The newest silk at the set, Maya Lester QC, is extensively experienced in competition investigations and appeals. Before taking silk, instructing solicitors regarded her 'as a standout senior junior', regularly praising her 'attention to detail and assiduous nature'”.
2015: “Maya Lester is known for her 'ability to cut to the heart of a case immediately'. She has particular expertise in the law relating to economic sanctions.”
Maya Lester was chosen as one of the ten Future Stars of the Bar 2008 (The Times, 20 November 2008): "It takes something to get noticed when you are surrounded by colleagues such as Sumption, Green, Howard and Popplewell. But Maya Lester, 34, has earned a reputation at Brick Court, one of the leading commercial chambers, for her quick mind and measured advocacy... she has been involved in three cases before the House of Lords this year... Along with her human rights work she has a busy caseload of competition and European matters". Listed in 2010, 2011 and 2012 Legal Experts for administrative and public law (including judicial review), and ranked in Competition Law in Chambers Global 2015.