“Terrifyingly intelligent”, “a brilliant lawyer”, “a compelling advocate”, “utterly dedicated”, “exceptionally gifted”, “fantastic both on his feet and on paper”, “a very creative advocate”, “his energy and intelligence are exceptional”, “combines intellectual brilliance with excellent communication skills and a willingness to grasp the practical and commercial realities of a case”, “has a very good feel for what the court is interested in”, “if one needs to employ serious brain power he’s the right person to go to”, “gets his teeth into anything and always resolves the situation”, “exceptionally easy to work with”, “good fun”, “totally down to earth”, “has no airs about him at all”, “A cut above the rest, he has a huge brain but remains humble, engaging and commercial” (current or past editions of Chambers & Partners or Legal 500).
James has a wide-ranging practice specialising in commercial, public and regulatory law, and appearing before the English Courts and in international arbitration.
James has been instructed in a number of the most interesting, heavily reported, and high-value matters in each of these areas, spanning commercial disputes (such as the £4bn RBS Rights Issue litigation, the multi-billion pound Kuwaiti sovereign wealth fund dispute, and the leading Supreme Court authority on piercing the corporate veil), public law (including the UBER licensing appeal, the Leveson press reforms, the LCF judicial review, Rosneft’s challenge to UK/EU financial sanctions, and the MoJ’s disputed consultation on mesothelioma reforms), regulatory law (including cases spanning financial, legal, energy, and medical regulation), and disciplinary proceedings (including the successful defence of a leading Magic Circle partner following a 29-day trial in the SDT).
James is equally comfortable leading teams of junior counsel or acting as a sole advocate and has substantial experience of both. He also has a heavy advisory practice and frequently advises on the application of complex statutory regimes to novel forms of commercial activity. James has particular expertise in the regulation of financial and legal services and has been described as having “an encyclopaedic knowledge of financial regulatory work" (Chambers).
In appropriate cases, James takes on pro bono instructions and approximately 20% of his time in 2020 was spent on unpaid work for deserving clients. James is also an executive committee member of the Alliance for Lawyers at Risk (supporting human rights defenders worldwide) and sits on the Bar Disciplinary Tribunal, hearing disciplinary cases relating to members of the Bar.
Prior to taking silk James was profiled by Legal Week as one of its Stars at the Bar and nominated for both commercial litigation and banking and finance junior of the year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards. He was named as “one of the leading senior juniors in commercial litigation” (Legal 500) and “a rising star of the Commercial Bar” (Chambers and Partners).
James’ public law practice is of equal depth. Up to 2021 he was one of the Attorney General’s A Panel Counsel, appointed to conduct the most complex first instance and appellate advocacy for central government in all aspects of public law. He was also a tutor and then college lecturer in public law at Oxford University and in 2019 was named by Finance Monthly as its UK public law lawyer of the year.
James has been consistently ranked in one or both of the Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 directories as a leading UK practitioner in each of his core areas of practice. Client comments in the most recent (2021) edition of those directories include the following:
James’ public law and regulatory practice is wide ranging. He has a specialist practice in financial and legal services regulation (details of which are set out below); however his public law cases venture well beyond this. Having been a tutor and later lecturer in public law at Oxford University (St Hugh’s and Keble Colleges), James has acted in dozens of matters concerning judicial review or statutory appeals, and has advised, or appeared for, national regulators (including the PRA, FOS, FSCS, FRC, and the SRA), central government (including the Home Office, Foreign Office, MoJ, HMRC, and DCMS), and a wide variety of claimants and interested parties, ranging from corporations and trade bodies to universities and private individuals.
James’ public law cases frequently concern commercial subject-matter, but also address territory as diverse as parliamentary law, press regulation, international sanctions, civil justice reform, the recognition of foreign governments, higher education funding, healthcare, agricultural subsidies, import regulation, licensing, extradition, infringements of EU rights by public bodies, and claims for interferences with human rights. Highlights of practice are set out below.
Examples of past or ongoing matters:
(See also financial and legal services below for regulatory JR.)
James acts both for and against regulators in contested proceedings and advises regularly on financial regulatory issues, including FSMA and its subordinate legislation; the powers and competencies of the FCA, FOS and the FSCS; the Financial Services Handbook (in particular COBS, ICOBs, DISP, PRIN); the Payment Services Regulation collective investment schemes, and the territorial application of the FSMA regime. Examples of previous matters include:
James regularly advises both regulators and private persons concerning the obligations of legal service providers and the powers and public law duties of the SRA. He has acted in numerous judicial review or appellate proceedings concerning the SRA and the scope and effect of the regulatory framework. James also appears regularly (as sole counsel) in disciplinary prosecutions, including those concerned with dishonesty, the misappropriation of client funds and other serious misconduct. Examples include:
James’ commercial practice has covered a number of the most interesting commercial disputes to reach the courts in recent years, including the >£4 billion rights issue litigation arising out of the failure of RBS; the test cases on both PPI and bank overdraft charges (each of which had multi-billion pound consequences), and the leading Supreme Court authority on piercing the corporate veil and forum conveniens. He has been instructed in connection with a number of other matters heavily reported in the national press, including the controversial sale of BHS by the Arcadia Group; Tesco’s profit misstatement, and the LIBOR “rigging” scandal.
In addition to court proceedings, James has appeared in high-value international arbitrations, ranging from contested oil and gas industry contracts to disputes involving commercial trusts and the re-structuring of foreign debt.