Professional practice

Jessica Wells has a broad commercial and international practice, with a particular interest in public international law, public law, shipping law and international commercial arbitration.  In 2017, she was appointed to the Attorney General’s “A Panel” of Public International Law Counsel.

Jessica is experienced in both advisory work and litigation before the domestic courts (including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the High Court) and international tribunals (including the ICJ,  ICSID, ICC, LCIA and LMAA).

“She is a delight and lovely to work with.”Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2018

“She writes some very impressive submissions and is very good to work with.” – Chambers UK Bar 2017


Examples of recent cases

Recent notable cases include:

  • Obligations concerning Negotiations relating to Cessation of the Nuclear Arms Race and to Nuclear Disarmament (Marshall Islands v United Kingdom) (International Court of Justice): Instructed (with Sir Daniel Bethlehem QC and Guglielmo Verdirame) by the United Kingdom. Following a Preliminary Objections hearing in March 2016, the ICJ accepted, in its Judgment of 5 October 2016, that there was no justiciable dispute between the parties and that it could therefore not proceed to hear the merits of the claim.
  • Benkharbouche v Embassy of Sudan [2015] EWCA Civ 33; [2016] QC 347: Instructed (with Karen Steyn QC) by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. An appeal to the Supreme Court is listed for late November 2016. The case arises from two employment disputes against the Sudanese and Libyan Embassies and raises the following issues: (i) whether Article 6 of the ECHR is engaged in circumstances where a respondent state claims immunity from the jurisdiction of the English courts and (ii) if Article 6 is engaged, what is the applicable threshold which should be applied by the courts in determining whether the grant of immunity is compatible with Article 6.
  • R (oao Freedom and Justice Party) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs [2016] EWHC 2010 Admin: Instructed (with Tim Eicke QC and Guglielmo Verdirame) for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in their successful defence of a claim for judicial review brought by, inter alia, the Freedom and Justice Party of Egypt. The claimants had sought the arrest of the Director of the Egyptian Military Intelligence Service during the course of an official visit to the United Kingdom. The FCO had certified that consent had been given to his visit as a special mission. The Divisional Court (Lloyd Jones LJ and Jay J) confirmed that there was a rule of customary international law under which a member of a special mission was entitled to personal inviolability and immunity from criminal jurisdiction and that the common law gave effect to this customary international rule.
  • AES Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydro Power Plant LLP v Ust Kamenogorsk Hydro Power Plant JSC [2013] UKSC 35; [2013] 1 WLR 1889: Instructed (with Toby Landau QC) by the successful respondents in this appeal concerning the scope of the English courts’ jurisdiction to grant an anti-suit injunction in support of an arbitration agreement in circumstances where no arbitration is proposed or contemplated.
Arbitration & related court applications

Jessica has acted and advised in arbitrations across a wide range of jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, Singapore and the Dubai International Financial Centre. She has experience of a wide range of institutional rules, including ICC, LCIA, LMAA and UNCITRAL. Recent instructions include:

  • Representing the respondent state in a billion dollar investment dispute under UNCITRAL rules;
  • Acting and advising in an arbitration involving claims of breach of trust, fiduciary duty and contract in the context of the sale and supply of oil;
  • Acting and advising in a challenge to an LMAA arbitral award under 68 of the Arbitration Act, on the grounds that the tribunal had failed in their duty to act fairly and impartially and failed to consider all the issues which were put to it.
Commercial dispute resolution

Jessica advises and acts in a wide range of commercial disputes, both alone and as junior counsel. She has appeared on her own, and as a junior, in a number of tribunals, including the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Recent reported cases include:

  • Egiazaryan v OJSC OEK Finance [2015] EWHC 3532 (Comm); [2016] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 295: Jessica was instructed (with Richard Millett QC) for the Respondents in this application under section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 which raised issues of choice of law and abuse of process.
  • Sonatrach SpA v Statoil Natural Gas LLC [2014] EWHC 875 (Comm). Jessica (with Toby Landau QC) represented Statoil in the defence of the application by Algerian state oil company, Sonatrach, to set aside an ICC award. Flaux J dismissed the application, rejecting Sonatrach’s contentions that the tribunal had failed to take into account key evidence and had improperly delegated authority to its administrative secretary.
  • AES Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydro Power Plant LLP v Ust-Kamenogorsk Hydro Power Plant JSC [2013] UKSC 35; [2013] 1 WLR 1889. Jessica was instructed (initially with Bernard Eder QC and latterly with Toby Landau QC) by AES in this successful application for an anti-suit injunction, restraining proceedings in Kazakhstan brought in breach of an arbitration agreement. In the appeal to the Supreme Court, JSC contended that the courts’ powers to grant declaratory or injunctive relief in respect of arbitration are limited to those contained in the Arbitration Act 1996. The Supreme Court conclusively rejected this appeal, confirming that the 1996 Act does not constitute an exclusive code and does not remove the courts’ general jurisdiction to grant relief under s. 37 of the Senior Courts Act.
Conflict of laws & private international law

Jessica frequently acts and advises on matters relating to jurisdiction and choice of law. Recent court cases include Lehman Brothers Finance AG v Klaus Tschira Stiftung GmbH [2014] EWHC 2782 (Ch) Jessica was instructed (with Hugh Mercer QC) for the defendants in their successful application for a stay of English proceedings in relation to an ISDA Master Agreement, on the grounds that conciliation proceedings in Switzerland were sufficient to trigger the lis alibi pendens provision in Article 27(1) of the Lugano Convention 2007.


Human rights & civil liberties

Jessica was instructed by the Government as junior counsel in Othman (Abu Qatada) v United Kingdom (2012) 55 EHRR 1, before the European Court of Human Rights and in the subsequent domestic proceedings before SIAC, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

Jessica has also been involved in a number of safety on return cases, involving allegations that returning the applicant to their home state would violate Article 3, whether as a result of ill treatment directly at the hands of the authorities of the receiving state, or as a result of the general conditions in the receiving state, including access to medical facilities.

Jessica is the Editor of the European Human Rights Reports.

Public & administrative law

Jessica has acted and advised in a variety of public law cases. She is currently instructed by the Government in R (oao Campaign Against Arms Trade) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is challenging the grant of licences to export arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia for use in the conflict in Yemen. Jessica also has a particular interest in agricultural matters and has recently acted in litigation relating to the application of the Welfare at the Time of Killing Regulations and to the Single Payment Scheme.

Public international law

Jessica has a particular interest in Public International Law, building on her experience of teaching the subject at Oxford University.

She is currently instructed by the United Kingdom Government in relation to the recent application of the Marshall Islands to the International Court of Justice alleging breach of obligations owed under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law. Jessica is also instructed by the FCO as intervener in the forthcoming appeal in Benkharbouche v Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, concerning the interaction between the doctrine of State immunity and Article 6 of the ECHR.

As a pupil, she appeared before the International Court of Justice as Counsel for Rwanda in Armed Activities on the Territory of the Congo (New Application: 2002) (Democratic Republic of Congo v Rwanda).

Jessica was instructed by the UK Government in Eurotunnel v. UK and France (an arbitration concerning the Channel Tunnel).

Shipping & admiralty

Jessica is developing considerable experience in this area, and regularly acts and advises in relation to a wide range of shipping matters. Recent reported cases include:

  • Golden Endurance Shipping SA v RMA Watanya SA [2014] EWHC 3917 (Comm); [2015] 2 All ER (Comm): Jessica acted for the defendant insurers in a cargo dispute, in setting aside an anti suit injunction restraining proceedings commenced in Morocco and in challenging the jurisdiction of the English court.
  • Golden Endurance Shipping SA v RMA Watanya SA [2016] EWHC 2110 (Comm): This phase of the proceedings raised the, previously undecided, issue of whether the commencement of proceedings in a “Hamburg Rules” state is sufficient to stop time running for the purposes of Article III rule 6 of the Hague Rules.




2016 Editor, European Human Rights Reports

2004 Call: Lincoln’s Inn

1998 Research Assistant, Law Commission



2004 BVC (Very Competent), Inns of Court School of Law

2000 BCL (Distinction), Keble College, University of Oxford

1998 BA Hons (First Class) (Law), Keble College, University of Oxford (ranked 3rd in Year)


2004 Megarry Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn

2003 Lord Denning Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn

2001 Hardwicke Scholarship, Lincoln’s Inn

2000 John Morris Prize for Best Paper in Conflict of Laws (BCL)

1997 Proxime Accessit in Gibbs Prize in Law, University of Oxford

1997 Scholarship, Keble College, University of Oxford