Professional practice

Chambers and Partners 2021Legal 500 Leading Silk

Joe Smouha QC is widely recognised as one of the leading silks at the Commercial Bar, “firmly established in the super league” as one of the “most complete QCs” and “a standout Silk”. His high profile practice spans a vast array of fields in international and domestic commercial law. He appears regularly in the High Court and appellate courts and in international arbitrations conducted in the UK (including ICC and BIT panels) and abroad. In addition he appears before courts in offshore jurisdictions, such as the BVI and Cayman Islands. He is regularly appointed as arbitrator in commercial and investment arbitrations, including ICC, LCIA, ICSID, SCC, UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations. In 2019, Joe was appointed as a CAfA Arbitrator (Court of Arbitration for Art).

Joe Smouha has been appointed Joint Head of Chambers.


What others say

In the 2021 Chambers & Partners guide, Joe is identified as one of 20 Stars at the Bar, who have proved excellence across a range of practice areas.

He is ranked a Star Individual in Commercial Dispute Resolution, Band 1 in Banking & Finance, Civil Fraud, International Arbitration (Arbitrators and Counsel), and Art & Cultural Property Law.  Ranked Band 2 in Chancery: Commercial, and Offshore.

In the Legal 500 guide, Joe is ranked Band 1 in Commercial Litigation, Fraud: Civil, International Arbitration: General and Media Art & Entertainment and is ranked Band 2 in Banking & Finance.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021:

Stars at the Bar: “continues to carry all before him at the commercial Bar, and this year receives a star individual ranking in commercial dispute resolution in recognition of his immense standing across multiple sectors within this field. Our sources consistently place Joe Smouha QC among the “best of the best,” adding that he is “a top-flight advocate who gives impeccable client service.” Assessing his banking practice, peers describe him as a “punchy advocate – aggressive in a good way,” who is also “charming and courteous and tactically extremely good.”

Commercial Dispute Resolution: “A star at the Bar.” “He is a top-flight advocate who gives impeccable client service.”

Banking & Finance: “Charming and courteous and tactically extremely good.” “Widely regarded as one of the top commercial barristers in UK and beyond.”

Chancery: Commercial: “He has a huge reputation and is exceptionally knowledgeable.” “His advice is highly pragmatic and the ease with which he simplifies complex facts is very impressive.”

Civil Fraud:  “He has the vision, drive, determination and tactical mind needed for civil fraud work.” “An impressive barrister.”

International Arbitration: Arbitrators: “A truly outstanding and conscientious arbitrator.” “A top, top arbitrator.”

Art & Cultural Property: “Among the best of the best. His knowledge and understanding of the law is top quality, and he is brilliant for cross-border and international art law matters. In the courtroom he is thoroughly persuasive.”

International Arbitration: General Commercial and Insurance: “Excellent on his feet, extremely good on strategy, very collaborative and works well with clients.” “Very good at disputes and finding ways forward. He is decisive, strong and clear.”

Offshore: “He is my silk of choice and he is just brilliant.”

The Legal 500 UK Bar 2021:

Banking & Finance: “One of the true heavyweights of the current commercial bar – a truly excellent advocate, inspires confidence, and fantastic on the law and trial tactics.”

Commercial Litigation: “Extraordinarily powerful and effective advocacy, he wins arguments and succeeds in submissions that other QCs simply wouldn’t win on, and combines this with a very collegiate, team ethos that is rare in QCs of his seniority.”

Fraud: Civil: “A real heavyweight in trusts and fraud matters who likes to organise every aspect of a winning strategy, he has a real cutting edge to his cross-examination and delivery of submissions.”

International Arbitration: Counsel: “An elite barrister – absolutely top-drawer. He has a lightning intellect, masters very complex issues with ease, leads from the front, and is very popular with both the legal team and clients.”

Media, Art & Entertainment: “He combines keen intellect with commercial awareness and an excellent understanding of the art market and the unusual legal situations it often throws up.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2017:

Banking & Finance: “A fantastic silk with a great ability to cut through very complex scenarios to get to the key issues to move the matter forward. He oozes class. A pleasure to deal with, and a smooth, persuasive and effective advocate.”

Commercial Dispute Resolution: Top-flight advocate who offers impeccable client service. He has an easy style and is both quick to turn round papers and humorous in his approach. He has always read his papers, is thorough in his preparation, and can be relied upon.”

Civil Fraud: “He is very user-friendly, bright and a good tactician for heavyweight litigation.”

International Arbitration: “An incredibly clever lawyer, he’s an absolutely first-rate advocate and brilliant at cross-examination.”

Art and Cultural Property Law: “He is ferociously intelligent, very client-friendly and someone who communicates complex issues in a very comprehensible way.” 

Who’s Who Legal: Asset Recovery 2016 describes Joe Smouha QC as “one of the leading silks of his generation in the civil fraud space.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2016:

Commercial Litigation: ‘Tough, tactical, practical – a real fighter, who knows how he wants to win.’

Fraud: Civil: ‘Forward-thinking, strategic, creative, quick and on top of matters; he has no weaknesses.’

Banking & Finance: ‘A very strong lawyer, who is great to work with.’

International Arbitration: Counsel ‘A great cross-examiner, who provides extremely sharp analysis and is easy to deal with.’

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2015:

International Arbitration: General Commercial & Insurance: “He is very impressive. He has an easy style, he prepares thoroughly and he can always be relied on. He’s a pleasure to work with and one of the very best in the business.”

International Arbitration: Arbitrators: “He is really great and easy to work with. He gets to grips with the details of the case quickly and is able to identify the important points in an intelligent way.”

Commercial Dispute Resolution: “His reputation at the Bar is very powerful.” “He has an easy style and is quick-witted and humorous. He has always read his papers and can be relied upon.”

Fraud: Civil: “He is a skilled cross-examiner and an excellent all-round advocate.” “A brilliant, clever and commercial advocate who is impressive with clients.”

Banking & Finance: “He’s fabulously clever, strategic and sensible, and has an extraordinary work rate.” “A brilliant, clever and commercial advocate who is impressive with clients.”

Art & Cultural Law: “He is a very good commercial litigator.” “He is a person that you would want for any kind of dispute.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2014:

Banking & Finance: “A very high-quality choice for banking and finance litigation.”

Commercial Litigation: “A fabulous practitioner, who is firmly established in the ‘super league’.”

Fraud: Civil: “A standout silk.”

Media & Entertainment: “He is experienced acting for clients in the film, television, music, art and advertising sectors.”

International arbitration: Counsel: “A class act and an outstanding specialist.”

Examples of recent cases
  • Philip Morris Asia Ltd v Australia
  • AES Corporation & Tau Power BV v Republic of Kazakhstan
  • Walam Energy Inc v Republic of Kenya
  • World Wide Minerals Ltd v Republic of Kazakhstan
  • Progas v Pakistan
  • Kirill Olegovich Nogotkov (2) Official Receiver of Dalnyaya Step LLC v (1) William Browder (2) Ivan Cherkasov (3) Paul Wrench
  • Barclays Banks plc v Unicredit Corporate Banking
  • B.A.T Industries PLC v Sequana S.A
  • (Hellas II) Hosking v Apax Partners LLP & Others
  • Hockin v (1) Royal Bank of Scotland PLC (2) National Westminster Bank PLC
  • Blue Tropic Limited Coppella Ventures Limited v Ivane Chkhartishvili
  • Bouvier v Rybolovlev
  • Ashot Egiazaryan v City of Moscow
  • The Estate of Henry Fok
  • The Secretary of State for the Home Department v Raytheon Systems Ltd
  • Littop Enterprises (2) Bridgemont Ventures Limited (3) Bordo Management Limited v Ukraine
  • Mark Weiss Limited v Sotheby’s
Commercial dispute resolution

Joe’s practice covers all the key areas of general contractual litigation, financial services, insurance and reinsurance, media including film and television, the advertising sector, joint venture and shareholder disputes.

Areas of practice have included investment treaty disputes, banking and finance disputes, private equity, shareholder disputes, energy sector (including power projects and renewables), commodities (metals, oil, etc) securitisations, pharmaceuticals, the film sector and the defence industry. He has worked on ICSID, ICC, LCIA and UNCITRAL arbitrations in London, Paris, Geneva, Singapore, Dubai and New Zealand. He has particular expertise in jurisdictional disputes in the context of commercial litigation.

International Arbitration

International Arbitration has always been a central element of Joe’s practice.

He has acted and appeared as counsel and co-counsel in complex and lengthy ICSID, LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL and other ad hoc arbitrations, both in London and internationally.

He has acted in a substantial number of major international arbitrations under ICC, LCIA, SCC, UNCITRAL and other institutional regimes as well as ad hoc. He has been appointed as sole arbitrator on numerous occasions by the LCIA, ICC and ad hoc.


2003                Queen’s Counsel

1987                Essex Court Chambers

1986                Call: Middle Temple

1985—86        Council of Legal Education


1984                Fulbright Scholar

1985                 New York University School of Law

1985                Kenneson Fellowship in International Trade Law

1984                BA Law (Hons), Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, Entrance Exhibition, MA (1988)


2015               Who’s Who Legal: UK Bar 2015 – Named the “most highly regarded” barrister for arbitration

2013-15          Chairman of Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR)

2006               Chambers & Partners – International Arbitration Silk of the Year 2006

1986                Jules Thorn Scholarship, Middle Temple

1984                Fulbright Scholar

1984                Harmsworth Exhibition