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 and as an advocate in international litigation and arbitration with recognised standing across multiple practice areas. He is joint Head of Essex Court Chambers.

Joe’s 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 of England and Wales, in international arbitrations globally, and in international commercial courts and offshore jurisdictions, including Singapore, Bermuda, the BVI and the Cayman Islands. He is regularly appointed as arbitrator in commercial and investment arbitrations, including ICC, LCIA, ICSID, SCC, UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations.

In the leading legal directories, Joe is identified as one of 20 Stars at the Bar (Chambers and Partners UK Bar Guide 2021) and holds rankings across eight practice areas, including Star Individual or Band 1 rankings in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Litigation, International Arbitration (Counsel and Arbitrators), Banking & Finance, Civil Fraud, and Art & Cultural Property Law, with rankings in Chancery (Commercial), and Offshore. Joe is described as the “best of the best,” “An elite barrister – absolutely top-drawer.” One of the true heavyweights of the current commercial bar” and “a top-flight advocate who gives impeccable client service.”.

 

Examples of current and recent cases

Commercial Dispute Resolution:

  • The Republic of Mozambique v Credit Suisse and others (Commercial Court)
  • PCP Capital Partners LLP v Barclays Bank PLC (Commercial Court)
  • Crane Bank Limited v DCFU Bank limited (Commercial Court)
  • Bidzina Ivanishvili v Credit Suisse (Bermuda and Singapore)
  • Kirill Olegovich Nogotkov, Official Receiver of Dalnyaya Step LLC v (1) William Browder (2) Ivan Cherkasov (3) Paul Wrench (Chancery Division)
  • TP ICAP Limited v Nex Group Limited (Commercial Court)
  • NMC Healthcare PLC (England, Abu Dhabi)
  • Barclays Banks plc v Unicredit Corporate Banking (Commercial Court)
  • B.A.T Industries PLC v Sequana S.A

Arbitration – including investment arbitration & as Arbitrator:

  • Philip Morris Asia Ltd v Australia
  • Walam Energy Inc v Republic of Kenya (Presiding arbitrator)
  • World Wide Minerals Ltd v Republic of Kazakhstan
  • EP Wind v Romania
  • KLS v Sri Lanka
  • The Secretary of State for the Home Department v Raytheon Systems Ltd

Art & Cultural:

  • Bouvier v Rybolovlev
  • Sotheby’s v Mark Weiss Ltd and Fairlight Art Ventures

 

 

Commercial dispute resolution

Joe’s practice covers all the key areas of international business litigation, banking and financial services, private equity disputes, securitisations, energy, defence sector, civil fraud, insurance and reinsurance, joint venture and shareholder disputes.

Areas of practice have included 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.

International Arbitration

Joe is one of the leading international arbitration counsel and arbitrators, and has acted as counsel and co-counsel in 100s of arbitrations including complex and lengthy  ICSID, LCIA, ICC, UNCITRAL and other ad hoc arbitrations, in London Paris, Geneva, Washington DC, New York, Singapore, Dubai, New Zealand and elsewhere. He has represented major global corporates, governments, UHNW individuals and others.

He has been appointed as arbitrator in many arbitrations under ICC, LCIA, SCC, ICSID, and other institutional regimes as well as ad hoc.

What others say

In the 2022 Chambers & Partners guide, Joe is identified as one of 20 Stars at the Bar, with rankings across eight 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 – 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.”

Who’s Who Legal Arbitration 2022:

Joe Smouha QC is “hugely impressive both as counsel and arbitrator” and comes “highly recommended” by respondents who consider him to be “the best of the best”.

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2022:

  • Banking & Finance:

“He is a big hitter with heavy trial experience. He has the expertise for very large trials and arbitrations.” “A real heavyweight all-rounder for the big cases, particularly those with high- profile clients.”

  • Chancery: Commercial:

“Very measured and very, very experienced. He has good judgement and a very nice manner.” “His ability to digest information and make really tactical calls is incredibly impressive. He’s also great at multitasking.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“He has great strategic vision and is excellent with clients.” “One of the go-to silks for big fraud claims – his advocacy is impeccable, he’s always well prepared and he deals with points easily on his feet.”

  • International Arbitration:

“He’s incredibly client-friendly, commercial and a smooth operator.” “He stands out in terms of quality. He is excellent and a knowledgeable advocate.” “He is pre- eminent in terms of his reputation and he is excellent on his feet.”

  • Offshore:

“He is someone who manages the entire compass of commercial litigation, from trench work to courtroom advocacy. He’s skilled in every single aspect of the work.”

  • Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“Universally acknowledged as one of the most effective courtroom advocates, he also has a very good understanding of commerce and makes sure things are aligned with the client’s business priorities.”

  • Art & Cultural Property Law:

“His written work is impeccable and his advocacy is a pleasure to watch. He instantly gets to the nub of things, is very, very good with the client and is tactically always on the money.”

Legal 500 UK Bar 2022:

  • Banking & Finance:

“One to use for serious and incisive cross-examination. Works out every angle of a case and knows exactly how they intend to won. Absolutely brilliant tactical mind.”

  • Commercial Litigation:

“One of the most serious heavyweights at the Bar for heavy-duty commercial litigation, particularly with a fraud element. One to use for serious and incisive cross examination.”

  • 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 cross-examination and delivery of submissions.”

  • International Arbitration:

“Acknowledged as being one of the leading international arbitration counsel in practice today, Joe is deeply immersed in each case he takes on – always finding time for instructing solicitors and the client.”

  • Media & Entertainment:

“Joe is a first-class lawyer who combines keen intellect with commercial understanding and empathy so as to ensure clients achieve the best possible outcome.”

Chambers & Partners UK Bar 2021:

  • 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 and Partners UK Bar 2020:

  • Banking & Finance:

“An out-and-out top commercial silk who is tenacious and very user-friendly.” “His ability to hold the courtroom and lead judges through his arguments is truly impressive.”

  • Chancery: Commercial:

“Very charming and a great advocate.” “He has a great command of the courtroom and he’s very intuitive and knows his stuff. He’s great with clients and, all-round, a fantastic advocate.” “He’s just excellent, a fantastic intellect and very easy to deal with.”

  • Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“A proper heavyweight, and one of the most diverse barristers around in terms of his practice, he’s someone who can cut through to the nub of problems very quickly.” “He’s a very hard- nosed litigator and a charming guy.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“A first-choice trial advocate.” “He can cut through problems and get to the nub of the issue very quickly.”

  • Int. Arb. Arbitrators:

“He is very experienced and extremely good to have on a tribunal.”

  • Int. Arb. General Commercial & Insurance:

“Brilliant mind and great commercial acumen.” “Has a real human quality that puts clients and witnesses at ease.”

  • Art and cultural property:

“a very good commercial litigator” “a very prominent name with lots of experience of the art market.” “a leading authority on important art decisions.” “a super-silk.” “He is a heavyweight silk in this area. His written work is impeccable and he really gets to the nub of things. He is very good with clients and handles conferences very well. He constantly knows the latest developments in the art market and he is top-quality.”

  • Offshore:

“He is a very good, very savvy, well thought of and respected advocate.” “He is a very effective and strong legal strategist.”

The Legal 500 UK Bar 2020:

  • Banking & Finance:

“One of the most exceptional silks in the City, he is also brilliant with clients.”

  • Commercial Litigation:

“Lives up to his reputation for excellence.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“Not only is he a formidable advocate, he brings fresh perspective and angles to every element of a case.”

  • International Arbitration: Counsel:

“Very astute tactically, quick minded analytically, and reassuringly calm and measured.”

  • Media and Entertainment: Art and cultural property:

“An exceptional barrister and stellar advocate.”

Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2019:

  • Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“Uses common sense to get to the heart of an issue and likes get go back to first principles to get a better perspective.” “He’s so hard-working and he doesn’t leave any stone unturned.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“An excellent courtroom advocate who has the total confidence of any tribunal.”

  • Art and cultural property:

“A top-class silk who combines technical excellence with a willingness to assist at all times.” “His turnaround is amazing, his written work is excellent, and he’s a very good advocate who makes incisive contributions to cases. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law.”

  • Offshore:

“A really excellent courtroom advocate who is charming and makes the complex incredibly simple.”

The Legal 500 UK Bar 2019:

  • Banking & Finance:

“A consummate professional who brings formidable insight to everything he touches.”

  • Commercial Litigation:

“Without a doubt, one of the Bar’s superstars.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“One of the most serious heavyweights at the Bar for heavy duty commercial litigation with a fraud element.”

  • International Arbitration: Counsel:

“A valuable and distinguished asset for leading the legal team.”

  • Media and Entertainment: Art and cultural property:

“Prepares thoroughly, and can always be relied on.”

Chambers and Partners UK Bar 2018:

  • Banking & Finance:

“He is very user-friendly, bright, and a good tactician when it comes to heavyweight litigation.”

  • Commercial Dispute Resolution:

“He can move between being bruising and erudite, and he knows when to go tough and when to go academic.” “He’s a good tactician who grasps complicated facts quickly.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“Very user-friendly, bright and a good tactician for heavyweight litigation.” “A great team player who is loved by his clients.”

  • International Arbitration:

“Very calm and very organised. He is able to distil the important features of a case and concentrate on those. He also has a very strong delivery on the advocacy side and is very well respected.”

  • Offshore:

“Just a super practitioner overall. He is able to deal with a vast array of issues in heavyweight litigation, is easy to use and is very commercial in his outlook.” “Part of his appeal is how easy he makes the case seem; he effortlessly carries the court with him.”

The Legal 500 UK Bar 2018:

  • Banking & Finance:

“A supreme advocate and an absolute joy to work with.”

  • Commercial Litigation:

“One of the most serious heavyweights at the Bar for commercial litigation.”

  • Fraud: Civil:

“Uber-bright and commercial, and an outstanding advocate in court.”

  • International Arbitration: Counsel:

“An intellectual powerhouse and a top pick for arbitration matters.”

  • Media and Entertainment:

“Art and cultural property: ‘He is an outstanding advocate – simply perfect.”

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.”

Career
  • 2013-15: Chairman of Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR)
  • 2010: Elected Bencher of the Honorable Society of the Middle Temple
  • 2003: Queen’s Counsel
  • 1987: Joined Essex Court Chambers
  • 1986: Call to the Bar: Middle Temple
  • 1985-86: Council of Legal Education
Education
  • 1985: New York University School of Law
  • 1985: Kenneson Fellowship in International Trade Law
  • 1984: Fulbright Scholar
  • 1984: BA Law (Hons), Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, Entrance Exhibition, MA (1988)
Awards
  • 2019: Chambers & Partners: Commercial Silk of the Year 2019
  • 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