Spotlight on new Silks: James Sheehan KC

20 March, 2024

James’s practice as an advocate spans a wide range of commercial work, both in litigation and arbitration. He is particularly well known in civil fraud, having acted in a number of major cases in this area through his career. This includes the seminal BTA v Ablyazov litigation, Dar Al Arkan v Al Refai, PCP v Barclays Bank (all The Lawyer Top 20 cases), Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank v Shetty, PJSC Finance & Credit v Zhevago, Tatneft v Bogulyubov and WWRT Limited v Zhevago. He also has a strong commercial chancery background, having started his career at a leading set in this field and developed significant experience in shareholder disputes, director claims, unfair prejudice and domestic and cross-border insolvency. He is frequently instructed in commercial cases with a specific chancery angle which enables him to draw on his expertise in this area, and in banking and financial disputes of a varied kind.

Significant recent cases in which James has acted as leader or sole counsel include, in addition to a number of confidential arbitrations:

Before taking silk, James was recognised by the directories as a leading junior in five practice areas: commercial litigation, civil fraud, banking and finance (each Tier 1 in Legal 500), commercial chancery and company. He was particularly praised for his intellect: “unbelievably bright” with “extraordinary clarity of thinking” and “incredible mastery of the law” and whose “abilities consistently astound”; the quality of his advocacy: “an extremely personable and charming advocate”, “his advocacy is first class”; and for his approach more generally: “a total delight to work with”, “real gravitas” and “very diplomatic and great with people”. He was consistently recognised in Who’s Who Legal as one of the most highly-regarded civil fraud juniors and was shortlisted for Chambers & Partners Commercial Litigation Junior of Year in 2021.

James’s current workload includes, among other things, an 8-week trial in summer 2024 in BTI 2014 LLC v Pricewaterhousecoopers LLP (an auditor’s negligence claim and The Lawyer Top 20 case), a dispute which has reached the Court of Appeal about the effect of sanctions against Russia on a bank’s obligations under a letter of credit: Celestial Aviation Services v UniCredit (one of The Lawyer’s Top 10 appeals for 2024), continuing work on Madison Pacific Trust Ltd v Groza (see [2024] EWHC 267 (Comm), involving proceedings on a freezing order in support of a US$120 million arbitration.

One of the contributing authors to the leading textbook Civil Fraud: Law Practice and Procedure (Sweet & Maxwell), James also writes on issues of banking law for the Butterworths Journal of International Banking & Financial Law. He frequently gives talks on topical issues arising in the context of civil fraud, banking and finance and commercial litigation and procedure more generally.

James has a keen interest in widening access to the Bar and is engaged in a number of mentoring programmes and related work to that end, including most recently through the Social Mobility Foundation’s Aspiring Professionals Programme and COMBAR’s Student Mentoring Scheme, and previously with the Sutton Trust.