Top 10 maritime lawyers 2023
Whether they need to arbitrate a contract, litigate a dispute or find their way through the maze of sanctions regulations, most shipowners regularly find themselves needing a lawyer; these are 10 of the best
The ubiquity of English law and London arbitration makes the UK a natural centre for barristers and solicitors specialising in shipping, although the US and Asia also play leading roles
01 / Justice Bright
As a plain barrister, Robert Bright KC built himself a reputation as one of the go-to guys for commercial disputes related to shipping, international trade and finance over more than 30 years at prominent chambers 7KBW. In that capacity, he topped this list in 2022.
His talents have since come to the attention of the Judicial Appointments Commission, the body that appoints judges in England and Wales, which in 2023 appointed him as a High Court judge in the King’s Bench Division.
Bright was born in London and spent his peripatetic upbringing there and in Brussels in Belgium, Voorschoten in the Netherlands, and Basel in Switzerland.
He studied law at Oxford University and was called to the bar in 1987 before being appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2006.
02 / Philippa Hopkins KC
Just five years after she took silk in 2018, Philippa Hopkins is widely being seen as an emerging force in the ranks of commercial barristers specialising in shipping.
Many clients speak in hushed tones of her intellect, her analytical capability and capacity to absorb detail in complex cases in both the Commercial Court and in arbitration.
Her abilities have been noted ever since her student days. In 1992, Merton College graduate Hopkins was ranked joint first in jurisprudence in the whole of Oxford University.
Outside of work, she is also chancellor of the Diocese of Chelmsford in the Church of England.
03 / George Paleokrassas, Watson Farley & Williams
George Paleokrassas is a company lifer at Watson Farley & Williams — one of the world’s largest shipping law firms — and has risen to the very top, becoming global maritime sector co-head since September 2020 and senior partner in February 2022.
Earlier in his career, he was the Athens office head from 2005-2022, growing it to become the largest international law firm office in Greece and in the top five law firm offices overall. In 2022, he moved to New York to head up the WFW office in the Big Apple.
Legal directory The Legal 500 has styled him as “highly esteemed” and an obviously satisfied client described him as “utterly outstanding”.
Paleokrassas has decades of experience advising many of the world’s leading shipping lenders and shipowners on the structuring and restructuring of loan and leasing transactions, shipbuilding projects, joint ventures, shipping loan portfolios, and transactions involving distressed assets.
04 / Chris Nolan, Holland & Knight
Holland & Knight partner Christopher Nolan is a litigation attorney who co-chairs the firm’s Transportation and Infrastructure Group, which comprises 210 of his colleagues around the world.
He has represented a broad range of transportation clients from the onset of his career, and acts as a counsel for a major ocean carrier.
Nolan consistently ranks among the best shipping lawyers in the US by Chambers and has previously appeared in Lloyd’s List Top 10 in 2019 and 2020. He also won the New York Admiralty & Maritime Law Lawyer of the Year award in 2023 by The Best Lawyers in America guide.
05 / Julian Clark, Gard
Full-time shipping lawyer, part-time rock and roll star Julian Clark’s outgoing personality has seen him garner a high profile in the niche. He was already global head of shipping at Hill Dickinson before being poached as a senior partner by Ince & Co in 2019.
Then things started to go wrong, with what had once been the world’s most prestigious maritime law firm going into administration in early 2023, at which point it was acquired by Axiom DWFM.
Clark jumped ship and was hired as senior legal advisor at P&I club Gard. Ince Axiom, as Ince & Co was subsequently rebranded, is now the subject of a police investigation into allegations of misappropriation.
Clark still keeps his hand in on the keyboards, reuniting his old band Love Street to play a gig to mark the launch of 2023’s London International Shipping Week.
06 / Leigh Hansson, Reed Smith
If ever there was a good time to be a lawyer specialising in shipping sanctions, it is surely now. Leigh Hansson is extensively quoted in the media, from Lloyd’s List to the Financial Times and Politico, making her arguably the best-known name in the specialism.
Hansson is a US-qualified lawyer who is primarily based in London, where she leads Reed Smith’s sanctions team.
Her practice focuses on complex international trade matters, and she routinely represents big name shipping clients in high-profile sanctions matters involving the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Directorate of Defence Trade Controls, the Bureau of Industry and Security, US Customs and Border Protection and other federal government agencies.
07 / Haris Zografakis, Stephenson Harwood
Stephenson Harwood’s marine and international trade partner Haris Zogrofakis heads the law firm’s commodities practice.
Zografakis, who has more than 30 years’ experience dealing with all aspects of shipping and maritime trade, is a leading expert in the contractual aspects of maritime decarbonisation.
His pedigree has earned him a recent appointment to chair the new International Working Group on Maritime Decarbonisation by Comité Maritime International.
08 / Kenny Yap, Allen & Gledhill
With veteran partner Gina Lee-Wan’s retirement, Kenny Yap has assumed greater leadership as co-head of Allen & Gledhill’s maritime and aviation practice and the shipping (contentious) team.
The move comes as the firm has seen increased shipping and commodity disputes, including those linked to the Ukraine war. It remains active in maritime asset transactions for private equity while leading high-profile restructurings like Hin Leong Trading and Ocean Tankers.
Yap has extensive experience in litigation and arbitration across disputes involving trade, commodities, banking, shipbuilding, marine casualties and more. He also advises on regulatory compliance, licensing, sanctions and customs matters related to shipping.
In 2019, he was recognised as a Senior Accredited Specialist in Maritime Law by Singapore’s Academy of Law.
09 / Elizabeth Blackburn KC, The 36 Group
Barrister Elizabeth Blackburn KC specialises in complicated large-scale casualty cases and has worked on some of the most prominent casualties in recent years, including Ever Given (IMO: 9811000), Maersk Honam, MOL Comfort and Ievoli Sun.
A University of Manchester graduate, she was called to the bar in 1980 and took silk in 1998. Throughout her career, she has won a reputation for being unafraid of the intricacies in life, from conflict of laws issues to heavyweight questions of naval architecture, hydrography, geotechnology and meteorology.
In particular, she is arguably the leading practitioner in Lloyd’s Open Form cases.
Blackburn was part of the UK delegation at the May 2003 IOPC supplementary fund diplomatic conference, and was also involved in the finalisation and implementation of the Nairobi Wreck Removal Convention 2007.
10 / Evangeline Quek, Stephenson Harwood
As managing partner of Stephenson Harwood’s Greater China offices, Evangeline specialises in resolving complex commercial disputes, with a focus on maritime and international trade matters.
Her practice encompasses all stages of dispute resolution, from obtaining security to litigation and enforcement.
Evangeline has built a reputation among Chinese ship leasing companies thanks to her diligence and capabilities. She currently represents a Chinese lessor pursuing $92m claims under charters and guarantees.
Additionally, Evangeline assisted Hong Kong’s IQAX Ltd in gaining approval from the International Group of P&I Clubs for its blockchain-enabled electronic bill of lading platform, IQAX eBL. This makes IQAX one of only 10 companies with an IG-approved eBL system.
The Top 10 maritime lawyers list is compiled by the Lloyd’s List editorial team in conjunction with our colleagues at Lloyd’s Law Reports
Sources: Lloyd’s Law Reports, Lloyd’s List