chain related disputes and projects, which “could be worth £50,000 or £50 million.”
Shipping law tends to fall into two areas: contentious and non-contentious. On the contentious side, ‘dry’ shipping involves contractual issues such as bill of lading and charterparty disputes, whereas ‘wet’ shipping tends to involve issues of international law, tort and jurisdiction (eg, collisions). Non-contentious work includes ship finance (eg, lending and security) and the drafting of commercial agreements (eg, charters and shipbuilding contracts). Whereas the shipping industry is by its nature international, London remains the pre-eminent venue for dispute resolution and marine insurance, and English law is the legal system of choice. Matt had visions of joining the army, but the dreamwas not to be. The army’s loss, however, was law’s gain: “Although I had originally planned to join the army, law seemed like a good solid degree, and it felt to me that you could do a lot with it. I had also had the chance to do some work experience at a firm in the shipping department; at 18 years old, it felt pretty exciting to be dealing with claims from Japan, the US and all over the world!” Going on to train at Walton & Morse, which is now part of Kennedys, Matt had another taste of life as a shipping lawyer: “It was a small and very traditional London market firm, and while there, I’d often been on the opposite side to HFW lawyers. When I had the chance to shift to HFW on qualification, I jumped at the chance. That’s an opportunity as an NQ that you don’t turn down.” Navigating the high seas of law Now a senior associate at the firm, Matt works within the disputes section of the shipping department – there are also finance and corporate sections. His clients are predominantly shipowners, transport operators, ports and terminal operators, and insurers, and he tends to be defending them in relation to a variety of logistics and supply-
He is also involved in more general commercial disputes: “For example, there may have been a falling out with customers over the provision of a particular service or the contractual renegotiation of pricing levels. Another common example is where a UK retailer has gone bust, owing many different companies money, and a shipowner wants to exercise its right of lien over the goods, but the administrators are screaming for the goods to be returned. That type of claim tends to come in cycles, often following on from retail premises rent reviews.” Generallyspeaking, lawyers who work in shipping are passionate about it – I’d even say borderline nerdy; I know a lotof peoplewithLegoships! There was a run of high street collapses in 2012, including Jane Norman, Focus DIY, Peacocks, JJB Sports and La Senza. “They came thick and fast, so we had a lot of work on – the La Senza claim went to court on expedited proceedings, and from start to finish it took just two weeks,” he recalls. “We were working round the clock on witness statements, culminating in a good win for our client, changing the law and even making it into The Sun !” Matt describes a couple of the court proceedings he’s currently involved with: “We have a number of cases for shipowners whose vessels were hijacked by pirates in 2011 and who are trying to recover part of the ransom-associated costs from the owners of the cargo that was being transported. We are invoking a mechanism called a general average claim, which is essentially about
For more firms that work in this practice area, please use the “Training contract regional indexes” starting on p197.
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