James Willan KC

Her Majesty The Queen has approved the appointment of James Willan to become one of the new Queen’s Counsel in March 2021.

James’ Barrister practice extends across the full range of commercial, banking and finance, fraud, conflict of laws, commercial chancery and offshore disputes.  He holds nine top-tier (band 1) rankings across legal directories which include commercial litigation, banking and international arbitration.  James is also singled out by Chambers & Partners as a “Star Individual” for civil fraud.

Before taking silk, James was recognised as one of the leading juniors at the commercial bar.  He is the only junior barrister to have been identified by Chambers & Partners as one of its “Stars at the Bar”, who have proved their excellence across a range of practice areas which is supported by the following editorial:

There are sources who say that James Willan of Essex Court Chambers is “destined for huge things”; one might say, taking his considerable achievements and our researchers’ findings in the round, that he has well and truly arrived. A junior of 16 years call at the publication of the 2021 rankings, Willan is star-rated for his civil fraud practice and is also considered one of the leading barristers in banking and finance, commercial litigation, international arbitration, offshore and commercial chancery cases working in London today. Indeed, he has become a “senior junior of choice for complex, cross-border disputes.” Sources note that he regularly appears unled against KCs and “holds his own,” and that he is “an excellent barrister at his level who will no doubt be a superstar further down the line,” declaring themselves “extremely impressed with his written submissions as well as his oral advocacy.” Others are unabashedly fulsome in their praise, with one describing him as “remarkably brilliant – an absolute superstar who is spectacular on his feet, even completely by himself.” Alongside Willan’s clear mastery of his craft, it is reflections on his intellectual acuity that resonate most. Source after source remarks on his ability to “grasp complex, detailed points very quickly” and his “wonderful way of pursuing the complicated points.” …

James’ standing across his broad range of practices is further reflected by being awarded “Junior of the Year” in three fields: Banking (Chambers Bar Awards, 2020), Commercial Litigation (Legal 500, 2017) and International Arbitration (Chambers Bar Awards, 2016).  He also appeared in The Lawyer’s “Hot 100”, which described him as “one of the big names at the bar in civil fraud and banking and finance litigation”.

James wins praise from his clients for combining strong analytical skills (“a brain the size of a planet”, “one of the most intellectually brilliant counsel you could come across”, “the brightest junior at the Bar”) with powerful advocacy (“simply astonishing in full flow, definitely a future super-silk”, “a brilliantly analytical and fast-thinking advocate”, “spectacular on his feet”, “an exceptional barrister who can read the courts and judges well”).

James most frequently appears as case leader or sole counsel (in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and a wide variety of ad hoc and institutional arbitrations) in addition to acting as a member of larger teams on heavyweight litigation, including some of the largest cases to come before the courts in recent years.  He is equally at home in court as he is in arbitration.

James is also instructed frequently in connection with litigation globally. He has appeared in the BVI Commercial Court and the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal, and has been admitted ad hoc and appeared in both the Isle of Man and the Cayman Islands.  James was also a member of the Attorney General’s “A Panel” for civil counsel until his appointment was approved as silk.


March 2021: to be appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel (Q.C.)

2017: Appointed to the Attorney General’s “A” Panel of Civil Counsel to the Crown

2010: Called to the Bar of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (BVI)

2008: Admitted to the Courts of the DIFC

2006: Call: Gray’s Inn

2006: Supervisor in the Law of Equity, Clare College, Cambridge


2009: MA, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

2006: BVC (Outstanding), BPP Law School (ranked first in year)

2005: BA (Starred First Class Hons.) (Law), Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge (ranked first in year)


2007: Arden Scholarship for pupillage, Gray’s Inn

2006: Bedingfield Scholarship for BVC, Gray’s Inn

2005: Slaughter and May Prize for best results in Law, University of Cambridge

Clifford Hamson Prize for Aspects of Obligations, University of Cambridge

Herbert Smith Prize for Conflict of Laws, University of Cambridge

Bateman Scholar, Trinity Hall

2004: Falcon Chambers Prize for Land Law, University of Cambridge

Rebecca Flower Squire Scholar, University of Cambridge