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Practice Summary

Michael Watkins’ practice covers the broad spectrum of company and commercial work in litigation, international arbitration, expert determination and ADR. He has experience in heavy and complex, high value claims (working as part of a larger team), as well as advising and appearing in smaller cases, as sole counsel, before the Court of Appeal, the High Court and various County Courts. He also has significant experience of international arbitrations under the LCIA, ICC and UNCITRAL rules.  

Legal 500 (Commercial Litigation) 2019 

"Hardworking, rigorous, sensible and very able"

Legal 500 (Energy) 2019

"Bright, very user-friendly, works extremely well as part of a team."

Chambers UK 2019 (Energy & Natural Resources) 

"He's very smart and a good draftsman who is extremely easy to work with."

Legal 500 (Commercial Litigation) 2018

"Incredibly responsive and a pleasure to deal with, his drafting is excellent."

Legal 500 (Energy) 2018

"Highly focused and very capable."

Chambers UK 2018

"He is a strong team player, who is happy to roll up his sleeves and delve down into the detail." (Energy & Natural Resources)

Legal 500 2017

Super-clever, easy to work with, immensely capable and a star of the future (Commercial Litigation)

An exceptionally bright barrister with a very strong grasp of the law” (Energy)

Chambers UK 2017

“One of the brightest junior prospects in energy work, who has a wide range of energy work under his belt and particular experience in International Arbitration.  Sources are quick to pick him out for his intelligence collaborative approach and enthusiasm.”  “He is very hard-working, extremely thorough and very bright but also very easy and approachable.”  “ A team player and one to watch.” (Energy & Natural Resources)

Legal 500 2016

Clever, conscientious and focused, with huge amounts of common sense” (Commercial Litigation – Top ten under eight years’ call)

Chambers UK 2016

"...a very impressive commercial junior who is really growing his practice in the energy and international arbitration sectors." "He is a standout junior who is really bright and very easy to work with. He is mature in his judgment and rolls his sleeves up for clients."  (Energy & Natural Resources)

Chambers UK 2015

"Sensationally bright, hard-working and enthusiastic, he's a fantastic draftsman, who it is an absolute delight to instruct." "He is tipped for the top in the future."  (Energy & Natural Resources)

Legal Week’s 2013 “Stars at the Bar” (profiling highly rated barristers under ten years call):

“A magic circle partner says he is “truly clever, incisive, drafts very well and has a natural feel for crafting witness examinations and cross examinations”, but is also “highly collaborative and user-friendly”. Another praises his “willingness to work closely with instructing solicitors as part of a combined team”.

“One silk says Watkins “has great judgment beyond his years, incredible perseverance and a fluid clear writing style”. He is not easily fazed, either, handling “difficult and at times pressured cases”, notes one lawyer, before adding that Watkins retains “a great sense of humour and fun throughout, as well as doing his ‘day job’”.

Recent cases include:

  • Acting (with John McCaughran QC and Adam Goodison) defending a claim in the Chancery Division (Financial List) against a broker for c. USD 204 million arising out of a stock lending transaction, which gives rise to issues about the scope of a broker’s contractual duties and the illegality principle (Singularis Holdings Ltd (In Liq) v Daiwa Capital Markets Europe Ltd)
  • Acting (with Michael Fealy QC) in proceedings concerning a USD 53 million post completion dispute between owners of a hedge fund of funds, giving rise to allegations of fraud and issues about contractual warranties in a share sale and purchase agreement (Confidential)
  • Acting (as sole Counsel) in an eight day Manchester Mercantile Court trial for the successful guarantee claimant in one of the first cases to have considered whether a bank owed an advisory duty to its customer in relation to the sale of fixed rate loans, including the extent to which a bank may be obliged to give a warning to its customer about the nature of a break clause.HHJ Pelling QC subsequently (June 2016) awarded Promontoria, the successful guarantee claimant, indemnity costs and an 80% payment on account (Promontoria Holding 87 BV v Finch & Ors [2016] EWHC 1236 (QB))
  • Acting (with Daniel Toledano QC) for British Gas defending a Commercial Court claim for c. £37m arising out of the termination of “subject to contract” arrangements for the sale and purchase of energy performance data (EPC), intended to assist British Gas in complying with its obligation to deliver energy saving measures under the Electricity and Gas (Energy Companies Obligation) Order 2012 (JPW Enterprises (Scotland) Ltd v. British Gas Services Ltd [2015] EWHC 4041 (Comm)). 
  • Acting (with Tom de la Mare QC) in Chancery Division proceedings arising out of historic and long running litigation concerning alleged breaches of competition law, negligence and unlawful means conspiracy, leading to contested applications for relief from sanctions, variation of historic Court orders and substitution (Pittville Limited (MasterCigars Direct Ltd) v. Hunters & Frankau & Anr
  • Acting (with Rhodri Davies QC and also as sole Counsel) on behalf of a global oil and gas major in unrelated LCIA and Ad Hoc arbitrations concerning a variety of issues in the oil and gas sector, including overlifting of natural gas products, contracts for the sale and supply of crude oil and price reviews.

Historically, Michael has appeared and/or advised in a number of market-leading cases, including: The Dow Chemical Co v. Petrochemical Industries Co KSC [2012] EWHC 2739 (Comm) (major ICC arbitration proceedings arising out of a USD multi-billion JV between two petrochemical companies and in the subsequent s68 challenge before the Commercial Court); Re: Klöckner Pentaplast Group (a market-leading (€1.2 billion) restructuring in which a consortium of junior lenders successfully implemented a restructuring in the face of opposition from senior lenders); Price Review Arbitrations (for an international energy major in parallel USD billion price review arbitrations); and London Underground Ltd v. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer & Anr (for D1, in (ultimately settled) professional negligence proceedings arising out of the public private partnership for the London Underground).

Michael has taught a variety of private and commercial law courses alongside his full time practice, including: the Law of Contract at King’s College London (2008-9); Restitution of Unjust Enrichment (BCL) at Oxford University (2011-2014); Commercial Law at University College London (2014-2015); and The Law of Unjust Enrichment at UCL (2015-2018).  He is a contributor to the Journal of International Banking & Financial Law.

Mike speaks reasonably fluent French and has a working knowledge of Spanish.