Atkin Chambers adds top international construction advocate to ranks

Specialist set secures Stuart Catchpole QC from 39 Essex Chambers

Leading international construction advocate Stuart Catchpole QC has joined specialist set Atkin Chambers from 39 Essex Chambers.

Catchpole’s arrival at the set is a major catch for Atkin, which rarely adds to its ranks at the senior level. He is regarded as one of a handful of top construction lawyers with a genuinely international practice spanning the UK, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. 

His experience spans energy and natural resources, international commercial arbitration, construction and engineering, insurance and professional negligence.  

Head of chambers, and former Bar Council chair, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said: “Stuart’s move to Atkin Chambers underscores the set’s domestic and international reputation for intellectual leadership in construction law and related fields, and we are delighted to welcome him.” 

A former overseas member of 39 Essex – he has been resident in Jersey since 2012 – Catchpole is registered at Dubai’s DIFC Courts and sits as an adjudicator, mediator, and as an in-demand arbitrator with the LCIA, ICC, DIFC-LCIA, and DIAC, as well as leading Asian arbitral centres such as SIAC and HKIAC. 

Catchpole stressed Atkins’ capabilities in international disputes, and GLP understands that this was a significant driver for his decision to join the set. 

Catchpole’s arrival bolsters the ranks of senior arbitral figures at Atkin, who include Sir Robert Akenhead, Prof Janet Walker CM and Prof Doug Jones AO.

Like Jones, Catchpole is a fellow of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration and has appeared as counsel and as an arbitrator in hearings there. 

His arrival at Atkin is expected to bolster his developing Australian arbitration practice, complementing that of other senior tenants including Doerries, Andrew White QC, Manus McMullan QC and David Streatfeild James QC.

It also promises to boost his Asia-Pacific and Middle Eastern links while it will reunite him with former 39 Essex CEO David Barnes, director of clerking at Atkin since 2017.

Catchpole said the strength of the set’s advocates was “mirrored in the quality and experience of the practice management team, some of whom I already know extremely well and with whom I have worked closely in the past”.

Barnes said: “Stuart’s reputation in chambers’ core practice areas as a formidable and highly-persuasive advocate is excellent and he enjoys a loyal client following.” 

Since Barnes’ arrival at Atkin, the set has welcomed a number of experienced junior tenants, including 39 Essex alumnus Samar Abbas Kazmi, a former management consultant, who arrived in January 2021. Ex-Reed Smith partner Shourav Lahiri joined in 2020 while Lamb Chambers’ Ryan Turner switched sets in October 2021. 

Catchpole thanked 39 Essex “for their friendship and support over many years” adding: “I am sure that they will continue to be an outstanding set across all fields in which they practice.”

Thirty-nine Essex still boasts established construction silks like Paul Darling OBE QC, the former head of chambers at Atkin’s big rival Keating Chambers, Marion Smith QC, and former Shell GC, Peter Rees QC, alongside rising star Patrick Hennessey. It also has an active bench of public law, property law, clinical negligence and planning specialists.

However, the set has experienced a number of losses on the commercial side since Barnes’ departure, most notably, that of a team of silks and juniors led by Hodge Malek QC and Hefin Rees QC to 3 Verulam Buildings in 2018, while James Ramsden QC left in 2019 to form the disputes boutique Astraea Group. 

Sean Wilken QC and juniors Rachel O’Hagan and Alex Bodnar joined Keating, while Sarah Bowsfield joined Brick Court in late 2020.  

Thirty-nine Essex did not respond to a request for comment. 

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