02 Nov 2020

King & Spalding hires leading UK human rights QC to head public international law offering

Ben Emmerson joins as a partner in the firm's trials and global disputes practice in London

Ben Emmerson QC

King & Spalding has hired experienced litigator Ben Emmerson QC from Monckton Chambers to bolster its trials and global disputes practice.

Emmerson joins as a partner in London and as the firm’s global head of public international law, bringing with him more than three decades of experience as a courtroom advocate representing sovereigns, individuals and corporate clients before international courts and tribunals.

Andy Bayman, chair of King & Spalding’s trial and global disputes practice, said: “Ben is one of the UK’s best-known and respected litigators and his advocacy skills, renowned tactical insight and experience in high-profile, high-stakes cases before the English courts are unparalleled. His stellar background in public international law creates a unique offering that fits perfectly into our existing disputes work, making him an outstanding addition, both to our London office and our disputes platform around the world.”

Emmerson has litigated more than 20 cases in the UK Supreme Court and House of Lords, and more than 30 cases at the European Court of Human Rights. He was called to the Bar in 1986, starting his career at Doughty Street Chambers before founding human rights specialists Matrix Chambers in 2000, the same year he was appointed QC. Most recently he was the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, before joining Monckton Chambers at the start of last year. He was also awarded a CBE for services to international law in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last month.

Emmerson said: “After more than three decades at the Bar, it’s time for a new challenge so the chance to join an expanding and ever-evolving law firm like King & Spalding was exciting, enticing and obvious.”

He added: “International disputes – arbitration, litigation and public international law – are increasingly overlapping and converging, especially when it comes to cases involving states. Clients need much more in-depth and holistic solutions to their international cases so my practice slots in perfectly with the established disputes team at King & Spalding to help us meet those requirements.”

Notable cases Emmerson has worked on in the past include representing Maria Litvinenko at the public inquiry into the murder of her husband, Russian ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, as well as advising victims of human rights violations in Myanmar, Syria and Iraq.

Other US firms to employ senior figures from the UK's barristers' profession include Debevoise & Plimpton where former attorney general Lord Goldsmith QC is head of European and Asian disputes, and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, where current Labour shadow attorney general, Lord Falconer (a former justice secretary), is a partner.

In September, UK law firm Withers hired the former UK attorney general, Geoffrey Cox QC MP, as a consultant to its dispute resolution group.