Alistair Schaff QC practises both as a barrister and as an arbitrator specialising in international commercial law. He is a leading commercial Silk, particularly in the fields of international arbitration, insurance and reinsurance, and shipping/international trade.

In 2018, Alistair was named the Chambers Bar Awards Shipping Silk of the Year (in 2015 he was named the Legal 500 Awards Shipping Silk of the Year).In 2009, Alistair was named the Chambers Bar Awards Insurance Silk of the Year and has been frequently short-listed ever since. He is ranked in band 1 as an International Arbitrator  (London Bar) by Chambers & Partners.

As Counsel, he is heavily involved in the insurance and reinsurance treatment of COVID 19 Business Interruption losses. He has just concluded an appeal to the Supreme Court (which settled) concerning the allocation of mesothelioma losses at the reinsurance level. He acted for Ukrnafta in a major enforcement battle concerning a Stockholm arbitration award. He led for the insurance market in the recently settled billion dollar SBM/ MOPUstor Commercial Court action involving sub-sea and topsides damage to a North Sea platform; and he led for the shipowners in the “B Atlantic” an appeal to the Supreme Court in a war risks insurance claim concerning the total loss of a vessel which was detained by the Venezuelan authorities after a large consignment of cocaine had been found strapped to the hull; the decision is a leading one on war risks perils and exclusions. Other recent cases include acting for super-yacht underwriters in an over-valuation case; for a financial services firm, establishing the principle that ‘res judicata’ principles preclude complainants from accepting a FOS award in their favour and then suing for additional compensation over and above the limits of the FOS monetary jurisdiction in respect of the same cause of action; for insurers in litigation surrounding Standard Life’s Sterling Pension Fund and its claim under its professional liability policy; and for insurance brokers in litigation involving the alleged loss of gold bullion in Turkey and its disputed insurance coverage. He acted in the long-running jurisdictional contest known as the Masri litigation and the even more long-running jurisdictional and substantive contest known as the Metro litigation. And he also appeared in the Privy Council, on appeal from the Guernsey Court of Appeal, in a very significant case involving the discount rate to be applied to lump sum awards for personal injuries. Although outside his normal area of practice, this latter case exemplifies both the range of his abilities and his refusal to limit his work to discrete areas of specialisation. Landmark successes included the seminal decisions of the House of Lords in Wasa v Lexington [2009] UKHL 40 and of the Commercial Court in Equitas v R&Q [2009] EWHC 2787 (Comm).

As an advocate, he has argued cases before the European Court of Justice, the Supreme Court, the House of Lords, the Privy Council and the Court of Appeal and makes frequent appearances in the Commercial Court and in commercial arbitrations, both in London and overseas, and whether in long complex trials or arbitrations involving lengthy cross-examination of factual witnesses or experts or in short interlocutory hearings involving difficult points of law. At the pre-trial stage, he operates a very ‘hands-on’ approach to his cases. He believes that being an advocate is not just about presenting a case in court or in arbitration but is also about being involved in, and being on top of, a case from an early stage and about helping to shape its eventual outcome through the necessary tactical, procedural and evidential decisions on the way. He is both accessible and ‘user-friendly.’

He has also acted as an expert on English law for use in foreign proceedings and has appeared as counsel before the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong and the Supreme Court of Gibraltar.

As an arbitrator, he is regularly appointed in all manner of international commercial arbitrations, both institutional (ICC, UNCITRAL and LCIA) and otherwise, and as sole or party-appointed arbitrator or chair. He has considerable experience as an arbitrator not merely in insurance and shipping matters but in commercial disputes more generally. Recent appointments as arbitrator include disputes relating to alleged banking fraud, bribery in relation to large commercial contracts, product liability, gas pricing, oil pollution and the transfer of shares, as well as insurance and shipping disputes by the dozen. As Chambers recites: “he’s thorough, incredibly well prepared and has everything at his fingertips.” “He is enormously inventive and reliable and he writes beautifully.