Alistair Schaff QC practises as a barrister specialising in international commercial law, primarily as an advocate but also in an advisory capacity and (increasingly) as an arbitrator.
He is a leading commercial Silk, particularly in the fields of insurance and reinsurance, international arbitration, professional negligence and shipping/international trade. In 2015, he was named the Legal 500 Awards Shipping Silk of the Year. Also in 2009, he was named the Chambers Bar Awards Insurance Silk of the Year and has been frequently short-listed ever since. During the last couple of years, he has been involved in a number of very significant cases. He is currently involved in an appeal to the Supreme Court in a war risks insurance claim on behalf of shipowners who seek to recover for a total loss of their vessel which was detained by the Venezuelan authorities after a large consignment of cocaine had been found strapped to the hull. He is involved in a major Commercial Court action involving damage to a North Sea platform. He has recently appeared in a successful avoidance case for super-yacht underwriters who were held entitled to avoid for material non-disclosure of the fact that the yacht had been materially overvalued and He has also recently appeared in the Court of Appeal on behalf of a financial services firm, arguing successfully 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. He acted for insurers in the major piece of commercial court litigation surrounding Standard Life’s Sterling Pension Fund and its claim under its professional liability policy, a claim which went to the Court of Appeal. He acted for insurance brokers in another major piece of commercial litigation involving the alleged loss of gold bullion in Turkey and its disputed insurance coverage. He continues to be involved in a number of very large pharmaceutical liability, personal injury (mesothelioma) and patent infringement liability (re)insurance disputes. He appeared in an arbitration appeal concerning the attack on the World Trade Center (‘one event or two?’). He acted in the long-running jurisdictional contest known as the Masri 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  UKHL 40 and of the Commercial Court in Equitas v R&Q  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 regularly sits as an arbitrator in all manner of international commercial arbitrations, both institutional (ICC and LCIA) and otherwise, and as sole or party-appointed arbitrator or chair. He has considerable experience as an arbitrator not merely in (re)insurance and shipping matters but in commercial disputes more generally. Recent cases as arbitrator include disputes relating to banking fraud, product liability, gas pricing and oil pollution. 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.