Clara Benn

Clara Benn

Call: 2012

Practice Profile

Recognised for two years running as one of the Legal 500’s “Top ten under eight years’ call” for Commercial Litigation, Clara maintains a broad practice, with a particular emphasis on private international law, civil fraud, insurance (including marine insurance), and shipping. Since joining Chambers in 2014, she has appeared in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court, as well as in the DIFC Courts and LCIA, SIAC, and LMAA arbitration. Clara is one of the most junior appointees to the Attorney General’s Panel, as a result of which she has also gained experience of public law and employment matters.

Currently, Clara is representing members of the Chubb Group in what is set to become the leading case on the governing law of arbitration agreements, ENKA v Chubb: the judgments of the Court of Appeal and High Court can be found here and here.

Clara’s recent work as sole counsel includes acting for the Marriott Group in a dispute relating to a luxury hotel in Antigua (instructed by Macfarlanes); obtaining substantial security for Bank of Cyprus in multi-million pound fraud litigation (the judgment can be found here) (instructed by Sidley Austin); and acting for the successful claimants in a two-day arbitration concerning an alleged variation to a contract for the supply of marine fuel (instructed by A&O). Recent led work includes defeating a jurisdictional challenge brought by two customers of the insolvent OW Bunker group (the judgment can be found here); defending Bank of Cyprus against a fraudulent claim based on a forged settlement agreement (the judgment can be found here); successfully defending a well-known commodities trader against a US$17 million sale of goods claim; and defeating a s.67 challenge to an arbitrator’s jurisdiction brought by a state-owned oil company.

Clara has acted in a number of high-profile cases, including the OW Bunker litigation (Supreme Court and Court of Appeal), described by Lloyd’s List as “the most spectacular shipping legal imbroglio so far this century”; Lakatamia v Nobu Su [2014] EWHC 3611 (Comm), an US$80 million claim on an oral contract for the purchase of derivatives; and Al-Mojil v Protiviti, a US$450 million professional negligence claim in the DIFC Courts.

Clara takes a modern approach to her practice: she is responsive, approachable, and not afraid to roll up her sleeves to assist her team. She has already come to the attention of the directories in three separate practice areas – Commercial Litigation, Shipping, and Commodities – and wins particular praise for her strategic instincts, commerciality, and ability to build client relationships.

If you are interested in instructing Clara, please contact the clerks. Clara is happy to accept pro bono instructions in appropriate cases.

  • Cockett Marine Oil DMCC v ING Bank & OW Bunker Malta [2019] EWHC 1533 (Comm): defeated a jurisdictional challenge brought by two customers of the OW Bunker group (led by Sioban Healy QC); issues included whether the arbitration agreement in OW Bunker’s standard terms and conditions had been incorporated into the bunker supply contracts; and whether the terms had been subject to variation in favour of the physical suppliers’ terms.
  • Lakatamia v Nobu Su [2014] EWHC 3611 (Comm): acted for the successful claimants in a seven day Commercial Court trial concerning a contract to enter into a series of forward freight agreements (led by S.J. Phillips QC and N.G. Casey); issues included the identity of the parties to the contract, whether the claimants had failed to mitigate by selling the positions on the open market, and whether the losses had fallen into a legal ‘black hole’ as a result of subsequent novations.
  • Acted as junior to Gavin Kealey QC in a claim against an individual for the recovery of unpaid fees in respect of services provided to companies in which the defendant had an ownership interest.
  • Instructed as junior to Jawdat Khurshid QC in a multi-million pound claim for wrongful termination of a claims handling contract.
  • Acted as sole counsel in relation to a High Court claim by an insurer’s authorised representative for breach of a non-compete clause. Clara was involved in all aspects of the case, including a successful mediation.
  • Acted alone in a claim for the return of a sum of money paid over for a purpose for which it was not applied; the case raised complex legal issues of unjust enrichment, agency, trusts law and dishonest assistance.
  • Stavrinides & Ors v Bank of Cyprus Public Company Ltd [2019] EWHC 1328 (Ch): acted (with Jawdat Khurshid QC) for Bank of Cyprus in a multi-million pound fraud case in the Chancery division, involving allegations of forgery on both sides; following a two-week trial, Bank of Cyprus was successful on all major issues. Clara appeared as sole counsel at several hearings in relation to this litigation, including a full-day security for costs application in which she obtained substantial security for the Bank ([2018] EWHC 313) – the judgment can be found here.
  • Acted with James Brocklebank QC in the Al-Mojil v Protiviti litigation in the DIFC Courts; issues included whether Protiviti was negligent in alleging potential fraud by officers of the Al-Mojil group at an IPO.

Clara has acted in a wide variety of shipping disputes, and particularly enjoys bill of lading and charterparty cases.

  • PST Energy 7 Shipping LLC v OW Bunker Malta (The “Res Cogitans”) [2016] UKSC 23: one of the most important shipping cases so far this century. Clara was instructed by ING Bank on behalf of the lenders to the OW Bunker group, formerly the world’s biggest trader of marine fuels. Following OWB’s insolvency, the lenders are seeking to recover approximately US$1 billion from OWB’s former customers. The “Res Cogitans” acted as a test case for the hundreds of arbitrations commenced in the aftermath of the insolvency; appeals from the LMAA tribunal’s decision were expedited to the Commercial Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. ING has been successful at all stages.
  • Acting for shipowners in a dispute relating to a charterparty with a national oil company (led by Andrew Wales QC). The dispute arose in the context of a national fuel crisis caused by damage to an SPBM line. There have already been two preliminary challenges to jurisdiction, including a s.67 appeal to the High Court; Clara’s clients have succeeded at all stages.
  • Acting for owners in a claim against time charterers for an indemnity in respect of monies paid to settle a cargo claim.
  • Acted for carriers in a late delivery claim brought by cargo interests.
  • Acted with S.J. Phillips QC for the successful owners in an LMAA arbitration concerning a time charter; issues included seaworthiness, maintenance and ‘loss of a chance’ of fixing a sub-charter.
  • Instructed in a multi-million dollar LMAA arbitration claim relating to a chain of charterparties in respect of an LNG carrier (led by David Bailey QC and Michael Holmes).
  • Acted on behalf of the owner of a luxury superyacht in an LMAA arbitration arising out of the termination of the construction contract (led by David Allen QC and N.G. Casey).
  • Advised in relation to the arrest of a vessel following in rem proceedings in the Admiralty Division brought by a local port authority; the case involved interpreting various local Acts dating from the nineteenth century.
  • Acted in a multi-party dispute in the Admiralty Division concerning liability for fire damage to various super yachts under the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims 1976 (led by David Bailey QC).
  • In July 2014 Clara was seconded to the shipping group of a major city solicitor, where she was exposed to a broad range of work including both wet and dry shipping.
  • Clara has recently lectured with Stephen Hofmeyr QC on the subject of FPSOs.

Clara particularly enjoys working on cases involving issues of private international law, having specialised in this area during the BCL.

  • Acting as sole counsel for a major commodities trader in relation to a multi-forum, multi-party shipping dispute.
  • Acted in a multi-party dispute in the Admiralty Division concerning damage to super yachts caused by a fire in a marina in Mallorca (led by David Bailey QC). The case raised complex issues of private international law, including the circumstances in which a member state of the EU can refuse to recognise a judgment of another member state on the grounds of “irreconcilability” with a previous judgment.
  • Appeared as sole counsel for the applicant in a s.30 challenge to the jurisdiction of an arbitrator.
  • Successfully defended a challenge by a state-owned oil company to the jurisdiction of an LMAA tribunal (led by Andrew Wales QC). Clara’s shipowner clients were successful both before the tribunal, and in the High Court. The dispute arose in the context of a national fuel crisis caused by damage to an SPBM line, and involved complex issues relating to agents’ authority and ratification of unauthorised acts. The substantive claims are now proceeding before the LMAA tribunal.
  • Obtained an anti-suit injunction on behalf of the owner of a newbuild superyacht to constrain the yard from bringing proceedings other than by London arbitration (with James Brocklebank QC).
  • Advised on the meaning of a complex arbitration clause in an insurance policy, including identifying the law of the arbitration agreement, the seat of the arbitration, and the law governing the substantive dispute.
  • Two-week LCIA arbitration in which Clara (led by Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC) successfully defended a well-known commodities trader in respect of a US$17 million claim for losses alleged to have been suffered as a result of processing sub-standard goods. The case involved extensive expert evidence, as well as complex legal issues relating to the implied terms as to quality and fitness for purpose under s.14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979.
  • Acted alone in a US$1.2 million claim for late delivery of a cargo of oil.
  • Acting as sole counsel for a major commodities trader in relation to a multi-forum, multi-party dispute.
  • Advised on potential defences to two claims for failure to take delivery of cargoes of oil (with Andrew Wales QC).
  • Currently acting as sole counsel in High Court proceedings brought by the insurer of a yacht which was destroyed by a fire in Honduras; Clara’s clients are seeking a declaration of non-liability on the grounds of breach of warranty.
  • Acted as sole counsel for the insured in a complex marine insurance dispute in the High Court; the issues included whether there had been any material misrepresentations by Clara’s clients; whether the vessel was a CTL; and whether alleged negligence on the part of the crew was a proximate cause of the loss.
  • Advised in relation to a policy of tax insurance; issues included misrepresentation, non-disclosure and breach of warranty.
  • Advised in relation to a dispute concerning the calculation of insurance premium; drafted points of claim and appendices setting out the technical detail of the calculations.
  • Assisted in preparing an advice on a complex reinsurance matter concerning long tail claims.
  • Currently acting as sole counsel in relation to a solicitor’s negligence claim involving complex issues of causation and quantum.
  • Acted with James Brocklebank QC in the Al-Mojil v Protiviti litigation, a US$450 million professional negligence claim in the DIFC Courts relating to an IPO in Saudi Arabia; the case involved complex forensic accounting and foreign law evidence.
  • C&S Associates UK Ltd v Enterprise Insurance Company Plc [2016] EWHC 67 (Comm): acted for a claims handler alleged to have acted negligently in the performance of its services (with Jawdat Khurshid QC).
  • Advised on whether an insurance broker acted in breach of contract and/or negligently in relation to alleged non-disclosures on the part of his client.
  • “She is very bright, writes well and is excellent on her feet.” “Clara is very approachable, creative and thorough.” “Very bright, responsive, articulate and confident.” Chambers & Partners 2022
  • ‘Exceptionally bright, she is a perfectionist who keeps on thinking and thinking about a knotty point until the answer is reached.’ ‘A real superstar: exceedingly bright, hard-working and great fun to work with.’ ‘Very analytical and bright. She is a pleasure to work with and can always be trusted to deliver excellent client service and advice.’ Legal 500 2022
  • “Clara Benn is excellent on paper, very responsive and easy to deal with.” “She is a star in the making, very effective on paper and has really earned the trust and confidence of QCs.” Chambers & Partners 2021
  • “Very bright.” “Clara Benn is very good to work with; she is very responsive and works brilliantly as part of a team.” Chambers & Partners 2021
  • “Clara is a star in the making.” “She is hugely clever, proactive and approachable.” “She’s exceptionally bright, very good on paper and awesome on her feet.” “A brilliant junior who is a pleasure to work with.” Chambers Global 2021
  • “A real star, she is fiercely bright but wears it lightly and has a superb ability to digest and marshal the factual picture.” Legal 500 2021
  • “She has a great grasp of the materials and excellent application of the facts to the law.” Legal 500 2021
  • “Clara is a star in the making.” “She is hugely clever, proactive and approachable.” “She’s exceptionally bright, very good on paper and awesome on her feet.” “A brilliant junior who is a pleasure to work with.” Chambers & Partners 2020
  • “A genuine star of the future, she is seriously clever and applies that with proper nous.” Legal 500 2020
  • “A genuine star of the future, very intelligent, diligent, personable and sensible with a fluent drafting style.” Legal 500 2020
  • Legal 500’s ‘Commercial litigation – Top ten under eight years’ call’: “Ferociously clever and utterly charming – one to watch because she is going to be a star” Legal 500 2018
  • “She is very commercial and has good strategic instincts” Legal 500 2018 (most junior member of the Bar to be ranked in the field of Shipping)
  • “A tremendously hardworking junior who is great at building client relationships” Legal 500 2018 (most junior member of the Bar to be ranked in the field of Commodities)
  • “Superb” Legal 500 2017
  • 2012 – 2013: Bachelor of Civil Law, University of Oxford (Distinction)

    • Conflict of Laws, Restitution, Commercial Remedies, Legal History

    2011 – 2012: Bar Professional Training Course, BPP Law School (Outstanding, top of year)

    • ‘Student of the Year’ prize
    • Highest mark ever awarded in International Trade

    2010 – 2011: Graduate Diploma in Law, City University (Distinction)

    • 7KBW/City University prize for Contract Law

    2005 – 2008: BA History, University of Oxford (First Class, top 3% of year)

    • Lincoln College Exhibition
    • Various prizes (including the vacation essay prize and a prize for performance in Finals)

    Lincoln’s Inn

    • Sir Thomas Eastham Scholarship (pupillage)
    • Selected to give the Call Day speech on behalf of the newly-called barristers (October 2012)
    • Buchanan Prize for performance on the BPTC
    • Lord Denning Scholarship (BPTC)
    • Lord Bowen Scholarship (GDL)

    In recent years, Clara has conducted interviews for admission onto the undergraduate Jurisprudence degree at Oxford.