james bickford smith

James has a broad commercial and employment law practice. He has unusually extensive advocacy experience for a barrister of his call and often acts as sole counsel against more senior opponents; he is equally at home acting with leading counsel as part of large litigation teams. He is currently acting in cases proceeding in the Chancery and Queen’s Bench Divisions of the High Court, in LCIA Arbitration, in County Courts, in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, and in Employment Tribunals. He is particularly sought out for injunctive relief matters in the employee competition field, for commercial and commercial Chancery advisory and trial work, and for the most challenging tribunal cases.

James joined Littleton after obtaining a Double First and Doctorate from Oxford University, where he worked as a College Lecturer. He gained “Outstanding” marks on the BVC, scoring particularly highly in cross-examination and winning the Herbert Smith award for outstanding speaker in the Final of the Apex Competition.

Recent practice has included acting:

  • As junior counsel in a High Court Freezing Injunction following discovery of an unlawful means conspiracy (led by David Reade QC);
  • In Partnership, LLP and shareholder disputes, both led and unled; 
  • In a High Court action turning on a failed investment in a power plant in India;
  • As sole counsel appearing against a silk in the multi-day hearing of a City whistleblowing claim;
  • As sole counsel for a successful Applicant in a Chancery Division injunction concerning the departure of a senior employee and the copying of a client database;
  • As sole counsel in a commercial arbitration (LCIA);
  • As sole counsel in Tribunal claims involving substantial reputational and other risks for Respondents, including for a) for mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust following the dismissal of a nurse for an alleged patient assault (result: nil award) b) for an airline pilot accused of having sexually assaulted a fellow employee after a crew “night out” outside the UK (result: struck out at PHR); c) for a public authority accused of dismissing a senior executive for whistleblowing (claim dismissed) and d) for a Trade Union in a case brought by a former union official making allegations against the General Secretary (result: claim struck out);
  • As junior counsel for the Claimant in the High Court team move case of JM Scully Ltd v Minett and others (led by Jeffrey Bacon, then by Andrew Stafford QC and Jeffrey Bacon). The case began with Search Orders following which over 15, 000 documents were recovered; as it progressed to a speedy trial listed for ten days James dealt with most of the legal and practical issues thrown up by team move litigation.
  • As junior counsel (led by Gavin Mansfield QC) in a commercial court conspiracy claim arising out of disputes at an asset manager;
  • For Claimants in a range of City employment disputes whether as sole counsel or as a junior. James’ familiarity with banking and finance law (including FSA/FCA issues), track record in Tribunal, and approachability have made him junior counsel who specialist firms regularly work with, often during the currency of employment;
  • As sole counsel in Dumol, Naitta & ors v Aircraft Services International Group (1), Gate Aviation Ltd (2), Performa Elan Singapore Pte Ltd (3), successfully establishing a TUPE Transfer following a 4-day PHR concerning closure of Heathrow Terminal 2;
  • As junior Counsel (led by Ian Mayes QC) in Nath v Devi, a high-profile High Court dispute over the ownership of the George Cross posthumously awarded to Naik Kirpa Ram in 1946.
  • As sole counsel for the defendants in a High Court team-move case which ended at interlocutory stage with his clients recovering 90% of their costs bill.
  • In numerous employee competition matters that have been resolved on an undertakings basis. While some recent contested matters are listed above, James is familiar with the tight judgment calls required in such situations and with striking the balance between reaching sensible commercial agreements and being prepared to fight a case. He is also familiar with the way such cases can swiftly move from a short advisory call into the corridors of the High Court.

In addition to the above, James writes a widely-read monthly column on civil procedure for the Practical Law Company, past issues of which can be read here.

Much of his practice consists of repeat business, with instructing solicitors ranging from City firms to sole practitioners. James is also happy to work where appropriate on a licensed access basis, notably with insolvency practitioners.