Maritime Lawyers: Top 10 Maritime Lawyers

Maritime Lawyers: Top 10 Maritime Lawyers

Maritime Lawyers: Top 10 Maritime Lawyers: Reed Smith’s litigation and regulatory teams advise clients on the impact of sanctions, particularly US sanctions against Iran. As head of the global shipping practice, Nick Shaw has played a prominent role

  • 04 Dec 2018
  • ANALYSIS

As part of our 2018 Top 100 most influential people in shipping series, we look at the very best legal minds across maritime law, including arbitration, major and/or novel transactions, and M&As Maritime Lawyers.

Maritime Lawyers
Maritime Lawyers

NICK SHAW AT REED SMITH, MUCH OF WHOSE WORK IS BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, IN ARBITRATION.

01/ Nick J Shaw, Reed Smith Maritime Lawyers.

NICK Shaw heads the global shipping practice at Reed Smith, which has impressed this year across litigation, finance and advisory work. Much of his work is behind closed doors, in arbitration.

Top 10 maritime lawyers 2017

By Lloyd’s List13 Dec 2017

Class of 2017: A Supreme Court judge, an unsung hero and an award-winning litigator. This was the cream of the crop in 2017 Read the full article here 

The firm’s growing cross-border finance team advised Deutsche Bank on the strategic disposal of $1bn of shipping loans.

This year has seen Reed Smith’s litigation and regulatory teams advise clients on the impact of sanctions, particularly US sanctions against Iran — clarified as recently as October 2018 at the High Court in the firm’s successful marine insurance case, Mamancochet Mining Ltd v Aegis Managing Agency Ltd and Others

The firm has also been acting in the Sanchi collision case.

Mr Shaw has recently been appointed group chief executive of International Group, a position he will take up in July 2019.

Christopher Nolan, Holland and Knight02/ Christopher R Nolan, Holland & Knight Maritime Lawyers

CHRISTOPHER Nolan is a litigator and co-chair of Holland & Knight’s Transportation and Infrastructure Group, based in New York.

This year has seen his caseload grow, as he has dealt with a variety of issues including those arising from bunker contamination in the US Gulf. 

He has also secured a summary dismissal removing his client — a major freight forwarder — from the MSC Flaminia case, the most substantial container fire casualty litigated in the US this decade. 

Mr Nolan also acts as National Counsel for a major ocean carrier. 

Andrew Lee, Hill Dickinson03/ Andrew Lee, Hill Dickinson

LAWYERS in the Asia-Pacific region have also seen a spike in work, accentuated in part by this year’s spate of bad bunkers.

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Andrew Lee, a founding member of Hill Dickinson’s Singapore office, has been advising a number of clients in the APAC region on their options of what to do next, when bunker quality is brought into question.

Gina Lee-Wan, Allen & Gledhill04/ Gina Lee-Wan, Allen and Gledhill Maritime Lawyers

GINA Lee-Wan is co-head of Allen and Gledhill’s maritime and aviation practice, and ubiquitous on the Singapore marine finance scene.

She is no stranger to this page, having appeared on our Top 10 lawyers lists in 2016.

In September, she collected the maritime law award for 2018 at the Lloyd’s List APAC Awards, awarded for the range, complexity and profile of transactions her practice has undertaken. 

Ms Lee-Wan is an independent director of Sembcorp Marine and Jurong Port.

Francis Nolan, Vedder Price05/ Francis Nolan, Vedder Price Maritime Lawyers

FRANCIS Nolan — or Frank, as he is known to those on first-name terms with him — has underlined his reputation as a leading maritime finance attorney in the US by being elected president of the Maritime Law Association of the United States. He is currently serving the first year of a two-year term.

He also stands out for his work this year in drafting changes to Liberia’s maritime laws, to allow those who hold title to vessels in lease structures to record their bareboat or demise charter as preferred mortgages.

Stuart McAlpine, Clyde & Co06/ Stuart McAlpine, Clyde & Co Maritime Lawyers

CLYDE’S Stuart McAlpine has emerged as one of the go-to guys in LNG shipping, having acted for a major tonnage provider to the Yamal LNG project.

In addition, he has close relationships with Japanese LNG shipowners, closing a number of major deals for them in relation to both conventional tonnage and floating solutions for LNG.

Peter Rogan, Ince07/ Peter Rogan, Ince Gordon Dadds Maritime Lawyers

INCE & Co — established in 1870 — will shortly be no more, after being taken over by AIM-listed Gordon Dadds.

However, the deal could assure this traditionalist firm a brighter future, bringing with it access to capital and a chance to offer a wider range of services to clients.

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Ince is known to have been seeking a partner for some time, but talks with Watson Farley & Williams in 2015 and Hill Dickinson earlier this year were to no avail Maritime Lawyers.

However, Peter Rogan is widely being given credit for brokering a solution that will see the Ince name live on, as the lead element in what will be known as Ince Gordon Dadds Maritime Lawyers.

Allan Kelley, Fowler White Burnett08/ Allan R. Kelley, Fowler White Burnett Maritime Lawyers

ALLAN R. Kelley was one of the leading lawyers in the extensive litigation of the SS El Faro casualty and has continued to be involved in legal education around this high-profile case Maritime Lawyers.

His caseload includes merchant and cruise shipping from his Florida base, where he is regularly involved with the defence of personal injury and wrongful death claims involving passengers, crew and longshore workers on cruise and commercial vessels. 

Rory Butler, HFW09/ Rory Butler, HFW Maritime Lawyers

ONE of the barristers we sounded out told us: “On the solicitors’ front, Rory Butler at HFW probably gets top billing. Virtually ubiquitous at the moment.” Maritime Lawyers

Some of what he is doing is not in the public domain, it seems. However, one of his known major clients is Sovcomflot.

Mr Butler acted for the Kremlin-owned tanker giant against charterers PDVSA in what is said to be the first cargo sales case before the English courts. Needless to say, SCF ended up the winning side Maritime Lawyers.

Stewart Buckingham, Quadrant Chambers10/ Stewart Buckingham, Quadrant Chambers Maritime Lawyers

ONE of the most active and successful barristers* before the Commercial Court of England and Wales over the past year, Stewart Buckingham has appeared in a number of charterparty disputes in this period, including at the Court of Appeal in Transgrain Shipping (Singapore) PTE Ltd v Yangtze Navigation (Hong Kong) Co Ltd.


The Top 10 maritime lawyers list is compiled by the Lloyd’s List editorial team in conjunction with our colleagues at Lloyd’s Law Reports. 

Sources: Lloyd’s Law Reports, Lloyd’s List, American Maritime Cases

*Our colleagues at Lloyd’s Law Reports can benchmark activity and results in shipping litigation and are finalising data for the 2018 legal year. Contact [email protected] to inquire.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law is the collection of laws and agreements that govern behavior and activities on the seas. The area of law governs how people interact and do business on the waters of the world. Also called admiralty law, maritime law primarily governs activities on international waters. However, there are also laws that apply to the waters in and near each country. Generally, each country applies their own laws to inland waters like lakes and rivers.

When most Americans board a cruise ship, they’re blissfully unaware of the maritime law that applies to their case. However, maritime law affects everyone who travels on the high seas. Maritime laws regulate a wide variety of activities and possible events including commerce, navigation, lost cargo, leisure travel and the interaction between employers and seamen.

Where does maritime law come from?

Maritime law is a collection of international agreements and domestic laws. Many domestic laws codify and give domestic enforcement power to international agreements. In the United States, Maritime law is mostly federal law.

Sometimes, things like personal injury cases that occur on the seas might go to a state court. However, laws that specifically address maritime issues and activities are federal laws. Even when a case goes to a state court, federal law typically applies. A lot of modern, codified maritime law comes from British principles of common law.

General principles of maritime law

There are several rules and principles that apply to activities on the high seas:

Maintenance and cure

When a seaman is in service to an employer, they have a right to appropriate injury care. When a seaman gets hurt on the seas, their employer must treat them. The term for this responsibility is maintenance and cure.

A seaman has a right to treatment until they’ve received the maximum possible medical benefit for their injuries. They have a right to treatment until the journey ends. The Long Shore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act requires ship owners to provide a system that’s similar to worker’s compensation for injured seamen.

Duties to passengers

When a ship carries passengers, they have a duty of reasonable care to the passengers. That makes the ship owners liable for negligence claims that arise during the journey. Typically, American passengers can bring claims in U.S. federal courts.

Terms between the passengers and the carrier may provide for a choice of forum. In most cases, ship owners state that passengers must bring their cases in Miami or Seattle. Courts generally enforce these choice of law agreements between passengers and ship owners.

Liens and mortgages

Contractual disagreements arise that involve companies who do business on international waters just like they do for companies that do business on land. When these disputes arise, those involved must have a forum to resolve their disputes. In the United States, contract disputes involving maritime activities go to federal courts. Examples include defaults on loans for maritime activities and wage disputes involving maritime employees.

Salvage and treasure

When a party recovers lost treasure and other lost cargo, a question arises as to how to fairly divide the recovered property. The party who owns the property generally has rights to it. However, the person who recovers it has a right to a reward. Salvage cargo can be money, and it can also be historical artifacts.

A party trying to salvage lost cargo can enter into a contract with the property owner. That contract can state the amount of the salvage reward. If the parties don’t enter into a contract ahead of time, the party that salvages the lost cargo still has the right to a reward. It’s up to the court to decide an appropriate amount of the reward if the parties can’t agree. The amount of the reward depends on the risk of loss that the party incurs and other merits of the case. There are formal rules for engaging in salvage operations.

Lifesaving on the high seas

There’s no salvage reward for saving a life. Seamen are expected to do their best to save the lives of those in danger on the high seas. There’s no right to a reward for saving someone’s life, but seamen are obligated to do their best to help others in peril.

Duties to clients

A ship owner has a duty of care to their clients. If a ship transfers cargo for a client, the ship owner is responsible for the safety of the cargo from loading to discharge. There are a few exceptions like acts of God and perishable goods.

Unique jurisdiction considerations

Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the U.S. federal courts jurisdiction over maritime law disputes. The federal court’s jurisdiction isn’t exclusive. Some types of cases can still go to state courts. Cases that involve property disputes like salvage cases always go to federal court. Cases like damaged cargo, products liability and personal injury can go to state or federal court.

For maritime lawyers, concurrent jurisdiction presents some unique questions and challenges. Even if a state court applies federal law, a state court always applies its own procedures. The differences can be significant. For example, in federal court, there’s no right to a jury trial except if a seaman brings a claim against their employer.

Investigating and prosecuting crime on the high seas

The U.S. Coast Guard enforces maritime law within its jurisdiction. The United States has jurisdiction up to 12 miles from its coast. The United States has limited jurisdiction for another 12 miles. The Coast Guard can board vessels and investigate illegal activity in these areas.

In U.S. jurisdiction, U.S. laws apply. Beyond the limits of U.S. waters, the law that applies is the law where the ship is registered. Even if a company markets to American passengers, their ships may be registered in another country. Criminal justice is a unique challenge when crimes occur on the high seas.

Who practices admiralty law?

Admiralty lawyers are highly skilled litigators. They must understand federal and state laws and have sound judgment to help clients choose the proper and advantageous forum. They must know what laws apply among the myriad of international agreements, federal laws and state laws that exist that might apply to the case. Admiralty lawyers must know how to successfully advocate for their clients using the rules of procedure and the body of law that applies to the case.

Maritime law is a highly skilled and specialized area of law. There aren’t many attorneys that specialize in maritime law because there’s a lot to master to practice in the field effectively. Lawyers who specialize in the field tend to gravitate towards the coasts. A lawyer might represent many different clients, or they might represent one client who regularly has maritime law needs. A lawyer might work in an advisory capacity or handle disputes and formal litigation.

Many maritime lawyers have an L.L.M. degree in the field. The L.L.M. prepares lawyers for the unique body of law and practical challenges that come with specialization in the field. Universities throughout the world offer the specialized program of study. Many law schools also offer coursework in maritime law for J.D. candidates.

Why become a maritime lawyer?

Maritime law is a specialized and exclusive area of law that can be financially and personally rewarding for attorneys in the field. If you’re interested in providing high-quality legal services in a niche area of civil litigation, maritime law may be for you. Maritime lawyers may develop a private practice that also includes other aspects of civil litigation.

They might also find stability in their career by focusing on a sole client. Maritime law is a challenging and rewarding area of law that requires unique knowledge and abilities. Lawyers in the field may enjoy a unique and satisfying practice of law.

Practicing maritime law

Maritime lawyers make the seas safer. They hold wrongdoers accountable. They help people get the compensation that they deserve when there’s a breach of contract, unpaid wages or a personal injury on the seas. Maritime lawyers also help develop new maritime laws. Maritime law is complex.

It involves a variety of civil laws including contract law, personal injury law, employment disputes and even lost treasure. For the attorneys who practice it, maritime law can provide a sound and challenging career.

ADMIRALTY AND Maritime Lawyers DEFINITION

The admiralty and maritime practice involves all aspects of legal work relating to marine activities. This includes litigation, commercial transactions, and non-litigation counseling, as well as regulatory work before federal and state agencies.

Firms with litigation caseloads generally represent clients in matters involving collision, personal injury, cargo loss, workers’ compensation, maritime commercial disputes and insurance coverage relating to inland marine vessels, oceangoing vessels, passenger vessels, drill rigs, and other offshore equipment.

Frequently, these firms also handle marine related issues involving mass disasters, major pollution incidents, toxic torts, and class actions. Due to the nature of when and where clients’ needs arise, attorneys in this practice frequently are on call 24 hours and travel to distant and sometimes remote locations.

In the areas of commercial and counseling, maritime attorneys handle issues relating to vessel sales, shipyard contracts, maritime insurance counseling and evaluation, contract and charter drafting and negotiations, and maritime finance advice.

In the context of the regulatory arena, attorneys typically appear before the United States Coast Guard, Federal Maritime Commission, United States Department of Labor, and the National Transportation Safety Board.Brian Wallace,  Admiralty Regional Practice Coordinator
Marty McLeod, Admiralty Practice CoordinatorPhelps Dunbar LLP

Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer?

While you’re on open water, you’re subject to maritime or admiralty law, a collection of domestic and international laws that govern maritime conduct. A maritime lawyer makes sure that you follow maritime laws and receive fair treatment during legal proceedings.

What Does a Maritime Lawyer Do?

A maritime lawyer will represent you if your boat crashes, causes damage, or someone is injured. If you are the victim of any of these, a maritime lawyer can help you too. Your lawyer can represent you in settlement negotiations or in court.

When Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer?

Some common reasons you may need a maritime lawyer:

  • Your boat crashes into another boat
  • Someone else crashes into your boat
  • Your boat hits a dock
  • Someone else’s boat damages your dock
  • Your ship spills waste or another type of pollution in the water
  • You are injured or injure someone else in a crash on open waters

An attorney can help you determine if maritime law applies. Your legal issue may not be under admiralty jurisdiction depending on where it occurred and how it affected commercial activities on the water Maritime Lawyers.

How Much Does a Maritime Lawyer Cost?

Maritime lawyers frequently charge an hourly rate for their services. Others charge on a contingency basis, meaning they’ll take a percentage of your winnings if you have a strong case and a good chance of winning. Establish a rate with your lawyer up front since rates vary based on where you live and how complex your case is Maritime Lawyers.

What Should I Expect When Working with a Maritime Lawyer?

If you caused damage on the water, a maritime lawyer may be able to help you reduce your payments in damages or come to a settlement agreement more easily. If you’ve been injured or the damage was not your fault, an attorney will fight to win you the largest settlement possible.

It’s possible to keep the case out of court and simply negotiate a settlement if there’s agreement about who is at fault. If, however, you disagree about the person at fault, you’ll have to take your case to court and let the judge decide Maritime Lawyers.

Maritime lawyers are the best resource for dealing with these cases because of the experience and knowledge they have surrounding the laws of the water Maritime Lawyers.

Ask a Maritime Lawyers a Question You’ll hear back in one business day.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

Find Maritime Lawyers by State

Need a Maritime Lawyers?

The Justia Lawyer Directory is a listing of lawyers, legal aid organizations, and pro bono legal service organizations. Whether you were injured, are accused of a crime, or are merely engaging in everyday affairs that affect your legal rights or property, an attorney can help you resolve problems or prevent new ones from arising.

Here are just a few situations where you might want to seek the advice of an attorney:

  • You were injured in a car or truck accident
  • You have been arrested and charged with a crime, such as DUI or shoplifting
  • You are considering separating from your spouse
  • You have been subjected to harassment or other discrimination at work

Use Justia to research and compare attorneys so that you can make an informed decision when you hire your counsel.

It is important to research an attorney before hiring him or her. Be sure to evaluate an attorney’s experience (types of cases handled, prior results obtained, etc.). Although prior results are not indicative of the likelihood of success in your case, they can help you make an informed decision.

Also worth serious consideration is the attorney’s location, particularly if you will be traveling to visit him or her for consultations.

Finally, research an attorney to see whether he or she has ever been subject to discipline. Although disciplinary actions do not necessarily impact the attorney’s competence to handle your case, they may affect your decision whether to hire.

Researching Attorney Discipline

Find out whether an attorney has ever been disciplined.

Resources for Maritime Lawyers

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