Practice overview

James has a growing reputation as an up and coming junior in Chambers’ core areas, with a practice focusing on commercial disputes, property, pensions, trusts, and associated professional liability. He is recommended in Chambers & Partners for Commercial Chancery, Property and Pensions work, and as a leading junior for his Property and Pensions work in The Legal 500. The directories noted his communication skills, his ability to get on top of the details of a case, and his attention to client service. He was also “highly recommended” in Legal Week’s 2016 ‘Stars at the Bar’.

His recent highlights include acting as junior Counsel for the successful appellant in Cavendish Square Holdings BV v Makdessi [2015] UKSC 67, [2015] 3 WLR 1373, in which the Supreme Court redefined the test for identifying a contractual penalty.  That was his second appearance in the Supreme Court in two years, having previously appeared for the successful appellant in Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd v United Utilities Water Plc [2014] UKSC 40, [2014] I WLR 2576.

James’ practice combines both advisory and litigious work and he has a busy practice acting in cases as junior to silks inside and outside Chambers, often in cases involving an international element or proceedings in several different jurisdictions. Alongside these, he also undertakes his own substantial cases and regularly appears as an advocate,  appearing at all levels up to and including the Court of Appeal.

Commercial disputes

James regularly acts in large and complex commercial disputes.

His recent cases include:

  • Acting (as junior to Joanna Smith KC) in Cavendish Square Holdings BV v Makdessi [2015] UKSC 67, [2015] 3 WLR 1373, the leading authority on contractual penalties.  James was part of the team acting for the successful appellant in its appeal to the Supreme Court, where a 7 justice panel held that neither of the clauses in issue in a multimillion-pound business acquisition agreement were unenforceable penalties, redefining the test to do so.
  • Acting (as part of a cross-border team) in proceedings seeking a declaration as to the construction of voting rights in the articles of an AIM-listed company incorporated in the Isle of Man (Origo Partners Plc v Brooks Macdonald Asset Management Ltd).
  • Acting (as junior to James Ayliffe KC) in multimillion-pound tri-partite litigation brought by a government agency in respect of a failure to destroy documents which were subsequently fraudulently misused. The claim raised a variety of issues in contract (including as to liability, causation, and remoteness), tort, bailment, conversion, and deceit.
  • Acting (as junior to Joanna Smith KC) in the defence of a liquidator accused of having sold millions of pounds worth of assets belonging to third-parties (Euromex Ventures Ltd v BNP Paribas & Others [2013] EWHC 3007 (Ch)). The defence was wholly successful, and the Claimants were ordered to pay indemnity costs.
  • Acting and advising in numerous breach of contract claims, both led and unled, and including in matters with an international element and where the governing law of the contract is not English law.
  • Acting (as junior to Martin Hutchings KC) in a claim for breach of contract and for breaches of duty of confidence arising out of a bid for a development site.

 

Download Commercial disputes CV

  • Quote symbolA barrister with an impressive intellect and excellent intuition, James is tactically astute and hard-working.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is one of the brightest juniors I have had the pleasure of working with and he remains focused on the commercial objectives.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolA real team player, extremely bright with excellent drafting skills.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames provided sound, clear and concise advice and was mindful of the commercial realities within which our client operates.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is very intelligent and explains his thinking in a client-friendly way.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

Commercial disputes insights & events View all thought leadership View all events

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Commercial Conference: The Future of Commercial Litigation

    Thursday 28 March 2019 | 12.30pm - 5.30pm followed by drinks
    Kimpton Fitzroy, 1-8 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BE

    £120 + VAT | 3.5 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Birmingham Commercial Conference

    Wednesday 6 June 2018 | 16.00 - 18.30 followed by drinks
    The Cube, 196 Wharfside St, Birmingham B1 1RN

    £40 + VAT | 2.0 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    The future of the doctrine of penalties

    Thursday 5 November 2015 | 6.30pm – 7.30pm (Registration from 6.00pm)
    The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL

    1.0 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Cayman Conference

    Tuesday 22 September 2015 | 4.15pm onwards (registration 3.45pm)
    The Ritz Carlton, Cayman, Seven Mile Beach

    1.5 CPD

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James's expertise

Download Pensions CV

Pensions

James undertakes a range of pensions litigation and advisory work, where he is instructed on his own as sole counsel and as junior counsel as part of a larger team.  He has experience acting for employers, trustees, and members, and in cases across a range of areas in pensions law, including  regulatory matters.

His recent experience includes:

  • Acting (with Brian Green KC) for the corporate targets in the regulatory proceedings relating to the Carrington Wire Pension Scheme.
  • Assisting as part of the multi-jurisdictional team for the UK Pension Claimants and the PPF in the proceedings in Canada the US, and the UK in the US $7bn Nortel insolvency.
  • Acting and advising in various matters concerning S75 debts, including in multi-employer schemes (including as junior to Paul Newman KC and to Jonathan Hilliard KC), and in matters involving the proposed use of regulated agreements to seek to minimise any debts arising.
  • Acting (as junior to Paul Newman KC) for the employer in Briggs v Gleeds [2014] EWHC 1178 (Ch). The case raised a variety of important issues in pensions law, including whether a link to final salary is an ‘accrued’ benefit, whether estoppels binding the trustees can bind members, and when contracts with individual members can override contrary provisions in scheme rules. It also raised issues of wider importance, including whether documents which do not comply with statutory formalities can be made valid by estoppel, and whether representations of law can found estoppels.
  • Acting (as junior to Paul Newman KC) for the rep ben in rectification proceedings.
  • Successfully obtaining an order striking out a claim for over £3m brought by a former trustee for benefits he claimed were due to him under the scheme.
  • Acting (as junior to Michael Furness KC) for the defendants in a substantial professional negligence claim relating to an alleged failure validly to effect equalisation in four schemes.
  • Acting (as junior to Michael Tennet KC) for the employer and trustees in proposed rectification proceedings.
  • Acting in a multimillion-pound proceedings for breach of trust and professional negligence brought against the former trustees and professional advisors of a scheme.
  • Advising employers, trustees, and the PPF on various questions of statutory construction or interpretation of schemes’ governing documentation.
  • Acting (as junior to Paul Newman KC) in proceedings for fraudulent breach of trust threatened against a former trustee.
  • Acting (as junior to Michael Tennet KC) for the trustees in Danks & Others v Qinetiq Holdings Ltd & Another, [2012] EWHC 570 (Ch) [2012] Pens LR 131, which considered whether a switch to CPI from RPI was prohibited by s.67 of the Pensions Act 1995.

Download Pensions CV

  • Quote symbolA barrister with an impressive intellect and excellent intuition, James is tactically astute and hard-working.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is one of the brightest juniors I have had the pleasure of working with and he remains focused on the commercial objectives.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolA real team player, extremely bright with excellent drafting skills.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames provided sound, clear and concise advice and was mindful of the commercial realities within which our client operates.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is very intelligent and explains his thinking in a client-friendly way.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

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    Articles

    Climate Change and Investment Duties: a Prisoner’s Dilemma?

    James McCreath has written an article on the recent FMLC report on pension trustees and fiduciary duties. The article was first posted on Paul Newman KC‘s website pensionsbarrister.com. Read the full article

    By James McCreath
    Thursday 29 February 2024

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    Articles

    Public sector pension schemes

    In the most recent article published on Paul Newman KC‘s website, James McCreath considers whether authorities administering public sector schemes are trustees, fiduciaries or just public servants. This article was first published on Paul’s website pensionsbarrister.com Read the full article

    By James McCreath
    Thursday 23 February 2023

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    Publications

    The Edward Nugee Memorial Lectures 2020

    Robert Ham KC | Michael Furness KC | Jonathan Davey KC | David Pollard | Thomas Robinson | James McCreath | Jonathan Chew | Simon Atkinson | Francesca Mitchell
    June 2020

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    Publications

    The Edward Nugee Memorial Lectures 2019

    Robert Ham KC | Jonathan Hilliard KC | David Pollard | Sebastian Allen | James Walmsley | James McCreath | Jonathan Chew | Bobby Friedman | Simon Atkinson | Michael Ashdown | Tara Taylor | Daniel Scott
    June 2019

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Professional liability

James has considerable experience of disputes involving areas of professional liability in the context of property, estates, and pensions, where he has acted for both defendants and claimants. His recent cases include:

  • Acting (as junior to Joanna Smith KC) in the defence of a liquidator accused of having sold millions of pounds worth of assets belonging to third-parties (Euromex Ventures Ltd v BNP Paribas & Others [2013] EWHC 3007 (Ch)). The defence was wholly successful, and the claimants were ordered to pay indemnity costs.
  • Acting (as junior to Michael Furness KC) for the defendants in a substantial professional negligence claim relating to an alleged failure validly to effect equalisation in four pension schemes.
  • Acting for the claimant in multimillion-pound proceedings brought against the solicitors and investment advisers to a pension scheme for advice given regarding the scheme’s investment strategy.
  • Acting (as junior to Joanna Smith KC) for the Claimant in a multimillion-pound claim against solicitors for allegedly negligent drafting and advice in relation to the overage provisions in an agreement for the purchase of a substantial London office building.
  • Acting as sole counsel in a wide range of matters, including in matters relating to solicitors (for negligence in among other things conveyancing, inheritance matters, and the conduct of litigation), barristers, financial advisors, surveyors and managing agents, and architects.

Download Professional liability CV

  • Quote symbolA barrister with an impressive intellect and excellent intuition, James is tactically astute and hard-working.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is one of the brightest juniors I have had the pleasure of working with and he remains focused on the commercial objectives.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolA real team player, extremely bright with excellent drafting skills.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames provided sound, clear and concise advice and was mindful of the commercial realities within which our client operates.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is very intelligent and explains his thinking in a client-friendly way.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

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    Events / Webinars

    Professional Liability Conference 2019

    Thursday 31 January 2019 | 8.30am - 1.00pm followed by lunch
    One Moorgate Place, Chartered Accountants Hall, London EC2R 6EA

    £75 + VAT | 3.0 CPD

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James's expertise

Download Property CV

Property

James has a substantial and wide-ranging property practice which encompasses all aspects of real property and landlord and tenant related litigation and advice. He is regularly instructed on disputes in the County Court, High Court and property Tribunals.

James’ landlord and tenant practice includes residential and business tenancies, service charge disputes, terminal dilapidation claims and disputes with managing agents.

Real property related cases in which he has been involved include:

  • Easements
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Boundary disputes
  • Town and Village Greens
  • Adverse possession
  • Mortgages
  • Nuisance
  • Land registration issues

His recent cases include:

  • Acting for the tenants of a City wine bar in complex proceedings including a contested 1954 Act renewal claim, a claim for adverse possession, and a claim for rectification of the register.  James acted unled against Martin Hutchings KC in a number of interim hearings, and was led by Kirk Reynolds KC for the trial (the matter settled very shortly before the trial was due to begin).
  • Acting in the First-Tier Tribunal for an applicant to be registered as proprietor of an estate on the basis of adverse possession.  Prior to James’ instruction, the matter had gone to the Court of Appeal, which had held that the criminalisation of squatting did not prevent title from being acquired through adverse possession (R(on the application of Best) v Chief Land Registrar [2015] EWCA Civ 17, [2016] QB 23).
  • Acting for United Utilities (as junior to Jonathan Karas KC and Julian Greenhill KC) in defending a claim brought by the Manchester Ship Canal Company about the lawfulness of the use of a very substantial amount of infrastructure. Among the issues raised by the case are questions relating to statutory authorisation, construction of local statutory provisions, compulsory purchase powers and compensation, and issues under the 1954 Act. James was part of the successful team in UU’s successful appeal to the Supreme Court on its summary judgment application ([2014] UKSC 40, [2014] I WLR 2576), and its recent successful opposition to the claimant’s attempt to amend its pleadings to avoid the consequences of that judgment ([2016] EWHC 259 (Ch)).
  • Acting (as junior to Jonathan Karas KC) successfully resisting an application to register part of the grounds of the University of Kent as a town or village green.
  • Acting and advising in a considerable number of matters concerning the powers and duties of various statutory undertakers, including in particular sewerage and water undertakers.
  • Acting (as junior to Ian Croxford KC) in the re-trial of Barr v Biffa Waste Services, a group litigation claim alleging that odours from a landfill site constituted a nuisance.
  • Acting in a number of disputes relating to the construction of development agreements.
  • Acting (as junior to Martin Hutchings KC) in a claim for breach of contract and for breaches of duty of confidence arising out of a bid for a development site.
  • Acting (as junior to Joanna Smith KC) for the claimant in a multimillion-pound claim against solicitors for allegedly negligent drafting and advice in relation to the overage provisions in an agreement for the purchase of a substantial London office building.

Download Property CV

  • Quote symbolA barrister with an impressive intellect and excellent intuition, James is tactically astute and hard-working.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is one of the brightest juniors I have had the pleasure of working with and he remains focused on the commercial objectives.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolA real team player, extremely bright with excellent drafting skills.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames provided sound, clear and concise advice and was mindful of the commercial realities within which our client operates.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is very intelligent and explains his thinking in a client-friendly way.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Birmingham Property Seminar 2024

    Thursday 7th March 2024 | 3pm - 5.55pm, followed by drinks
    The Grand Hotel, Birmingham

    Free to attend | 2.0 CPD

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    News

    James McCreath features in The Lawyer’s Top 10 Appeals of 2023

    Following on from last month’s Top 20 cases of 2023 article, The Lawyer has published it’s Top 10 Appeals of 2023. The Supreme Court case of The Manchester Ship Canal Company v United Utilities Water features on the list and James McCreath is acting for the... Read more

    Monday 6 February 2023

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    External Conferences

    Property Litigation Association Autumn Training Day 2022

    Tuesday 29th November 2022
    The Royal Society of Medicine, London

    Speakers:
    Martin Hutchings KC | James McCreath

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    Recent Cases

    Court of Appeal confirms that polluting sewage discharges are a matter for regulators, not tort claims in Court

    Property

    James McCreath
    Monday 27 June 2022

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Trusts, probate and estates: contentious

James practices across a range of contentious trust and estate matters. He is involved in matters relating both to onshore and offshore structures, and  recent cases include:

  • Instructed in a large Hong Kong Trusts & Probate dispute with Brian Green KC – ongoing.
  • Acting in a number of applications to remove trustees and executors (including as junior to Brian Green KC in a matter relating to a substantial BVI trust).
  • Acting and advising on allegedly ‘sham’ trusts in divorce proceedings.
  • Acting and advising in cases relating to dispositions of trust property (including challenges to those dispositions).
  • Acting in various proceedings against trustees for breach of trust.
  • Acting in various proceedings against solicitors for allegedly negligent advice relating to estate and inheritance tax matters.

Download Trusts, probate and estates: contentious CV

  • Quote symbolA barrister with an impressive intellect and excellent intuition, James is tactically astute and hard-working.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is one of the brightest juniors I have had the pleasure of working with and he remains focused on the commercial objectives.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolA real team player, extremely bright with excellent drafting skills.

    The Legal 500 2024

  • Quote symbolJames provided sound, clear and concise advice and was mindful of the commercial realities within which our client operates.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

  • Quote symbolJames is very intelligent and explains his thinking in a client-friendly way.

    Chambers & Partners 2024

Trusts, probate and estates: contentious insights & events View all thought leadership View all events

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce Trusts Litigation Day 2023

    Monday 23 January 2023 | 9am - 5.45pm followed by drinks and dinner
    InterContinental Hotel (and online via Zoom), InterContinental Hotel, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1J 7QY

    £360 + VAT/£299 + VAT | 6.0 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Annual Trust Litigation Day 2019

    Monday 21 January 2019 | 8.45am - 5.40pm followed by drinks and dinner
    InterContinental London Park Lane, One Hamilton Place, Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1J 7QY

    £299/£360 + VAT | 5.5 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Annual Trust Litigation Day 2016

    Monday 1 February 2016 | 9am - 5pm Followed by drinks reception (and dinner)
    The Dorchester, Park LaneLondon

    from £299 + VAT | 5.5 CPD

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    Events / Webinars

    Wilberforce BVI Conference

    Thursday 24 September 2015 | 6.15pm onwards (registration & drinks from 5.30pm)
    Peter Island Resort, British Virgin Islands

    1.5 CPD

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James's Details

BSB/VAT information

Registered name: Mr James William McCreath
VAT number: 998360657

Privacy Notice pdf

Qualifications and Appointments

  • BA (First Class), DipLaw (City) (Distinction)
  • Major Scholar (Inner Temple), Scholar (Balliol College, Oxford)

Memberships

  • Chancery Bar Association
  • Commercial Bar Association

Publications

  • Co-editor (with Andrew Mold) of the negligence section of Cordery on Legal Services
  • Contributor to Atkins’ Court Forms (Restrictive Covenants)

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