Sir William (Bill) Blair is a former Judge of London’s Commercial Court whose expertise is in commercial and financial law and dispute resolution. He is considered a leading international expert in the law of banking and finance.
Professor of Financial Law and Ethics at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, he served as a High Court Judge in England and Wales for nearly ten years, and was Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court from 2016. He helped to establish the specialist Financial List, and the Standing International Forum of Commercial Courts. He was the first President of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities until 2019.
In 2017, Sir William rejoined 3 Verulam Buildings as an Associate Member, having previously practised from these chambers as a commercial QC before appointment to the bench, and helped to establish the International Advisory and Dispute Resolution Unit (IADRU) providing pro bono and quasi pro bono services in the international arena.
Sir William sits as an arbitrator and has had LCIA, HKIAC, ICC and ICSID appointments as Chair, sole arbitrator and party-appointed arbitrator. In 2022, the European Commission included him in the list of arbitrators suitable for appointment as Chairperson in arbitrations under trade agreements to which the EU is a party. The section for Sir William's arbitration experience is below.
He gives consultative and independent advice, expert evidence on English law, and is a CEDR qualified mediator.
In 2018, he was appointed Chair of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee (EDMC).
In 2018, he was appointed to the International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China.
He has served on missions for the World Bank, the IMF, and the Asian Development Bank.
His current research interests include monetary law, fintech, financial crime and financial inclusion. He has an interest in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and chairs the Law and Ethics in Finance Project, an informal group concerned with raising standards in the financial sector.
After school in Edinburgh, Sir William Blair graduated from Oxford University (Balliol College) and practised at the English Bar where he specialised in the law of banking and finance. He became a Queen’s Counsel in 1994.
Chair of the Commercial Bar Association between 2003 and 2005, he has had various appointments in the UK and internationally, including currently as a member of London’s Financial Law and Markets Committee which addresses issues of legal uncertainty in the financial markets, and as a Member of P.R.I.M.E. Finance’s Advisory Board and Panel of Experts.
Appointments/Associations/Chairs from time of appointment as a QC
- Honorary Chair of the International Monetary Law Committee of the International Law Association, 2022
- Member of the International Financial Legal Experts Team of the Shanghai High People’s Court, 2021
- Honorary Senior Fellow, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2020
- Chair, Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Tribunal, 2019
- Lifetime Achievement Award by Legal Week Commercial Litigation & Arbitration Awards, 2019
- Member, Ethics Committee of Digital Catapult’s AI Machine Intelligence Garage, 2018
- Member, International Commercial Expert Committee of the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China, 2018 – 2022
- Chair of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee (EDMC), 2018
- Deputy Judge of the Court of First Instance of the High Court of Hong Kong SAR, 2018
- Honorary Member of the Commercial Bar Association, 2018
- Cheng Yu Tung Visiting Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Hong Kong, 2018 – 2021
- Fellow Academic Member of the European Banking Institute, a joint venture of European universities organised under German law, 2018
- Appointed a Judge of the Qatar International Court, 2018
- Member of P.R.I.M.E. Finance’s Advisory Board and Panel of Experts, 2017
- Associate Member of Chambers at 3 Verulam Buildings, London, and in the arbitration group, 2017
- Fellow of the Oxford University Commercial Law Centre, 2017
- Professor of Financial Law and Ethics, Queen Mary University of London, Centre for Commercial Law Studies, 2017
- Distinguished Visiting Professor, Peking University Law School, 2017 – 2020
- Distinguished Visiting Professor, East China University of Politics and Law, 2016 – 2019
- Expert adviser to Oxford University OBOR Institute (socio-legal issues arising from China’s belt and road initiative), 2016
- Member of the Steering Group for the British Academy’s Challenge of Change on ‘The Future of the Corporation’, 2016
- Member of Expert Working Group of the China and UK judiciary on commercial dispute resolution, 2016
- Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court (High Court of England and Wales), 2016 – 2017
- Nominated judge of the Financial List (High Court of England and Wales), 2015 – 2017
- Member of the Steering Committee of the Bank of England’s Open Forum, Guildhall, 2015
- President of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities, 2012 – 2019
- Chair of the Executive Committee of the Secured Transactions Law Reform Project, 2010 – 2020
- Judge of the Upper Tribunal Tax and Chancery Chamber, 2010 – 2015
- Member of the Board of Trustees, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 2009 – 2015
- Member of the Financial Markets Law Committee, 2008
- Judge of the High Court of England and Wales, Commercial Court, 2008 – 2017
- Chairman, Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Tribunal, 2006 – 2011
- Trustee, International Law Book Facility, 2005 – 2016
- Chairman of the International Monetary Law Committee of the International Law Association, 2004 – 2021
- Member of Bank of England Task Force on Major Operational Disruption in the Financial System, and Chair of the Emergency Powers Working Group, 2003 – 2004
- Chairman, Commercial Bar Association (COMBAR), 2003-2005
- Legal Chairman, Financial Services and Markets Tribunal, 2001- 2010
- Member of the Academic Advisory Board, Asian Institute of International Financial Law, Hong Kong University Faculty of Law, 1999
- Honorary Fellow of the Society for Advanced Legal Studies, 1997
- Visiting Professor of Law, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1994-2018
- Appointed Queen’s Counsel, 1994
Sir William Blair began his judicial career with part time appointments as a Recorder in 1999 sitting mainly in the Crown Court, and later as a Deputy High Court Judge sitting in the Queen’s Bench Division and Chancery Division, and as Legal Chairman of the Financial Services and Markets Tribunal.
After appointment as a High Court judge in England and Wales in 2008, he was a Judge of the Commercial Court until 2017. He became Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in 2016, in which capacity among other things he was jointly responsible for the Financial List.
He has handed down many decisions in the field of banking and finance, arbitration, markets, construction, technology, shareholder disputes, commodities, shipping, insurance and insolvency.
As a Judge he dealt with many arbitration matters, and had overall responsibility for arbitration cases as Judge in Charge of the Court. [See the separate page.]
He continues to sit occasionally in the Commercial Court.
In 2012, He became the first President of the Board of Appeal of the European Supervisory Authorities. The three ESAs are the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA). This was the first body of its kind in the financial regulatory sphere in the European Union.
In 2018, he sat as a Deputy Judge of the Court of First Instance of the Hong Kong SAR, China, and in 2018 was appointed a Judge of the Qatar International Court.
He is a member of the Expert Working Group on commercial dispute resolution set up between the Chinese and UK judiciaries in 2016.
Sir William sits as an arbitrator and has had LCIA, HKIAC, ICC and ICSID appointments as Chair, sole arbitrator and party-appointed arbitrator. In 2022, the European Commission included him in the list of arbitrators suitable for appointment as Chairperson in arbitrations under trade agreements to which the EU is a party. He is a member of the LCIA and is listed on the Panel of Arbitrators of the Beijing Arbitration Commission (BAC), the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (SCIA), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) and HKIAC’s Panel of Arbitrators and Panel of Arbitrators for Financial Services Disputes.
His arbitration experience covers a wide range of commercial and financial matters, including disputes in relation to branch banking, national lotteries, highway construction, energy construction, renewable energy, bank resolution, disputes between shareholders, funding pension obligations, cryptocurrencies, and free trade agreements.
As a Judge, he has also dealt with many arbitration matters, and had overall responsibility for arbitration cases as Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court.
Cases in the arbitration field include:
Fimbank Plc v KCH Shipping Co., Ltd  EWHC 2400 (Comm) (time bar)
LLC Agronefteprodukt v Ameropa AG  EWHC 3474 (Comm) (notice of arbitration)
AIG Insurance Hong Kong Ltd v McCullough  HKCFI 1649 (scope of arbitration clause)
Koshigi Ltd v Donna Union Foundation  EWHC 122 (Comm) (liability for costs)
Grindrod Shipping PTE Ltd v Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd  EWHC 1284 (Comm) (reasoning of awards)
Autoridad del Canal de Panama v Sacyr SA  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 351 (construction projects)
Zavod Ekran OAO v Magneco Metrel UK Ltd  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 566 (Russian award)
Micula v Romania  Bus. L.R. 1147;  3 C.M.L.R. 6 (ICSID award)
Impala Warehousing and Logistics (Shanghai) Co Ltd v Wanxiang Resources (Singapore) PTE Ltd  2 All E.R. (Comm) 234 (effect of reasonable offer to arbitrate)
Travis Coal Restructured Holdings LLC v Essar Global Fund Ltd  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 494; 155 Con. L.R. 61 (“summary” procedures)
OMV Petrom SA v Glencore International AG  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 308 (oil trading)
Seagrain LLC v Glencore Grain BV  2 All E.R. (Comm) 640;  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 590 (export prohibitions)
PJSC Vseukrainskyi Aktsionernyi Bank v Maksimov  EWHC 3203 (Comm) (enforcement in the CIS context)
U&M Mining Zambia Ltd v Konkola Copper Mines Plc  2 Lloyd’s Rep. 218;  1 C.L.C. 456 (interim measures)
BNP Paribas SA v Open Joint Stock Company Russian Machines  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 61;  Arb. L.R. 49 (financial guarantee)
Deutsche Bank AG v Tongkah Harbour Public Co Ltd  Arb. L.R. 20 (arbitration in the financial context)
PT Thiess Contractors Indonesia v PT Kaltim Prima Coal  Arb. L.R. 26 (mining context)
Guangzhou Dockyards Co Ltd v ENE Aegiali I  2 All E.R. (Comm) 595;  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 30 (shipbuilding)
REC Wafer Norway AS (formerly REC Scanwafer AS) v Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Ltd  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 410 (bank guarantee context)
Double K Oil Products 1996 Ltd v Neste Oil Oyj  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 141 (oil and gas)
Belair LLC v Basel LLC  EWHC 725 (Comm) (interim measures)
Lansat Shipping Co Ltd v Glencore Grain BV (The Paragon)  2 All E.R. (Comm) 12;  1 Lloyd’s Rep. 658 (shipping)
- French (reading)