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James Clifford

Call 1984


James has considerable experience in a wide range of chancery and commercial areas of practice.  He has particular expertise in UK and EU pensions law, having practised in pensions since the mid-1980s. As a pensions lawyer he is particularly valued for giving clear, commercial and prompt advice (see under ‘Recommendations’ below).  James also specialises in trusts (particularly off-shore trusts) and international commercial arbitration (particularly for clients from the CIS).  James has considerable experience in contractual disputes, professional negligence and claims for breach of trust and fiduciary duty.

Recent work in the above areas of practice includes:


  • Acting in a dispute about the setting up of a separate benefit structure for a new participating employer: Re Honda Group UK Pension Scheme [2013] EWHC 3149 (Ch); and [2014] EWCA Civ 437
  • Acting in a claim arising out of the defective execution of a number of pension scheme deeds and rules: Re Gleeds Retirement Benefits Scheme [2014] EWHC 1178 (Ch)
  • Acting in related claims arising out of a number of substantial “pension liberation schemes”: Dalriada Trustees Ltd v Faulds [2011] EWHC 3391 (Ch)
  • Acting in a dispute between a vendor and purchaser under a sale and purchase agreement as to who should be liable for Beckmann pension liabilities on a TUPE transfer: Procter & Gamble v Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget SCA [2012] EWHC 1257 (Ch); and [2012] EWHC 2839 (Ch)
  • Acting on an application by HMRC and the FSA to wind-up the administrator of a substantial pension provider in a case concerning serious investor-protection issues: The Freedom SIPP
  • Advising on the pensions aspect of s substantial corporate restructuring: The Cattles Group plc
  • Acting in a claim before the Pensions Ombudsman involving allegations of fraudulent breach of trust in the administration of a pension scheme
  • Advising on a claim by pension scheme trustees against a fund manager arising out of investments in a number of PFI funds
  • Advising as to the recoverability of a section 75 debt on a corporate restructuring
  • Advising on the steps to be taken to achieve Pension Protection Fund entry
  • Advising on an application to the Pensions Regulator for clearance in the context of the sale of a substantial private company
  • Advising on a number of cases about the validity of Barber-equalisation exercises
  • Acting as an expert witness on English pensions law in proceedings in South Africa

Commercial litigation and arbitration

  • Acting in an AAA arbitration in a dispute about a non-recourse stock loan
  • Acting in High Court proceedings arising out of a GAFTA arbitration between two Ukrainian grain producers
  • Acting in an LCIA arbitration in a warranties dispute arising out of the sale of a Ukrainian oil extraction plant
  • Acting in a claim arising out of the collapse of an SPL football club, involving recovery of funds held in a solicitors’ client account and breach of solicitors’ undertakings
  • Acting for a Spanish Company in a claim to enforce restrictive covenants in directors’ service contracts
  • Acting in an LCIA arbitration between two Russian media companies
  • Acting in an ad hoc arbitration between two Canadian insurance companies
  • Acting in an ad hoc arbitration between a number of UK charities
  • Acting for an East African government in a claim for a ‘finder’s fee’ arising out of its acquisition of new High Commission premises in London
  • Acting for an Italian Bank in a claim to enforce securities
  • Acting in a contractual dispute between two UK telecommunications companies
  • Acting in a minority shareholder dispute arising out of the collapse of an equity derivatives business, involving allegations of breaches of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and breaches of director’s duties

Professional negligence

  • Acting in a professional negligence claim arising out of the setting up and management of an Isle of Man trust
  • Acting in numerous professional negligence claims by pension scheme trustees and employers against former advisers arising out of ineffective Barber-equalisation exercises
  • Acting in a professional negligence claim by pension scheme trustees and employers against a firm of actuaries
  • Acting in a professional negligence claim against a firm of solicitors arising out of the solicitors’ conduct of earlier litigation


  • Acting in a dispute arising out of the revocation of a Cayman Islands trust
  • Acting in a claim alleging breach of trust in the administration of a family trust
  • Acting in a claim by a trustee in bankruptcy alleging that a family trust was a sham trust designed to defeat the rights of the bankrupt’s creditors
  • Acting in a claim concerning the costs of litigation between two substantial charities
  • Advising on a claim against a solicitor-trustee of a will trust made by a residuary beneficiary charity alleging that the assets had not been properly accounted for
  • Advising on the exercise of a power of resettlement by the trustees of a Cayman Island trust
  • Advising on the revocation of a Guernsey trust

The clerks are happy to discuss the basis on which James will act in any given matter. In the absence of express written agreement otherwise, the terms under which James accepts instructions are The Standard Contractual Terms for the Supply of Legal Services By Barristers to Authorised Persons 2012 (as updated from time to time) referred to in the BSB Handbook.


Chambers UK

"He is very knowledgeable and meticulous and he gets the job done without the drama." "He is very able and approachable." (2020)
"Highly regarded as a pensions specialist." "Understanding, collaborative and thorough." (2019)
"He provides excellent, commercial and practical advice, delivered in a clear and concise way." "A down-to-earth and affable barrister who is fantastically helpful, delivers advice when and how you want it and has a strong style of advocacy." (2018)
“He's particularly good at adapting his advice to the particular client.” “He is very thorough and very helpful.” (2017)

"He is a very safe pair of hands and user-friendly." (2016)

"He gives commercially focused advice and is excellent at case management." (2016)

“…highlighted by peers for his analytical skills, clear opinions and commercial solutions.” (2015)

“A very good pensions lawyer who knows the intricacies of pensions law backwards.” (2015)

“Really approachable, he is willing to discuss his advice and willing to provide commercial solutions.” (2015)

"…able to look at quite complex things and find a pragmatic solution." (2013)

"…able to turn instructions around overnight and produce concise opinions." (2013)

"A big name." (2012)

"Responsive, commercially minded and thorough in his analysis." (2011)

UK Legal 500

"An impressive and formidable knowledge of pensions law." (2020-21)
"He is a clear and organised advocate with thoughtful and thorough work." (2019)
"He very effectively guides lay clients through complex legal problems." (2017)
"He has an impressive and formidable knowledge of pensions law." (2016)

"A safe pair of hands when a calm, measured approach is needed." (2015)

“Provides consistently prompt, clear and practical advice.” (2014)

“One of the best when it comes to technical issues.” (2013)

"Always providing robust advice." (2011)

"One of the most experienced all-round pension lawyers around." (2010)

Legal Experts, 2012