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Former ASG Gourab Banerji to join old friends at Essex Court as overseas barrister, says India's losing work to Singapore & Hong Kong

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Senior Advocate and former Additional Solicitor General of India (ASG) Gourab Banerji will be joining London’s Essex Court Chambers as an overseas associate on 1 October.

Banerji is the first Indian lawyer to become a part of Essex, and the third senior counsel, after Harish Salve and Gopal Subramanium to have joined an English Barristers’ chamber. Salve joined Blackstone Chambers in July 2013 while Subramanium joined set 3 Verulam in November 2013.

“Actually it’s a little different for me, I am a barrister. I was educated in England so I became a barrister in 1990. Even as ASG I was looking at [working with Essex] but was a bit busy,” commented Banerji adding that unlike Salve who became a tenant in Blackstone Chambers, he was not intending to practice in the UK and continue to prioritise his Indian arbitration practice.

Banerji, who was the leading counsel for India on the Italian Marines case has a practice that strongly focuses on commercial arbitration, was a part of the Attorney General’s Committee suggesting changes to the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 in 2010 and was the sole Indian representative at the 55th Session of the UNCITRAL Working Group on Arbitration at Vienna in October 2011, according to an Essex press release.

Banerji has previously worked with Queen’s Counsel Toby Landau and was first involved with the Essex set on a multi -jurisdictional arbitration for Essar Oil by Clyde & Co, reported The Lawyer. At Essex he said he will be focussing on international commercial arbitration and investment treaty disputes.

“I picked my chamber too carefully. They are specialists. Essex is the best in London in arbitration, even by Chambers and Legal500 rankings. A lot of my friends are in Essex since I studied in Cambridge,” he said explaining that he qualified for the chambers because he is a qualified English barrister and would not be governed by the Bar Council’s regulations for overseas associates, but by the usual regulations for barristers.

“I am considerably younger than Mr Salve and Mr Subramanium, so [Essex] did a lot of investigations – for three months [before taking me on board,” he joked. He was designated senior advocate in 2003 and was the ASG from June 2009 to May this year.

Banerji commented that due to its restrictions on liberalisation India was losing considerable arbitration work to Hong Kong and Singapore to where these matters currently get outsourced. “We have the best legal minds here, what do we have to fear. I have worked against [foreign lawyers] and with [foreign lawyers] and we are as good as any.”

He added that India has “some very good Indian arbitrators and retired judges who are very good”. “Once we have [organised arbitral] institutions here [like LIAC and SIAC] we’ll have better professionalism. It’s basically [to do with] a culture of arbitration. We have nothing really to be defensive about. They keep attacking our guys but I have had similar experiences abroad.”

Banerji will visit Lincoln Inn in October for a get together to mark his association with Essex.

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