Richard O’Brien practices in the fields of commercial law, professional liability and public law.
Commercial & Professional Liability
Richard has a busy practice in Chambers’ core areas of commercial litigation and professional liability. In the commercial sphere he has particular experience of banking, including advising on a claim against a large investment bank in connection with its financing of a corporate acquisition and a separate claim against an investment bank for premature receivership of a borrower’s properties.
Commercial cases include:
In Richard’s professional negligence practice, he regularly acts for and against solicitors, surveyors, accountants, architects, auditors, barristers, construction professionals, financial practitioners and insurance brokers. He also has a particular interest in Ombudsman and compensation schemes (Legal Ombudsman, Financial Ombudsman Service, Financial Services Compensation Scheme) which adjudicate on professional services. He is the editor of the chapter “Human Rights and Judicial Review in Professional Liability” in Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability.
Professional liability cases include:
Public Law & Human Rights
Richard has a successful public law and human rights practice, and is recognised as a Leading Junior in Administrative & Public Law in Chambers & Partners and Legal 500. He was appointed to the Attorney-General’s A-Panel of Approved Counsel in 2017 (and before that to B-Panel in 2013 and C-Panel in 2009, as well as to the Freedom of Information Panel in 2010). He regularly acts for and against government departments and local authorities, as well as in judicial review claims against the Legal Ombudsman, Financial Ombudsman Service and Financial Services Compensation Scheme. He is praised for his “crisp and impressive writing style” and “incisive tactical view” (Legal 500) and for being “a fantastically acute lawyer and very, very tough.” “Extremely hard-working – he will do whatever it takes to get the case done. He has a huge brain but is also charming with clients and really nice to work with” (Chambers & Partners). He has particular experience in immigration, including business immigration, and also in national security matters.
Reported cases include:
Richard has a particular interest and expertise in the developing areas of: judicial reviews of the decisions of ombudsmen (particularly the FOS, FSCS and LeO); and claims against public authorities for infringement of Article One of the First Protocol (“A1P1”) of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to possessions) and any other cases where public and commercial law intersect.
He is also committed to pro bono work, acting for both individuals and organisations. In 2013 he was nominated for the Bar Pro Bono Award. In 2012 he successfully acted for an athlete seeking British nationality in order to compete for the UK in London Olympics.
Richard has a particular interest in commercial litigation and regularly acts for parties in commercial disputes. Particular cases include:
Richard has also advised on shipping matters (specifically on rights of salvage) and on insurance (on avoidance for material non-disclosure and on restitutionary remedies against a third-party beneficiary of an avoided insurance policy). He has contributed to Insurance Law for the Construction Industry (Oxford University Press, March 2008). During his time as a Judicial Assistant to the Master of the Rolls, Richard gained further experience in the fields of shipping and insurance law.
Richard’s professional negligence practice encompasses Chambers’ main core areas, particularly solicitors, accountants, auditors, barristers, surveyors, financial advisers, and insurance brokers. However, he has particular experience of and interest in accountants’ and auditors’ cases. In 2015 he has been involved in the following high-value accountants’ negligence cases:
Other accountants/auditors cases in which Richard has recently been or is involved include: a claim against accountants for negligent payment of client funds to a fraudster; a high value claim against an auditor for failing to discover a fraud perpetrated on a company by its company secretary.
Richard also frequently acts for HMRC, including in cases involving tax relief schemes, so is at home with the underlying subject matter of accountants’ negligence claims relating to such schemes.
Richard also has a particular interest in Ombudsman and compensation schemes (Legal Ombudsman, Financial Ombudsman Services, Financial Services Compensation Scheme) which adjudicate on professional services.
Other cases in which Richard has been instructed include: a claim by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme against a large investment company, concerning the provision of high-risk investments (or ‘precipice bonds’) to private investors; a claim in deceit and breach of fiduciary duty against a solicitor for allegedly conspiring with a client’s business partner in the misappropriation of the client’s assets; acting for lenders and borrowers in lenders’ claims.
Richard is also the editor of the forthcoming Human Rights and Judicial Review chapter of Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability.
“He’s really excellent. He’s got a wonderful presence in court and in conference.” “He’s a very good and persuasive advocate.” “He is phenomenally good; he’s got an incredible memory for detail and is also very nice to deal with.” – Chambers & Partners 2023
“He comes to the fore in large matters with tricky disclosure and procedural issues. A very strong barrister who gives his all.” “He’s a very nice and effective counsel.” – Chambers & Partners, 2022
“Richard is extremely bright and a delight to work with. He is extremely knowledgeable on all public law matters, but also intensely practical and pragmatic and he works out very quickly what the key points are which matter in each case.” – Legal 500, 2022
“A fantastically acute lawyer and very, very tough.” “Extremely hard-working – he will do whatever it takes to get the case done. He has a huge brain but is also charming with clients and really nice to work with.” – Chambers & Partners, 2021
“His advocacy and written work are always immaculately presented.” – Legal 500, 2021
“Superb on paper and a powerful advocate.” “He’s very analytically strong and has built up a really impressive case profile on government issues with a cross-border dimension.” – Chambers & Partners, 2020
“A very strong junior with a crisp and impressive writing style.” – Legal 500, 2020
Richard has a successful public law and human rights practice, and is recognised as a Leading Junior in Administrative & Public Law in Chambers & Partners. He was appointed to the Attorney-General’s Panel of Approved Counsel (B-Panel) in 2013, and before that to the Attorney-General’s Freedom of Information Panel in 2010 and to the C-Panel in 2009. He regularly acts for and against government departments and local authorities, as well as in judicial review claims against the Legal Ombudsman, Financial Ombudsman Service and Financial Services Compensation Scheme. He is praised for his “crisp and impressive drafting style” and “incisive tactical view” (Legal 500, 2015). He has particular experience in immigration, including business immigration, and also in national security matters.
Other recent public law cases of note include:
Richard regularly appears in the High Court in judicial review cases of all kinds and before the First Tier (Information) Tribunal in connection with appeals under the Freedom of Information Act (Richard is a member of the Attorney-General’s Freedom of Information Panel). He has also acted in his own right for local authorities and other public bodies, including statutory port authorities, the Crown Estate Commissioners and the Food Standards Agency.
Richard also writes articles and gives seminars on public law:
4 New Square Chambers is a fast growing presence at the public international law Bar. Members of Chambers regularly act on behalf of, and against, national governments in the UK and abroad in contentious and advisory proceedings, and advise governments, corporate bodies, non-governmental organizations, and individuals on a range of matters including:
Current and recent instructions in the field of public international law include disputes before the International Court of Justice, the ICSID and ICC tribunals, the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, and the domestic courts of the United Kingdom, the Gambia and the Republic of Turkey. Given Chambers’ long-standing strength in international arbitration work, members of chambers are particularly well placed to advise and to represent parties in investor-State disputes.
Highlights of recent public international work by Members of Chambers include:
63 members of 4 New Square Chambers have been ranked in the…
The GAAR Advisory Panel (the Panel) is an independent body which since…
Education, Scholarships and Appointments
Richard gained the highest first in his subject at Oxford, as well as Magdalen College scholarships and tutorial prizes. He went on to receive an MPhil. He came first in his year at Bar School in Advocacy and won several scholarships, including the Lord Mansfield, Hardwicke, CPE and pupillage scholarships. He was the Judicial Assistant to the Master of the Rolls in January-March 2008.
Publications and Professional Memberships
Richard is an editor of Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability and has also contributed articles to Judicial Review (Hart Publishing). He frequently lectures on topics relating to his practice. Richard is a member of the Professional Negligence Bar Association, COMBAR and the Administrative Law Bar Association
4 New Square
London, WC2A 3RJ
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