Michael Bowsher KC

Michael Bowsher KC

Call: 1985 | 2000 (Northern Ireland) | 2012 (Ireland) | Silk: 2006

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    BA (Oxon); FCIArb Chartered Arbitrator

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    Michael Bowsher KC has a busy practice in public procurement, competition and commercial law, particularly in disputes concerning major public and public-private projects. He is particularly known for his unique practice in regulated procurement in the United Kingdom, Ireland, elsewhere in Europe and beyond.

    Michael Bowsher KC has appeared as counsel in many of the major procurement cases over more than a decade. His contentious practice is complemented by a substantial practice in providing legal and strategic advice for bidders and purchasers throughout the procurement process.

    Michael’s remains very active in competition law matters, having acted in a number of recent matters involving essential facilities, competition in payment systems and now acting as leading counsel in a number of collective proceedings brought in the CAT.

    In recent years Michael has become increasingly involved in matters involving application and interpretation of investment treaties and trade agreements as well as a range of matters involving Outer Space law.

    Michael is active in a range of dispute resolution arrangements. He has often been appointed as arbitrator, mediator and expert by CEDR, LCIA, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and the Technology and Construction Solicitor Association. Most of his appointments involve disputes concerning investments or long term contracts involving the public sector or utilities. He has recently been involved in a number procedures involving disputes in the operation of the NHS.

    Michael is a Visiting Professor at King’s College London where he teaches EU Public Procurement on the LLM degree course and is Director of the Distance Learning Diploma and Masters in Public Procurement law. Each of these courses includes substantial components concerning procurement by international organisations beyond the EU.

    Michael is a member of the Bar Library in Belfast and the Law Library in Dublin, and practises actively in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as well as in England and Wales.

    Michael is Leader of the European Circuit of the Bar of England and Wales.

    • News
    • Events
    • Recent procurement & competition litigation

      Michael has been involved in a wide variety of matters in procurement, competition and state aid, as well as a large number of commercial disputes arising out of major public sector projects.

      Procurement matters in which his involvement is in the public domain include recent disputes concerning infrastructure projects such as HS2, the latest national lottery licence competition, as well as a large number of the claims brought against the government regarding procurement during the Covid-19 pandemic.  He continues to be involved in numerous major disputes in the courts of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, including disputes involving construction in Ireland, and a framework agreement for highway maintenance in Northern Ireland.

      Michael’s competition practice continues to be diverse.  He is involved in various follow on damages matters, has appeared in recent state aid matters, and has recently appeared in a major essential facilities dispute.  He is now involved in bringing a number of new collective proceedings in the CAT.

      Recent reported judgments in matters in which he has appeared include:

      • R (on the application of Good Law Project) v Cabinet Office [2022] EWCA Civ 21
      • R (on the application of Good Law Project) v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care [2022] EWHC 46 (TCC)
      • Department for Infrastructure v Northstone (NI) Ltd [2021] NICA 23
      • Circle Nottingham Ltd v NHS Rushcliffe CCG [2019] EWHC 2358 (TCC)
      • FP McCann v Department for Regional Development (NI) – numerous judgments establishing a final amount of damages due for breach of procurement law obligations
    • Legal and Strategic Advice in Procurement
    • Trade & investment treaty advice

      As investments involving the delivery of public services and utilities have become increasingly subject to inward supply or investment in many countries, Michael has become ever more closely involved in issues regarding the treaties and agreements governing these relationships. He is often involved in advising during the period of negotiation in advising parties likely to be affected by these arrangements and he has become increasingly involved in the ensuing disputes.

      Michael has recently been involved in advising various parties regarding the impact of trade instruments such as the GPA and GATS as well as bilateral free trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA. He is currently heading the group in the Canada-UK Chamber of Commerce working on the impact of CETA on Canada-UK trade both before and after Brexit.

    • Recent commercial practice

      Michael is involved in a large number of commercial disputes and these usually arise in matters with some connection with the public sector or utilities where his expert knowledge in the relevant contracts and commercial practices are particularly relevant. These disputes cover a range of matters including disputes over payment and performance.

      Recently Michael has been involved in many disputes concerning termination of commercial arrangements established to support the delivery of public services and these usually involve disputes over performance and the parties’ role in the various corporate vehicles established for delivery of the services.

      Michael has recently taken on the following roles:

      • Arbitrator with regard to dispute over termination of a partnership involving issues regarding questions of responsibility for collapse of the business and division of assets.
      • Expert in expert determination concerning the termination in highly contentious circumstances of the special purpose vehicle established by service providers and the relevant public sector and utility entities responsible for operation of waste processing plant.
      • Counsel to local authority advising on repeated occasions over termination of SPV and ancillary contract and sub-contract arrangements regarding proposed termination of all SPV and contractual arrangements supporting waste services in major city. This involved extensive ongoing advice on matters of law, strategy and tactics.
      • Counsel to local authority advising on termination of SPV in which local authority had involvement; this SPV was established to develop land and buildings for various public purposes including health and education. This involved some particularly unusual issues regarding application of good faith provisions.
      • Advising a Health Trust as to whether repudiatory breach of a soft facilities management agreement in the health sector should be treated as repudiated, and if so how this should be taken forward tactically.
      • Advising government department as to management of purported termination of a major IT services contract and as to litigation strategy as necessary.
      • Advising provider of soft facilities management provider in health and education sector as to commercial and public law issues arising in the establishment of SPVs in those sectors.
    • Career summary

      1986-1988              Tenant – Chambers of Donald Keating Q.C.

      1988-1992              Associate – Brussels office of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton

      1992 -2001             Tenant – Keating Chambers

      2001 – date            Tenant – Monckton Chambers

    • Education
      • Brasenose College, Oxford University – B.A in Jurisprudence, 1984

    • Key positions & memberships
      • Kings’s Counsel (2006)
      • Called to the Bar of Northern Ireland (2000)
      • Called to the Bar of the Republic of Ireland (2012)
      • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Chartered Arbitrator
      • Fellow, European Law Institute
      • Fellow, Centre of European Law, King’s College London.
      • Visiting Professor in EU Public Procurement Law, King’s College London
      • Leader of the European Circuit (2022)
      • Bencher, Honourable Society of the Middle Temple
      • Liveryman, Worshipful Company of Arbitrators
      • International Institute of Space Law (IISL) member (2023)

      Past appointments include:

      • Joint Chair of Task Force on Public Procurement of International Chamber of Commerce (appointed 2007); in this capacity Michael has represented the ICC as observer to international bodies such as the UNCITRAL.
      • Chair of the EU law Committee of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales (appointed 2011) (also member of the General Management Council of the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales)
    • Additional information

      Nationality British and Canadian

      Languages English, French (reasonable working knowledge)

      Education BA (Oxon); FCIArb Chartered Arbitrator


    • What the directories say

      Public Procurement (ranked as a Star Individual): He has an admirable and thorough knowledge of the law, and takes both an academic and practical interest in the subject.” “Michael was one of the first to specialise in public procurement and has a strong and notable practice.” – Chambers UK, 2024

      Leading silk in Competition: “His knowledge of competition law and developments in the law are second to none. Michael is a real intellectual heavyweight.” – Legal 500, 2024

      Leading silk in Public Procurement: “Michael is a leading authority in the field of public procurement. His wealth of knowledge is invaluable when faced with complex legal problems.” – Legal 500, 2024

      Public Procurement (ranked as a Star Individual): “Michael is a thought leader in the area of public procurement, who is good at looking at cases from a different perspective.” “An excellent and most distinguished silk.” – Chambers UK, 2023

      Leading silk in Competition: “Michael is very strong intellectually and tactically.” – Legal 500, 2023

      Leading silk in Public Procurement: “He is a strong advocate, who is also very accessible and has extensive experience.” – Legal 500, 2023

      Recommended in Government Contracts, Who’s Who Legal Global Guide 2022

      “An exceptional government contracts lawyer who maintains a stellar practice which focuses on regulated procurement.” – Government Contracts, Who’s Who Legal UK Bar 2022

      Public Procurement (ranked as a Star Individual): “Personable and approachable, he connects with the clients well.” “He is excellent technically and highly knowledgeable in the procurement field.” – Chambers UK, 2022

      Leading silk in Competition: “Quick, hyper intelligent and very experienced.” – Legal 500, 2022

      Leading silk in Public Procurement: “Michael provides sound, balanced and constructive advice in relation to complex and difficult issues.” – Legal 500, 2022

      “Acknowledged by peers as “a big name in the market” and “an amazing advocate”. His expertise spans both UK and EU procurement law.” – Government Contracts, Who’s Who Legal UK Bar 2021

      Public Procurement: “A fearless tactician and a firm advocate who doesn’t shrink in the face of tough opposition.” “He can be relied upon to grapple with, and provide creative solutions to, the most difficult procurement questions.” – Chambers UK, 2021

      Leading silk in Competition: ‘‘Sound, balanced and constructive advice in relation to complex and difficult issues, easy to work with and highly responsive.’’ – Legal 500, 2021

      Leading silk in Public Procurement: ‘‘Sound, balanced and constructive advice in relation to complex and difficult issues.’’ – Legal 500, 2021

      Leading silk in Telecoms (regulatory): ‘‘A first-rate silk.’’ – Legal 500, 2021

      “very much a leading player” in the market when it comes to government contracts. Sources comment, “His knowledge of the law is unsurpassed, and he is also great with clients.”Government Contracts, Who’s Who Legal UK Bar 2020

      Public Procurement: “The leading mind in this area, he continues to display an admirable and thorough knowledge of the law and practice.” “He has excellent knowledge of procurement law and demonstrates years of experience in his pragmatic advice.” “Top of the class. He is the barrister that every company wants to have representing them, both on his feet and when thinking strategically about how to run a challenge.” – Chambers UK, 2020

      Leading silk in Competition: ‘‘Pragmatic in his advice.’’ – Legal 500, 2020

      Leading silk in Construction: ‘‘Knows the sector inside and out; pragmatic with his advice.’’ – Legal 500, 2020

      Leading silk in Telecoms (regulatory): ‘‘He is particularly strong for regulated procurement.’’ – Legal 500, 2020

      Leading silk in Public Procurement: ‘‘A top pick for public procurement advice, he knows the subject inside out and is pragmatic with his advice too.’’ – Legal 500, 2020

    • Publications