Michael Bowsher QC 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 the EU and beyond. Michael Bowsher QC has appeared as counsel in many of the major procurement cases over more than a decade. He is also heavily involved in providing advice on procurement law and practice in non-contentious situations. He has recently become increasingly involved in matters involving application and interpretation of investment treaties and trade agreements as well as a range of matters involving the space sector.
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 Solicitors’ 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 in Dublin, and practises actively in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as well as in England and Wales.
Recent case news
CompetitionJanuary 29, 2019
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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.
Those in which his involvement is in the public domain include recent disputes concerning the privatisation of air traffic control at London Gatwick Airport, construction of railway structure, various major defence contracts, as well as major disputes in the courts of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
He has been involved in the settlement of a number of recent follow on damages claims following competition infringement decisions.
Selected ongoing matters include the following:
- Marston v Ministry of Justice – an interlocutory judgment in a matter leading to an expedited trial in early 2019
- Central Surrey Health v Surrey Downs CCG – an interlocutory judgment in a matter leading to an expedited trial in early 2019
- Viasat v Ofcom, awaiting judgment from the Competition Appeal Tribunal in a matter concerning satellite communication frequencies
Recent reported judgments in matters in which he has appeared include:
- FP McCann v Department for Regional Development (NI)  NICh12; further judgment awaited on quantum issues
- Student Transport Scheme Ltd. V Minister for Education and Skills (Court of Appeal, Ireland)  IECA 303
- NATS (Services) Ltd v Gatwick Airport Ltd  EWHC 3728 (TCC)
- Group M UK Ltd v Cabinet Office  EWHC 3659 (TCC)
- Willmott Dixon Partnership Ltd v Hammersmith & Fulham LBC  EWHC 3191 (TCC)
- DWF LLP v Insolvency Service  EWCA Civ 900
- Blue Water Recoveries Ltd v Secretary of State for Transport  EWHC 2970 (QB)
- Pearson Driving Assessments Ltd v Minister for the Cabinet Office  EWHC 2082 (TCC)
- Resource NI Limited v University of Ulster  NIQB 64
- AG Quidnet Hounslow LLP v Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Hounslow  EWHC
- 2 Travel v Cardiff Bus  CAT 19; the first judgment for damages in a follow-on claim in the Competition Appeal Tribunal
- British Telecommunications plc, Everything Everywhere & others v Competition Commission & others  EWCA Civ 154
- R (Unison) v NHS Wiltshire PCT & NHS Shared Business Services  EWHC 624 (Admin)
- Henry Brothers (Magherafelt) Limited v DENI  NICA 59;  EuLR 230
- Alstom Transport v Eurostar International Ltd – three separate judgments:  EWHC 28 (Ch), 140 ConLR 1;  EWHC 1828 (Ch),  EuLR 162;  EWHC 2747(Ch)
Michael has been heavily involved in procurement law in the UK, EU and in a number of countries for 25 years. Over that time a large portion of his practice has involved legal and commercial advice for purchasers and bidders on issues such as the drafting of legislation, guidance or procedures, the design of procurement process, the strategy and detail of bid preparation and development of strategies for management of the process from both sides of the process, as well as those with other interests such as funders.
Michael advises not only parties in the UK, Ireland and other Member States. He is actively involved with purchasers at all levels of government, utilities and a broad range of private and third sector clients. He has advised on many procurements involving EU institutions. Beyond the EU he has also been involved in in advising on recent procurement issues in Hong Kong and Singapore as well as matters involving international organisations. In July 2017 Michael played a central role in a 2 day conference for Singapore government lawyers and procurement officials run by the Attorney-General of Singapore.
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.
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
Brasenose College, Oxford University – B.A in Jurisprudence, 1984
Key positions & memberships
- Queen’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
- 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)
- Bencher, Honourable Society of the Middle Temple
- Liveryman, Worshipful Company of Arbitrators
Nationality British and Canadian
Languages English, French (reasonable working knowledge)
Education QC BA (Oxon); FCIArb Chartered Arbitrator
What the directories say
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
“Extremely knowledgeable” in government contracts matters. He is a key name in the field, and is highlighted as “very bright” and strong on procurement matters” – Government Contracts, Who’s Who Legal UK Bar 2019
In Who’s Who Legal for Government Contracts 2018 he was recognized as one of nine Thought Leaders in Europe, Middle East and Africa and the only English barrister in that list.
Construction: “Highly respected silk who is very authoritative on procurement law.” – Chambers UK, 2019
Public Procurement: “Michael’s formidable reputation is well deserved; he is a master at thinking outside of the box and coming up with creative, innovative solutions for clients.” “His depth of knowledge of the law in this area is superb. He identifies the angles other procurement counsel don’t spot.” – Chambers UK, 2019
Leading silk in Administrative and public law (including local government): ‘‘He is extremely experienced in judicial reviews and complex procurements. ’’ – Legal 500, 2018
Leading silk in Competition: ‘‘Calm, experienced, capable, intelligent, knowledgeable and nice to work with.’’ – Legal 500, 2018
Leading silk in Construction: ‘‘A leading public procurement and construction specialist.’’ – Legal 500, 2018
Leading silk in Telecoms (regulatory): ‘‘He is extremely knowledgeable and experienced in complex procurement issues.’’ – Legal 500, 2018
Leading silk in Public Procurement: ‘‘Extremely knowledgeable and experienced in complex procurement issues.’’ – Legal 500, 2018
Construction: “Excellent silk with particular experience in the fields of public procurement and construction.” – Chambers UK, 2018
Public Procurement: “Very well known in the procurement world as one of the few specialist QCs with a depth of experience in this area.” “He is thoughtful and has an encyclopaedic knowlege of his subject.” – Chambers UK, 2018
Leading silk in Administrative and public law (including local government): ‘‘In a class of his own.’’ – Legal 500, 2017
Leading silk in Competition: ‘‘He is able to look at the broad picture while focusing on detail.’’ – Legal 500, 2017
Leading silk in Construction: ‘‘He has a really useful blend of niche sector knowledge and procurement law.’’ – Legal 500, 2017
Leading silk in Telecoms (regulatory): ‘‘A formidable and creative performer.’’ – Legal 500, 2017
Leading silk in Public Procurement: ‘‘A go-to procurement specialist and a client favourite.’’ – Legal 500, 2017
Public Procurement: “Very commercial and pragmatic, as well as highly personable. It gives our clients peace of mind to know they’ve instructed one of the very best.” “He is without a doubt superb. He is Mr Procurement and you’d struggle to find someone with greater knowledge and experience. Very client-friendly, he’s not afraid to challenge client thinking or pose difficult questions.” – Chambers UK, 2017
Construction: “Very strategic. He knows judges well and can shape arguments based on that.” “A great person to have because of his diverse practice.” – Chambers UK, 2017
Leading silk in Administrative and Public law: “Well-known for judicial reviews of government commercial activity.” – Legal 500, 2016
Leading silk in Construction: “He thinks outside of the box and has a great knowledge of procurement law.” – Legal 500, 2016
Leading silk in EU and Competition: “A formidable force in both competition and procurement matters.” – Legal 500, 2016
Leading silk in Telecoms (regulatory): “Very affable, responsive and easy to work with.” – Legal 500, 2016
Leading silk in Public Procurement: “A real star performer, who pulls no punches when advising on strategy.” – Legal 500, 2016
Government Contracts: “An undisputed star” by sources, who note that “his knowledge and experience of the area is second to none.” Instructing solicitors also claim that he has “superb written skills”. – WHO’S WHO LEGAL (WWL) UK BAR 2016
”A superb advocate” with ”outstanding technical expertise” and ”Very Knowledgeable on procurement.” ”Very good on his feet”, ”responsive and easy to work with.” Legal 500, 2015
Construction – “Technically astute and able to quickly grasp the issues at hand.” – Chambers UK, 2015
Public Procurement: “Michael is very intelligent and highly creative in his thinking, and is not afraid to get stuck into a case in order to find the right arguments.” “He is the indisputable leading heavyweight in public procurement, and has encyclopaedic knowledge of the law in this area. He identifies key issues and answers difficult questions with unmatched authority.” – Chambers UK, 2015
‘He has a particular skill for presenting complex matters in a clear and concise, judge-friendly way.’ – Legal 500, 2014
‘Excellent on the technical side, and on policy issues.’ Recommended as a leading silk in Public and Administrative Law – Legal 500, 2014
‘A persuasive advocate with impressive technical knowledge.’ Recommended as a leading silk in EU and Competition Law – Legal 500, 2014
Under Public Procurement: Excels in high-profile and novel procurement challenges, and is held in the highest esteem for his excellent advocacy and commercial acumen. “Michael is pre-eminent; you look to him when there are cutting-edge issues involved. He is one of the go-to people.” Chambers UK, 2014
Michael is ranked as a leading silk for Construction Law: “Well regarded for his expertise in construction law matters, particularly when it comes to procurement and tendering disputes.” Chambers UK, 2014
“The first port of call for contentious procurement issues’,” Michael Bowsher QC is listed as a leading Silk in Public Procurement Law. Legal 500 2013
Michael is also recommend as a leading silk in Administrative & Public Law, Construction Law, EU & Competition Law and Telecommunications Law. Legal 500 2013
“Commercial, competition and public law silk Michael Bowsher QC is at the top of many lawyers’ lists for procurement disputes involving public bodies, utilities companies and private contractors. He not only has “encyclopaedic knowledge” of procurement law, but also “an incredibly quick mind.” He is “one of the most client-focused practitioners at the Bar.” Chambers UK, 2013
“Michael Bowsher QC of Monckton Chambers is known for his expertise in public procurement law. He combines this with an impressive construction and engineering practice that sees him appearing extensively in arbitrations, both in the UK and overseas. By way of example, he recently handled an arbitration in Geneva relating to the construction of a power station.” Chambers UK, 2013
Under EU and Competition Law: “The ‘very able’ Michael Bowsher QC, who has a diverse practice covering competition law, commercial public law, and substantial commercial disputes, appeared in 2 Travel Group Plc (in liquidation) v Cardiff City Transport Services Ltd.” – Legal 500, 2012
“Michael Bowsher QC of Monckton Chambers is the lead name in the sector for construction-related procurement instructions. Sources state that he is “the premier counsel bar none” on such issues.” – Chambers UK, 2012
“Michael Bowsher QC handles more public procurement cases than anyone around. Active in the field long before many others, he is “the UK’s most prominent procurement silk.” His many clients go to him as he has “unmatched insight into how the procurement law world is developing.” They also appreciate his “measured, understated delivery,” and the fact that “in court he constantly gets the judges on his side.” ” – Chambers UK, 2012
In Administrative and Public Law Michael Bowsher QC is a ‘leader in procurement law’ and has ‘strong commercial acumen’. Legal 500, 2011
Under Construction Michael Bowsher QC “is recommended as ‘excellent with clients and very much at ease in the courtroom’.” Legal 500, 2011
EU & Competition Law states that Michael Bowsher QC who”appeared in United Utilities Electricity Service Ltd v Electricity Northwest Ltd and is ‘very accessible, with a wide knowledge base and is very adaptable to different niche areas in what can be a specialised field’.” Legal 500, 2011
Under Public Procurement Law “Michael Bowsher QC is still the undisputed market leader. He provides the finest advice and draws heavily on his vast EU law expertise to win the most complex cases. “As a litigator in the UK he pretty much invented the subject,” stated one solicitor. Bowsher “has an incredibly quick mind, is one of the most client-focused practitioners at the Bar and is incredibly good at smoothing things over when cases get into difficulties.” His recent matters include Henry Brothers v Department for Education in Northern Ireland, a successful challenge to the procurement procedure surrounding a £500 million government construction programme” – Chambers UK, 2011
“Michael Bowsher QC of Monckton Chambers is renowned for his depth of knowledge and is recognised as having virtually cornered the market on procurement work. He earns wide praise for his speed of turnaround, and the ease with which he communicates with a wide variety of clients. Recent highlights include advising on Henry Brothers v Department of Education of Northern Ireland, a challenge to a £500 million governmental construction programme.” Recommended in Construction – Chambers UK, 2011
Publications & media
- The legal matters of Brexit podcast.