On 1 September 2020, Campbell Johnston Clark celebrated its 10th anniversary. Jonathan Campbell looks back on the decade during which CJC emerged as a force to be reckoned with in Maritime Law which nonetheless maintained its distinct non-hierarchical culture.
Over the last decade, what started as a team of seven people sitting round a make-shift desk in an unfurnished office has grown into an international maritime law firm with over 60 staff members and offices in London, Newcastle (opened 2012), Singapore (2014) and Miami (2019).
An original aim was to cover all possible areas where shipping advice would be needed - non-contentious commercial and finance work, wet and insurance market work and the dry and chartering market. We called this the three-legged stool, with each leg proving vital to the firm’s success. To these core practices, we have added a very significant commercial litigation and advisory practice for ship-owners. We are able to advise on English, US and Marshall Islands law. Today, we are the equivalent size of any shipping team and are able to work on the largest transactions or most complex cases.
Our clients include shipowners (ranging from small to household names), private equity, banks and the major players in the hull market and the P&I clubs. As one client has said to us “we see CJC as an extension of our team and highly value their quick turnaround times, can-do attitude and problem-solving abilities.”
Over 10 successful and happy years, we have been blessed in developing a unified team, free of the hierarchies and politics of other firms. This is something we continue to cultivate, with an active social life for staff away from the offices. We are also past winners of the soccer Marine Challenge Cup and have had international football success at the Posidonia tournament.
It is a culture difference that those working with CJC also recognise. As one of our partners remarked, who previously worked with one of the larger maritime firms: “My best day at [x] was not as good as my worst day at CJC.”
CJC achieved early recognitions through a 2013 nomination for the Lloyds List maritime firm of the year, before going on to win the Legal 500 shipping law firm of the year. It continues to go from strength to strength, recently appearing successfully in the Supreme Court case of “Atlantik Confidence” and acting in the highly significant maritime cases of “Purple Beach”, “Mysong”, “Cheshire”, “Mustafa Khan” and - in one of the leading judgments on the Hague Rules - “Alhani”.
These are successes secured by an exceptional team and, in opening offices in new locations to consolidate our position as a leading shipping law firm, CJC has recruited the most talented staff to drive development and expansion. We believe Singapore will continue to thrive and consolidate its position as the maritime hub of Asia Pacific and our recruitment of Paul Apostolis and Gareth Williams in this area indicates our Asian ambitions. Our recent move to open offices in Miami, led by Neil Bayer, is another case in point.
We have also been very pleased to focus on charitable initiatives. We have supported the UK maritime industry by sponsoring cadets through training, for example. Further, for many years we have supported Haven House in Essex, the Big Issue, Children North East and St Katharine’s Trust. Our partners are trustees of charities including the Sailors Society.
After 10 years in business, our aim remains to give our shipping clients practical and common-sense advice. We envisage continuing our international expansion, in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. And most importantly, to continue to recruit the best talent and continue to lead the way in shipping law.