Professional information

Devil Masters: The Hon. Lord Emslie, Colin N. McEachran QC.

2015-2020: Appointed Advocate General for Scotland
2011: Called as Master of the Bench of Middle Temple
2009: Called to Bar of England and Wales
2007-2014: Dean of Faculty
2006-2007: Treasurer of Faculty
2003-2007: Chairman Police Appeals Tribunal
1997-2002: Chairman of Appeals Committee, Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland
1993: Appointed Queen’s Counsel
1986-1993: Standing Junior Counsel to Department of Trade and Industry
1980: Admitted to Faculty

Professional experience

Richard Keen QC is one of the UK’s leading silks, with broad expertise spanning Commercial, Public & Regulatory, Financial Services & Banking and International Law.

From 2015-2020 Richard served as the Advocate General for Scotland. From 2016 to 2020 he also served as Lords Minister in the Ministry of Justice, with responsibility for civil justice in England and Wales. He chaired the Lord Chancellor’s advisory committee on private international law (alongside the Rt. Hon Lord Mance). He was a member of the Lawtec Delivery Panel. During his time as Advocate General, Richard regularly appeared for the government in the UK Supreme Court; the CJEU and the Grand Chamber of ECtHR. Richard was engaged in taking a number of major pieces of legislation through the House of Lords. These included the Scotland Act 2016 and the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. Richard represented HMG at the Council of Justice Ministers in Luxembourg. He also represented HMG in respect of justice matters in discussions in China; Singapore; Australia; and USA.

Prior to joining the Government in 2015, Richard was regularly instructed in the Commercial Court; in the Inner House (the Court of Appeal in Scotland) and in the UK Supreme Court in a range of Commercial and Public Law cases. He is highly regarded for his advocacy particularly in complex commercial litigation and cases involving extensive expert evidence in areas including science, engineering and economics. He is also instructed in matters of insurance, company law and civil fraud.

Notable cases

Commercial

Richard is considered to be a first choice of silk for complex commercial litigation. He is widely instructed in claims arising out of corporate takeovers and acquisitions. He is also instructed in shareholder claims, including s.994. He has considerable experience of litigation involving oil and gas licensing and exploitation. He is regularly involved in multi-jurisdiction litigation involving interlocutory orders and issues of forum and jurisdiction.

  • Administrators of FM Developments Ltd v Milne and Others (2013): Richard was instructed on behalf of the Administrators in a £30million claim for breach of directors duties and unlawful distribution of company funds. The action proceeded in the Commercial Court.
  • Project Ling (2013): Richard was instructed by the Administrators of an Isle of Man fund in connection with the tracing and recovery of +£200 million of funds distributed through various offshore SPVs. This included litigation in the UK.
  • Lloyds TSB Foundation v Lloyds Banking Group plc (2013): Richard appeared for the Foundation in the UKSC in an action involving the construction and application of an agreement for the funding of the Foundation by the Bank.
  • Kivuwatt Ltd v Dane Associates Ltd (2012): Richard appeared for Dane in the Commercial Court and Court of Appeal in a successful application for the recall of interlocutory orders relating to an ICC arbitration involving a contract for the funding and construction of a power station in central Africa.
  • Cosalt Plc and GTC Group Limited v Melville and Others (2012): Richard was instructed for Cosalt and GTC in a series of claims arising out of the acquisition of GTC by Cosalt. These involved claims for fraud, breach of contract and breach of covenant. The claims were the subject of a multi million pound settlement.
  • Stokers SA v Echelon Wealth Management Limited and Alexander (2012): Richard was instructed on behalf of a Swiss group with respect to claims arising out of fraudulent transactions in respect of Contracts For Difference. The action was successfully concluded in the Commercial Court.
  • Tor Corporate AS v Sinopec Group Star Petroleum Co Limited [2010] CSOH 76: Richard appeared for Sinopec in this long running litigation involving the management of the Kan Tan drilling rigs in the North Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Following a six-month arbitration, in which Richard appeared, Tor brought proceedings for judicial review which they subsequently abandoned.
  • Venture Drilling Inc v Larsen Oil and Gas (2010): Richard appeared on behalf of Larsen in interlocutory proceedings in the Commercial Court involving the charter and operation of an oil drilling vessel in West Africa. This involved matters of proper law, jurisdiction and forum in the context of a Russian registered vessel, chartered to a Norwegian company, licensed in Sierra Leone and operated from Aberdeen in Scotland.
  • Clarke v Fennoscandia Bank plc 2008 SC (HL) 122: Richard was instructed on behalf of the bank in claims involving allegations of fraud, fraud on the court and the enforcement of judgement from US courts. Clarke had engaged in litigation with the bank in the United States, England and Scotland. The action was finally dismissed following appeal to the House of Lords in 2008.

Public and Administrative Law

Richard is frequently instructed in matters of judicial review, including challenges to primary legislation of the Scottish Parliament.

  • Imperial Tobacco Limited v The Lord Advocate [2012] UKSC 61: Richard appeared for Imperial in the UK Supreme Court in a challenge to legislation banning the display of tobacco products.
  • Perry and others v Serious Organised Crime Agency [2012] UKSC 35: Richard appeared in the UK Supreme Court for SOCA in proceedings to determine the scope of legislation with respect to the proceeds of crime.
  • Petition of Rangers FC (2013): Richard appeared for Rangers FC in a successful challenge to a decision of the Appeals Committee of the Scottish FA.
  • Petition Axa General Insurance Ltd and Others (2012): Richard was instructed in the UKSC on behalf of Axa and other insurers in respect of a challenge to the legality of an Act of the Scottish Parliament which would impose an obligation upon insurers to indemnify claims in respect of pleural plaques as claims for personal injury which they insured against. The challenge was advanced on both common law and ECHR grounds.

Company

Richard is regularly instructed in litigation involving banks and other financial institutions. His work includes claims arising out of joint venture agreements, service agreements and guarantees.

  • Heineken UK Limited v RBS plc (2011): Richard was instructed on behalf of the Royal Bank of Scotland in a litigation challenging the validity of loan guarantees. The case concerns the scope of the bank’s right to renew or renegotiate loan terms pursuant to a standard term of their loan agreement, without notice to guarantors.
  • RBS plc v Carlyle and Others (2011): Richard was instructed on behalf of the Royal Bank of Scotland with respect to an appeal from the Commercial Court involving the alleged existence of collateral agreements to commercial loan transactions.
  • Stokers SA v Echelon Wealth Management Limited and Alexander (2011): Richard is instructed on behalf of a Swiss group with respect to claims arising out of fraudulent transactions in respect of Contracts For Difference.
  • Royal Scottish Assurance v Scottish Equitable [2006] CSIH 47: Richard was instructed by Royal Bank of Scotland in respect of their interest in Royal Scottish Assurance. The claim arose out of a joint venture agreement with Scottish Equitable for the provision of insurance products to RSA. The sums involved about £57 million. Scottish Equitable challenged the contractual basis of the claim at first instance and upon appeal. Their challenge was dismissed and thereafter the claim was settled.

Construction

  • Storebaelt Tunnel: Richard acted for James Howden plc and its subsidiary Wirth GmbH in claims with respect to the TBMs employed in the Storebaelt Sprogo tunnel section of the Denmark Sweden Onesund link.
  • SSE Generation v Hochtieff Solutions AG: Richard acted for SSE in claims arising from a tunnel collapse in a new Hydro scheme.
  • Autolink Concessionaires (M6) plc v Amey Construction LTD: Richard acted for the Private Equity funders who had acquired the maintenance contract for the M6. A dispute arose over the defective resurfacing of the carriageway.
  • Morgan Sindall v Sec of State for Defence: Richard acted for MS in a long running arbitration concerning a major MoD base.
Directories

Quotes

  • Administrative and Public law
    Richard Keen QC is a “fabulous advocate” with a focus on the commercial side of public law. A mark of his eminence came with his instruction to act for a group of four insurance companies in the ground-breaking Axa General Insurance and others v the Lord Advocate. His performance in this case was described by one source as being “mesmerically good.”
  • Commercial Disputes Richard Keen QC
    “the outstanding advocate of his generation” and “the top civil silk in Scotland.” He is the first choice for high-value, complex litigation and is prized for his versatility: “We’d use him for any type of civil law matter,” say solicitors. Keen is particularly noted for his “fantastic” court presence and excellent performance in cross-examination. His recent highlights include the case of Commonwealth Oil and Gas v Baxter and others.
  • Company
    Richard Keen QC of Axiom Advocates, a superb lawyer who is “brilliant at anything he turns his hand to.” Commentators say he is “very impressive. He’s quick to pick up the detail and understand the commercial points, and has a real ability to express an argument in a simple yet persuasive manner.”
  • Construction
    Richard Keen QC is valued by sources for his attention to detail and his forward-thinking, commercial approach. He is described as “a very accomplished performer,” and has recently acted on such key matters as a dispute involving a construction contract and insurance coverage relating to a power station.