01 October 2023 - Shipping Lawyer

What are the laws of navigation?
Maritime law is primarily the domain of international law bodies or specialized agencies based in London. However, there are some regional law firms located in seaside cities such as Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and Ipswich.

Although a highly specialized field, maritime law encompasses a wide range of disciplines related to the financing, construction, insurance, operation and ultimately decommissioning of ships; or transportation of goods and people by sea. Clients include ship owners, ship builders, financiers, insurers (hulls and cargo), charterers, P&I clubs and port authorities.

What does a maritime lawyer do?
Although some maritime lawyers are generalists, most tend to specialize in shipping (relating to events on the high seas) or dry shipping (dealing with contractual and commercial matters) and may involve a litigant, for example, in contractual disputes. Shipping attorneys can get involved in disputes when buying, selling, repairing, refueling, mortgaging or insuring a vessel. Shipping disputes can be highly technical, involving marine engineering and project management experts.

What skills are required?
Adaptability: Willingness to work independently or as part of a team with other lawyers, engineers and other professionals.

Communication – Ability to present arguments clearly and concisely.

Commitment: Ability to consistently work to a high standard, long hours or tight deadlines.

Wet Shipping Lawyers
Wet shipping lawyers are expected to act at a moment's notice to protect their clients' interests in the event of a collision, loss, damage or other accident. Lawyers can expect to be "on call" to travel overseas to assess vessel conditions, interview witnesses and take their statements, advise clients on the merits of cases, and prepare cases through lawyer conferences, court appearances, and conducting arbitrations. Due to the technical nature of this work, "wet" maritime lawyers are often expected to have some form of prior maritime experience or qualifications such as Master Mariner accreditation.

Dry Shipping Lawyers
Dry shipping lawyers deal with the negotiation and drafting of all contractual documents for all aspects related to the vessel and its contents such as financial agreements (sale and purchase), construction, carriage, insurance and labor. Further specialties include fishing and yachting, which have a strong regulatory angle. Although the contentious aspects of dry and wet work are similar, dry welding does not require last-minute boarding, and while previous marine experience may be beneficial, it is not a prerequisite. The nature of dry work often involves heavy documentation that crosses multiple jurisdictions and requires a strong intellect, attention to detail and the ability to grasp complex concepts.

How to enter navigation law?
To work as a solicitor, you can take the Bar Qualifying Examination (SQE) or, if you qualify, you can study the Legal Practice Course (LPC). If you qualify through the SQE, you will need to complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). To prepare for the SQE, we recommend studying one of our SQE courses, which are designed to give you the knowledge and skills for a successful career as a lawyer. If you are eligible to study the LPC you will need to secure a two-year training contract with a law firm. To find out which path is right for you, visit our Becoming a Lawyer page. Once you have completed your two-year training contract or QWE, you can apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to be admitted as a solicitor. To become a barrister, you must complete a law degree before completing the Bar Practice Course (BPC) or a conversion course if you are not a law graduate. You must therefore protect the student. We also offer a variety of Master of Law (LLM) courses to help you transition into shipping law. You can study a Master of Law (LLM) in International Trade Law, Labor Law or International Commercial Law to give you the knowledge and skills you need to enter this sector.

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