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Meet the lawyer

Nikki Chu

Nikki Chu

University: The London School of Economics and Political Science           
Degree: Law
Year of qualification: 2012
Position: Senior associate
Department: Marine and international trade

Did you train at Stephenson Harwood?

I trained and qualified as a shipping litigation associate at a leading shipping law firm in London. I joined Stephenson Harwood when I was nearly two years’ qualified. I was drawn to the firm's world-leading shipping practice and the opportunity to learn from market-leading lawyers.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

I specialise in shipping dispute resolution. I deal with all types of ‘dry’ shipping matters involving various contractual documentation, including charterparties, bills of lading, cargo claims, ship management and shipbuilding. There is a lot of variety in the types of disputes you may act on, for example whether it is dealing with damaged cargo, advising on the contractual liabilities arising out of ship casualties, or advising on issues arising out of a shipping company's insolvency.

I handle a broad range of cases on a day-to-day basis, often with a multi-jurisdictional dimension. I often advise clients on the merits of their claim and work with counsel and foreign lawyers on matters. As cases progress at different rates, this means I can be focusing on different tasks each day. One day I could be issuing an urgent court application, and the next, trying to negotiate a settlement. I have also travelled overseas to attend hearings.

Do many of your cases end up in court?

The majority of my work concerns confidential arbitrations and I have also acted for clients in Court proceedings and mediation. Some cases are also settled without going to a hearing. The objective is to achieve the best outcome for your clients.  

Has coronavirus impacted your practice area?

Covid-19 has thrown up a variety of issues in my practice area, where parties may need advice on their options and the implications of each course of action. For example, there may be delays in constructing vessels under a shipbuilding contract, crew members may fall ill during a voyage, or the authorities may impose restrictions at the load and discharge ports.

What do you most enjoy about your career and why?

I enjoy the variety and intellectually stimulating nature of shipping law, as well as resolving real-time problems. I am constantly working to solve disputes and each one is different from the last. I enjoyed studying contract law at university and I think this is what makes me well suited to shipping disputes.  

Are you involved in the firm’s business development activities?

Yes, I am regularly involved in the firm's BD activities and have regular contact with clients. I have also travelled overseas to visit clients. As well as attending BD networking events, I was seconded to an International Group P&I Club in London, which enabled me to build a relationship with the client and gain an invaluable insight into the resolution of shipping disputes.

How would you rate the firm on diversity?

Stephenson Harwood is a progressive firm and we are encouraged to get involved in pro bono, social mobility and diversity initiatives. I am passionate about widening access to the legal profession, and I am involved in the firm's scholarship scheme for students looking to study law. The scheme aims to improve diversity in law.

What skills/strengths do you need to be successful in your area?

You need to be able to grasp technical and complex concepts, as well as have good analytical and research skills, as shipping work often involves complicated contractual issues. Meticulous attention to detail and the ability to work methodically is key. You should also be commercially minded and able to strategise to identify the best solutions for your clients. Good written and verbal communication skills are also important.

Where is your dream holiday destination?

I would really like to visit Japan. I had planned to go last year but it had to be postponed due to the pandemic. I love Japanese culture and food. It is a beautiful country.