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Michael Levenstein
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He is a superb litigator and possesses all the precision and tenacity which leaves opponents tied up in knots

Partner, Legal 500 Leading Firm

Michael specialises in construction and engineering disputes, insurance, company law and general commercial litigation. He accepts advisory and court instructions in these and other areas of Hardwicke’s work.

Michael is also an ADR Group Accredited Civil and Commercial Mediator.

In addition to his practice, Michael is Visiting Lecturer at The City Law School, University of London, and actively involved in the life of Lincoln’s Inn, where he regularly volunteers by way of guest lecturing, moot judging and pupillage interview clinics.

He is also a member of the Bar Pro Bono Unit.

Outside of work, Michael was elected one of the youngest-ever Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts for his scholarly contributions to legal reform and philosophy. He also regularly enjoys squash, sailing and fencing, and is a classically-trained pianist.

Adjudication

Michael has wide-ranging experience with all aspects of adjudication, from jurisdictional issues to enforcement. He regularly advises and participates in adjudication proceedings.

Recent work

  • Currently acting on behalf of a leading scaffolding contractor in respect of a c. £200,000 dispute involving, inter alia, the incorporation of terms concerning liquidated damages, the contractual method for valuing the works, off-hire rates and losses arising from the employer’s delay.
  • Currently acting on behalf of a large plant hire and groundworks contractor in respect of a 6-figure payment dispute arising out of the construction of a wind farm in Devon. Specific issues include unpaid variations, the applicability of the dayworks rate and the incorrect measurement of quantities.
  • Kersfield Developments (Bridge Road) Limited v Bray and Slaughter Limited [2017] EWHC 15 (TCC) – Junior Counsel (led by Michael Wheater) successfully acting for the contractor in enforcing a £1.2 million adjudicator’s decision in respect of an interim payment application. Other issues included whether an estoppel by convention had arisen between the parties, the validity of pay less notices and if the employer was entitled to stay judgment on the basis of insolvency and manifest injustice. In addition to confirming the courts’ orthodox approach toward adjudication enforcement, the judgment of O’Farrell J provided new analysis of section 111 of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.
  • Successfully representing a firm of civil and structural engineers against an adjudication claim for £400,000 based on allegations of late, defective and incomplete design arising from an M&E appointment to a residential development in Horsham.
  • Acting on behalf of the homeowner in adjudication proceedings (pursuant to the RIBA Scheme for Consumer Contracts) concerning the contractor’s failure to complete a large-scale loft conversion valued at c. £140,000. The proceedings raised issues concerning property damage, defective design and liquidated damages flowing from project delays.
  • Advising and acting (led by David Pliener) on behalf of an international balcony design and manufacturing company in relation to a c. £600,000 adjudication claim concerning the incorporation of a liquidated damages clause into a subcontract.
  • Acting on behalf of the employer in a 6-figure adjudication claim relating to payment provisions arising from design and construction of a 15-storey residential tower in Battersea and which raised issues concerning contract formation and the jurisdiction of the adjudicator.
  • Advising (led by David Pliener) a firm of quantity surveyors in relation to a 6-figure adjudication claim concerning the contract sum analysis of the redevelopment of Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol.

Construction Insurance

In addition to his arbitration work in this regard, Michael is well-versed in construction-related insurance policies, ranging from public and employers’ liability to construction all risks.

He is a contributing author to Sweet & Maxwell’s Construction Professional Indemnity Insurance.

Construction Litigation

Michael has extensive experience across most areas of construction litigation and advisory work, ranging from professional negligence to health and safety regulations.

In his first few months of practice, Michael was selected as a TECBAR marshal appointed to Coulson J (as he then was) and O’Farrell J in the Technology and Construction Court.

He is currently co-editor (with John Bradley and Simon Kerry) of the British Steelwork Constructional Association’s handbook on standard form construction contracts.

Recent work

  • Advising (with Charles Bagot QC) on the effect of a Final Order in the National Oilwell Varco v Constructiewerken litigation before the English Commercial Court in proceedings subsequently issued in the Court of Rotterdam. The dispute concerned, inter alia, the collapse of a derrick crane at a Singaporean port which caused over $20 million in loss and damage. Issues arising included whether an English procedural judgment could give rise to res judicata or cause of action estoppel abroad and whether companies within the same group acted as privies of each other.
  • Acting on behalf of a bespoke kitchen designer against a claim for unpaid goods and services in circumstances where it was disputed that such debts were not part of an asset sale agreement entered into between the defendant and a predecessor company.
  • Advising and acting on behalf of a large scaffolding contractor in respect of c. £200,000 in unpaid fees relating to the supply of independent tied scaffolding and a two-tonne passenger hoist for each of three tower blocks in northwest London.
  • Acting on behalf of a large agricultural contractor in its claim for unpaid works in excess of £200,000 relating to drainage and trenching at a wind farm in Devon. The dispute concerns, inter alia, the valuation of additional works, the applicability of dayworks rates and the correct measurement of works listed in the bill of quantities.
  • Acting on behalf of the counterclaiming homeowner in proceedings concerning the large-scale extension of a property in Northamptonshire and which involve the incorporation of contractual specifications, the definition of contingency costs and whether additional works were defective and included within the original scope of works. The dispute concerning whether the works are defective raises a number of highly-technical issues including the installation of rooflight upstands, the re-sizing of picture frame steel restraints, removal of a supporting dwarf wall and failing to galvanise steel beams within external walls.
  • Acting and advising on behalf of a major food manufacturer in respect of the case management and consolidation of claims in the Leeds TCC arising from, inter alia, the installation of a defective electric switch panel causing losses in excess of £900,000.
  • Acting on behalf of the homeowner in a claim for substantial damages arising from a defective loft conversion against contractors which failed to identify load-bearing walls, locate noggings at the correct points and provide adequate support for framing members generally. The parties also dispute the division of design and build responsibilities during the project.
  • Successfully defending a claim for breach of contract arising from the installation of fire doors as part of a £600,000 extension and refurbishment project at a nursery school in Hampshire.
  • Successfully acting for the defendant chartered surveyor in a claim for unpaid fees arising from the 6-figure renovation and extension of a Surrey property.
  • Drafting a Defence and Counterclaim in a dispute arising from the 6-figure re-roofing and installation of new windows at a site on Worthing Pier concerning, inter alia, the treatment of VAT following non-compliant payment applications, subcontractor liability under the Construction Industry Scheme and breach of warranty post-completion of the works.
  • Acting on behalf of a London borough in a claim for property damage involving, inter alia, negligence, breach of statutory and non-delegable duties and vicarious liability.
  • Acting on behalf of the defendant contractor in a claim for breach of contract and negligence arising from the construction and design of bespoke wet rooms in a London townhouse.
  • Successfully representing the City of Westminster in its claim for unpaid service charges relating to major refurbishment works to a block of flats which arose out of a dispute concerning whether the landlord had complied with the consultation requirements set out in section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Construction Arbitration

Michael has already been involved in construction arbitration and this is a developing area of his practice.

Recent work

  • A v B – Junior Counsel (led by Paul Reed QC) advising and drafting on behalf of the successful global insurer in a €13m international arbitration concerning a defects exclusion under a Construction All Risks (CAR) policy relating to a major infrastructure project in Denmark. Among the key issues were the distinction between ‘damage’ and ‘defect’ for the purposes of CAR policies and the relevance of fortuity to coverage.

Property Damage

Michael has a specialist property damage practice, the following being a list of selected recent cases.

  • Successfully acting on behalf of the landlord in a two-day trial concerning losses flowing from abandonment of site and faulty waterproofing of an Oxfordshire rental property, obtaining judgment for the sum of c. £85,000.
  • Successfully acting on behalf of Transport for London in a claim for property damage to signalling equipment and outstanding fees due to TfL personnel arising from a motor vehicle accident at an intersection along Kew Road.
  • Successfully acting on behalf of a landlord in a two-day trial concerning property damage and significant rent arrears by the tenants of a London townhouse.
  • Successfully representing the claimant at trial in his claim for substantial rent arrears against a former tenant amid allegations of property damage.

Banking & Finance

Michael has a particular interest in claims involving financial institutions.

Recent work

  • Drafted Particulars of Claim on behalf of a pensions advisor in its claim for breach of contract against an IT services provider which, inter alia, failed to transfer sensitive commercial data, breached various FCA obligations, unlawfully retained domain names and acted more generally in breach of its obligations of good faith.
  • Advised an investment firm whether the costs incurred in bringing legal proceedings against two international banks could be claimed under the FCA Redress Scheme.

Civil Fraud & Asset Tracing

Civil fraud and asset tracing claims play an increasing role in Michael’s practice.

Recent work

  • Advising in respect of the scope of representation and conflicts of interest in the ongoing Bluemountain v Yuksel litigation concerning claims in misrepresentation and deceit following the issuing of $200 million in senior notes and associated restructurings of the Turkish construction and infrastructure giant.

Commercial Arbitration

Michael has a particular interest in arbitration work, a developing area of his practice.

Recent work

  • A v B – Junior Counsel (led by Paul Reed QC) advising and drafting on behalf of the successful global insurer in a €13m international arbitration concerning a defects exclusion under a Construction All Risks (CAR) policy relating to a major infrastructure project in Denmark. Among the key issues were the distinction between ‘damage’ and ‘defect’ for the purposes of CAR policies and the relevance of fortuity to coverage.

Commercial Litigation

Michael has a successful practice extending across most types of commercial dispute, whether advisory or contentious, and acts on behalf of both businesses and individuals.

He is well-versed in a wide number of procedural and substantive applications, ranging from pre-action disclosure and security for costs to urgent injunctive relief and enforcement proceedings.

Recent cases include:

  • Humphryes and others v Ringway Infrastructure and Ringway Jacobs (ET Nos. 3301019/2015, 2302194/2015, 3302271/2015)Successfully acting on behalf of a nationwide firm of solicitors in proceedings arising from one of the largest wasted costs applications to date. Subsequent instructions included case management of a group action consisting of hundreds of members in claims for unpaid holiday benefits in the Employment Appeal Tribunal: Minster Law v Olive and Ringway Infrastructure & Ors (UKEAT/0034/17/JOJ), Minster Law v Humphryes and Lafarge Aggregates & Ors (UKEAT/0035/17/JOJ) and Ringway Infrastructure & Ors v Humphryes and Minster Law (UKEAT/0036/17/JOJ).
  • Currently acting on behalf of a well-known land agency in respect of substantial introduction fees due on several plots of land sold for c. £19 million in and around Luton. The related cases involve issues of contract formation, intra-group corporate liability, misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.
  • Successfully setting aside a default judgment against a professional letting and managing agent concerning claims of conversion and uncollected rent and involving issues of undisclosed agency, breach of warranty of authority and whether attempts to wind up the company amounted to an abuse of process.
  • Acting on behalf of a defendant car dealership in a claim brought by Volkswagen Financial Services involving issues of, inter alia, theft, the nemo dat rule, hire purchase and the RAC BuySure scheme.
  • Acting on behalf of the defendant in a counterclaim arising from the alleged conversion of five motor vehicles which raised issues of contractual liens, bailment and unjust enrichment.
  • Successfully representing a high-end publisher in its claim for unpaid invoices against a bespoke retailer advertising in a commemorative yearbook for Rolls-Royce.
  • Representing a claimant in an action to recover substantial gambling winnings whilst refuting allegations of participation in a syndicate.

He has a busy advisory practice, recent matters including:

  • Advising a pre-eminent health and safety training accreditor as to whether publication of its authoritative code of practice amounted to an abuse of dominant position under UK and EU competition law.
  • Advising whether terms of good faith were breached in a substantial contract between a multinational manufacturer and its brands agent in central Africa.
  • Advising a high-end manufacturer of home furniture on the applicability of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 concerning the rights to cancel and refund orders of bespoke goods and the extent to which the manufacturer should amend its terms and conditions of sale.
  • Advising and drafting Particulars of Claim in respect of remedies (namely the right of refund versus substitution) available to a private purchaser of a faulty motor vehicle under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 where there had been improvement to the original goods used as part-payment by way of exchange and losses concerning long-term storage costs of the faulty vehicle.

Companies, Joint Ventures & Partnerships

Michael’s interest and experience in this area is underlined by the fact that he is Visiting Lecturer in Company Law at The City Law School, University of London. His seminars cover the major topics within the subject, including the constitution of companies, share capital, directors’ duties, validation orders and corporate insolvency.

Joint venture and partnership work also play an important role in Michael’s caseload.

Recent work

  • Successfully represented an antique jewellery dealer in a partnership dispute concerning, inter alia, breach of contract, business tenancies, joint ventures and a claim in restitution.

Construction Professionals

Michael’s construction practice complements his handling professional negligence claims against construction professionals.

Recent work

  • Acted for a landlord against a professional letting and managing agent in a claim for breach of contract and negligence arising from failures to conduct credit checks of prospective tenants, obtain guarantors on their behalf, indemnify lost rental income and repair costs and comply with the ARLA Code of Practice.

Financial Professionals, Insolvency Professionals, Directors & Officers

Michael’s commercial practice includes professional negligence claims against financial professionals such as recently:

  • Advising and acting on behalf of a 7-party claim in professional negligence against a firm of accountants for, inter alia, inadequate and delayed financial analysis concerning the cash flow of private trusts, miscalculation of tax due on foreign income, failure to advise on VAT registration status and late filing of tax returns to HMRC.

Development

Michael is involved in a number of claims involving development projects.

Recent work

  • Currently acting on behalf of a well-known land agency in respect of substantial introduction fees due on several development sites sold for c. £19 million in and around Luton. The related cases involve issues of contract formation, intra-group corporate liability, misrepresentation and unjust enrichment.
  • Advising a real estate developer in respect of planning permission to convert woodland into a multi-million pound gated community.

Housing (Social & Privately Rented)

Michael has experience with housing claims, including recently:

  • Defending the landlord in possession proceedings in which disrepair and breach of the statutory tenancy deposit rules were alleged, the former giving rise to a suspended improvement notice issued by the local authority under the Housing Act 2004.

Leasehold & Leasehold Management

Leasehold claims are an on-going part of Michael’s practice.

Recent cases

  • Acted on behalf of a residents’ right to manage company against one of the largest estate management companies in the country concerning unaudited lessee accounts, property defects and excessive service charges.
  • Successfully set aside default judgment against a professional letting and managing agent concerning claims of conversion and uncollected rent and involving issues of undisclosed agency, breach of warranty of authority and whether attempts to wind up the company amounted to an abuse of process.

 

Real Property & Mortgages

Michael frequently advises and acts on behalf of mortgage lenders in a wide variety of matters, including possession proceedings, orders for sale and securing charges over commercial and residential property.

Corporate Insolvency

Michael’s commercial and construction work often involves him in corporate insolvency matters.

Recent work

  • Successfully acted on behalf of a large wholesale distributor in extending an administration order to continue proceedings for £1.5 million in unpaid goods supplied to Debenhams. The application raised issues of the distributor’s right to extend administration where the net proceeds of litigation had been assigned.

Personal Insolvency

Michael has advised and acted in numerous bankruptcy disputes, ranging from petitions and annulment proceedings to contested statutory demands and applying for retrospective permission for a bankrupt to serve as company director. He was recently successful in acting on behalf of an employer in revoking an IVA entered into by a contractor on the grounds of unfair prejudice and material irregularity (including non-disclosure of assets and liabilities to the supervisor).

Costs Litigation

Michael is developing expertise in the specialist area of costs litigation.

Recent cases

  • Humphryes and others v Ringway Infrastructure and Ringway Jacobs (ET Nos. 3301019/2015, 2302194/2015, 3302271/2015)Successfully acted on behalf of a nationwide firm of solicitors in proceedings arising from one of the largest wasted costs applications to date. Subsequent instructions included case management of a group action consisting of hundreds of members in claims for unpaid holiday benefits in the Employment Appeal Tribunal: Minster Law v Olive and Ringway Infrastructure & Ors (UKEAT/0034/17/JOJ), Minster Law v Humphryes and Lafarge Aggregates & Ors (UKEAT/0035/17/JOJ) and Ringway Infrastructure & Ors v Humphryes and Minster Law (UKEAT/0036/17/JOJ).
  • Humphryes and others v Lafarge Aggregates & Ors (ET No. 3304540/2010) (led by PJ Kirby QC) – Acted on behalf of a firm of solicitors in defending one of the largest wasted costs applications to date (in excess of £1 million). The case concerned, inter alia, the scope of the Employment Tribunal’s wasted costs jurisdiction, the procedural nature of wasted costs hearings and their assessment and the correct interpretation of the three-stage test in Ridehalgh v Horsfield [1994] Ch 205.
  • Advised an investment firm whether the costs incurred in bringing legal proceedings against two international banks could be claimed under the FCA Redress Scheme.

Contentious Probate & Inheritance Act Claims

Michael has a specialist interest in contentious probate and Inheritance Act claims.

Recent work

  • Successfully represented the administratrix in a two-day trial in obtaining possession of the former family home amid counterclaims in proprietary estoppel and under the Inheritance Act. Issues included the correct interpretation of the intestacy rules, the validity of an oral disposition of property and whether the estate was entitled to an indemnity in respect of property damage caused by a trespasser.
  • Successfully represented the claimant in Part 8 probate proceedings arising from breach of trustee duties concerning unlawful retention of c. £250,000 following the sale of an estate.
  • Acting on behalf of the joint legal owner of the family home (valued at c. £400,000) amid an inheritance dispute where the original owner died intestate. Issues arising include the extent to which competing claims for beneficial interest on the grounds of proprietary estoppel may be established where the deceased was professionally advised as to the mechanics of survivorship.

Client testimonials

 

“From the first phone call with Michael, I could tell immediately that I was in safe hands. Even in a difficult case, he has a knack of cutting through the noise and drilling down on the key issues.   This makes clients feel at ease and confident in the direction and conduct of the litigation.” – Instructing Solicitor

“Michael is able to get up to speed with even a long and drawn-out case quickly and successfully turn it around overnight. He is an effective and forceful cross-examiner with even the most difficult witnesses and his attention to detail is outstanding.” –  Client

“Michael’s excellent attention to detail means that he finds angles to provide that all important fighting chance. Michael is reassuring in his approach but pragmatic, which is very helpful as an insurer client. He has my complete trust in dealing with matters.” – Instructing Solicitor

“His attention towards the guidance and support of his client along with the simultaneous control of negotiations is remarkable…an extremely competent cross-examiner.”  – Client

“Michael’s charm, pragmatism and commerciality has the ability to put clients at ease. His depth of knowledge and ability to think on his feet make him a highly effective trial counsel.” – Instructing Solicitor

Publications

As Sole Author

  • Maxims of Equity: A Juridical Critique of the Ethics of Chancery Law (New York: Algora, 2014)
  • The End of Knowledge: A Discourse on the Unification of Philosophy (New York: Algora, 2013)

As Editor

  • Contractual Handbook for Steelwork Contractors and other Specialist Contractors (with John Bradley and Simon Kerry, due to be published by the British Steelwork Constructional Association later this year)

As Contributor

  • Construction Professional Indemnity Insurance (Sweet & Maxwell, 2018)
  • Insurance Broking Practice and the Law, edited by CMS Cameron McKenna (Informa loose-leaf), 2015-present

Articles & seminars

Articles

  • Loson v Stack and Newlyn plc [2018] EWCA Civ 803: A Case Analysis’, Corporate Rescue and Insolvency, Vol 11, Issue 3 (June 2018)
  • ‘What’s the Damage? Revisiting the Correct Measure of Loss in Negligent Surveyor Cases’, Practical Law Construction, 1 August 2018
  • ‘Where Angels Fear to Tread: The Limits of Good Faith in Commercial Contracts’, Journal of International Banking and Financial Law, Vol 32, Issue 9 (October 2017)
  • ‘A Commentary on Kersfield Developments v Bray and Slaughter [2017] EWHC 15 (TCC)’, Lexology, 7 February 2017
  • Bailey v Angrove’s Pty [2016] UKSC 47: A Case Analysis’, Lexology, 28 October 2016
  • ‘Going Nuclear: Britain’s Big Bet on Hinkley Point’, Practical Law Construction, 7 October 2016
  • ‘From Student to Pupil: How to Sell Yourself to Chambers’, The Times, 16 October 2014
  • ‘The End of Ethics? A Quest for Moral Clarity and Consolidation’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Winter 2013
  • ‘The Redemption of Equity: An Examination of Lingering Defects in the Corpus of Chancery Law’, Per Incuriam (Cambridge Law Society Review), 87th Ed., Michaelmas 2013

He is also a regular contributor to Corporate Rescue and Insolvency (LexisNexis).

Seminars

In addition to his role as Visiting Lecturer at The City Law School, University of London, Michael frequently hosts and participates in talks relating to academic topics and legal practice, a selection appearing below:

  • ‘Defects and Final Account Claims’ (Hardwicke, September 2018)
  • ‘Recoverable Losses in Property Damage Cases’ (Hardwicke, April 2018)
  • ‘Tactical and Practical Considerations in Legal Analysis’ (The City Law School, November 2017)
  • ‘Challenging Jurisdiction in Adjudication’ (Hardwicke, October 2017)
  • ‘Payment Provisions in Construction Contracts’ (Hardwicke, March 2017)
  • ‘Reinterpreting the Doctrine of Necessity: When Should it be Legal to Break the Law?’ (University of Oxford, Hilary Term 2017, based on forthcoming monograph)
  • ‘Recovery of Cost of Reinstatement in Property Damage Insurance Policies’ (Hardwicke, January 2017)
  • ‘Strike Out and Summary Judgment: Tactical Considerations in Civil Litigation’ (Hardwicke, November 2016)
  • ‘Tackling the Practicalities of Advising Commercial Clients’ (The City Law School, November 2016)
  • ‘Issues of Enforcement and Insolvency arising from Construction Adjudication’ (Hardwicke, November 2016)
  • ‘Addressing the Practical Issues of a Legal Problem’ (The City Law School, June 2016)
  • ‘Estoppel by Convention: A shield, a sword, or a little bit of both? A Brief Look at the Mears v Shoreline Trilogy’ (Hardwicke, October 2015)

Professional associations

  • Society of Construction Law
  • TECBAR
  • British Insurance Law Association
  • London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association
  • Bar Pro Bono Unit

Qualifications

  • LL.M. (Distinction, highest mark in year) – The City Law School, London
  • Bar Professional Training Course (‘Very Competent’) – The City Law School, London
  • BA (with Honours and Commonwealth Scholarship) in Law – Trinity College, Cambridge (graduated in two years)
  • MSc in Comparative Social Policy – St Cross College, Oxford
  • BA in political science, summa cum laude – University of Pennsylvania (graduated two years early)

Scholarships

  • Wolfson Scholarship
  • Cassel Scholarship
  • Scholar, Denning Society
  • Hardwicke Entrance Scholarship

Whilst a BPTC student, Michael was one-half of the team which won the national Inter-Provider Moot Competition, hosted by Lincoln’s Inn and which took place across four rounds. The topic of the final round was disgorgement of profits and loss of amenity in contractual breach claims. He similarly was one-half of the winning team awarded the Lincoln’s Inn Debating Shield for 2015.

CSR

Michael is an active member of the Bar Pro Bono Unit.

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