James Johnstone



James Johnstone

BA (Hons), Barrister

E:    james.johnstone@pavocatchambers.com

T:    +44 (0) 777 444 5020




James, who has recently returned to private practice after years running his own consultancy company, has decades of experience gained in unravelling the complicated and challenging situations in which his clients found themselves, and it is this unique skill that enabled him to co-found Pavocat Chambers.

Before returning to the Bar in 2020, James spent 21 years successfully managing his own consultancy, Johnstone & Partners.  His consultancy specialised in handling extremely demanding problems and interesting projects for governments, companies, and leading individuals around the world.  During the process of establishing himself as an experienced and trusted advisor, James developed an extensive global contact base of professionals and service providers at the highest level and in almost every field. This network has enabled him, when necessary, to identify, recruit and manage teams to handle almost any problem or request with which he is faced. 

Within a decade, James had gained an enviable reputation for resolving problems that others could not.  His clients appreciated James’s ability to ‘think outside the box’ and to come up with innovative solutions to seemingly impossible requests.  Some of the requests might require a year’s work, but others – such as blackmails – would need to be resolved with the utmost urgency.

After assessing each of those requests on a case-by-case basis, James would either handle them in-house or he would assemble a team of leading specialists – such as lawyers, investigators, and other subject matter experts – to help and advise him on the work performed for his clients.  While some projects might only require a handful of experts, other projects might have teams of hundreds of people working on them.  Ultra-high-value projects involving legal work –  for which James carefully identified and then recruited leading lawyers and specialists in the UK, USA, EU and elsewhere, and then managed them – included: resolving blackmails; undertaking global fraud investigations; identifying, tracing and recovering assets; providing litigation support; mitigating damage to private and corporate reputations; gathering evidence; investigating contractual disputes; redressing human rights violations; advising and supporting clients who were victims variously of sexual abuse, rape (including a child rape case), and torture; establishing a preliminary legal investigation into alleged war crimes; and advising on UHNW divorces and providing support.

As an Unregistered Barrister, James did not provide legal advice, but he ensured two things: first, that his client was receiving – and understood – the best advice possible from leading lawyers; and, secondly, that those lawyers were provided by James and his teams with all the litigation support services they needed.

James regularly gives talks and lectures on the trouble-shooting work he has done and how he does it.  As well as presentations given to his clients’ companies and to professional institutions in the UK and abroad, he was recently the keynote speaker at the two-day Family Office Seminar held by the International Association of Young Lawyers (AIJA).


  • Lincoln’s Inn
  • The South Eastern Circuit


James’s father was a diplomat in the British Foreign Office, which is why James was born in Syria and lived in Pakistan, Cambodia, and Ireland before the family finally returned to live in England.  Quitting art college early, he went on to manage design projects before deciding to read Law at university.  James graduated with a First in Law & English from Oxford Brooks and was named ‘Law Student of the Year’ by Linnel’s.  He was awarded a Hardwicke Scholarship by Lincoln’s Inn, and was called to the Bar in 1993.  While still in his ‘second-six’ pupillage, James successfully argued and won all five grounds of an appeal against conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal, for a client who had been convicted and sentenced to lengthy imprisonment.  The case and the events that took place during and after the appeal had a profound impact upon James and the course of his life and career.  He first committed himself to helping people and to rectifying injustices, and latterly has addressed all his efforts to helping to resolve internationally the harmful consequences of systemic corruption.

James speaks fluent French and conversational Spanish.