Called: 1989 Silk: 2011
Poonam Melwani QC is a commercial silk who practises across the full spectrum of commercial, insurance, energy and shipping law, providing advisory and advocacy services. Praised as "...always in demand, she is as good on her feet as she is adept at mastering complex legal, factual and expert material...." (Chambers UK) Poonam has been ranked as a 'Leading Silk' over many years by the Legal Directories. She represents clients in a wide variety of jurisdictions and arbitral regimes including ICC, LCIA, LMAA and ad hoc, as well as English High Court Litigation, mainly in the Commercial Court and the Appellate Courts.
Poonam’s clients want her for their “difficult cases” where innovative thinking and oversight of a large team, complex issues and mult-strands are necessary. In Commerzbank v Pauline Shipping  1 WLR 3497 Poonam successfully argued that asymmetrical jurisdiction clauses, prevalent in banking agreements, are exclusive jurisdiction clauses for the purposes of Brussels 1 Recast, an issue and judgment which has attracted widespread attention. She concluded the CSAV v Hin Pro Litigation  2 Lloyds Rep 1 (Court of Appeal) and  1 Lloyds Rep 301 where a new approach to damages for breach of exclusive jurisdiction clause was adopted. Poonam recently concluded Latin American Investments v Maroil Trading involving joint venture shareholders of a fleet of vessels and complex allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, secret profits and fraud and where Poonam successfully obtained a WWFO of over US$60 million. Poonam led an entirely new team in the action of Zumax v FCMB on the imposition of trusts/equitable obligations in the context of international bank transfers involving correspondent banks, successfully overturning the judgment entered against the bank, in a claim pleaded at over US$210 million.
Poonam has also acted on an enormous amount of marine insurance work and significant re-insurance work. Cases include: The US$20 million reinsurance dispute of Beazley Underwriting Ltd v Al Ahleia Insurance Co  Lloyds Rep I.R. 561 where Poonam successfully represented insurers and made new law and two recent confidential scuttling cases.
"She is a QC who gets heavily into the minute detail of a case and stays on top of all the arguments."(Chambers UK, 2020)
"She will always find a solution in a difficult case."(Chambers UK, 2020)
"Poonam is dynamic and likeable."(Chambers UK, 2020)
"She is robust and rigorous in her preparation and she manages to combine this with a very personable approach."(Legal 500, 2020)
"Pragmatic, clear-sighted and very user-friendly." "Very much dedicated to the case and a pleasure to work with."(Chambers UK, 2019)
"She has in-depth knowledge and experience."(Legal 500 2019)
"...Very impressive." "User-friendly, practical, quick and bright. She is responsive and very good on her feet...."(Chambers UK, 2018)
"...A fantastic advocate..."(Legal 500, 2017)
"...Incredibly hard-working, she will leave no stone unturned to fight your case..."(Chambers UK, 2017)
"...Excellent...."(Legal 500, 2016)
"...she is a phenomenal advocate. When she fights a case for her clients, she leaves no stone unturned..."(Chambers UK 2016)
"...she has a good ability to think outside the box." "She is very tenacious and hard-working..."(Chambers UK, 2015)
"...stands out from the crowd, because of her confident approach and particularly strong advocacy..."(Legal 500 2014)
"...exudes intellect and approaches matters in highly analytical fashion..."(Chambers UK 2010)
"...always in demand, she is as good on her feet as she is adept at mastering complex legal, factual and expert material...."(Chambers UK 2010)
Dry Shipping forms a large part of Poonam's practice, with instructions covering all types of charterparty, bill of lading, sale of goods and ship-sale disputes. The cases raise legal issues, proper ship-management issues as well as technical expert issues of all types e.g. proper carriage techniques, training of crew, ship stability, fatigue cracking, engine breakdowns, bunker disputes and explosive cargoes are just some of the areas where Poonam has extensive experience. Illustrative cases include:-
Poonam has experience of collision cases and the important procedural and jurisdictional issues that arise in the Admiralty Court concerning arrests, forced sales and sister ship arrests. She has also acted on cases as to arrest powers and collision cases
Poonam is often instructed in substantial commercial disputes requiring a mastery of voluminous documentation, an understanding of wider commercial relationships and needs and innovative analyses.
She is also regularly involved in a large number of cases requiring pre-emptive and other-procedural remedies such as freezing and anti-suit injunctions. Poonam has obtained several injunctions against substantive proceedings, security and arrest measures and obtained orders for imprisonment for contempt when injunctions are not obeyed – see e.g CSAV v Hin-Pro Intl Logistics Ltd  EWHC 987. She has also acted on behalf of a number of high profile international companies resisting wide ranging asset disclosure and freezing injunctions.
Other illustrative cases include:
Poonam has done an enormous amount of marine insurance work and significant re-insurance work where successful advice and litigation in this area require an appreciation of the unique policy and commercial considerations applicable to the insurance field. Illustrative cases include:-
"Pragmatic, clear-sighted and very user-friendly." "Very much dedicated to the case and a pleasure to work with."(Chambers UK 2019)
MA Cantab (Law)
COMBAR, Supporting Member LMAA
Acted on behalf of “CORE”; in a judicial review application against the decision of the HFEA to allow research into animal-human hybrid embryos.
Married, 4 Children.