Sir Vivian Ramsey is now an international judge, arbitrator and mediator, following careers in civil engineering and the law. He has spent much of the past five years flying around the world to deal with cases in every continent but will be spending most of his Master’s Year in London and at his house in Kent with his wife Barbara (Lady Ramsey).
He was born in Cambridge and spent his early life near Oxford where he went to Botley Primary School, Christ Church Cathedral School and then Abingdon School (Supported by the Mercers’ Company). When his parents spent a sabbatical year in the US, he went to the Harley School in Rochester N.Y. before travelling to California in a 1957 Chevrolet Belair, taking the CPR train from Vancouver to Montreal and boarding a cargo ship for the return journey to Leith. Soon afterwards his father was appointed Bishop of Durham and he moved to live in County Durham for six years.
After A levels he spent time teaching maths and science at St Michael’s College, Belize City and took the opportunity to travel in Central America and the Caribbean, before boarding a banana boat in Jamaica to return to Southampton. He studied Engineering Science and Economics at Oriel College, Oxford where he was active in college politics, drama productions, a satirical magazine, rowing, hockey and cross-country and also met his wife. On graduating he joined the graduate training school at Ove Arup and Partners and worked as a civil and structural engineer on projects in the UK and overseas. He became a Chartered Civil Engineer and, for two years, worked on site in Tripoli Libya on the project to build a new University.
Whilst walking around the Roman and Greek sites in Libya he decided that he would take a law conversion course. After a further year working in London on offshore and industrial projects, he took leave of absence and studied law at the City University. This led to further study for the Bar at the Inns of Court School of Law, financed by his wife and by working at Ove Arup in vacations. He was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple and then commenced pupillage. He became a tenant practising from what is now Keating Chambers. He soon established a worldwide practice and, after eleven years became the most junior QC in 1992. He practised around the world as an advocate, arbitrator, adjudicator and mediator in technical disputes, particularly related to construction and engineering projects. He acted for governments, public authorities, utilities, international contracting companies, consultancies, architects, engineers and other construction professionals.
He appeared in the High Court, Court of Appeal and, as it was then, the House of Lords as well as overseas courts and was called to the Bar in Hong Kong, Singapore, Brunei and Trinidad for particular cases in those jurisdictions. In 2002 he was elected as a Bencher of Middle Temple and in 2003 he became Head of Keating Chambers. In 2003 he chaired the PNE Committee established under section P6 of the Balancing and Settlement Code to determine a wide range of notification disputes under the NETA trading arrangements in the UK Electricity Industry. In 2005 he was named Construction Silk of the Year.
In 2005 he was appointed as High Court Judge in the Queen’s Bench Division and received a customary knighthood. From 2007 to 2010 he served as judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court in London. He was appointed judge in charge of the court estate in 2011 and was active in the move of the specialist courts into the Rolls Building in Fetter Lane. In April 2012 he became judge in charge of the implementation of the reforms arising out of Sir Rupert Jackson’s Final Report on the Review of Civil Litigation Costs. He also chaired the Judicial Advisory Group on IT for the judiciary. He heard civil cases in London in the High Court, criminal cases in the Court of Criminal Appeal as well as major criminal cases on circuit in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Caernarvon, Chester and Newcastle
He retired as a High Court judge in November 2014, but continues to be a judge on a part-time basis in the High Court in London. In January 2015 he was sworn in as one of the International Judges in the new Singapore International Commercial Court which hears cases started in that court or transferred from the Singapore High Court. He also continues to act as arbitrator in cases in London and overseas as well as acting as mediator, expert and a member of dispute boards. Over his career he has, so far, been appointed as arbitrator in over 150 arbitrations and has carried out about 50 mediations as mediator, worldwide. He also served as a member of the UNIDROIT working group on long term contracts which produced the current UNIDROIT Principles in 2016.
He is the current joint editor of the Tenth Edition of Keating on Construction Contracts which is a standard text in the UK and Common Law countries, having produced the seventh, eighth and ninth editions between 2000 and 2011. He was a founding editor of Construction Law Journal and continues as a Consultant Editor. He has edited or contributed articles to or is a member of the editorial board of a number of other publications in England and overseas.
He was an Honorary Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Nottingham for many years and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College, London where he lectures to students on the course for the MSc in Construction Law and Dispute Resolution. He lectures worldwide on construction and commercial law and procedure. In 2010 he gave the annual Arbitrators’ lecture and in 2011 he gave the annual Paviors’ Lecture. He was made an Honorary Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Paviors in 2011. He is Chair of the Advisory Board of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) in the UK.
He is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2013. In 2010 he received the President’s Medal from the Society of Construction Law and the Clare Edwards Award from the Technology and Construction Solicitors Association. In 2018 he received the Society of Construction Law International Medal in Chicago. He is an honorary Fellow of the American College of Construction Lawyers and was founding President and continues as a Fellow of the International Academy of Construction Lawyers.
In his spare time he stops travelling, spends time with his four children and seven grandchildren and pursues his hobbies of vineyards and building renovation. This has included setting up a vineyard in Kent and renovating a hunting lodge in South West France which once belonged to a member of the English aristocracy, who welcomed distinguished guests in the grande époque. He and his wife continue that tradition and welcome their friends and family at the house.