“Intellectually outstanding” and “strategically perceptive”, William Hopkin is a first-choice for complex litigation and technical advice. Whilst being a “great orator”, “able to disarm the most aggressive opponents”, he remains a “personable barrister who can relate to clients”. (Quotes from The Legal 500, UK Bar)
William’s breadth of knowledge and experience, across high-level commercial Chancery practice, enables him to be “exceptionally skilled at identifying the crux of an issue, finding a sensible and pragmatic resolution to cases”.
He is commended for the clarity and focus that he brings to difficult matters, with solicitors describing him as “extremely able at assimilating complex information quickly” and “very astute”.
William has acted in a range of notable matters that combine the overlapping areas of his practice: company, commercial, property, trusts and charity – the last being a particular area of specialty. Recent examples of his work include: successfully appearing in the leading authority on fiduciary relations and bribes in commercial transactions (Wood & Pengelly v Commercial First et al  EWCA Civ 471); being appointed to conduct an independent investigation for a national charity; and tackling company issues in respect of one of the UK’s largest estates dedicated to charity.
William acts for a spectrum of organisations including universities, banks, public bodies and charities, as well as for private individuals and companies. Over the last 20 years, he has served on the board of a number of organisations, operating in the UK and internationally, with this experience giving him a very practical edge. “He is exceptionally talented at offering pragmatic and cost-effective advice” and it has been noted that “his advice is first rate, commercially minded, and pragmatic”.
William is, also, an accredited mediator, and a member of the Society of Mediators. In 2022 he mediated a range of matters such as rights of way, unlawful eviction, noise, nuisance, boundaries and privacy.
William was elected to the Executive Committee of the Charity Law Association in July 2023.
*Quotes are from the Legal 500 UK Bar
Charities & Not-for-Profits
Noted for his “excellent knowledge of charity law” (Legal 500, 2023), William is a leading barrister in cases involving all aspects of charity and philanthropy. His clients include national charities, philanthropists, schools and universities, public bodies, specialist organisations and ancient foundations.
He is able to draw upon his company, commercial, property and trusts expertise to deliver a multi-faceted analysis to complex charity problems. He also has intimate knowledge of the practical workings of charities from his long experience as a trustee.
William was elected to the Executive Committee of the Charity Law Association in July 2023 and was previously co-chair of the [‘CLA’] Annual Conference in 2017 and 2018. He has sat on the CLA’s Executive Committee and chaired a number of sector working parties.
He is a scholar of the history of charity law and has delivered a popular series of lectures tracing the origins of charitable legal structures and the principles underlying the jurisdiction.
Recent highlights in practice include:
- His appointment as ‘independent investigator’ to conduct a fact-finding exercise into alleged impropriety at a national charity
- Advising on company and charity issues in respect of one of the UK’s largest legacies to charity
- Providing a structure for the enforcement of a major public grant-making programme
- Advising as to the validity of a trust holding prime real estate for a community body
- Successfully concluding “charity proceedings” centred on a dispute between rival trustee bodies
William’s expertise covers, in both a contentious and advisory context:
- The interpretation of governing documents, Wills and historic bequests
- Saving gifts and trusts intended for charity
- Reformulating and restructuring charities
- Forensic analysis in respect of complex property transactions involving charities
- Contentious registrations, and issues as to charitable purpose and public benefit
- The full spectrum of legal structures through which charities operate, including companies, associations, trusts, charters, statute, CIO’s and societies
- Trustee duties and conflicts, and remedies for breach of obligations
- “Charity Proceedings” under s.115 Charities Act 2011
- Trading and commercial arrangements
William has excellent technical knowledge and is focussed on delivering sensible, practical advice, to enable charities and social purpose organisations to fulfil their objectives.
He is a member of the CLA and Philanthropy Impact.
William is a renowned authority on bribes, undisclosed commissions and breaches of fiduciary duty. This is reflective of his broader commercial practice which combines his expertise in agency, trusts, contract, property and regulation. He is a “great orator”, “whose sensible litigation style is well-received by the judge”, and appears in the Court of Appeal, Commercial Court and the High Court more generally.
In commercial matters, William is described as “intellectually outstanding” and “strategically perceptive”. Drawing on the breadth of his expertise, “he is exceptionally skilled at identifying the crux of an issue, finding a sensible and pragmatic resolution to cases”
Recent highlights include:
- Successfully appearing in the Court of Appeal in what is now the leading authority on fiduciary relations in commercial transactions tainted by bribes (Wood & Pengelly v Commercial First  EWCA Civ 471).
- Advising as to the enforcement of a £10 million per year grant programme, including as to common law and equitable remedies
- Setting aside, at trial, a guarantee on the basis of undue influence between company shareholders (and domestic partners)
- Advising as to the legal basis of the holding of a £20 million site by linked organisations
- Advising a bank as to a failures with regards to historic lending practices in respect of a struggling business
- He takes a practical and constructive approach, which combines attention to detail, technical expertise and business sense.
William’s expertise covers:
- All aspects of serious commercial litigation
- Injunctions and urgent applications
- Asset-tracing and recovery
- Advice and drafting in relation to commercial arrangements
- A broad spectrum of commercial activity, including:
- Joint ventures, partnerships and SPV’s
- Financial services and mortgages
- Public sector contracts
- Associated professional negligence and property matters
- Cooperatives, unincorporated associations and clubs
He is a member of Combar.
Company & Partnership
William’s company litigation practice focuses on shareholder disputes, unfair prejudice claims, board room conflict and breaches of duty. He is also regularly instructed in disputes with company law elements, for example with regards to distributions, agency, authority, director remuneration, meetings and resolutions.
As well as contentious business, William advises in relation to transactions and corporate arrangements, often as part of a multi-disciplinary team. This has concerned capital requirements, shareholdings, distributions, resolutions, regulatory compliance and corrective action.
William combines technical expertise, in respect of company legislation and principles, with practical insight, gained from experience, including from sitting on a number of boards.
He has advised, and litigated, in a number of sectors, including mining, technology, education, investments, healthcare, construction and railways.
Recent highlights include:
- Successfully concluding proceedings for the acquisition of shares on the basis of deadlock provisions – a case that included allegations of unfair prejudice and breach of directors’ duties
- An unfair prejudice claim in respect of an engineering company where there was an attempted cessation of trade following a relationship breakdown
- Advising as to the remedial steps required in relation to the erroneous payment of dividends from a capital redemption reserve.
- Providing solutions to a cooperative, registered under the Companies Acts, in respect of entrenched provisions (involving mutuals’ legislation)
- Advising as to breach of directors’ duties in the context of companies included in a high-profile Will.
William’s company expertise covers:
- All aspects of serious company litigation
- Shareholder and director disputes
- Company register, share and distribution issues
- Remedial action in respect of regulatory non-compliance
- Corporate insolvency
- Claims against directors of insolvent companies
In addition to company work, William has acted in a range of partnership matters, mostly contentious. Cases have included: advising as to the existence and operation of an unwritten partnership, in respect of an agricultural estate; and, acting for the departing partner of a solicitors’ firm in High Court proceedings.
He is available to provide advice at short notice in relation to interim remedies and emergency action.
William is an accredited mediator, and a member of the Society of Mediators. In 2022 he mediated a range of matters such as rights of way, unlawful eviction, noise, nuisance, boundaries and privacy.
- Poland Prize Scholar – Inner Temple
- Duke of Edinburgh Exhibitioner – Inner Temple
- Prize for Civil Litigation – Bar Vocational Course, College of Law
- Bar Vocational Course, College of Law: Very Competent
- Graduate Diploma in Law, College of Law: Commendation
- BA Hons, University of Exeter
- Magdalen College School
- Executive Committee of the Charity Law Association (2023, previously 2016-2019)
- Charity Law Association
- Commercial Bar Association
- Philanthropy Impact
What the directories say
“William is intellectually outstanding. He is strategically perceptive, assimilates facts and complex law quickly, and provides high level advice. A personable barrister who can relate to clients.”
Legal 500 2023 – Commercial Litigation: Tier 1
“He has an excellent knowledge of charity law”
Legal 500 2023
“In court, he is able to readily get to the crux of the issue and his well-reasoned and sensible litigation style is well received by the judge and opposition alike. He is exceptionally talented at offering pragmatic and cost-effective advice.”
Legal 500 2022
“He is exceptionally skilled at identifying the crux of the issue, finding a sensible and pragmatic resolution to cases.”
Legal 500 2021
“His advice is first rate, commercially minded, and pragmatic.”
Legal 500 2021
“Very astute and a great orator”
Legal 500, 2019
“Extremely able at assimilating complex information quickly”
Legal 500, 2017
“[He] has an ability to disarm the most aggressive opponents with his frank, considered and calm approach”
Legal 500, 2016