John Whiteoak

Herbert Smith Freehills

It’s not every day that a commercial lawyer gets to say they believe their work is making a genuine impact in the lives of vulnerable people – but for John Whiteoak, 2023 marked two significant victories on cases that go right into the heart of UK legal reform.

In one of the most high-profile insolvency disputes of the country last year, Whiteoak secured a win for five former Carillion non-executive directors in a case that absolved his clients of charges that would not only uphold their professional reputations, but also reshape the law for a generation of directors that find themselves in similar positions.

In the same month, Whiteoak also worked hand-in-hand with longtime clients at the Human Dignity Trust to challenge the constitutionality of a section in the Mauritian Criminal Code dated back to 1838. The Supreme Court swayed in favour of the trust which brought an end to a provision criminalising private sexual conduct between consenting males.

As an advocate of bringing one’s most authentic self to work, Whiteoak prides himself in the bonds he has developed with his clients and co-workers over gleefully sharing anecdotes about his husband and the latest dishes he is whipping up on his prized Everhot cooker.