Lord Woolf was called to the Bar in 1955 and from 1973-74 was junior counsel, Inland Revenue. During this time he represented the Revenue in the majority of their leading cases before the High Court, Court of Appeal and the House of Lords.

In 1974 Lord Woolf was appointed first Treasury Counsel (Common Law) a post which he held for five years. During this time he appeared in a great many of the most important cases of the period on behalf of the Government. In addition he acted as an amicus curiae where the courts required assistance for difficult points of law or policy.

Lord Woolf was appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in 1979, as Lord Justice of Appeal in 1986 and a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1992. Between 1996 and 2000 he held the position of Master of the Rolls and in 2000 was appointed Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales a position from which he retired in September 2005.

In 2003, Lord Woolf was appointed a non permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong, acting as the overseas judge in that Court until 2012. From 2006-2012, he was the first President of the Qatar Financial Centre Civil and Commercial Court, (2006- 2012).

He was named in The Times Law 100 2009 listing one of the most influential lawyers in Britain. Lord Woolf of Barnes “may have retired as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales in 2005 but he has not slowed down”.

Lord Woolf was awarded a Companion of Honour (CH) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2015. The citation read:

Lord Woolf has given a lifetime of service promoting the rule of law, human rights, prison reform and inter-faith dialogue. Following his eponymous report which exposed severe weaknesses in the British prison system and made over 200 recommendations for its improvement, he has continued to serve as Chair of the Prison Reform Trust. As Master of the Rolls, he was responsible for implementing the substantial reforms to Civil Justice he had recommended in his Report to the Lord Chancellor in Access to Justice on England and Wales. As Lord Chief Justice, he navigated the country through a time of significant constitutional change. He was the UK representative to the Group of Wise Persons which drew up a strategy to secure the long term effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights. He has served as Pro-Chancellor of London University and Chair of Council of University College, London. He assisted in establishing the Woolf Interfaith Institute in Cambridge to promote dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews, and remains its patron today.”

Lord Woolf accepts appointments to sit as an arbitrator or mediator; his extensive experience (set out below) also makes him ideally suited to provide expert opinions on matters within his areas of expertise. 




Lord Woolf has had a very long standing interest in alternative dispute resolution and mediation.   His report, Access to Justice, 1996 (“The Woolf Report”) was generally acknowledged to have been a catalyst for the development of ADR in England.  Lord Woolf has lectured on the subject of ADR both in the United Kingdom and in many countries abroad.  He also chaired the network of the Presidents of the Supreme Judicial Courts of the European Union’s Working Group on mediation.  

Lord Woolf is a chartered arbitrator. He has also served as Special Adviser to CEDR and was Co-Chair of the Commission for Settlement in Arbitration and he was a member of CEDR’s Distinguished Panel of Third-Party Neutrals, a panel of CEDR’s most senior dispute resolution experts.

The International Academy of Mediators presented Lord Woolf with a Lifetime Achievement Award at their annual conference in September 2009.



  • Lord Woolf is joint editor (with Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC) of the 7th edition of de Smith, Judicial Review of Administrative Action (2014).  
  • He was editor with J. Woolf of the second edition of Declaratory Judgment in 1993. 
  • In 2008 he produced Pursuit of Justice, a collection of his speeches, writings and lectures.
  • He was author of the Woolf Committee Report ‘Business ethics, global companies and the defence Industry: Ethical business conduct in BAE Systems plc – the way forward’, published May 2008.
  • Lord Woolf has written numerous articles for legal journals.


  • In 1990 he gave the Hamlyn Lecture entitled “Protecting the Public: The New Challenge”.   He is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world on The Rule of Law, Inter-Faith Relations, Prison Reform, Mediation, Arbitration and Human Rights.  
  • His lecture on 1 April 2015 “Strangeways 25 years On” given at the Inner Temple was well received and widely publicised as it highlighted not just the reforms which had taken place since his original Report (published in 1991) but also those areas of improvement which he believes still need addressing.


  • Lord Woolf has a broad range of interests which can be seen from his academic interests, for example as a member and Chairman of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies and as Visitor, Deputy Chairman and (2005) Chairman of the Council of University College, London, where he is also a visiting Professor of Law. He was Pro Chancellor of London University and also holds an honorary LLD, DSc or DLit from twelve Universities including London, Oxford, Cambridge and Malaya.
  • Lord Woolf is a Honorary Fellow of the British Academy, (FBA Hons) the Academy of Medical Sciences, of UCL; the US College of Trial Lawyers, the Royal Society of Medicine.  He also holds honorary degrees from nineteen universities and is an Honorary Member of the American Law Institute.


In September 2011 Lord Woolf  lead an Inquiry on behalf of the International Cricket Council into the governance of Cricket, which was submitted to the ICC in January 2012.

In March 2011 the Council of the London School of Economics and Political Science asked Lord Woolf to conduct an independent external inquiry into the School's relationship with Libya. The Woolf Inquiry was published on 30 November 2011.  

Between September and December 2005 Lord Woolf conducted a review of the working methods of the European Court of Human Rights, reporting in December 2005 to the President of the Court and the Director General of the Council of Europe. In September 2005, Lord Woolf was appointed as the United Kingdom representative to the “Group of Wise Persons”, tasked with drawing up a comprehensive strategy to secure the long-term effectiveness of the European Convention on Human Rights and its control mechanism. The Group submitted an interim report in May 2006 to the 116th Session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.

Lord Woolf is former Chairman of the Bank of England’s Financial Market’s Law Committee. 

Lord Woolf served as a member of the House of Lords Constitution Committee, and The Select Committee into the Inquiries Act 2005.  He was Chairman of the Sub Committee of Members’ Interests; he served on the Special Public Bill Committee on The Insurance Bill 2014/5 and currently serves on the Joint Committee on Human Rights as well as Vice-Chairman of the newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group on The Rule of Law. 

A supporter of prison reform, he is patron of the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPT) and Chairman of the Prison Reform Trust since 2011.

Lord Woolf has been Chairman of Judges for the FIRST Responsible Capitalism Annual Awards since 2006.  These Awards are based on the premise that whilst commercial success is measured by standard criteria, social responsibility involves a far greater sense of the needs of the wider community, in the areas in which business operates, as well as environmental initiatives and support for the arts and culture.  Previous winners have been from afar as the Indian Sub Continent and they are awarded annually in London by royalty, senior politicians and captains of industry.  Under his chairmanship it received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2010.

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