It’s not all that often this magazine has cause to celebrate the
actions of a team of lawyers. But such is the case this week with the
news that media law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain has vowed it will
no longer act for clients who sue the press for libel.
for hire” principle of representation generally means that a legal team
will happily act for whichever side asks them first. The legendary
counsel George Carmen, for all his famous libel victories on behalf of
the press, was by no means averse to using his consummate skills with
the opposite effect if the litigant happened to be quicker to get him
on the phone.
But Reynolds Porter Chamberlain has decided that
this cabby’s principle no longer works for it. In the legal equivalent
of refusing to go south of the river, it will turn down work that it
feels might erode the media’s right to report freely, and stated: “Our
hearts wouldn’t be in it.”
It comes as a breath of fresh air,
particularly after Press Gazette’s revelation last week that Sharon
Stone is using a no-win, no-fee arrangement to sue the Daily Mail.
Indeed, the potentially “chilling effect” of such deals were uppermost
in RPC’s mind when it made its decision.
No-win, no-fee was
intended to give poorer litigants access to justice. The fact that a
Hollywood megastar plans to use it shows just how far the practice has
strayed from the original theory.