Lawyer attacks CFA fees

By Jon Slattery

Leading newspaper lawyer Tony Jaffa has attacked “no win, no fee” agreements for allowing libel claimants’ lawyers to hold the press to ransom.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Law Conference on Tuesday, Jaffa
claimed massive legal fees charged under Conditional Fee Agreements
(CFAs) were “imposing intolerable pressure upon media companies to
settle cases, even where the claims against them were without merit”.

Jaffa
told the conference that some lawyers were charging £400 an hour in
legal fees, which could be doubled to £800 if a CFA claim was
successful.

“If the editor of a small weekly newspaper is faced
with a complaint from one of the specialist firms of solicitors, whom
he knows charge their time at £350 or £400 per hour and whom he also
knows charge success fees of 100 per cent, what is he going to do?

“He has no option but to take a pragmatic and commercial approach, and settle the case as quickly and as cheaply as possible.”

Jaffa,
a partner in Foot Anstey, added: “This is not just idle speculation on
my part. Recently, I had to advise a client in a matter in which it
faced a demand for a complainant’s legal costs of £20,000, when it’s
own costs were in the region of only £2,000.”

Jaffa said of CFAs:
“They have more of a regulatory effect on the press than almost any
other development in this country in recent times.”

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