That queasy legal feeling

In a former incarnation as an editor at BBC/Redwood I once arrived back at work after a holiday. I was in early and sat down to open the post. There was just one other person in the open-plan office. As I riffled through the pile of letters, one stood out – with the logo of ‘Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners’ on the outside. I swear my heart stopped.

Why was Britain’s most feared firm of libel lawyers (regularly lampooned in Private Eye with a nickname too obvious to mention) writing to me? I open the bottom drawer of my desk and pull out a bottle of Bell’s (kept for medicinal reasons, of course).  My colleague comes over to see if I’m all right (she later said I had gone a funny colour).

Oh God! As I open the letter I see that it is even signed by him, not some minion. I go another funny colour, take a second slurp and start to read. ‘Dear Mr Quinn, Would you like to publish excerpts from my memoirs…’

I declined the offer – for such a colourful character, the work was mundane – but the BA magazine High-Life later took him up on it.

I was reminded of this by a piece in today’s Independent by legal editor Robert Verkaik, ‘Defame academy: the libel specialists.’ (Carter-Ruck died in 2003, but three lawyers from the firm he founded are in Verkaik’s list.) The article begins: ‘When legal letters threatening action for defamation arrive in an editor’s in-tray, the names of certain lawyers can induce a queasy feeling.’ So true.


One Response to “That queasy legal feeling”

  1. lucassss Says:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: