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DIBB Lupton Broomhead may have overstepped the mark in its no-nonsense approach to the law when it sent a fax to another firm.
The exchange between the firms has arisen over the case of Dibb Lupton's client John Broome, who is facing insolvency hearings. Jeffrey Green Russell acts for the creditors (see City page).
It began with a letter from Dibbs to JGR head of litigation Philip Cohen and headed 'John Broome v Jeffrey Green Russell'. It complained about comments on the Broome case apparently made by JGR lawyer Nigel Frost in a daily newspaper and described by Dibbs as "highly defamatory of Broome" and "an extremely serious allegation".
The letter continued: "Your firm, and in particular Mr Frost, should either put up or shut up."
It finishes by saying Broome is "considering what action to take" and any similar comments from either Frost or JGR "will be the subject of immediate action".
Cohen's instant reply took the Dibbs letter to task, starting with the heading.
"It is not normal to put the heading which you have adopted...unless there are proceedings in existence, which does not appear to be the case. Accordingly your prolaptic (sic) construction appears somewhat insolent."
He continues: "Instead of telling us to 'put up or shut up', we suggest you do so. Either desist from communicating under the banner of non-existent proceedings, or issue and serve some proceedings, and then attempt to justify them to the creditors' meeting."
He ends: "The last paragraph of your letter is, incidentally, intellectually non-self-consistent. If Broome is currently 'considering' what action to take against us, it follows that he is not in a position to 'take' immediate action."
That letter was faxed back with the message: "The type of pathetic crap to be expected from you" handwritten across it.
The Law Society's Guide to the Professional Conduct of Solicitors says: "A solicitor must not write offensive letters to other lawyers, whatever the degree of bad feeling existing between respective clients."
Neil Micklethwaite, Dibbs' litigation head, says there is nothing personal in the correspondence. "People take aggressive lines with each other all the time," he says.