Hacking firms told to take party line

Phone-hacking costs must be cut or claimants will have to join forces

The claimant firms acting for victims of the phone-hacking scandal have been ordered to find a more cost-efficient way of working or risk their clients being forced into a group litigation order (GLO), with a single firm advising the entire group.

It is understood that Mr Justice Vos, who is overseeing the claims, issued the warning after 11 South Square’s Michael Silverleaf QC, instructed for News International, told the court that claimant costs had reached £10m.

Four firms are acting for dozens of clients who allege their mobile phones were hacked by defunct tabloid News of the World: Atkins Thomson, Mishcon de Reya, Steel & Shamash and Taylor Hampton.

Several more firms have clients lining up to bring cases, including Bindmans, Carter Ruck, Collyer Bristow, Harbottle & Lewis, Hill Dickinson and Malletts.

A source close to the case said: “The judge […] recognises that they [News International] have done some wrongs but he needs to be fair. There’s a feeling there should be one set of counsel and one firm to act for everyone. [Vos J] is threatening to introduce a GLO.

It was mentioned last April but never happened. Now it could.”

The source added that the firms have been given until April to come to an arrangement to streamline the cases,  but there are concerns that such a move could lead to conflicts and raise client loyalty issues.

“These are people who are used to instructing lawyers – they have loyal relationships,” a source said. “To force them to use alternative lawyers could cause problems.”