Carr swerves to avoid the barrage of publicity

Christopher Carr QC is the master of understatement.

His submission in one legal directory startlingly reveals that he is based at One Essex Court and is recommended for commercial litigation, energy and utilities.

There is no mention of his career development, professional memberships or personal interests. In fact there is very little information about him at all.

Though his personal interests are understandably omitted – his big hobby is mathematics – he happens to have one of the most exciting jobs in commercial law.

His latest brief has seen him splashed all over the sports pages of the national press. He is defending the last bastion of quality sport on terrestrial television, the BBC's Match of the Day.

His client list includes several high-profile and glamourous figures, such as Mohammed Al Fayed and the Manoukian brothers. He makes a regular appearance in The Lawyer's commercial bar reports, and was ranked in the top 10 senior all-rounders by The Times two years ago, which also put him in – or very nearly in – the £1m club.

But he shies away from publicity.

The man who put the “hum” in humility, describing himself as “just an ordinary man trying to do a difficult job”, has not had an easy ride in his career.

This Skegness-born grammar school boy managed to overcome prejudices at the Bar. After school, the Lincolnshire lad went to the London School of Economics and Cambridge. He then spent seven years teaching and lecturing in law, five of which were spent in Canada. He turned to the Bar in search of a new challenge and was called in 1975.

His pupil master at 1 Crown Office Row was Lord Irvine who, he says, gave him an education that was “both exacting and demanding” and for whom he still has great respect.

Carr enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence, taking silk after just six years in practice.

He joined One Essex Court in 1982.

Colleagues say that Carr is easy to work with, so long as you can put up with his incessant smoking.

They describe him as a melancholy intellectual, who has plenty of gravitas, a terribly hard worker and a superb advocate in court.

One says: “He is a pretty ordinary guy, with very little front or swank.”

A solicitor who has worked extensively with Carr says: “He is a very nice guy, a team player and a good listener. He has a very good analytical mind and, for my money, is one of the top trial lawyers and advisers.”

Carr says he prefers the stimulation and challenge of legal analysis to advocacy.

Legally, his particular strength is for marathon court cases. He spent much of last year involved with the Manoukian's dispute with Prince Jefri. His current battle is also likely to be a test of endurance.

He is acting for the BBC, in conjunction with Jonathan Sumption QC for Sky and Charles Aldous QC for the Premier League, against the Office of Fair Trading, in a groundbreaking case which examines the structure and operation of sporting leagues and organisations and the distribution of television rights of sports coverage.

Carr describes it as a “most unusual and extraordinary case”.

It was intended, by the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading, to be a test case for lots of other televised sporting events and yet it is based on an Act that is in the process of being repealed.

It is likely to last three to four months and involve over 80 witnesses.

“It is an unusual case”, says Carr, “because of its size and complexity and for the peculiar feature that it comes right in the twilight of the life of the relevant legislation.”

Carr says he does not relish the media spotlight. “I value a private life and have not sought or courted publicity. Although I have to accept some, I do it with reluctance rather than enthusiasm.”

He leads a quiet life in the country and spends most of his spare time caring for his disabled wife.

At 54, Carr says he still has plenty of energy and will continue at the Bar for as long as the work stimulates him.

To say any more would be overstating the matter.