Carter-Ruck threatens action against own firm

Libel specialist Peter Carter-Ruck is considering legal action against his own firm in a dispute about its strategy.

The octogenarian lawyer, who continues to practise as a consultant at Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners, is in dispute with several senior partners over whether the firm should remain a niche practice or expand.

Carter-Ruck says an agreement over his retirement was reached 18 months ago that would guarantee expansion by inviting four new equity partners into the practice.

He alleges that two partners have now sought to renege on the agreement and that one has even sought to discourage the four lawyers from accepting equity status.

“One partner in particular wanted it to be a small niche firm,” he says.

In September last year, Carter-Ruck, via his lawyers Clifford Chance, made an offer to settle the dispute.

“I was advised by one of the senior partners at Clifford Chance that [the proposals for settlement] were not only entirely reasonable but that it would be beyond belief if they weren't accepted.”

However, the firm did not respond and last week Carter-Ruck wrote to senior partner, Andrew Stephenson, demanding action.

“I have written to the present senior partner saying I'm not prepared to leave it in the balance any longer and am now awaiting his reaction,” he says.

Carter-Ruck is angry that matters have been allowed to drag on for so long.

“It is a matter of considerable concern,” he says. “These things don't do much for the firm or for relations within the firm.”

If a settlement is not reached soon, Carter-Ruck may be forced to take the dispute to the courts.

“I want to settle it. It's not in the interests of the firm to litigate,” he says.

Stephenson replies: “Peter ceased to be a partner back in July of last year.

“Matters of the partnership are therefore internal between the partners and it's not my practice, as with most firms, to comment on internal matters.”