Firm profile: CCL Solicitors

Criminal and defamation law may not be obvious bedfellows, but niche firm CCL Solicitors is doing very well out of its strengths in these apparently diverse areas.

Launched in January 2001, CCL is the brainchild of two former Stephens Innocent solicitors, Louis Charalambous and Sarah Culshaw. Charalambous is the firm’s senior partner, while Culshaw has taken the managing partner role. “We’ve been busy from day one,” says the latter partner. “So busy that the difficulty initially was not turning down work. Recently, though, we’ve made a policy decision to stick to what we know and like.”

What CCL knows and likes is an eclectic mix of what might be termed ’human interest’ law. There is little that is dry and arcane in the firm’s core practice areas and much that is hands-on, high-profile and colourful.

One of CCL’s best known clients is Lotfi Raissi, the Algerian pilot wrongly arrested in the wake of 11 September. Charalambous has handled libel claims brought by Raissi, recently obtaining damages for his client from The Mail on Sunday.

As with much of CCL’s work, Raissi came via a referral from another law firm, in this case Tuckers, the solicitors instructed in his battle against extradition proceedings.

Another referral was Elvin Oduro, a friend of Stephen Lawrence. Oduro objected to the way in which he was described in a book about the death of Stephen Lawrence by Duwayne Brooks and journalist Simon Hattenstone, which was published by Time Life. CCL obtained a five-figure sum in damages for him and an apology.

Charalambous’s focus is media and criminal work. CCL is on the the National Union of Teachers’ media panel and Channel 4, Five and The Guardian are clients, as is the National Union of Journalists, which it advises on steering journalists through the minefield of undercover journalism. “Often, exposing crime might entail the theoretical commission of a criminal offence, for example a broadcast showing the use of a stolen credit card,” says Charalambous. “We help find solutions in the areas where criminal and media law meet.”

Culshaw once ran the Association of Illustrators and brings nearly 10 years’ experience as an artists’ agent to the practice. She comes from a legal family, and having always enjoyed the legal side of negotiating artists’ contracts, hers was a natural move into the law, qualifying as a solicitor in 1999. Culshaw has a particular interest in sex discrimination issues and focuses on a blend of employment (for both employers and employees) and ’soft’ intellectual property work.

Culshaw says that CCL is “looking to expand, but not diversify”, as the flow of work continues to grow. “We’re really pleased with how well it’s gone,” she says. “Our clients get personal attention and a feeling that they’re being cherished. We want to build on that and consolidate our core strengths.”

CCL Solicitors
Chief executives Senior partner Louis Charalambous and managing partner Sarah Culshaw
Turnover £350,000+ (for financial year ending 2002)
No of equity partners Two
Total number of partners Two
Total number of lawyers Five
Main practice areas Crime, employment, human rights, media/intellectual property and public law
Key clients Channel 4, Five, the National Union of Teachers, the National Union of Journalists, The Guardian and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society
Number of offices One
Location London