Leading libel firm Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners is set to spark a huge upsurge in defamation cases against the media by announcing a new no win-no fee policy.
The firm, founded by the doyen of libel law, Peter Carter-Ruck, will this week announce that clients who begin defamation will not have to pay fees if they lose a case.
Rival solicitors admit they may have to follow suit in offering conditional fee arrangements for libel work, a concept that is already causing anguished debates in libel firms and chambers.
“I do think it is a selling point and I do think it will attract people to the firm as clients,” said one lawyer.
However, Farrer & Co managing partner Robert Clinton questioned whether settlements such as a strong apology would constitute a win.
“How are they going to define what a win is at the outset, which will trigger the fee agreement,” he said.
Peter Carter-Ruck's move is set to re-ignite the defamation industry that has been suffering a slowdown in recent years after the Court of Appeal cracked down on the lottery-sized libel awards of the early 1980s and 1990s.
Lawyers predict that many smaller claimants will try their luck under a new fast-track court system that limits libel awards to no more than £10,000. But at the top end of the market, richer and more prominent public figures who have traditionally sued are unlikely to be enticed by conditional fee arrangements.