After Farrers’ media scandal pain, RPC regroups for a fresh assault on web work

Prior to the phone-hacking scandal RPC appeared to play second fiddle to Farrer & Co when it came to newspaper defendant work. Yet the firm has picked up a raft of clients in the media world since the sector was rocked, and now RPC is looking to build a lucrative future.

Farrers found itself out in the cold as the phone-hacking furore unfolded around the now-defunct tabloid News of the World (NoW). Eyebrows were raised when NoW publisher News International turned away from its traditional advisers in favour of Olswang and Linklaters to deal with the claims.

Partner Julian Pike – the go-to lawyer for the NoW – later confessed at the Leveson Inquiry that he knew the paper’s “rogue reporter” defence did not stand up back in April 2008. It became evident why the tabloid had turned away from the firm.

It is now clear this was a pivotal moment for media lawyers, both in-house and in private practice – suddenly, their advice was spilling out into the big, wide world.

All the time RPC was working hard to secure new relationships and consolidate existing ones on Fleet Street. With Jaron Lewis leading the media group in the firm’s litigation team, it upped its market share significantly, regularly representing national newspapers including the Daily Mail and The Sun.

Lewis’s exit last month for the bench of the South Eastern Circuit could have been a blow for RPC. Instead, partner Keith Mathieson stepped up and is looking to take the practice in a new(ish) direction.

For some time the firm has been looking at how to make more of its lucrative IP client list. Head of IP Jeremy Drew counts internet giants Google and Amazon among his clients and the firm wants to get more work from then.

The exit of Lewis has therefore presented RPC with an opportunity. Instead of keeping the eight-strong media team as a subsidiary of the dispute resolution team, it will become a part of the IP practice, with a view to both groups broadening their bases.

With many media outlets seeing their future online it’s a smart move, and one that could propel RPC to the top of the media tree.

Katy Dowell