Don’t tell him, Pike

Wouldn’t lawyers like to know exactly what’s going on behind the scenes at their competitors?

Imagine what they could find out – the next strategic move, which of your clients they’re targeting, which of their own clients they’re trying to shield from you.

But if allegations aired in the media about Farrer & Co’s Julian Pike are true, the partner had another aim: to find out about the private behaviour of two lawyers acting for opponents of former client the News of the World (NoW).

According to BBC’s Newsnight, Pike instructed a private investigator to put Taylor Hampton solicitor Mark Lewis, acting for the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, under surveillance along with Mishcon de Reya media lawyer Charlotte Harris, who advised actress Leslie Ash and her former footballer husband Lee Chapman.

The purpose: to find out if the two were ’an item’.

Newsnight says it has seen an e-mail sent by Pike to private investigator Silent Shadow in which he claimed that finding out whether Lewis and Harris were living together “may assist us bringing professional misconduct proceedings against Lewis and/or Harris” as it might help confirm suspicions that the pair were sharing confidential information.

News International, the parent company of NoW, says it believes Lewis and Harris were indeed put under surveillance, which it noted was “not illegal” but “clearly deeply inappropriate in these circumstances”. It also says the actions were not condoned by the current executives of the company.

Farrers, which was unable to comment on the Newsnight story because of confidentiality, doesn’t act for NoW any more (see story). But it won’t have heard the last from Mark Lewis, who is now saying that he is considering filing a civil action against the firm.

This story, as they say, has legs.