Hacking scandal snowball gathers lawyers

The phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed News International (NI), owner of the now defunct News of the World (NoW), has created a legal market all of its own in recent months.

Allen & Overy is the latest firm to add its name to the roster of firms advising the media giant, with associate Victoria Rankmore seconded to advise it on compliance issues until a permanent post-holder is found.

According to a source close to the company, NI is short of in-housers following the exit of longstanding legal chief Tom Crone and director of legal affairs Jon Chapman in July (The Lawyer, 13 July).

This followed the departure of News Corp group general counsel Lawrence Jacobs in June who, the company said, had chosen to pursue “new opportunities”. The same cannot be said of its roster of external advisers. James Murdoch, chief executive of NI’s parent group News Corp, has drafted in Clifford Chance to advise him, a reflection of just how seriously the allegations are being taken.

Linklaters litigation partner John Turnbull, meanwhile, was instructed to advise News Corp’s management and standards committee, which has the mandate of overseeing post-Hackgate investigations.

The company is understood to have stumped up £3,000 an hour for the expertise of Tony Grabiner QC of One Essex Court, who has been appointed to chair the committee.

The committee is responsible for all matters related to the NoW phone-hacking scandal and payments made to the police, including police inquiries and the public inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson.

Former NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks, who was in charge when the alleged hacking took place and has since resigned from the group, has drafted in Kingsley Napley criminal litigation head Stephen Parkinson to advise her.

The tabloid’s usual advisers Farrer & Co have been dropped in favour of Olswang, traditional advisers to Guardian Media Group. The decision not to instruct Farrers was, apparently, taken for the sake of independence. Yet Farrers partner Julian Pike is believed to have kept an advisory position on some of the hacking cases he advised on originally.

Meanwhile, Olswang senior partner Mark Devereux and media partner Dan Tench are advising the publisher on an internal review of its practices.

“Exact details of our terms of reference and all further communications around them will be provided by News International in due course,” Devereux said in a statement.