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Clifford Chance scoops Murdoch hacking litigation from Linklaters

Clifford Chance has won the high-profile instruction to defend Rupert Murdoch’s News Group Newspapers (NGN) in its hacking litigation from Linklaters, constituting the fourth time the media giant has switched its lawyers for this case.

First reported in Private Eye, NGN initially instructed Farrers as its solicitors for the dispute, then switched to Olswang and then Linklaters.

Last Friday (23 September) Clifford Chance became the latest firm gifted with the instruction when claimants received notice of the change.

The move is a major blow to Linklaters which took over from Olswang to advise the media giant on all outstanding civil litigation claims relating to the phone-hacking scandal at now-defunct Sunday tabloid News of the World in 2012. Olswang was taken off the case after a number of civil cases settled in that year, leading to a drop in advisory work.

Linklaters was then instructed to handle any outstanding litigation against the company on top of its existing role advising parent company News Corporation’s management and standards committee.

The dispute relates to long running civil litigation at London’s High Court against NGN over claims of phone hacking. The media giant has previously settled more than 1,000 claims including a number of cases brought against the now-defunct News of the World. In April the Court held that claims against its sister tabloid, The Sun, by phone hacking victims could go ahead.

A ruling handed down by Mr Justice Mann allowed four claimants to amend their cases to include the tabloid for the first time in proceedings against NGN. Those suing NGN include EastEnders actors Christopher Parker and Brooke Kinsella, Coronation Street actor Kym Marsh, designer Pearl Lowe and her musician husband Danny Goffey and Leslie Heseltine, known as actor and comedian Les Dennis.

Other firms used by NGN previously includes Burton Copeland to review emails and Simon Muirhead Burton for smaller scale litigation.

More recently Harbottle & Lewis partner Lawrence Abramson was fined £20,000 last year by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for acting ‘unprofessionally’ by failing to read an email containing evidence of widespread hacking at the News of the World.

NGN, or News UK, this year bolstered its in-house legal capacity with high profile Kingsley Napley partner Angus McBride as its general counsel just months after its decision to re-hire former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks as chief executive.

Read more in the feature: ‘Shock and Flaw – is Leveson workable?’