Who? Joelle Rich, partner, Schillings, London.
Why is she in the news? Represented the Duchess of Sussex in a case involving the publisher of the Mail on Sunday regarding the publication of a hand-written letter to her father, Thomas Markle. Earlier this month, the Court of Appeal dismissed Associated Newspapers Ltd’s appeal against the granting of summary judgment in relation to the duchess’s claims for misuse of private information and infringement.
Thoughts on the case: ‘Applications for summary judgment are neither common nor easy. We had to convince the court that the duchess’s rights were so strong, based on well-established legal principles, that even if the Mail could prove all of its arguments which it said diminished her right to privacy, her rights in law would still be stronger. On that basis, a trial was not needed. The High Court agreed with us, in a very comprehensive judgment by (now Lord) Justice Warby, and all three senior Court of Appeal judges agreed with him. This has not created “new law”, [but] confirmed the existing position which protects private correspondence as a fundamental human right.’
Dealing with the media: ‘It’s the media’s job to argue in favour of freedom of expression above all other rights, and our job to protect our client’s rights in opposition if we think reporting has crossed the line. We also had to push back if reporting did not fairly or accurately reflect what had actually happened in the courtroom. A good soundbite for a headline isn’t always put into context, so we had to keep on top of anything misleading.’
Why become a lawyer? ‘I enjoyed maths most at school, and I wanted to keep that aspect of complex problem-solving in my career. Law was the best fit to incorporate that skill, but in a more creative way.’
Career high: ‘My 2020, despite Covid restrictions, was a definite career high. I was working simultaneously on this case, hailed as the biggest privacy case in decades, and the Johnny Depp trial, which was a (now rare) libel trial.’