For the first time in 60 or so years, I went to Leeds last month. While not so redolent as Proust’s madeleine, it brought back the memory that the last time I went there I saw a double bill of The Cruel Sea and The Final Test at the Odeon. 

Morton landscape

James Morton

This time I stayed in the hotel where, also many years ago, my most famous client had a spot of trouble. The truth is that I never had any really famous persons (RFP) as clients. Well, apart that is from one or two criminals who made the newspapers. I did, however, have a TV wrestler for whom I acted in paternity proceedings. ‘Jim,’ he said, ‘I wouldn’t mind having indigestion if I’d bit the apple.’ The bench found he hadn’t.

So, when one day a call came to book in an RFP, we were ecstatic. If it went well, there was the possibility of a new side to the practice. Out with the murderers and robbers, in with the miscreant famous.

The receptionist was told on pain of death that not by the blink of an eyelid should she indicate she recognised the RFP. This was probably a mistake. RFPs would almost certainly have expected adulation the moment they stepped over the threshold. I noticed, however, that the receptionist wore her new Gor-Ray skirt.

The interview got off to a bad start. ‘Got a tenner you can lend me? I’ve got to pay the taxi,’ asked the RFP. I paid up and when the RFP returned it was immediately clear the interview was not about crime but a civil matter. There was no question of whether the RFP was in the right or wrong; the embarrassment caused – if the matter went to court or indeed reached the press – would far outweigh the amount of money I advised should be paid. I presume it was settled because the RFP scooted away and, professionally so far as I was concerned, was never heard of again.

I sent in a modest bill which, to garner respect, should probably have been tripled. It was settled by return, along with my £10. I have no idea who sent the RFP to me or even why. They never recommended anyone else. Nor did the RFP.


James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor