The High Court branded Broderick Munro-Wilson a “cad” in 1993 for harassing his ex-girlfriend, and he has been a thorn in the Olswang’s side for much of the last 13 years.
Olswang has just successfully fought off a negligence claim from Munro-Wilson, known as ‘Brod’ to his friends, who claimed the firm did nothing after he retained it to sue some former business associates for alleged conspiracy.
Olswang may think this is the end of its relationship with the ‘cad’, who was also described as “manipulative” and someone who “frequently exaggerates and sometimes lies” by Mr Justice Goldring in the negligence case. But no. The latest news from Brod’s law firm, Mishcon de Reya, is that he is considering launching an appeal and that his firm will back him.
The judgment, handed down last month, features one of the most bizarre stories about a relationship between a law firm and a client ever told. The judge accepted that Olswang had never agreed to act for Brod in his alleged conspiracy claim. Unfortunately, the firm – and in particular former partner Caroline Kean – gave him enough opportunity to proceed to trial, although ultimately without success.
Brod claimed that he had retained Olswang because Kean, a good friend throughout the 1990s, had advised him as a “mate”, but not as his solicitor, about the prospects of bringing a conspiracy claim against third parties. This allowed him into a retainer, enabling him to bring a claim for negligence against Olswang.
This judgment highlights the potential perils for any solicitor doing a ‘friend a favour’. Friendships clearly do not preclude negligence claims.
Brod’s relationship with Olswang started in the late 1980s, when he was director of the now defunct merchant bank Munro Corporate, a specialist outfit providing equity finance for small and medium-sized companies.
Munro descended into chaos when in 1986 it bought a motor home hire company called Apex Stevens. Dr John Bleby, a non-executive chairman of Munro, became chairman of Apex and Brod stood down as director of Munro, on the agreement that he would be reinstated shortly. He was not reinstated, Bleby and other members of the Munro board launched a claim against him and the events culminated in Munro going into liquidation and Apex into receivership.
This saga led to Brod losing most of his money. By 1990 he owed Olswang some £173,000 in legal fees, which he and his associated companies could not pay.
This was the largest outstanding bill the firm had ever had, and it was forced to issue bankruptcy proceedings against him. According to the judgment, the situation forced the firm to overhaul its billing system so that clients would never again be allowed to bleed so many dead hours from its timesheets.
At this point, you would think that Brod would have chosen another firm. But allegedly he had an entirely plausible claim against his former business associates and was determined to get Olswang, and Kean in particular, to act.
Having issued bankruptcy proceedings against him, Olswang’s former senior partner Simon Olswang and former managing partner Mark Akerman were determined that would be an end to their firm’s relationship with Brod. But Kean, who the judge found had an “unusual” relationship with Brod, and was “fond” of him, stayed in touch.
In 1990 Simon Olswang sent an internal memo to Kean, who now practices at media firm Wiggin & Co, warning that Brod may try to fool her that he had authorised Olswang to act in this potential claim for conspiracy.