Everyone has their fantasies. Mine is to win the Bar Council’s legal reporting award, then, on the back of my Obama-esque acceptance speech, be ushered into the manager’s job at Leeds United, who I’d lead to Champion’s League glory.
The lawyers’ equivalent? For a good chunk of the human rights types I know I reckon it’s for an actor to play them in a film made about a case in which they starred.
Which is exactly what happened to top legal aid solicitor Gareth Peirce 20 years ago when Emma Thompson (pictured) played her in In the Name of the Father – a role the actor is set to reprise in courtroom thriller The Secret Evidence.
The Secret Evidence‘s script sees Peirce, who has represented the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, and more recently several Muslim terror suspects, called upon to help a young British man imprisoned as a result of the so-called ‘War on Terror’. Filming starts in autumn.
Unfortunately, what would be a dream come true for many is completely wasted on Peirce, who apparently still hasn’t seen In the Name of the Father…
A year after the film came out, Peirce, who is famed for her reluctance to be interviewed, said: “My own personal regret is that an extremely unimportant participant in the story has been portrayed and given a seemingly important status, albeit in what I acknowledge is a drama not a documentary.”
Publicity hungry lawyers, take note. That’s how it’s done. First, you need to be more modest and come across less desperate. Then draw attention to yourself through creative means like, if you’re a woman, changing your name to Gareth (Peirce discarded her first name, Jean, long ago). If you’re a man, you could try Patricia or Caroline.
Oh, and if you ever get a CBE, accept it initially, then return it. That’ll generate some headlines, as Peirce found out back in 1999.
Of course, you have to be a really good lawyer, too. Peirce’s clients love her. Paddy Hill, one of the Guildford Six, describes her as “a cross between my mentor and a big sister.” He adds: “I wish you could either clone her or that there were 1,000 more solicitors like her.” And former Guantanamo Bay inmate Moazzam Begg, who Peirce represented, says some of the Arabic-speaking detainees she has worked for call her ‘al-Umm’, which means mother.
There’s more on the enigmatic Peirce, who is a partner at Camden law firm Birnberg Peirce & Partners, here.