Could better drafting have avoided unseemly dispute which graced yesterday’s tabloids?
Yesterday’s Daily Mail featured an incredible story about a top London solicitor losing a damages claim against a law student at a leading London institution who had turned to prostitution to fund her lifestyle.
The solicitor, who is in his late 60s and was a partner at a well known City boutique law firm until he retired recently, had accused the student of breaching his confidentiality by telling his daughter and colleagues about their liaisons. The law student, who is in her 20s and hails from a wealthy Chinese family, then counter-sued, alleging that the partner had been harassing her. The judge hearing the case upheld aspects of each party’s claim, and granted both anonymity, but refused either the payment of any damages.
The incredibly juicy judgment, which is worth reading in full if you have a spare half hour, contains an eye-catching section which details how the unlikely legal duo drafted each other contracts in a bid to establish a smoother working relationship.
First, the passage describing the contract drafted by the law student. (In the judgment the solicitor is referred to as ‘AVB’ and the law student ‘TDD’.)
• On the same day she sent an email printed out on two full pages under the subject line “Behaviour contract”. In evidence she said it was her joke confidentiality agreement. It certainly seems to me to be satirical. Written in mock legal language, it starts: “In order to reach mutual agreement upon confidentiality contract Mr … must declare and full fill following”. There follow paragraphs of details of the behaviour she supposedly required of him, including fines for late payment of her fees, and the legal services and help he is to provide to her, and the minimum duration of cuddles.
• The Confidentiality Agreement is dated 17 June 2012. It identifies the parties formally, and gives their addresses. In AVB’s case he gives his professional address. There is a recital, which TDD refused to accept, and which is crossed out. It purported to contain an admission by her that she “broke… [his] right to privacy and confidentiality when she sent copies of his emails to her to third parties including his work colleagues…” By a clause 3, added in manuscript by him, it is provided that the agreement itself is confidential.
• The other clauses read:
“1. The parties will treat all written communications (hard copies, emails, texts) passing between them as confidential and will also treat all oral communications concerning their lives as confidential unless the following applies:
a. both parties agree in writing that any such written or oral communication is not confidential;
b. the written communication contains material which is in the public domain and in that event only this material is not confidential.
2. The parties undertake to each other that they will respect this confidentiality and acknowledge that if copies of any such confidential written communications or the contents of confidential oral or written communications are disclosed to any third party this will be a serious breach of confidentiality entitled the injured party to an award of damages and the party in breach will not oppose the injured party obtaining an injunction without notice to prevent any further infringement.”
• TDD insisted on the crossing out of the words in clause 2. She also signed the document with only part of her normal signature (she omitted the Chinese characters she usually used). She states she did this to mark that she did not believe the document had any legal effect. She had received no legal advice herself, she was not signing willingly, she was alone in his flat with him, he was a lawyer, and he was very angry.
Having continued to squabble, which was a theme of the pair’s extremely tumultuous relationship, a month later the partner sent the law student his contract. Here is the relevant section of the judgment:
• On 28 July at 5:26 pm he sent her his proposal for an arrangement between the two of them:
“Contract. 1 one month trial. 2 3k upfront. 3 Sex next Saturday and for one month following and staying over like before. 4. [A particular type of sexual act] included. 5. Faithful… no other partners… neither side allowed to [another kind of sexual act is identified] starting NOW. Agreed? You will need good excuse for [another man] or dump him. You can add terms for me to consider”.
• She texted back that she was happy with that adding “But [the sexual act he had named in his clause 4] + exclusivity costs extra 2k + blood test result. Then unlimited sex anytime”.
• He sent another email to her at 7:58 pm under the subject line “Compromise”:
“Forget [the sexual act he had named in his clause 4]… keep it for wedding nite…with whoever is luck man! Blood test for what…STD? And u will take pill. Hate condom. And no sex til we start…and both faithful while we see how it works out? Xx”
From this point relations deteriorated steadily until earlier this year, when the solicitor issued legal proceedings against the law student and she responded with her own counterclaim.
The judgment in full: AVB v TDD
Top London solicitor loses damages claim against Chinese prostitute who ‘breached his confidentiality’ by telling his daughter and colleagues about their liaisons [Mail Online]