How a high street solicitor from Lancaster became the resident legal expert on BBC’s ‘Rip off Britain’

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By Katie King on

Could Gary Rycroft be the next Judge Rinder?


Alongside the likes of Jeremy Kyle, Come Dine with Me and Escape to the Country, Rip Off Britain has got to be up there as one of the gems of daytime television.

The programme — hosted by Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville — is all about consumers: their rights, their stories and how they should get themselves out of sticky situations.

Often involving low-value customer disputes, it sounds like the sort of subject matter that would fill the filing cabinets of small, high street firms. So who better to advise the show’s disgruntled guests than, well, the partner of a small, high street firm?

Meet Gary Rycroft: Rip Off Britain’s resident legal expert and partner at Joseph A. Jones & Co, a small firm of private client solicitors based in Lancaster.

University of Manchester graduate Rycroft’s role on the show is to advise average Joes on their legal rights. A wills and probate specialist himself, Rycroft spends about two days a year filming for his pop-up shop segment, answering questions on anything from parking tickets to landlord and tenant disputes. As well as this, Rycroft also comments on main stories from the show and will be starring in two of the five live programmes scheduled to run this October.

Though nattering away about all things consumer rights on a popular TV show may well appeal to camera-friendly legal eagles, we’re not sure it’s a career option many lawyers have considered or are even aware of. Indeed, in Rycroft’s case anyway, becoming a TV legal expert isn’t something he ever applied or interviewed for.

Rycroft got into the TV biz thanks to the Law Society press office, which put him forward for a short film on the first series of the show. This is because at the time Rycroft was, and still is, a member of the Wills and Equity Committee, and therefore deemed competent to deal with these sorts of request. There is, Rycroft told us, “an element of laziness within the media”, so when the show required lawyer snippets as part of series two and three, he was called upon yet again.

By the fourth series, the show introduced its panel of experts. Rycroft was — it seems — the obvious choice. The rest is history.

Though Rycroft’s “miniscule” slot on BBC1 doesn’t quite rival the stardom composed by the likes of criminal barrister Robert Rinder (someone Rycroft hasn’t actually heard of), Rip Off Britain has grown leaps and bounds since he joined and he feels “very proud” to be a part of it.

But he will always be a private client lawyer at heart. It’s where his passion lies; just a quick chat with Rycroft makes that abundantly clear:

Private client work doesn’t have the profile it should have. It is the Cinderella of the law; it seems dry and dusty whereas it’s actually very fascinating. As a private client lawyer you’re the guardian of many interesting stories. It’s a great area of law to work in and I try my best to encourage young people to consider it. It’s a steady area of law, you shouldn’t overlook it.

Joseph A. Jones & Co is Rycroft’s “focus”, and while he thinks “it’s nice to pop up on TV occasionally”, he has no plans to upset the balance.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that Rycroft doesn’t think his BBC cameos are hindrances to his work at all — quite the opposite. They are not huge drains on his time, and there may well be method in the instinctive madness of juggling TV stints with being a lawyer. Rycroft explains:

I’m a partner at my firm and this is good advertising for us. Clients like it, they feel confident their solicitor is decent; being on the BBC is such an endorsement.

It’s not just Rycroft’s caseload that has benefitted from the show: he thinks Rip Off Britain has done well to advance the profession more widely. He tells us:

Across its eight series, the show has humanised and demystified the profession. Producers were clear at the offset they didn’t want me suited and booted, they wanted me to look friendly and approachable instead. I think the show is great. It’s all about giving people more insight into their rights and, of course, knowledge empowers people.