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September 2022

Ten Questions to a Media Lawyer

By Adam Cannon

Adam Cannon is director of legal at The Sun and a photographer. His work can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

1. How’d you get interested in media law? What was your first job in the business?

My career started as a barrister. In the UK, it would often take two to three years to be paid for cases and briefs, particularly anything public funded, so I had to look for evening work that paid a little quicker in the meantime! I became a duty libel lawyer for the Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Metro newspapers, in the evenings and loved every minute. I have always been obsessed with the news so law, media and news was the perfect combination. After a few years, I was persuaded by two of the great Media lawyers, Harvey Kass and Eddie Young to move in house and join the team at Associated. I was there for nine years, before moving to head up the legal department at The Telegraph for six years and then moved to my current role at The Sun.

2. What do you like most about your job? What do you like least?

I love the buzz of the newsroom and being present at the centre of a breaking news story.

Unfortunately there are never enough hours in the day for the things I need to do.

3. What was your highest profile or most memorable case?

Without a doubt, our victory in the English libel courts against Johnny Depp. I have worked on many other memorable cases and stories over the years, including exposures of Cabinet Ministers, undercover investigations into football, banks and high profile personalities.

4. Are you able to maintain a decent work-life balance? What are some rules you follow?

To a certain extent. The role of a newsroom lawyer means you have to be available the whole time as an issue or breaking news item does not fit neatly into a weekly schedule, so my phone is always on. It is particularly important to make use of the quieter news days. I do ring fence time off where possible.

5. Fake news, reporters under attack, politicians fomenting antagonism against the press – will things get worse before they get better?

The tendency of the Courts in England and Wales is to favour the privacy argument over the free speech one. We have seen that pretty starkly in the recent decision of ZXC v Bloomberg. This is a worrying trend which really needs government intervention in the form of legislation to redress that balance. Given there does not appear to be much planned on that front, I cannot see things getting better anytime soon.

6. What was the best piece of career advice you were ever given?

My mentor Eddie Young always said that you should treat journalists words as sacred. They are the wordsmiths. So as libel lawyers we should be reluctant to amend their copy unless it is essential.

7. Media law can be a difficult industry to break into. What would you suggest to a young lawyer or student trying to do so?

Read McNae‘s Law for Journalism, come visit a newspaper and see how things work, chat to media lawyers and try and get your training contract at a firm that offers a decent media law option. Alternatively, if you are at the bar, try and train to do night lawyer work at newspapers of broadcasters.

8. What’s a book, show, song, movie, podcast or activity that kept you entertained during the pandemic?

Schitt’s Creek was our lockdown series, as it really spoke to our family. Lockdown was a horrific time, but I was able to rekindle my love of modern history and read some fantastic books on European history from pre-First World War through to modern day.

9. What journalist, judge, or lawyer (contemporary or historic) would you most like to have lunch with and what would you order?

Piers Morgan, because I would know both the wine and food would be top notch and we could discuss our common love of Arsenal!

10. Your most important client takes you out for karaoke. What do you sing?

“All Out of Love” by Air Supply so my family could be truly embarrassed by my 80’s music choices.