THE fall-out from Sir Paul and Lady McCartney’s divorce battle has already embroiled the media and PR agents in alleged leaks and mudslinging.
Now, what promises to be one of the most high-profile legal fights in history has hit the lawyers themselves.
Fiona Shackleton, Sir Paul’s lawyer, is suing Associated Newspapers over suggestions that she would indulge in smear tactics.
Mrs Shackleton and her firm, Payne Hicks Beach, have issued a rare claim over an article in TheEvening Standard that carried the headline: “So, Macca — where’s Mr Nice Guy now?” The piece by A. N. Wilson referred to Mrs Shackleton’s role as the Prince of Wales’s lawyer in his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales. The late Princess’s lawyer, Anthony Julius, is representing Lady McCartney.
In the article, published on October 20, Wilson said: “I personally always support Anthony Julius against Payne Hicks Beach clients, for example since Julius championed the People’s Princess against her horrible little husband.”
He went on: “Just as Payne Hicks Beach tried to make out that Lady Di was a manipulative or dishonest person, we all knew by the end of that divorce where the truth lay.”
Mrs Shackleton, who later received flowers from the Princess despite being on the other side, prides herself on refusing to indulge in smear campaigns or publicity stunts.
In addition, at the time of the royal couple’s divorce, she was a lawyer with Farrers, not Payne Hicks Beach.
Mrs Shackleton and Mr Julius have a mutual respect for one another and are respected in legal circles.
Her approach to the McCartney divorce is likely to be low-profile, sticking strictly to the legal rules of the game, despite reports that Lady McCartney will do a television interview or that taped accounts of Sir Paul’s previous marriage may enter the divorce proceedings. Mr Julius, 50, of Mishcon de Reya, is similarly keeping his head down.
Mrs Shackleton, 50, is married with two children and has risen to the top of her profession, despite famously taking a third-class degree at Exeter University. “I have become a role model for people with Thirds,” she once said.
Mr Julius, who is known as the man who gave the Princess her wings, is highly respected for his intellect: he took a first-class degree in English at Jesus College, Cambridge. He is divorced, and his second wife is the journalist Dina Rabinovitch. He has four children from his previous marriage.
Mrs Shackleton refused yesterday to comment on the claim. Associated Newpapers said: “We have received a claim and are considering it.”