The Times Lawyer of the Week – Jenny Afia

Lawyer of the Week

Jenny Afia, a partner at Schillings, acted for the duchess of Sussex in the High Court. Last Week Mr Justice Warby granted the duchess summary judgement against Associated Newspapers, publisher of Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, which has published extracts of a letter to her father. The judge ruled that she had a “reasonable expectation that the contents of the letter would remain private”.

What were the main issues in this case?

Whether a newspaper has the right to publish the contents of a self-evidently private letter without prior consent or knowledge of the writer. The question for summary judgement was whether the duchess’s case was so strong that it could be decided without a trial. This was important as trying to protect privacy shouldn’t lead to further intrusion.

What is the best decision you have taken as a lawyer?

Leaving the City to specialise in an area I’m passionate about. I used to do corporate litigation and colleagues would turn up with the Financial Times while I’d be reading Grazia.

Who has inspired you in your career?

Keith Schilling, who taught me to think not what the law is, but what it should be. And Robin Arzón, the head instructor at Peloton. I finish her online workouts wanting to be a better lawyer and convinced I can take on the world.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you?

Sending a legal notice to my (future) husband after our second date. He was a journalist for a tabloid newspaper at the time and found himself on my wrong side early in our relationship.

What is the best advice you have received?

Start before you are ready. If I haven’t done something before, I have faith I’ll work it out with help.

Which three qualities should a lawyer have?

Intelligence, resilience and being collaborative.

What law would you enact?

The Online Harms Bill. All technology companies should have a duty to avoid reasonably foreseeable harm. Also, no string vests.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who helped to stop arbitrary interference with people’s privacy and, by my kids as a great mum.

First published in The Times by Linda Tsang on Thursday February 18, 2021