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What is ‘libel’?
Libel is a written defamation. Generally, radio and television broadcasts that are defamatory are considered to be libel, rather than slander.

What are the defenses to a libel claim?
There are three main defenses to a libel claim (other than asserting that it never happened or that you were never involved):
- The first is claiming, and proving, that the statement was privileged (and thus not public). Only certain professions (doctors, lawyers, psychologists), or individuals (chiefly your spouse) can maintain that privilege; and if any non-privileged third party was part of the communication, the privilege is broken. (Employees of a professional are only partially covered, to the extent that you needed to use them to contact the professional. Don't expect to tell your deepest, darkest secret to your attorney's secretary, and maintain that privilege.)

- The second defense is claiming, and proving, that the statement is true, for "truth is an absolute defense".

- The third defense is claiming, and proving, that the statement was an opinion, not an assertion of a fact. Since this last defense is only as good as the weakest or worst, but still reasonable, misinterpretation, it's not one you really want to rely on. There's a world of difference between saying "I think he's a crook," and "he's a crook". Especially if a third party might inadvertently leave out the first two words when passing your message on.

There are plenty of libel lawyers around. Mostly they work for newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, or book publishers. If you're libeled (defamed in print or media) you can find one who will take your case, though they're not cheap. However, libel lawyers don't know everything about slander. Yes, libel and slander are both forms of defamation, but there can be subtle differences in how courts treat them. More important, libel lawyers expect you to slap the libelous article or a video on their desk, to show them all the evidence.

Slander doesn't work that way. Accumulating the facts can be 90% of the work, and libel lawyers don't have any experience at that. That's a problem, because law schools teach, "When you have the facts, hammer the facts. When you have the law, hammer the law. When you have neither, hammer the table." So libel lawyers tend to ignore building the factual side of the case and just try to win on legal points. This is a bad idea with a slander case, because the facts are slippery and hard to come by. A list of witnesses is a poor way to launch a lawsuit, because people lie on the witness stand.

Of course there are phony slander lawyers. Personal injury firms especially are now advertising slander among their skill set. We doubt they know much, judging by the misinformation they publish on their web sites – it looks like they didn't even take Defamation 101.

Best Bets, in no particular order:
1. Hire a libel lawyer, and then hire a private investigator to collect the facts. That way you only pay the libel lawyer for actual legal work, and boning up on the differences in slander. You don't want to be paying a $350/hr libel lawyer to collect evidence.

2. Outside big cities you won't find libel lawyers. Our recommendation would be to hire a litigator, generally one working with a firm that specializes in business law. This is because business law firms are less emotional than something like divorce law. Business lawyers are used to clients calling the shots, where divorce lawyers are used to hysterical clients. (After two years of being slandered, you may be near hysteria, but that's no reason to hire a lawyer who makes you even crazier!)

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