Obituary: Rhonda Baker

Rhonda Baker had always been a rising star in the firmament of entertainment law, but the publication in 1995 of her book Media Law: a user's guide for film and programme makers made her more widely known to the international film and television production community as a friend and guide to those who, while well versed in the arts of shooting takes and setting up, were less acquainted with the complexities of the documentation required to achieve funding and production. Baker's book encouraged them to get some of the way by themselves.

Born in 1959 in north London, Rhonda Baker was fiercely loyal to her family and her roots. Her striking good looks, with a pale complexion and dark hair, made it difficult to ignore her Irish antecedents. Her flashes of born wit and keen readiness to participate (to the full) in any good time going, further tokens of these, were sometimes mixed with the more melancholy side to her Celtic background.

Her seemingly effortless rise in her profession started with a scholarship to the North London Collegiate School in Edgware, a school distinguished by its academic prowess and devotion to hard work; she achieved both. She had an insatiable interest in the Hollywood greats (Bette Davis was an especial role model) and in drama. But law, with its combination of hard intellect and practical application, appealed to Baker, and in 1977 she gained an exhibition to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to read under the aegis of John Collier.

Her tutor's respect for her abilities was confirmed by the prizes she subsequently carried away in her Bar finals. But the Bar, despite the offer of a tenancy, and however much its social habits and intellectual camaraderie appealed to her, was not an opportune place for a single young woman struggling for financial independence. As she said, "I loved being at the Bar, but I couldn't afford the drinks."

She applied for a position to a firm of solicitors, Denton Hall, well- known internationally for its media practice, with the aim of combining her legal skills with her knowledge and love of the media. She thrived as a solicitor and was soon respected for her fearless views on any given subject, professional or otherwise; her irreverence about the self-importance that distinguishes some legal practitioners; and the continuing drive for perfection in her work.

In 1988 she moved with colleagues to S.J. Berwin & Co, to establish the firm's media and communications practice. In 1990 the practice recognised her talents by making her a partner at the precocious age of 30. In the following two years, Rhonda Baker gained friends and laurels for her work in the film and television world; no query was too slight, no legal analysis was too complex, no document too lengthy for her to deal with, and with clarity, speed and remarkably mature judgement. But behind the veneer of the professional young woman there remained a warm and sympathetic personality, that always sought to help a friend or colleague in any kind of difficulty.

In November 1992, however, a routine visit to her doctor aroused suspicions of breast cancer. After her recovery from the necessary operation, she conceived the notion of writing a handbook combining some legal and practical wisdom for the struggling independent producer, a breed whose numbers had been greatly increased by the advent of Channel Four Television and the independent quota requirements of the new Broadcasting Act. In a world where media as business was becoming more important, her aim was to make the production community more efficient.

The publication launch party of Media Law: a user's guide for film and programme makers in 1995 was held on the eve of her return to hospital for more treatment. The book became a word-of-mouth success with producers, and legal practitioners. The first edition has since sold out, but a second edition is promised.

Rhonda Baker's illness did not diminish her enthusiasms for music, painting, dress- making, and, above all, writing. She completed one novel and numerous short stories; another draft novel has been discovered. A management manual for S.J. Berwin & Co, completed in the final year of her illness, contains characteristically wry and forthright tips on best practice for solicitors, ranging from dress codes to telephone manners.

She was ably assisted in all her endeavours by her two black pugs, George and Stanley, much loved (it is rumoured) because they were the only two creatures on God's earth more strong-minded than their mistress.

Rhonda Elizabeth Baker, solicitor and writer: born Bushey, Hertfordshire 11 July 1959; called to the Bar, Middle Temple 1982; barrister-at-law 1982-84; assistant and solicitor, Denton Hall 1984-88; partner and consultant, S.J. Berwin & Co 1990-97; married 1987 Simon Laycock; died London 25 June 1997.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test