McLibel is an account of the longest trial in British legal history - McDonald's Restaurants v Morris & Steel. The story is in every way a David and Goliath story - two penniless lay people are pitted against the Dean of British libel lawyers backed by the limitless coffers of a major international company. Despite the overwhelming odds against them, both in terms of legal talent and legal obstacles, the defendants do a creditable job of holding their own.
This book offers an interesting British counterpoint to Harr's A Civil Action. Both books describe major legal struggles between the Haves and the Have-nots and in both cases the outcome represents less than a clear victory for either side. McLibel also offers an interesting critique of British libel law, the limitations on free speech in Britain, "ownership" of the law, manipulation of the legal system by the powerful, and the role of the judge.
It also offers Big Business a salutary lesson - not every apprent pushover is going to play dead the moment litigation is threatened. When it comes to counting the most costly legal mistakes ever, this case must rank somewhere near the top of the list. The case turned into a legal quagmire that McDonalds found it impossible to extricate itself from. Whatever consolation the company may have found in the verdict, this was a pyrrhic victory and an undoubted public relations disaster.