Schillings is relaunching itself as an integrated legal, risk management and IT security and investigation business targeting the growing market in reputation management for corporates and high net worth individuals.
Senior partner Keith Schilling told The Lawyer that managing corporate reputations was increasingly tied to understanding the way social media and IT security works, from security breaches to Twitter.
He said: “One of the things CEOs are most worried about is data breaches and cyber-hacking.” Weaknesses on that score lead to legal and reputational risk.”
Earlier this year the firm registered an ABS licence for information security specialists, Vigilante Bespoke, headed by David Prince (1 March 2013). The vehicle has now rebranded as Schillings IT Security. It undertakes ‘ethical hacking’, where its three-strong consultancy team are employed to test corporate vulnerabilities, and digital forensics and anonymous online identities can be discovered. The three-strong risk management arm is headed by former KPMG consultant David Imison. Both business units will report to senior partner Schilling.
Schillings chief operating officer Christopher Mills said: “We’re moving the business from a law partnership to an multi-disciplinary limited company. We have two ABS licences to help us do this – the first licence is for the existing partnership and enabled us to offer non-legal services such as risk consulting and IT security. The second licence is held by Schillings Corporate Limited, a limited company we’ll be transferring the whole partnership into.”
Schilling commented: “The ABS allows us to have at board level people who aren’t lawyers and we could offer them a full equity share.”
The firm’s move confirms a distinct shift away from pure libel work. Last year defamation specialist Gideon Benaim, lawyer for Ryan Giggs and other celebrities left the firm (8 June 2012). Benaim joined Michael Simkins in September 2012 (3 September 2012).
The firm claims that 80 per cent of its client base are corporate clients and non-celebrity entrepreneurs. Schilling said: “Some firms are doing very well in the media field but the ones specialising in phone-hacking cases are struggling because of conditional fees.
“Libel and privacy are alive and well but it’s in a different form.”
The firm will operate a number of different billing models, with a monthly retainer being a prominent option.
Schilling said the firm would continue to act for individuals on privacy issues and family law matters. The firm’s long-term clients include JK Rowling (31 July 2013).