Schillings bucks trend with media ABSs

Schillings’ ABS licences show the media firm is planning for a changing world

News that media firm Schillings had been granted a pair of alternative business structure (ABS) licences came as a refreshing change from the seemingly constant flow of insurance and personal injury firms taking advantage of the model.

It is an intriguing move for the firm focusing more these days on its skills as a reputation manager.

One licence covers a recently acquired cyber-security business, Vigilante Bespoke, and as chief operating officer Christopher Mills told The Lawyer last week, Schillings may well acquire further businesses of a similar sort. The corporate structure afforded by the ABS lets the firm retain money for investment purposes, although Schillings is not planning to invite external investment itself.

The focus will be on expanding services to offer to core clients, high-net-worth individuals and smaller listed companies, with appropriate Chinese walls in place.

In many ways, becoming an ABS and a multi-disciplinary practice is a natural progression for the firm. Schillings already operates a quasi-corporate structure, with partner Rod Christie-Miller as chief executive. Opening ownership to non-lawyers makes sense. Mills says the decision to apply for ABS licences is part of a “long-term business strategy”.

The firm is playing down the development, saying there will be no major changes to the way it works in the next few years. Longer term, however, Schillings’ decision to go for an ABS licence now could prove decisive as the world of media law continues to change.