Schillings sports star John Kelly quits for Harbottle & Lewis

Schillings sports and international head John Kelly, who has acted for a host of celebrity clients including scandal-hit cyclist Lance Armstrong and former England manager Steve McClaren, has quit the firm for Harbottle & Lewis.

A spokesperson for the firm confirmed the move but did not comment further, other than to say that no associates will be moving over with him.

Kelly gained nearly a decade of experience while at Schillings, where he has advised some of the firm’s biggest clients including Steve Coogan, Madonna, Nicole Kidman, the Osbourne family, Matt Lucas and Angelina Jolie.

He was famously instructed by Armstrong (22 October 2012) last year over the costs of a News International libel case dating back to 2006. The publisher reached an out-of-court settlement, thought to be around £600,000, with the cyclist after The Sunday Times ran an article linking Armstrong to doping.

Former England manager Steve McClaren also turned to Kelly over The Sun on Sunday’s front page about his alleged affair last year (21 August 2012). McClaren instructed Kelly and Hugh Tomlinson QC of Matrix Chambers to apply for a last minute interim privacy injunction to stop the publication of the tabloid’s splash, headed “Soccer exclusive: McClaren affair with Sven’s ex”.

The defamation law expert also attracted work from comedian Steve Coogan, who used Kelly for all his claims relating to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal last year. The firm scored a victory for Coogan when the Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the centre of the phone-hacking scandal, over a High Court order forcing him to disclose who instructed him.

The news of Kelly’s departure comes just under a year after Schillings’ libel star Gideon Benaim quit the firm (8 June 2012). Benaim, a former partner of the year winner at The Lawyer Awards, was famously instructed by Giggs (2 March 2012) when the footballer took out an injunction to prevent the publication of an affair with Imogen Thomas. The injunction was broken by Twitter.

At the time senior partners dismissed concerns that the departure of Benaim and cuts to its recruitment were an indication of a struggling firm, saying the changes had been managed proactively with no surprises or shocks.

Harbottles acted on behalf of the Royal Family over the publication of naked pictures of Prince Harry in August last year (24 August 2012). The firm is known to have acted for the Queen, Prince Charles and Kate Middleton when the Royal Family had concerns about paparazzi pictures and the use of unauthorised or intrusive photographs.

It is unclear when exactly Kelly will be joining Harbottles. He did not respond to requests for comment at the time of writing,