Russell Jones & Walker (RJW) is to pull back from top-end media libel and privacy work, prompting the departure of media chief Sarah Webb.
Webb is leaving for Payne Hicks Beach, home to top family lawyer Fiona Shackleton, where she is expected to build a reputation management practice. “The family team has clients who want to keep out of the press, or need a lawyer to act if they’re in the press,” said Webb.
“RJW’s keeping the institutional side of things – the firm’s geared towards the Legal Services Act and bulking up the volume end of things.” RJW counts the Police Federation as one of its biggest clients and the firm said it would continue to house a reduced private client team to service the needs of the association.
Partner Jeremy Clarke-Williams has been appointed to succeed Webb as head of media, libel and privacy. RJW chief executive Neil Kinsella said the practice would “focus primarily on continuing to deliver legal services to our current affinity group client base”. Last March RJW raided Gorvins Solicitors for four partners, including the firm’s senior partner and regulatory lawyer George Marriott and family head Amanda McAlister. At the time Kinsella said: “We want to become known for private client and family work.”
The family team, led by McAlister, had built up a niche in police divorce cases while at Gorvins and the strategic move to RJW was designed to capitalise on this. Webb has taken her entire client base to Payne Hicks, including private investigator Glen Mulcaire, who is at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal, having been accused of tapping phones for the News of the World.