Schillings sports and media litigation partner Gideon Benaim, who has acted for a host of celebrity clients including footballer Ryan Giggs, has quit the firm.
The firm is also losing senior associate Matthew Himsworth who is leaving to set up his own practice concentrating on sports clients.
The news of Benaim’s departure coincides with confirmation that Schillings has cancelled its graduate recruitment programme and cancelled contracts for trainees due to start with the firm in September (8 June | 2012), as reported on RollonFriday.
Both Benaim, a partner and Himsworth – a former associate of the year winner at The Lawyer Awards – are on gardening leave. It is not yet known what Benaim’s next move is.
Chief executive Rod Christie-Miller said: “After 13 years with the firm Gideon wanted a new challenge. We remain committed to helping our corporate and private clients to protect their reputation and privacy. We continue to grow by helping corporate and individual clients proactively identify and mitigate reputation and privacy risks, which has allowed us to create two new partners from within the firm earlier this year in Jenny Afia and Chris Scott.”
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.
He has also successfully acted for Naomi Campbell and after co-founder Keith Schillings is the firm’s most recognised lawyer.
With the expected hiatus in celebrity injunction work after the Leveson Inquiry publishes a verdict on the media industry, the firm says it wants to focus more on blue-chip clients such as hedge funds and energy companies.
Management are reshaping the business around that model and said clients will want “grey-haired experience” in that area.
Financially, super injunction work is high profile but makes up less than 10 per cent of total turnover for Schillings.
Senior partners have dismissed concerns that the departure of Benaim and the cuts to its recruitment were an indication of a struggling firm, saying the changes have been managed proactively with no surprises or shocks.
Himsworth will take almost a decade of experience in reputation protection into his own venture, Himsworth Sports Legal Consultancy.
He has advised a number of Schillings’ biggest clients including stockbrokers Collins Stewart, comedian Rowan Atkinson, author JK Rowling, football star Michael Owen, and Manchester City.
Himsworth has also worked closely with Benaim on a number of long-running libel actions, including cyclist Lance Armstrong and US business magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Himsworth confirmed that he was setting up “on his own” with the “best wishes of Keith”.
He said: “I’ve always had a focus on the sports industry and after 10 excellent years, I want to concentrate more on that and make my own decisions. The firm has been very supportive, they are disappointed I’m leaving, but I go with their best wishes.”
Himsworth’s new firm launches on 18 July and will be based in Hertfordshire.
He added: “In the sports industry, the centre of London is not the centre of the universe. I think it is very important to get on to the client’s doorstep.
“It is a great time to launch with the all the media glare on sport this summer.”