From celebrity lawyers to reputation defence business – ABS completes transformation


Mills: ABS makes us more innovative

Well-known London law firm Schillings – which was granted two alternative business structure (ABS) licences in March – has relaunched as a business that integrates IT security, legal advice and risk consulting to help companies and individuals protect their reputations.

Chief operating office Christopher Mills said the ABS route had enabled Schillings to create a unique offering to the market.

Schillings’ ABS licences were for the main firm and for its limited company Schillings Corporate Services, through which it acquired cyber-security provider Vigilante Bespoke last year.

Integration had been on the agenda since the spring of 2012, but until becoming ABSs, the businesses had to operate separately and even construct Chinese walls between them, meaning Schillings could not provide a seamless service, Mr Mills explained.

The firm can now also attract IT security and risk consultants with the promise of partnership; Mr Mills has become the first non-lawyer partner. Further, the partnership is to be moved into the limited company to allow for share schemes and cash retention for acquisitions.

Schillings – whose new tagline is ‘Law at the speed of reputation’ – was best known for acting for celebrities in defamation and privacy cases, but Mr Mills said he joined in 2005 to grow the corporate side of the business. This now makes up 80% of the workload.

The multi-disciplinary service has a wide range of tools at its disposal, such as ‘ethical hacking’ to test systems, a ‘reputation tracking system’, digital forensics to ascertain the sources of leaks or false information being published anonymously online, and even bug sweeps.

It combines these with advice for companies to put structures in place to deal with potential risks and legal advice when, for example, a client is given two hours to respond to a negative press story before it goes to print. Law is “at the centre of the business”, Mr Mills stressed.

Describing it as a “reputation defence business”, Mr Mills suggested that ABSs such as Schillings that also offer non-legal and non-regulated services are redefining what being a ‘law firm’ means. “ABS opens us up to being more competitive and innovative,” he added.

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