Jenny Afia’s appetite for the job is undiminished. Over a herbal tea in the Coral Room, she confides: ‘I still have goals. I want two of the world’s most influential women in particular as my clients.’ And why should a leading light at Schillings aim low? ‘I am lucky enough to work with some of the world’s most successful people. Despite all their resources, I see how distressing unfair attacks on reputation can be.’ Afia notes an increase in instructions from the banking sector, thanks to the increasingly onerous international compliance process. As ever, she tigerishly defends her clients’ interests: ‘False rumours and inaccurate reporting can cause individuals significant difficulty in opening or maintaining banking services, attracting investment and the ability to travel freely,’ she says. One particular concern is what she calls the ‘automation of due diligence processes’: ‘The migration of journalistic content from print to online has created […]
Welcome to the Spear’s Indices
Each issue of Spear’s Magazine contains an exclusive Index prepared by the experts at the Spear’s Research Unit identifying the very best providers of professional services to the high net worth audience. Comprehensive, authoritative and indispensible, these are the definitive lists of the top HNW advisers in Britain working in property, family law, wealth management, tax and trust, alternative assets and reputation management. Once a year the Indices are updated and expanded to form the core of the Spear’s 500, the bible of HNW advisers. Go to the drop down menu below for the latest indices of top professionals from the Spear’s Research Unit
Reputation Managers 2019
Freuds managing partner Edward Amory has seen it all. ‘I worked first in politics as an adviser to ministers, then in media as a writer and fixer for editors, and now I combine these two worlds in my role at freuds,’ he explains. He points to the varied nature of the work: ‘I provide high-level counsel to leaders facing reputational challenges and opportunities. My clients range from those that provide consumer products, to financial services, to development banks, to healthcare.’ It’s also a dynamic job. ‘Our industry is going through a period of profound change driven by two factors,’ he tells us. ‘Loss of consumer trust in previously respected authorities, including media, and technological change driving profound economic shifts within media.’ Those shifts have a tangible result: ‘As a result, many of our clients are now choosing to communicate directly through creative content with the audiences that matter to them.’ […]
‘We want to focus on the law side and work with the best comms people there are,’ says Gideon Benaim, speaking to Spear’s on the eve of winning Case of the Year at the Spear’s Wealth Management Awards. This was bestowed for his landmark battle on behalf of Sir Cliff Richard in his case against the BBC and the South Yorkshire Police. The High Court ruled that the BBC infringed the singer’s privacy in its reporting of a surprise police raid on his home in 2014. Richard was awarded £210,000 damages and £850,000 on account of legal costs. ‘It was a case of being in the eye of the storm,’ recalls Benaim. ‘On the day the search happened, we only found out about it once the police had arrived on the scene.’ You can see his empathy for the client: ‘Once the cat’s out the bag it doesn’t matter that four […]
Right Angles PR managing director Paul Blanchard works with CEOs and senior politicians – ‘none of whom want publicity for their own sake’ – at his tailored service. The work often entails using social media with efficiency and expediency. ‘If you were reckless in the use of someone’s Twitter account, you could destroy their reputation pretty quickly,’ he explains. Social media can also help to build a reputation, too: ’It’s like two waves: if you time them right they can amplify one another; if you mistime them they cancel each other out.’ Blanchard also presents a popular podcast featuring major media figures and is the author of the bestselling book Fast PR.
Michael Bodansky has a varied track record, built around a clear enthusiasm and storytelling ability. ‘Even in obscure, technical or “boring” industries, there’s always an interesting story to tell,’ he explains, adding: ‘If you can figure that out, you can get news coverage, attract smart, motivated people, and paint yourself – or your company – in a good light.’ Bodansky also notes that ‘business leaders are increasingly having to take stances on political and social issues. Once upon a time a leader could be considered good at her or his job if they produced financial growth, but now there is scrutiny on CEOs on everything from sustainability to the gender pay gap.’
Schillings stalwart Magnus Boyd counts all manner of HNWs among his clients and is as adept at data breaches as he is at defamation. He has been spearheading the firm’s ‘integrated, instant response offering’ and has been kept busy with securing clients for GDPR implementation and data threats. ‘If clients suffer a data breach, the firm deploys its own intelligence and cyber team to co-ordinate a response,’ he says. Boyd also works on disprovals of defamatory claims. ‘That’s really satisfying work, because you’re getting under the skin of the problem with a client and it can take you in all sorts of different directions,’ he says.
Zoe Brennan wields 20 years’ experience on Fleet Street and in the lobby to lead the firm’s writing practice: she works across a range of matters, speechwriting, drafting op-eds, narratives for clients and messaging across the agency. ‘We have a suite of media training services, ranging from crisis work to bespoke broadcast or print training for specific opportunities,’ she says. ‘We focus on honing key messages to ensure our clients retain control of media experiences.’ What mistakes do HNWs make when being interviewed? ‘They try to say too much,’ says Brennan. ‘Interviews work best if you retain focus on your specific goal, rather than take a scattergun approach.’
AV Premier Marketing is a firm renowned for its privacy, which explains why founder Simon Brewer is in high demand from UHNWs worldwide. Brewer founded the firm 20 years ago, initially to focus on consumer PR for luxury brands, but later came into contact with UHNWs ‘who sometimes need PR themselves’. ‘The most important old principle with UHNWs is trust – if you haven’t got that, you aren’t going anywhere,’ says Brewer. The former City man deals with traditional crises as well as with threats brought about by social media. ‘Working with individuals is more rewarding, because you have a far more defined role… you really can manage things terribly well.’
‘Life goes on,’ says Mike Brookes, the head of Lee & Thompson’s reputation protection division. Brookes has won highly publicised cases on behalf of A-list clients including Jude Law, Eddie Redmayne, Frankie Boyle, Paul Hollywood and Christopher Eccleston. He has also worked on unusual cases such as the much-discussed libel and data protection appeal on behalf of His Highness Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco in 2017. ‘The way I rationalise it is you just have to view it as a cost of doing business,’ he says. ‘The old adage that it takes years to build a reputation and seconds to ruin it… it is worth spending the money to protect the reputation you’ve got.’
Lia Chiarin’s fine art background feeds into her work. ‘From hand-drawing the artwork for major global campaigns, to Instagram consultancy and the odd Christmas cracker design, I stretch my abilities far and wide,’ she says. She’s also driven by a strong core sense of the company: to ‘make the world more interesting, more curious and more accessible’. And how are things changing? ‘Where a few years ago you had to be a rock star or Kate Moss to gain public interest, today you can be anything from a pancake artist to a miniature dachshund.’ Chiarin is surely a new star in the PR firmament.
It’s been another busy year for Roddy Chisholm Batten, who’s become accustomed to taking on major legal battles since he joined Clintons 15 years ago. ‘This year more evidence is coming out, more and more people are going, “Well actually that relates to me,” and people are now coming forward,’ he says of the ongoing phone-hacking saga. Career highlights include acting for three of Paul Weller’s children in an infringement of privacy claim against Associated Newspapers in 2014, and for Shane Richie in the Mirror hacking litigation in 2015. ‘People in the public eye deserve a private life just like everyone else,’ he says. Few can secure it like Chisholm Batten.
Chief executive Rod Christie-Miller has continued to preside over the transformation of Schillings into an all-purpose protective unit for HNWs. ‘[The purpose] of Schillings is to give more services to existing clients, to find adjacent services to give to those clients, and to find further clients, and we’re doing all three,’ he says. Christie-Miller has brought intelligence experts, investigators, risk consultants and cyber specialists under one roof. The firm also has senior figures from military, banking and government backgrounds to bolster its international offering. ‘We think we’re slightly different and we have this extra-legal capability all within the legal wrapper,’ he explains.
Dominic Crossley was nominated for Spear’s Reputation Lawyer of the Year in 2018, a testament to a long and varied career: ‘I started in commercial litigation and I still classify myself as a commercial litigator,’ he says. ‘But there’s no doubt that I found the human aspects of this area fascinating.’ It’s led to a number of huge cases, including acting for Max Mosley, ‘which generated a huge amount of publicity’. Mosley ‘has been a fierce and effective advocate for press standards and privacy over the years’. He notes how the public attitude towards privacy has changed: ‘Initially people thought it was the preserve of footballers and celebrities. I think people are more realistic now – with social media, everyone knows their private information is vulnerable and they’d like to protect it.’ His work on claims against the tabloid press culminated in his acting for all the core participant victims in […]
‘Our clients are typically surrounded by an army of advisers and we’re brought in as the special forces team working alongside the client’s PR advisors,’ says Jeremy Eakin, a partner at Schillings. Eakin tells Spear’s that the increasing threat of hostile media attention is now ‘a concern for the many, not the few’. He adds: ‘Fuelled and enabled by social media, it’s an unforgiving environment where any individual, brand or organisation can become a target.’ Individuals and businesses can, however, take simple steps to be less of a target, he says. ‘The privacy, security and reputation crises that we fix frequently have a personal and not just a financial impact on our clients.’
David Engel insists that his work is mainly behind the scenes. He offers advice, representation and negotiation and does his best to keep his clients out of court (‘although we’ve been pretty close on a few occasions’). An Addleshaw Goddard man since 2001, Engel’s clients in 2018 included a number of major high street brands in relation to a media issue involving the BBC’s Watchdog; a member of the House of Lords; a Cambridge University lecturer; and a Hong-Kong based venture capitalist: ‘Quite a wide variety.’ Many cases have involved a data breach, a phenomenon that he has witnessed grow over the years and is ‘a big concern’. Engel observes how quickly a reputational issue for an individual can bring a business to its knees. ‘The business and the individual are now very closely linked,’ he says. ‘It’s a completely different ballpark from ten years ago – reputational issues that would […]
‘Another record year,’ announces John Evans, who has grown Hawthorn from a one-man band to a 30-strong operation. He reports revenue growth of 50 per cent across capital markets, strategic communications and private client departments, with a‘fairly significant’ increase in family office clients. Spear’s catches up with Evans after Hawthorn’s fifth-anniversary party at Spencer House. What gives the firm an edge is Evans’ own experience of building a company across London and Bangalore, raising finances and seeing it through to exit. ‘It gives you a really good understanding of what our clients are going through,’ he says.
Chelgate’s CEO is an experienced media hand, having established the first foreign PR business in China and led Hill + Knowlton’s Asia Pacific operations. He moved to Burston-Marsteller and became chairman of its UK operations before setting up his own boutique firm. Although UK-based, Fane- Saunders’ firm has tentacles all over the world. ‘There’s one African country where I’ve counselled three of the last four presidents,’ he says. In most cases, he’s revealed that what matters most is not what you say but what you do: ‘You look at getting the behaviour right, and then you look at the communications,’ he explains.
When asked about his 2018, Michael Farrant says: ‘Living on a plane is part of it.’ He is referring to the ‘very large’ client growth at the boutique firm, which has required a lot of travel. ‘It’s quite humbling.’ Project Associates has responded with a headhunt for ‘the best in class’ – important for the type of clients he looks after: ‘The moment you do not deliver at the highest level, you are no longer serving them in the best way.’ Farrant welcomes the growth of the industry, where he has noticed capable advisers entering with a true understanding of family dynamics. More such talent is important for HNWs, he stresses: ‘Families have seen how quickly reputations can be destroyed.’
‘I had fairly strong views from the start that people are very much entitled to their privacy despite being high-profile,’ Andrew FremlinKey asserts. The litigation and arbitration associate at Withers describes the chance to work with Amber Melville-Brown as ‘a dream’. Fremlin-Key advises HNWs on tax-related matters: ‘HMRC are very reasonable – if you do some of the work for them, they are not interested in slaughtering you in the press unnecessarily.’ Most of his clients enjoy privacy under his guard. ‘Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are all over the world, whereas we act for footballers in the same sort of sphere and you won’t ever find articles about it,’ he says.
Defamation and privacy maestro Claire Gill spent a significant portion of the year acting for two businessmen in the first ‘right to be forgotten’ case against Google. ‘I was dealing with uncharted legal territory,’ recalls Gill. ‘I had a strong belief in the policy of the rehabilitation of offenders – which is undermined in an internet age – but there were complex legal issues in play.’ Gill is renowned for finding practical solutions to complex problems. Clients look to her for discretion and effectiveness. ‘We are quickly able to understand nuanced geopolitical situations and how they impact on our clients’ interests,’ says Gill.
‘I love to help clients navigate uncharted territory, protecting them from their enemies and getting them home safe,’ Rory Godson told Spear’s a year ago. Godson started out as a journalist and was business editor of the Sunday Times before switching to corporate affairs. Journalism ‘taught me to deal with multiple sources addressing challenging issues under great time pressure’, he reflects. When it comes to clients’ problems, for Godson ‘the tougher and more complex it is, the better’. Powerscourt made headlines itself in 2018, as it was hired by Sir Martin Sorrell’s investment vehicle, S4 Capital, to handle its financial PR.
Grant and his team specialise in ‘critical communications’ through ‘times of significant stress and public interest when time is short, scrutiny is intense, and the outcome is vitally important’. Clients include blue-chip multinationals and C-suite HNWs. Spear’s asks Grant to define his approach during a time of crisis. ‘Honesty and empathy’, he replies. ‘You can’t start to manage a critical situation unless you clearly understand where your client stands, the challenges they face, their options and a realistic assessment of the outcomes. Only then can you make a plan that might make a difference.’ On what separates the best from the rest, Grant cuts to the chase. ‘One: spin doesn’t work. Two: there are no “dark arts” that can magic away a problem. Three: engaging isn’t adding fuel to the fire, it’s your only chance to be understood and supported. Four: reputation is based on what you say and do.’
As a former News of the World editor, Phil Hall knows the power of the media better than most. ‘No one would expect to go into a court of law and not expect to be properly represented by someone who understands how that system works,’ he says. ‘It should be the same with the media.’ He warns that many clients are initially naive: ‘They think the press will report what they say, when often the press will ignore what they say because it doesn’t suit their agenda.’ Hall believes there is an increasing need for protection, especially among corporate clients: ‘Sometimes there’s somebody out there trying to poison the well, [often] a business rival.’
A powerful advocate who defends the interests of her client beyond the call of duty,’ a market commentator says of Charlotte Harris, who is known for her work on injunctions and her role as a board director at Hacked Off. She takes care of a range of HNWs at the centre of media and public scrutiny, having worked with claimants in the phonehacking scandal. Harris has previously told Spear’s: ‘The thing that really makes people nervous is whether or not they’re going to get a knock at the door and someone’s going to take a photograph of them – it’s trying to help clients and protect them in those anxiety-ridden circumstances.’
Weber Shandwick’s director of reputation management and strategic media relations has seen it all. Having worked at Clarence House as press secretary to Prince Charles, Patrick Harrison has met a variety of world leaders and coordinated the communications for 24 royal trips. Harrison is a big promoter of the need for a ‘mixed communications’ strategy. ‘The transition from traditional PR to a mixed communications offering is the biggest change over the last five years, and it’s a welcome one,’ he says. ‘We’ve invested heavily in data analysts and programs so that we can have a measurable impact on our clients’ reputation.’
Fresh from dealing with the fallout from the BHS pensions scandal, Hawker has no intention of slowing down. In the past 12 months he has lent his expertise to similarly thorny issues such as a recent crisis at the Institute of Directors and contentious fights between business partners. Increasingly, Hawker has geared his practice towards HNWs where he is keen to help them avoid ‘increasing exposure through the family courts’. Hawker is unusually candid about the problems of the industry, recognising that there is a proliferation of ‘misguided’ injunctions and saying their frivolous use might be counterproductive: ‘It’s far more use to be pragmatic and try to sort the core issues.’ A former journalist himself, Hawker has a nuanced view of the relationship between the press and the objects of their attention. When asked about the recent Sir Cliff Richard case, he notes that ‘the public has a right to […]
A reputation management solicitor must be ‘measured, calm and pragmatic’, says James Heath of Atkins Thomson. Heath has worked in the field of media litigation for well over a decade, working as the lead solicitor in hacking litigation against the Mirror Group. He also acted for social worker Sylvia Henry in the Baby P libel action. ‘It makes you realise that the social worker simply can’t win, whether they take the child away or decide not to,’ he says. Stamina is another key trait needed. Heath says of another recent case: ‘It has been pointed out to me that the case took longer to sort out than the Second World War!’
Andrew Honnor is used to being in the hot seat, having advised the government, Goldman Sachs, Ukraine (on its bond restructure) and RBS. He was also public affairs director at News International after Rebekah Brooks’ resignation. ‘We’re the largest adviser in Europe for alternative investment firms,’ Honnor says of Greenbrook. He founded the firm in response to distress situations after the financial crash. Businesses in the financial industry – from single-strategy start-ups and spin-outs to multi-platform asset managers – found solace in Honnor’s expertise in facing ever-increasing public scrutiny. Business grew even more in 2018. Honnor forecasts continued growth in 2019 too, noting that clients ‘don’t deal with traditional firms any more’. He explains why some of the biggest clients come to him: ‘We’re very fast, very professional and responsive in a way that some of the big bureaucratic firms have struggled to be. We are a new, disruptive influence […]
Nicola Howson struck out on her own in 2014 after time served as ITV communications director and freuds’ chief executive. She has been advising corporations and high-profile individuals – including Kevin Spacey for the past 15 years – on their reputations. ‘I’ve always believed that, in the end, we always get the reputations we deserve,’ she told Spear’s a year ago. Offering her thoughts on the ‘stark’ differences between now and her early career, she said: ‘What’s changed is the pace… it used to be that you didn’t relax until 6pm on a Saturday, because only then did you know your client wasn’t on the front page of a newspaper.’ Social media has transformed all that: ‘It’s impossible now to take a path that is anything other than transparent,’ she says. Howson founded freuds’ corporate practice before being made CEO of the agency in 2010. In March 2018 she joined […]
A former president of the Oxford Union and runner-up in the World Debating Championships, Alex Just is no stranger to strategic communication. However, what he likes best about the work is the direct contact with clients. Just was a barrister for three years and maintains his practice. ‘The work that I do now is similar in that you need to be taken into your client’s confidence, and for that they have to know that you’re right there in the trenches with them,’ he says. Colleagues say he has ‘made a real mark working on some of our most complex matters’ and ‘has seamlessly moved to combine legal expertise with communications and reputation advice’.
‘Around 90 per cent of our work is preventative,’ John Kelly tells a Spear’s staffer all too familiar with receiving one of Harbottle’s firmly worded legal warnings during time served at the Daily Mail. ‘Yes. We spend a healthy amount of time on issues with the Mail and others,’ he adds, ‘but the rules of engagement with traditional media are fairly well understood.’ For Kelly, the theme over the past year has been privacy and family protection for HNWs, alongside a rise in criminal activity that he defines as starting with ‘hacked material moving through to the extremes of blackmail’. He adds: ‘Digital technology makes it much easier to contact people and make threats while masking your identity. People think they’re beyond the law when they’re operating in the cyber domain. They’re not.’ Over the years he has represented A-listers such as Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie and Madonna. In April […]
‘We’ve invested many millions in tech,’ says Dave King, founder of Digitalis. The firm’s technology mitigates online reputational, physical and cyber-security risks for UHNWs and their families. Digitalis mines clients’ online information, then advises on potentially risky data and works to remove or diminish it. After a cyber-attack, the firm monitors if and where data has been published online. ‘We know within six minutes and help lawyers jump into action, before an investigative journalist splashes it on a tabloid,’ says King. ‘The bit I like most is when we’re in the office of a prominent chairman and their reaction is, “I didn’t know you could do that.”’
Fiercely protective of his clients, Duncan Lamont says that when a newspaper is asking questions about a client, it is often enough just to ring its legal department and threaten an injunction. He describes one case where he ‘took a bit of a stick’ to every inaccuracy in a Guardian article, getting it to ‘pick on someone else’. Lamont’s client base includes TV broadcasters and producers – not to mention HNWs, journalists, sports stars and celebrities. What clients want in a potential crisis, he argues, is ‘confidence and a clarity’ that their adviser has seen it all and knows what they’re doing. With 30 years’ experience and a mastery of his discipline, Lamont certainly delivers on that.
Pagefield Global and co-founder Stuart Leach have had a superb year. ‘What we’ve got now is a really good collection of former practising lawyers and other communications professionals,’ he explains. ‘We’ve just taken on two new lawyers from DLA Piper and Levy Kaufmann-Kohle. Alex Just [see page 80] and I still have our practising certificates. We attach to the legal team and it helps with privilege.’ Leach explains his approach: ‘Where we are is in analysis in identifying risks inherent in the dispute, then planning for those and handling the execution. We want our clients to move on from the best possible position.’ This then, is a remarkably rigorous firm committed to a highly strategic and atomistic approach. But Leach is also expert at the human side of the job. ‘Sometimes you work with people the media hate,’ he says. ‘In reality, with what they’re now involved with, they’re the […]
As Hanover prepares to celebrate 20 years of building reputation to drive business returns, founder and chief executive Charles Lewington tells Spear’s that in a challenging world of disruptive technologies, political ambiguity and shifting markets, businesses are increasingly realising the need for high-level strategic consultancy to anticipate, advise and act on regulatory, legislative and reputational issues. Lewington, press secretary to John Major in the Nineties, adds that as the UK prepares to repatriate many regulatory responsibilities, ‘there’s been a growing demand from our global clients for high-level expertise operating in complex, regulated sectors’. To meet the demand, Hanover has developed public affairs campaign strategies underpinned by data-rich insight and delivered across digital platforms aimed at politicians and other time-poor audiences. ‘For crisis preparedness, we have been delivering support beyond traditional media training, including integrated TV, online news and social media simulations to illustrate how one feeds another at breakneck speed.’ […]
‘Generally, people are completely taken aback by the fast-paced environment they need to be operating in,’ explains Hill + Knowlton Global practice leader in crisis communications and risk management Tim Luckett. Luckett continues to keep the firm up to speed with a growing suite of innovative measures. Its Flight School simulates an online crisis in real time to test crisis response capabilities. The firm has also launched an app to provide instant support for clients. The former journalist has also been kept busy by data breaches and cyber work. ‘[People] literally don’t have three hours to get legal approval and to get something signed off,’ he says.
David McDonough OBE is a trusted adviser to UHNWs, corporations and high-flying executives. At the end of another busy week, and now at the end of another busy year, McDonough tells Spear’s the 12 months have flown by, ‘advising a fascinating, challenging and growing portfolio of clients, all concerned about the consequences of an uncertain world and all attaching importance to discreet wise counsel’. However, 2019, he warns, ‘will be a year of continued uncertainty and change and therefore very fertile ground for close trusted advisers who can help clients read the runes and offer steadying and wise counsel’. McDonough, unlike many of his peers, is unruffled by Brexit: ‘I believe we will leave the European Union and I hope and believe there will be no second referendum.’ So what’s keeping him up at night? ‘The prospect – but by no means probability – of a Marxist-led government intent upon […]
Amber Melville-Brown had completed her media law master’s on sabbatical but was preparing for the New York Bar exam when Spear’s rang. ‘It’s a bastard,’ she says laughing. If successful, she’ll become the reputation management world’s first ‘transatlantic-qualified’ lawyer. ‘I’m quite excited about it,’ she says, ‘but the pressure’s on.’ And it will get more intense, with her recent promotion to lead Withers’ global media and reputation team. But 2016’s Spear’s Reputation Lawyer of the Year is up for the challenge. ‘If you only have domestic capabilities, then your advice stops at the mid-Atlantic somewhere, or at the border of Northern Ireland.’ Drawing from her experience advising the likes of the Duke of Marlborough, Novak Djokovic, blue-chip corporations and UHNWs, she stresses that information does ‘cross borders’. And if it reaches America, she says, lawyers have to be up to speed with the inner workings of the First Amendment: ‘Although […]
During Steve Morris’s ten years as managing partner, Portland has grown from a team of 20 to more than 250. Clients include some of the world’s best-known billionaires, family offices, CEOs and philanthropists. Prior to joining Portland, Morris worked at Downing Street for communications – ‘a fantastic experience’, he says. ‘If you can deal with the British political lobby journalism, then you can pretty much deal with anything.’ When Spear’s sits down with Morris he is cheerful and affable. If you thought this firm was simply an arm of Blairism then this would be to underestimate the sheer range of work it conducts. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ariane de Rothschild, Mo Ibrahim and Tej Kohli are all clients. Another significant figure at Portland is Victoria Dean, who leads its Brexit Unit. With an impressive CV including her tenure as the UK’s spokesperson in Brussels, as well as a […]
Jon Oakley was a part of the Simkins team that won Gideon Benaim Spear’s Case of the Year for their representation of Sir Cliff Richard against the BBC. ‘He did that because he felt under a duty to try and make sure that no one in the future would suffer like he did,’ Oakley says of his client. For Oakley, who joined Simkins in 2013, practice involves an understanding of the personal aspect. ‘You’re working with people at what is often one of the most stressful times of their professional or personal life,’ he says. ‘Where clients feel valued is in you being able to apply the law to their personal situation and for them to feel that you can really fight their corner.’
Spear’s catches Farrer’s head of reputation management during a minuscule break in a ‘fast-moving and dynamic’ year. ‘Work tends to be very quick,’ Julian Pike says. ‘You get brought in at no notice and the case can last for 24 hours, or 48 hours – it can last for a week.’ One case involved putting a stop to seven years of harassment and litigation plaguing a wealthy family; Pike’s skills brought in ‘a very positive outcome’. Other clients in 2018 included David Matthews (father of Spencer and father-in-law of Pippa Middleton), businesswoman Barbara Judge, and the Football Association (safeguarding Gareth Southgate’s squad and entourage during the World Cup).
‘It’s keeping a lot of lawyers busy on both sides of the equation,’ Geraldine Proudler said of the impending GDPR laws when we spoke last year. The head of reputation and media litigation at CMS notes that while there have always been trends in reputation management, data protection is now the focus for companies and individuals alike. For companies, it’s ‘not new in the sense that data protection was always there, but the consequences of getting it wrong are now much more serious’ due to the sizeable GDPR fines. For HNWs, data protection is ‘a very real concern. How comfortable can they be that their private information will remain private in the current climate?’
Roland Rudd, founder of Finsbury, must have has been engulfed by the call of his capital market clients and his People’s Vote campaign. He was understandably too busy for a Spear’s comment. Meanwhile, Finsbury has been collecting awards, including US Public Relations Firm of the Year from M&A Atlas and Communications Firm of the Year from the M&A Advisor. The collaboration between Finsbury, the German financial consultancy Hering Schuppener and the American Glover Park Group has also gained attention. An industry commentator notes that the partnership has overseen 74 mergers and acquisitions with a combined value of $293 billion.
When we spoke last year, Niri Shan was philosophical about the role of a lawyer in reputation management. ‘The fact that a lawyer would specialise in reputation management is something that another lawyer would find quite surprising,’ he said. However, the Taylor Wessing partner and head of media is glad there is ‘a greater understanding’ now of the scope of advice legal minds can offer, which often transcends law. ‘You’re a counsellor as well as a lawyer,’ he says. This year, our phone call was cut short by an ‘urgent Guardian deadline,’ confirming his statement that his year has been ‘extremely busy… growing the team has strategically paid off.’ Highlights included ‘working on obtaining an injunction against an anonymous blackmailer in defamation, privacy and harassment, to stop the release of false criminal allegations to the media’. He has also been advising clients on protecting their privacy during the divorce process, […]
‘In legal practice, do not be surprised by anything,’ says Gordon Dadds partner Robin Shaw, who has more than 35 years in the media and reputation world. Hailed as a ‘cerebral operator’ with ‘excellent analytical skills’ by industry commentators, Shaw has ‘extensive experience’ of litigating in both the High Court Queen’s Bench and Chancery Divisions, and in the Court of Appeal. His practice is vast, covering all aspects of media-related litigation including defamation, libel, privacy, intellectual property and contractual disputes. Steeped in 100 years of history, Gordon Dadds has a futuristic outlook and a ‘significant’ investment in technology.
Malika Shermatova is a remarkable success story. ‘I came into the UK at the age of 19, didn’t know anyone or anything, spoke relatively good English, but the real challenge was starting from scratch,’ recalls the Tajikistanborn PR manager. Fast forward to 2018 and Shermatova has had a superb start as the founder of Minerva PR, which has a focus on a range of industries in the financial services world, as well as fintech, insurtech, professional services and the hospitality sector. ‘PR is very much a “people’s business”, but I often found that the “people” part of it was missing,’ she says. ‘Clients were seen just as “numbers”.’
Mark Stephens is arguably in a league of his own – one of the few lawyers not just on this list, but across the whole legal profession who has become a figure of national significance. Any reputation of Stephens’ magnitude must be built first and foremost on client relationships. ‘I’d do anything for Mark,’ says one well-known TV journalist, adding: ‘My goodness me, he’s got me out of some scrapes.’ Another client – a famous novelist – is equally a fan: ‘Mark is a great man,’ she says. Others he has acted for include WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whom he defended against extradition to Sweden, and Dow Jones in its free speech case against Australian mining magnate Joseph Gutnick. If clients like him, then it’s a feeling Stephens reciprocates. ‘It’s my clients who decide whether I am trusted or not and that is very much based on an individual, person-to-person […]
It had been a long time coming, but there were real cheers of approval when Nigel Tait went up to the stage to collect his Spear’s Reputation Lawyer of the Year award at the Dorchester in November. Since that evening, the rumour has reached Spear’s that he’s not unhappy about the win: ‘Ask him about it and his face lights up,’ says one industry insider. Perhaps that’s because it was well-deserved. Carter-Ruck’s managing partner has been doing high-end work, winning six-figure payouts for celebrities, acting for corporate giants and obtaining important injunctions. Most famously he obtained the claimant’s injunction in PJS v News Group Newspapers, which went to the Supreme Court, which upheld the injunction. Tait also recently acted against Google in a well-publicised Right to Be Forgotten case. Tait tells Spear’s: ‘We are quickly able to understand nuanced geopolitical situations and how they impact on our clients’ interests. Our expertise […]
‘In the past ten years, the practice of reputation management has evolved,’ Dan Tench tells Spear’s, adding that the playing field has changed from being principally based on ‘the law of defamation’ to a much broader range of legal issues, ‘including privacy, breach of confidence, regulatory law and data protection’. For Tench, presence of mind is needed to focus on what needs to be done, prioritise, coordinate and liaise. Last year he told Spear’s that he finds himself increasingly a sort of ‘external consigliere’: ‘A lot of them are in shock. You’ve got to be sensitive to the fact that the client will be going through a particularly difficult time. I try to advise a determined way forward.’
Laura Toogood, a stalwart of this index and occasional contributor to Spear’s, holds a PhD in social informatics and is co-author of the book Journalism and PR: News Media and Public Relations in the Digital Age. In 2016 she founded Fieldmaster Group, which helps individuals, family offices and luxury brands with their online profiles and other digital issues. ‘If you don’t manage your reputation then somebody else – or a search engine like Google – will do it for you,’ she says. Her work has helped celebrities caught up in image-hacking scandals. ‘Sometimes people can underestimate the importance of the technical elements of online reputation management,’ she says.
For one of London’s best-known privacy and reputation lawyers, the past year has been busier than ever, as social media platforms – Facebook in particular – found themselves facing government scrutiny. Spear’s catches Gerrard Tyrrell reflecting on an ‘enormous period of turmoil’, not just in the UK but in America, Europe and Asia. Tyrrell tells Spear’s that the increased effect of regulation and inquiries has led to a multiplicity of legal issues being raised, with one spotlight moving towards exposing how the large social media platforms and others are using private information. However, he adds that although there’s ‘much work to be done in this regard’, he’s positive that ‘Congress and Parliament [are] now waking up to the topic’. The 2017 Spear’s Outstanding Achievement Award winner, known to represent the Royal Family, has warned in the past that ‘harassment’ and ‘selected hacking’ of home computers and companies has dramatically increased. […]
Joachim von Halasz’s clients include top firms in wealth management and family offices. ‘It is trusted and personal relationships that have been maintained consistently over decades which make the ultimate difference,’ he tells Spear’s. One of the private client world’s most visible figures, von Halasz spent a large part of 2018 launching the Tuesday Club, a project he describes as a ‘mini United Nations of Business’. The club meets fortnightly, and he tells Spear’s: ‘All members share an exceptional entrepreneurial spirit and maintain global networks of high-quality contacts in the wealth management industry.’
Our clients are managing through a period of immense disruption across all aspects of life: politics, both domestic and geopolitical, technology and public expectation,’ says Ed Williams, Edelman UK and Ireland CEO. ‘On the one hand, the big global economies continued to perform well, yet the public mood in respect to satisfaction with our leaders remains poor. Technology offers so much in terms of positive change, yet it also undermines established labour markets.’ Williams’ six years advising the then BBC director-general Mark Thompson and Reuters CEO Tom Glocer has given him a deep understanding of the pressures of executives and companies in the public spotlight, but for him the real problem is that ‘underfunding in journalism has led to partial reporting and sensationalism’. Conversely, he also says: ‘2018 was a rather good year for investigative journalism. Political coverage in America, led by the New York Times and Washington Post, has […]
Spear’s has a brief encounter with Emma Woollcott on the evening of our Wealth Management Awards, enquiring about her new role as head of Mishcon de Reya’s reputation protection group. ‘It’s busy,’ she replies, ‘but it’s been another fantastic year.’ A leader in ‘right to be forgotten’ matters, Woollcott is a self-professed cyber geek who enjoys tracking harassers online. Clients place ‘confidence and trust’ in Mishcon’s cyber and intelligence team, who know the nuances of technology and the law around it. Woollcott is also an activist. Through the firm’s Pride network, she set up its sponsorship of Pink Law, a pro bono service for the LGBT community.