Law Review: A Schilling for your thoughts? – and other matters…

The press is running riot with stories about Schillings and their ‘reputation management’ skills after the injunction fiasco and the cunning plan to ‘sue twitter’.

The Guardian….

Injunction publicity backfires on celebrity law firm

“After Ryan Giggs’ lawyers tried to sue Twitter for the initial internet leaks, thousands more tweets followed in retaliation”

Predictably… The Daily Mail put the boot in rather more brutally…

The Injunction King, a cabal of grasping lawyers and a £2000 assault on free speech.

I’ll leave you the pleasure of reading this latter piece of journalism.  Quite remarkable.  The usual tin foil hat wearers appear to ridicule law firms, law, lawyers and anything else that they fancy commenting on from their bunkers.   This was not a victory for free speech.  Serious matters, hidden from public gaze by injunctions – Trafigura et al – deserve public scrutiny (and MPs raising the matter in Parliament if injuncted).  Footballers and their dongles?

As the injunction has not been lifted, and I am a fan of the rule of law, I shall join other lawyers in not naming the footballer who everyone now knows through twitter and the antics of  Mr Hemming MP in Parliament the other day.   I have added a ‘black mask’ to the pic circulating widely on the net.

I don’t know much about Schillings, or Mr Schilling.  I admire the way he is reported as having worked his way up from a very modest background to run and head a successful law firm.  Lawyers do what lawyers do.  His reputation as ‘The Silencer’ will not appeal to many – but it clearly did to those who sought privacy.  I am a pragmatist when it comes to the business of law.  If there is a law, lawyers are going to use their skills to evade it or enforce it for the benefit of clients.  Criminal lawyers are used to public opprobium when they defend rapists, killers, paedophiles and other undesirables.  It goes with the territory – but everyone is entitled to be defended in criminal matters and, it must be the case and right, in civil matters as well. If we don’t like a law – we have a long standing tradition of law making in Parliament and we can lobby to change the law.   While Mr Schilling may well be reflecting on the PR disaster that is “CTB” – I doubt very much whether it will trouble him or his firm for long.  Win some, Lose some?  – But always get the fee?.  Nor should it.   Not all law is cuddly and fluffy – and neither are the clients who instruct the law firms.   The Bar has the long tradition of the cab rank principle – where all, no matter how unsavoury, are entitled to good legal representation.   Solicitors can be more choosy about their work and their clients. I have no problem at all with law firms representing those who want particular laws enforced.  We have courts to decide on the interpretation and application of the law – and an appeals mechanism if the first instance decisions are plainly wrong (as they are, inevitably, from time to time). Perhaps, in some cases, clients claim their rights now at their own peril.  Caveat Twitter? 

I add this from…

@Charonqc Can I just politely point out that it was Gideon Benaim (partner at Schillings) on for CTB, NOT Keith http://bit.ly/iEb0eL


There are, of course, many good media law firms out there opposing injunctions and ‘injunctioneers’ and act for the other side.  I suspect they may be laughing.  I know that Dr Erasmus Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly, allowed a flicker of a smile to cross his lips as he devoured the Daily Mail story.

AND talking about Twitter…I marvelled as I read some world class nonsense from a PR in The Guardian – twitter is running riot with this story…rightly.  I read the story in Comment is Free in The Guardian and mused…. had Mr Hillgrove got a tin foil hat on under his hat?

Twitter cannot be allowed to operate outside the law

The Guardian: “The Ryan Giggs case shows social media sites need to grow up and ensure content adheres to the same rules as everyone else.”

Astonishingly, Mr Hillgrove runs a PR company – who’d have thought that he doesn’t have an agenda?   Clearly, The Guardian may not have realised they were publishing a PR piece?  Who knows?  The Guardian is very busy these days…… very.  (Hat Tip to @ashleyconnick for drawing my attention to this website – Mr Hilgrove’s PR business.)

Anyway.. back to the man who may have a tin foil hat under his hat.  I quote from his own piece in The Guardian….

“Clearly, they  (twitter)are going to have to introduce a delay mechanism so that content can be checked before it goes up. There will have to be a completely different structure, which will be difficult when the whole thing about Twitter is its spontaneity.”

Wonderful nonsense…. how will that work?  Human being, algorithm?  I think Mr Hillgrove needs to go back to his bunker and put this idea back in the oven.

AND Finally.. this wonderful piece from @loveandgarbage... who is ruining his excellent reputation for blogging about scones and snow by doing a lot of serious and good law blogging…!

Are you a celebrity? Have you a secret? Consider your choice of lawyer carefully.

Well… there we are.. another day… another legal marvel….

17 thoughts on “Law Review: A Schilling for your thoughts? – and other matters…

  1. Charon, I’m I right in thinking that Hillgrove and the Guardian are in contempt of court for publishing the name of the claimant in this story? If so, it strikes me as delicious irony.

  2. The old saying holds true ‘If more than 2 people know, it’s not a secret’. On the one hand, I believe that what the footballer did is no-one’s business but his (and his wife’s, obviously) – on the other, the stories have been circulating for at least 6 weeks and if he had gone public then it would have been all forgotten by now. Any good PR advisor would have told him that – although image management law firms are, in the end, businesses and obviously wouldn’t advise him that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip paper.

  3. Trouble is that Twitter is multi-national. They were raised with freedom of speech as a baseline. It’s impossible for Britain to argue against the US system, because they laugh at our legal system of injunctions and libel. And, mostly, when the law is an ass (or arse) bloody right too. We’d all be better off with fewer laws that were better understood. Teaching our kids why our systems are worthwhile would be a good start!

  4. Interesting quote:

    “”It is necessary for there to be an open and honest discussion as to how, with the increasing dominance of the internet, the correct balance can be struck between the vital right to free speech on matters of genuine public interest and protection of people’s private lives and reputations.”

    from, of all sources, Schillings.

    Including the word “reputation” in there is thought-provoking. Do they include an undeserved reputation? It would appear so.

  5. Another interesting quote by Gordon Graham of Stockport. The quote appeared in The Guardian today (25/5)

    • Can it ever be right in a free society that people should be threatened with jail for telling the truth, just because that truth is embarrassing to someone rich and famous? To answer that in the affirmative, as certain judges have done, seems to me to be an arrow through the heart of freedom.

  6. “Criminal lawyers are used to public opprobium when they defend rapists, killers, paedophiles and other undesirables”

    Really? I don’t recall reading much in the mass media much in the way of criticism levelled at defense lawyers. I have read some criticising the ever-controversial area of defense lawyer tactics in rape cases, although much of that was a long time ago.

  7. Steve Jones – a number of lawyers defending paedophiles etc have had problems with ‘the public’ in the past.

    And, of course, they often get asked…”how can you defend a rapist, paedophile etc?”

  8. Interesting comment on the ‘cab rank principle’. It’s clear that the law should be available for all, but it certainly isn’t. Where were concerns about ‘interference in private life’ when the unfortunate Fiona Pilkington was hounded to her death over ten years? Is it time to nationalise legal practice and form a ‘National Legal Service’ where rich and poor alike are served by a State-appointed solicitor or barrister, according to need? Lawyers are officers of the court, after all….hmmm

    The law is indeed an ass over Twitter. Scandal-minded gentlemen used to take the boat across the Channel, purchase a copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover (published in Florence), read the dirty bits, chuck it over the side of the boat before returning to Britain and then tell their friends what was in it. Now they don’t even have to leave their own home to do this sort of thing.

  9. ObiterJ quoted,

    “Can it ever be right in a free society that people should be threatened with jail for telling the truth, just because that truth is embarrassing to someone rich and famous? To answer that in the affirmative, as certain judges have done, seems to me to be an arrow through the heart of freedom.”

    In the context of the injunctions, people haven’t been threatened with jail for telling the truth or, as Hemming suggested, for merely gossiping, they (1) have technically committed contempt of court for (2) breaching a court order. Let’s turn this around: should people be held accountable when they knowingly breach a court order?

    Steve Jones, I don’t know about abuse of defence lawyers in the UK, but in the US there has been a lot of antagonism toward lawyers acting for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

  10. @Jess the Dog

    The Fiona Pilkington affair appears to have very little to do with anything private lawyers did or did not do. The failures appear to have been essentially due to the lack of protection provided by the police in concert with the social services of the local authority. Those are both state provided services as, of course, is the judicial system itself.

    Of course it’s possible that a lawyer may have been able to bring these services to account in court with a suitable case. However, the idea that such an action might be taken by yet another state service to address the failures in two others is, I think, somewhat doubtful. There are plenty enough cases of state functionaries closing ranks. One only has to look at the shocking Shirley McKie fingerprint case in Scotland to see what can happen.

  11. ‘I don’t recall reading much in the mass media much in the way of criticism levelled at defense lawyers.’

    bernard richmond qc defended the stepfather of baby p and got roundly slagged for his pains. it was led by the daily male tho…

    cheering to see that the sun refused to descend into the mire and printed a picture of a woman in man u kit on the front page… could have been the woman at the centre of the storm for all i know. when the freedom of the press, precious as it is, is used solely for the exciting the prurient interest (small round of applause for the first person to identify the quote) by insects such as murdoch, it falls into disrepute.

  12. Serious matters, hidden from public gaze by injunctions – Trafigura et al – deserve public scrutiny (and MPs raising the matter in Parliament if injuncted).

    Absolutely.

    I suggest people read the two Schillings letters on the Cazzac111 scribd account. The silence on this is deafening. The story is horrendous.

    I also strongly recommend that people read the ‘Opening Minds’ year 7 science school curriculum on the ‘John Adam St Gang QK’ scribd account.

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