Mishcon Lawyer: Alexandra Whiston-Dew

Alexandra is an experienced commercial litigator with a specialism in reputation protection. She has a broad range of experience advising both international and UK based individuals and companies.

Initially, I was thrown off the scent of being a lawyer. I studied Theology and Philosophy at Edinburgh and then worked for a small business. I really enjoyed my time outside of the law and found it gave me a better understanding of my clients and their businesses. Studying Theology and understanding the religions of the world has been really useful in working with our international clients. That said, law would have been right for me from the start: it’s a fantastic profession and I love it.

Reputation protection is a hotchpotch of lots of different areas of law, including privacy, data protection, defamation, harassment, blackmail… All may be applicable in a reputation crisis where you take the legal tools and apply them to often extremely sensitive personal and, or, commercial situations.

The global online nature of reputational threats today represents a significant challenge for lawyers and our clients. Our advice must be more strategic. We have to think about global impact and also what can be done to limit damage and prevent future damage. We have worked to understand the jurisdictions our clients live and operate in so that we can react in a crisis no matter where in the world it originates – a threat can originate from one country and then spread to another country and take on a different emphasis. We’ve got to be alive to the risks, and ready on the front foot.

All of my clients are international: typically originating from Russia, Africa and the Middle East. When they are coming to this jurisdiction, or trying to operate in this jurisdiction, they are often under enhanced scrutiny. Different issues arise for different clients, but the common thread is the heightened regulatory climate here in the UK and in Europe and a general demand for transparency in commercial and personal matters.

Reputations are built over decades and, often, they don’t just concern an individual. They could have been built over generations of a family; or they could be connected to a company’s reputation. Reputational fallout can affect banking relationships; immigration status; where a client’s children can go to school – all of which have the potential to be life-changing.

Litigation is fast paced and you need to think very quickly. Being excellent technically should be a given – our clients should be confident of our legal skills. It’s the other things that make us exceptional advisers: our commitment to our clients’ commercial objectives, the pace with which we address their issues, the creative manner in which we examine their problems, and the collective brains we put together on a matter. Having a firm full of expertise to draw on is invaluable.

In terms of generational wealth and attitudes towards reputation from different generations, it’s certainly possible to observe differences. Previous generations have been known to place paramount importance on privacy, but the next generation perhaps better understands that the perception of hiding behind a high wall can cause reputational damage in itself because it does not provide a narrative that makes sense. This is especially the case where the media demands explanations for significant wealth and what is being done with it. The reality is that, rightly or wrongly, people care about what other people do with their wealth.

We take care of the things that matter to our clients. We apply ourselves with the same amount of determination to a problem such as a client’s child having trouble at school, as we would a multimillion pound deal being threatened because of a reputational risk. What matters to the client matters to us.