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KWM drops litigation as Goodwin Procter picks up 26 lawyers from troubled firm

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has dropped litigation against Goodwin Procter and its former corporate partner Richard Lever, as the US firm brings on 26 partners from the legacy SJ Berwin practice.

It is understood KWM partners have voted on the move of six partners, who moved with influential partner Michael Halford alongside 15 associates and five trainees. At the same time the beleaguered firm agreed to drop the litigation claim of approximately £15m.

As reported by Legal Business in July, KWM wrote to Goodwin over potential legal proceedings against it concerning the exit of a six-partner private equity team. The team, which included Paris managing partner Christophe Digoy and Maxence Bloch, is understood to have walked out with at least £8m in annual billings.

Lever announced he would leave KWM in April 2015 to develop a City PE practice at Goodwin, while the Boston-based firm announced the Paris team would join it from KWM a year later.

It is understood KWM was pursuing the claim against Lever and Goodwin’s UK and US arms and while Lever and Goodwin UK had filed defences in the US Goodwin had not, pushing back on jurisdiction grounds. The claim had not yet been listed for hearing.

The other KWM partners following Halford to Goodwin are Ed Hall, Laura Charkin, Shawn D’Aguiar, Patrick Deasy, and Ajay Pathak.

Halford’s exit along with three other influential legacy SJ Berwin partners, Jonathan Pittal, Andrew Wingfield and Rob Day caused the firm to halt and ultimately fail in its plans to recapitalise the business, which is carrying more than £30m in debt.

KWM filed a further notice to appoint administrators earlier this week as partners continue to make arrangements and leave the firm.

The previous notice has expired, having been valid for ten working days since 22 December when it was filed.

It was also revealed staff at KWM’s European partnership would be left without salary payments following the breakdown of negotiations with Barclays.

Both Goodwin Procter and KWM declined to comment.