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KWM latest: Fieldfisher and Debevoise latest to hire from ailing European partnership

Fieldfisher and Debevoise & Plimpton are the latest to hire from King & Wood Mallesons‘ (KWM) ailing European practice. Fieldfisher hired technology partner James Walsh, whilst Debevoise announced it is taking on private equity lawyer Simon Witney as a consultant.

Walsh joined KWM in June 2015 alongside three others from Eversheds, in a move by the firm to rebuild its City offering after an early string of post-merger exits. He previously headed Eversheds’ international telecoms practice.

Fieldfisher head of technology Rob Shooter said: ‘James is well-known in the industry as a leader in his field and we are delighted that he’s joining us. His client base and experience spans across the firm’s three focus industries – technology, financial services and energy – and as such he is a fantastic addition to the Fieldfisher team.’

Witney has previously co-led KWM’s funds team in London, and had sat on the firm’s management board. He joins Debevoise as a consultant in order to complete his PhD this year in corporate governance issues in private equity backed companies.

Yesterday (4 January) Legal Business reported Frankfurt-based corporate partner Michiel Huizinga is expected to move to Allen & Overy, whilst in Germany DLA Piper has taken on KWM’s former head of real estate for Germany Lars Reubekeul and real estate partner Florian Biesalski.

New exits come as the firm’s European partnership confirmed yesterday (4 January) it has stopped paying 100 staff as it heads towards administration. The firm confirmed its intention to file for administration in a court filing in December 2016, and has lost almost all of its top 50 billers since it halted its recapitalisation plan late last year. The recap plan ultimately failed, and the firm is carrying more than £30m in debt.

Late last year, it was revealed China has bid for an out-of-administration purchase of certain legacy SJ Berwin offices including Dubai, Germany, Italy and Spain. It is also talking with partners to keep an outpost in London and if a deal is agreed, the acquisition will remain within a verein structure, and the business will take on a significant number of lawyers but without any of legacy SJ Berwin’s liabilities.