Legal Business Blogs

KWM latest: More US firms in play as crunch time approaches for legacy SJ Berwin

A conclusion to the sorry saga which has been the European partnership woes of King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) is expected to come to an end this week, while staff have been told they will continue to be paid throughout the process of finding a merger partner.

Last week KWM said it was holding deeper discussions with merger candidates, having received a number of offers. Dentons and KWM’s Asian arm are among the candidates for the remainder of the business, which is carrying more than £30m in debt.

It is understood staff at the firm have been told this week they will continue to be paid throughout the process of finding a suitor. This month the firm also has a deadline for a rent payment on KWM’s headquarters in London, while in January the firm will face a yearly tax payment.

Several sources have indicated to Legal Business Winston & Strawn, which last year made a major play for 15 Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partners, is not looking to take the entire legacy SJ Berwin partnership but is in talks to take on 25-30 partners.

Meanwhile it is understood US heavyweight Greenberg Traurig, which last year had merger talks with Berwin Leighton Paisner, is eyeing up a handful of partners, from three separate practice areas.

Other firms Legal Business understands to have been in discussions to take individual partners from the legacy SJ Berwin practice include DLA Piper and Mayer Brown.

A KWM spokeswoman said last week that the firm ‘is pleased to confirm that it has received a number of indicative purchase offers. The management team and its financial advisers have reviewed these and are now entering into detailed discussions with a small number of parties.’

Earlier last week, Barclays moved to take extra security over KWM assets with a second debenture, following a string of high-profile departures from the firm.

It emerged former KWM managing partner William Boss was hired by Addleshaw Goddard, alongside property partner Simon Tager and commercial real estate partner Michael Scott.

Meanwhile, KWM’s head of litigation Craig Pollack is in talks to move to US firm Covington & Burling, while heavyweight biller Michael Halford has confirmed his move to Goodwin Procter and former managing partner Rob Day and Andrew Wingfield started their new jobs at Proskauer Rose.

KWM declined to comment.

For more on King & Wood Mallesons, subscribers can read ‘Branded’ for an in-depth look at the firm.