World exclusive: former SJ Berwin partners in crisis meeting
28 October 2016
UK partners at KWM were hauled into a crisis meeting yesterday, at which they were told that the firm now has debts of £35m, an insider claims. At the same time, four top partners jumped ship and the firm put its planned recapitalisation on hold.
That level of debt might not normally be a problem for a major law firm, but KWM has also suffered the loss of 54 partners over the last year. And the four who left yesterday were all big hitters, including former EU Managing Partner Rob Day. The insider told RollOnFriday that CMS and other businesses were at the meeting to offer advice to the partners.
The firm is doing its best to polish the turd. While it confirmed that Michael Halford, Jonathan Pittal and Andrew Wingfield had resigned, and that Rob Day had "indicated his intention to resign
", it insisted that the loss of four such senior partners does "not impact on our employees
". OK. But given the firm is no longer asking its partners to pay in the millions required for its recapitalisation, that begs the question - what lifeline can the former SJB now turn to?
SJB was a City institution and the news of the depth of its troubles is a major shock. It's easy to blame those troubles on the firm's Far Eastern paymasters - but the raft of UK partners who fled to protect their own nests have to bear their share of responsibility too.