cliff metamorph

Treating trainees like muck - it's the Metamorph way!

The Managing Partner of a firm in the flailing Metamorph group told trainee solicitors whose contracts were being terminated and who had not been paid in months that they had made "no contribution" to his business. 

As their original firms collapsed in the face of winding up petitions, around ten trainees were transferred in November to Parrott & Coales, one of Metamorph's few surviving firms following the SRA's belated interventions.

Richard Sauvain, the Managing Partner of Parrott & Coales, admitted to trainees in the email that "I am dealing with an impossible situation here in the absence of any central Metamorph services", referring to the sudden closure of much of the group's payroll and HR functions when the official receiver was called in late last year.

In the email, sent this week and leaked to ROF, Sauvain said he was "facing enormous pressures in the day to day running of Parrott & Coales", but appeared to attack the trainees for demanding to know why they have been unpaid for months and then sacked by the business that was supposed to be training them.

"Whilst I am sympathetic to your position and indeed all staff in the Metamorph Group who have not been paid you are all aware that the reality is that you have never worked in any practical sense at Parrott & Coales and you have made no contribution to the work we need to do here to keep the firm going", he said.

Sauvain told the trainees, "I am trying to find out exactly how much each of you are owed and how we can produce a P45 for you".


It's not me, it's you.

A source close to the trainees said, "He's never asked for those affected to work or provide any support", and that the trainees had been "just cast to one side".

Sauvain told RollOnFriday, "The trainees were working for the Metamorph Group firms in Sale and Shrewsbury. These firms have all been closed so there is no work for them. We are a small firm in Buckinghamshire and we are trying very hard to keep going".

"I am not part of Metamorph central services or senior management so you will have to ask them about the decision to transfer the trainees". Metamorph management did not respond to a request for comment.

The majority of the refugee trainees have not been paid since November, and their shoddy treatment is of a piece with the calamity that has befallen dozens of Metamorph staff.

A source told ROF that the trainees' attempts to find out what was going on were stonewalled by Sauvain and Metamorph director Simon Goldhill, and that their receptionists "interrogated callers" and appeared to hang up on those they suspected to be trainees.

The trainees decided to stick with Metamorph after RollOnFriday waved massive red flags because Metamorph CEO Tony Stockdale reassured them there was a way through for the business, sources told ROF. He promised loyalty bonuses and future salary increases to staff who didn't abandon ship, telling them "you will never be let down again". Instead, they have been shortchanged and dumped. 

"Just another day in the ongoing saga of Tony Stockdale and his merry men of incompetent arseholes", said a source.

Trainee solicitors are common law apprentices which means they cannot be terminated as part of a redundancy process and have enhanced protections under employment law. A source said that Parrot & Coales and Metamorph bosses have tried to "worm their out of it" by claiming that the trainees were never actually transferred to Parrot & Coales. But that claim was undermined by HMRC which provided the trainees with payroll information confirming their employer was Parrot & Coales, said a source.

"This is how they treat the so-called loyal ones who stayed...we as a family have struggled for the last 3 months, with no communication and clear lies", said one affected insider.

Over Christmas, Metamorph's auditor resigned from one of its liquidating companies, MLL Limited, stating that its relationship with Metamorph had "broken down" because "we have been unable to obtain sufficient audit evidence to resolve serious concerns we have identified".

Crowe UK LLP described how "despite repeated requests the Company [MLL Limited] has failed to provide information and explanations sufficient to address our concerns", and that, damningly, "we have concerns around management's behaviour in terms of their approach to compliance with law and regulations".


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Tip Off ROF


Anon 13 January 23 09:51

With an attitude and approach to management like this I can see why the firm failed.  

Whose fault is that?   If management can’t get any value out of trainees why do they bother to hire them?  In fact trainees at most firms are keen, hard working and will do routine tasks that can be billed.  They are also investments for the future.  That is, in firms that are well run and managed and have futures.   

Anonymous 13 January 23 09:52

"you will never be let down again"

I mean, on a very technical level this was true...

Metamorph victim 13 January 23 10:10

You can see the point of view of the partner and commercially, he will most likely be unable to keep them even if he wanted to. He will just desperately be trying to make enough to cover his staffs payroll somehow despite having no HR, payroll etc any more. HOWEVER, The tone and wording of the email leaves a lot to be desired. It could have been handled in a much more sensitive way and to offer assistance in giving leads to firms they could apply to transfer to?

The email is just another typical example of the metamorph management culture. Those they tuped to Knowles Benning still can't claim redundancy or unpaid wages because Simon Goldhill and Tony Stockdale refuse to place it into liquidation unless the staff pay for that themselves!! 

Lydia 13 January 23 10:33

So it sounds like there was some right for the rest of the business to force the trainees on this  Parrott & Coales firm and that legally a transfer happened and HMRC has Parrott & Coales as their employer under PAYE. Therefore that firm is responsible for them, has to pay them and cannot sack them because they are trainee solicitors rather than normal employees. Surely there is something he can give them to do even if it is just employment law and managing the pay roll for a few months or trying to generate new clients of some kind or second them on a paid basis to another firm?

Tony’s Left Tit 13 January 23 10:50

It’s badly phrased but he’s right in that the trainees mostly haven’t worked for Parrott and Coales - they were told they were transferring under TUPE to Knowles Benning along with everyone else. For reasons unknown, they found that their employment had been to Parrott and Coales, not Knowles Benning, without consultation nor consent. 

They carried on working in their usual offices until the IT got pulled and the SRA intervened those offices. They were not made redundant in December, nor did they have their training contracts terminated. 

They’ve been shafted in a new and creatively interesting way. 

Human 13 January 23 10:59

HMRC do not have a right to TUPE anyone in law.

Someone has made RTI payroll filings from this employer. Both parties agree work was not performed. It sounds likely that the filings have been made in error and that does not constitute persuasive of employment to me.

I have every sympathy for the trainees but this ain't it. A TUPE letter, contract, or a evidence of actually doing work is what you need for an actionable case.

Sumoking 13 January 23 11:02

I'm sure the SRA who is supposed to protect trainees will...... oh no hang on, I see where I've gone wrong there.

they're fooked

Eyeroll 13 January 23 11:16

"*Surely there is something he can give them to do even if it is just employment law and managing the pay roll for a few months*"

Lydia strikes again. 

Headline harsh - but fair? 13 January 23 11:17

I have never heard of Metamorph or its group of firms until RoF brought up the story a while ago. Perhaps I am a little longer in the tooth but my first, second and third instincts upon reading the stories was 'I hope the staff get out asap'. Lying management, transferring / TUPE'ing to other firms, NO SALARIES PAID FOR MONTHS ... just get out! What are you still doing there? Like a doctor breaking bad news to terminally ill patients, the only loyalty should be to tell clients what an absolute sh!tshow the firm is and they should take their business elsewhere asap - and the fact that you're walking out...

When the Managing Partner writes to say that trainees haven't contributed to his firm, there may be (as others suggest above) other ways to communicate this or to think more broadly about the types of tasks he can allocate to trainees. However, if the communication is to be taken at face value, his own business model has imploded and trainees are not his primary concern - its unclear if he has even been notified of who they are and their locations. This actually does seems reasonable.

Anon 13 January 23 11:23

As one of hundreds of former Metamorph employees left severely out of pocket, I have nothing but contempt for Stockdale and Goldhill. However I’m also getting increasingly furious at the shameless buck-passing from clowns like Sauvain.

So you didn’t want the Metamorph group to make decisions that may adversely affect your business? You didn’t want to be dependent on centralised I.T systems, HR and payroll? You don’t want to be caught in the firing line of the negative publicity that follows Stockdale around? Here’s an idea then; don’t sell out to them. Don’t take his money. And don’t pretend the takeover by Metamorph was some kind of Putin-style invasion, that you bravely resisted with all your heart.

You chose it. I have absolutely no doubt that, at the time, you and your senior partners celebrated it and maybe even boasted to your friends about how much money you just sold your ‘small firm in Buckinghamshire’ for. If, alternatively, you gave Stockdale and Goldhill control of your firm free of charge, more fool you. Either way, at least have the decency to own your decision and treat your few remaining members of staff with dignity.

Lord Lester 13 January 23 11:30

"Surely there is something he can give them to do even if it is just..."

The problem with that plan is that all of the traditional stuff that you'd give a trainee just doesn't exist anymore. The profession has changed.

A steady succession of reforms, HR policies, shifting attitudes amongst Gen-Z, and disciplinary action by the SRA against senior fee earners who had clearly grown frustrated with their marriages and used working hours to wantonly disport themselves with juniors behind the photocopiers, means that trainees can't be used for casual commitment-free acts of carnal pleasure anymore.

So you really do have to wait until they're about 2PQE and you can trust them to review documents before they can add much to the firm.

Disgruntled 13 January 23 11:41

Perhaps a group of law firms in the surrounding area to these trainees can find extra capacity (for Moral or PR reasons) to take some of them on for the remaining period of training.

If they're competent, they could be kept on, or use their qualification to find a new role.

Disgruntled 13 January 23 11:55

Perhaps a group of law firms in the surrounding area to these trainees can find extra capacity (for Moral or PR reasons) to take some of them on for the remaining period of training.

If they're competent, they could be kept on, or use their qualification to find a new role.

Anon 13 January 23 12:21

All the Trainees I worked with in the Sale Office were very hard working! It’s a horrible situation for them to not even be able to claim unpaid wages from the gov as the firm they were transferred to (without their consent) - still exists! I hope P and C do the right thing and pays them even if they unfortunately loose their TCs. Hope you all get sorted xxx 

Grollum 13 January 23 12:39

I see a face-saving P&C puff piece has already popped up on the Law Society Gazette. 

The pic they’ve used of Sauvain has a rather unfortunate sneer.

Dunc 13 January 23 13:13

What an absolute two-hat, he’s got a pretty big ego for someone who is the managing partner of some tinpot shop

Took 13 January 23 13:15

The SRA will be asleep because they only work for their grossly inflated salaries when it involves overworked trainees making mistakes

Anonymous 13 January 23 13:26

We all know trainees don't contribute much. That's the responsibility of supervising solicitors to enable them to be in a position to do so. It's not the fault of the trainees here.

papercuts 13 January 23 14:29

Poor people.  Further proof that one should never trust a law firm with a trendy name.

Matrix Chambers 13 January 23 15:07


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It is a gross violation of our collective human right to live free of offence and unhindered by the immutable truths of physical reality.

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BananaJempson 17 January 23 21:13

Looking at their team on their website it appears Parrott & Coales have enough on their plate employing Michael Caine as a Consultant under the alias "John Leggett"

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