KWM has won the Golden Turd.

Out of almost 5,000 lawyers and non-fee-earners who rated their satisfaction with their firms, staff at legacy SJ Berwin were by far the most unhappy, awarding it a meagre score of 24%. Given that KWM went into a death spiral and entered administration during the voting period, the result is unsurprising. But staff weren't just unhappy. They were furious.

Prompted to state some good things about KWM, staff struggled. Responses included, "Hahahahahahahahahaha, really? REALLY?", "Let's leave this blank I think"  and, "Give them that Golden Turd already, goddammit". One associate noted that towards the end there were, at least, "a lot of spare offices in which to have long conversations with recruiters". But that was about it for the positives.

Mismanagement drew a huge amount of criticism. There was, said a junior associate, "Far too much energy and focus spent on the failed merger with China.There's a reason no-one else was doing this kind of deal. The firm should've stuck to its guns (and what it knew) and held out for a tie -up with a solid US outfit".

One staffer proposed renaming the Golden Turd the 'KWM Memorial Partner Turd Award', "forever immortalizing the utter, utter f*ckwittery that sent a decent firm down the pipes".  KWM was "Utterly mismanaged" by a group of partners "who wouldn't know integrity if it came up and bit them on their corpulent wobbly arses", said another. Perhaps staff should have known better, implied an associate, who admitted, "When I joined, SJB was a shop with a decent, if somewhat khuntish reputation, and I didn't mind"

  Sorry creditors, it's not real gold. 

If staff were unimpressed by the mismanagement which brought KWM to the cliff edge, they were incensed by the behaviour of certain partners when it fell over. While employees "carried out their side of the agreement and behaved with dignity", they had to "watch partners slap each other on the back when they secured partnerships elsewhere as if they'd scored the winner at Wembley rather than putting many, many people out of work". 

The manner in which the financial collapse was handled was "so utterly pathetic words completely escape me", said a senior associate. While "fatcat partners and associated rats have long vanished on the lifeboats, us grunts, including literally hundreds of associated support staff in the ship's steerage, are gonna go under". It "went from SJB to bust in 3 years", mused a colleague, "that takes some doing".  

RollOnFriday asked former Managing Partners William Boss (now at Addleshaw Goddard) and Rob Day (now at Proskauer Rose) and former Senior Partner Stephen Kon (now at Macfarlanes) to comment on the final, most-deserved award KWM will ever receive, but they did not respond. As the firm has now gone bust, the glittery crap will be solemnly interred by the RollOnFriday team in the dog poo bin round the corner.

If KWM had not collapsed, this year's shiny shite would have dropped on Kennedys, which posted 32%. It is, said a senior associate, a "Badly run firm in Birmingham which doesn't deserve the staff". The "wrong people are partners", said a junior associate, whose colleague agreed that the people on the letterhead are either "ineffectual wet flannels or rage-fueled terror hawks". Another said that "Some of the partners do not even bother to speak to the juniors". Who are apparently being signed off with work-related stress "in droves" at the firm, where morale is "absolutely through the floor". Salaries at Kennedys are "embarrassing" and prospects of a raise are "negligible even for those meeting their billing targets several times over". 

Dozens of Irwin Mitchell staff took part in the survey to secure it a place third from bottom with 33%, but it was lucky not to come last. Many cited "clueless" management which "asks for opinions and then does the exact opposite". It is "hopeless and advised by expensive, feckless so called BD and HR 'experts'" said another lawyer. Those advisers drew a lot of criticism. "I'd like to know", said one partner, "why we need the army of overpaid and it seems to me ineffective business support managers and directors". 

But partners also came in for stick. Those in Sheffield are "white middle aged men wearing short sleeve shirts" who "seem to think that Sheffield is one of the the three litigation capitals of the world: New York, Hong Kong and Sheffield". Other referred to partners "leaving all around us and all we are told is we don't need them. All I see is falling profits, partners running for the doors and no real direction".

It is "widely acknowledged" within the firm that the merger with Thomas Eggar merger was "a disaster on both sides", with TE staff paid "around 30% less than IM staff which is making the London office a difficult place to be". As for the future, equity partners "continue to strip the business every year and claim there is no money to provide pay rises for the people who actually do the work - it's like a Victorian mill" . 

Check back next week for the full results.
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 20 January 17 06:59

You know you've got a problem when you're losing 40 partners a year at Irwin Mitchell and the turnover and profits down and the debt is going up. A firm that lost its way years ago through a number of disasterous appointments to its management team. It is difficult to see how this firm can turn itself around. Everything looks to be stacked against it.

Anonymous 20 January 17 12:43

Irwin Mitchell needs to watch out. KWM demise has many similar signals to how ineffective the management and strategy is at IM.

Suggest those at IM look at what the equity partners and associates did at KWM. Isn't it already happening around you? Stop and look around you, consider, could be the best thing you do. You don't want to be the last one on the ship when it goes down.

IM has been at the bottom of this survey for years - there is a good reason why

Anonymous 20 January 17 19:33

I feel so sorry for Irwin Mitchell. Always the bridesmaid. Never the bride. Here's hoping that soon the golden turd trophy will find its way north to Sheffield where it clearly so rightly belongs.

Anonymous 21 January 17 08:44

From what I've read Irwin Mitchell seem to always be at the bottom of this survey. Not only that but every story that mentions them on this site attracts so many negative comments. I've only been working in law for the last year or so. Can I please ask, what is it about this firm that generates such hostility?

Anonymous 21 January 17 09:19

Losing partners tends to lead to the loss of work and clients and fee income. You then need to repay partner capital which in IM's case they repay over ten years. I struggle to see anything other than IM declining year on year. The recent merger/takeover and other acquisitions conceal the decline in revenue but the acquisitions are unlikely to be sufficiently successful to address the decline in profits. Most of the London office walked out after evaluating IM's medium to long term future. Things are not looking good.

Anonymous 22 January 17 13:53

I think IM is disliked for a number of reasons and I'm sure the 100 + partners who have left it over the last few years have good reason to be negative about their experiences.

Anonymous 23 January 17 15:31

Apologies for the over privileged little wanker from FF who is fearful of the regions...others in the form think the new Brum office is a great addition

Anonymous 24 January 17 08:33

IM's recruitment strategy is to take on lawyers with low self-esteem and work them like battery chickens drip feeding them a narrative that they work in the best law firm in the world. Many try to leave and end up retracting their notice because they are made to believe they are committing 'career suicide'*
*actual words spoken by a partner to an employee during their notice period.

Anonymous 24 January 17 17:05

Re: anon 08.33 - or worse, they merge with/buy up outfits where lawyers with perfectly decent self-esteem were quietly minding their own business before their idiot bosses took the IM shilling.

Every damn word of these comments is completely accurate (especially the NY/HK/Sheffield line - brilliant). I can't wait to get out, and nor can many of my colleagues.

Anonymous 24 January 17 17:05

Re: anon 08.33 - or worse, they merge with/buy up outfits where lawyers with perfectly decent self-esteem were quietly minding their own business before their idiot bosses took the IM shilling.

Every damn word of these comments is completely accurate (especially the NY/HK/Sheffield line - brilliant). I can't wait to get out, and nor can many of my colleagues.

Anonymous 24 January 17 19:26

IM chews people up and spits them out when they no longer serve a purpose. Awful firm that deserves every inch of the negative column inches it attracts.

Anonymous 24 January 17 22:19

i think you've already committed career suicide by joining IM especially if you work in business services because the personal injury guys will sue your clients and prospective clients.

Anonymous 23 February 17 11:13

It seems that comments on every "worst firms" discussion board are dominated by criticism aimed at Irwin Mitchell. I imagine there is enough material that has already been posted for ROF to do an expose on the firm? Would certainly make for an interesting read...

Anonymous 16 February 18 20:12

IMs problems are unsolveabke. They astem from the fact that:

(a) A proper private wealth (non volume sausage machine) and a proper BLS division will never cultural align with Amubulance chasing PI;

(b) They vastly overpaid for Thomas Eggar - £20m I heard (which the greedy older equity partners ran off with) - and the core of IM will always resent that and the Thomas Eggar people;

(c) The north and south are culturally very different; and

The two shall never properly merge.

Add in the fact IM is owned by a Jersey company that only equity partners have shares in, the fact that former partners (many now in competitor firms) hold those shares, the inherent secretiveness of the organisation and the fact they need to float to create a market for those shares.

What do you have - a recipe for resentment, back stabbing, hatred and mistrust.