KWM “hardship fund” closes with 20 staff members set to benefit

Up to 20 staff members affected by the collapse of King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM) European arm are set to receive financial support from ex-partners after the firm’s “hardship fund” closed this month, The Lawyer can reveal.

The fund went live officially at the end of April in which recently-departed partners were asked to contribute money to support those affected by the firm’s demise.

A final figure on contributions is not known, although it is expected to be in the region of £50,000.

The process was delayed earlier this month when partners were given extended time to make contributions over the summer. Payments had been due to be paid out in June.

Instead the trustees of the fund – three former and current KWM partners – are now in the process of making payments to between 15 to 20 staff members who are in financial difficulty as a result of the collapse.

The focus is understood to be on those who were or are currently on maternity leave, act for carers for ill relatives or are the sole breadwinners.

While recently-departed partners were contacted about the scheme first, a number of partners from the Chinese and Australian arm of the firm were also said to have expressed an interest in the fund and donated money.

In early January 2017, just weeks before legacy SJ Berwin headed into administration, around 100 staff and fee-earners in the UK, Europe and Middle East were informed that their pay was halted from 4 January.

On 17 January, the firm filed for administration and shortly after that hundreds of staff were made redundant.

According to KWM’s EUME LLP accounts published in February 2016, the firm had 425 support and business services staff in the 2014/15 financial year.