Halliwells trainees face uncertain future as firm files to go into administration

The future of dozens of Halliwells’ trainees is hanging in the balance after the Manchester-based firm files its intention to appoint an administrator.

The legal rights of Halliwells’ current cohort of trainees remain unclear because the law surrounding employees on fixed-term employment contracts, as is the case with trainees, in the context of pre-packed administrations it yet to be tested. One employment law specialist is therefore advising any trainees in departments that may be acquired by third parties to express their desire to move over with their colleagues.

As reported earlier today Liverpool-based Hill Dickinson is interested in acquiring Halliwellls’ Manchester corporate practice, as this would give it a leg up in the North-West city after Darryl Cooke, who the firm hired from DLA Piper in 2007 to build the Manchester corporate practice, left earlier this year (25 June 2010).

Barlow Lyde & Gilbert is believed to be interested in acquiring Halliwells’ insurance practice, which includes major clients such as AIG and AXA.

Halliwells currently has a total of 58 trainees spread across Sheffield (8); London (9); Liverpool (10) and Manchester (31).

Should Halliwells eventually go into liquidation prospects for the firm’s future trainees would be even more precarious with those individuals having very little chance of winning any compensation.

Seventeen trainees are due to join Halliwells in August 2010 with a further seventeen expected in both January 2011 and June 2011.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority, which last year refused to intervene when Shoosmiths withdrew training contracts from some of its future trainees (8 April 2009), said in a statement: “The SRA’s position is that we’re aware of and are closely monitoring the situation.”

Elsewhere, Halliwells is going ahead with its summer vacation schemes but it is believed to have told students on the scheme not to apply for training contracts with the firm until the situation becomes clearer.

Halliwells’ graduate recruitment team declined to comment.