Walker Morris retrains lawyers for insolvency

<a class=Walker Morris retrains lawyers for insolvency” />Firms across the UK are responding to the economic downturn by retraining their lawyers in insolvency work.

Leeds-based ;Walker ­Morris, which has a core insolvency team with six partners, has retrained a further 30 of its lawyers in insolvency work so they can better advise their clients on the issues they face during the downturn.

Lawyers in the banking, corporate and property teams completed three internal and external training sessions of three hours each. However, they will continue to remain in their respective departments.

Michael Taylor, head of the firm’s banking department, said: “As a firm we probably have the biggest insolvency practice in the North of England and we were looking to push it out into other areas of the ­practice.”

Herbert Smith is also accelerating its insolvency retraining programme as a result of the downturn. Stephen Gale, an insolvency practitioner in the firm’s finance team, said: “We fused finance and restructuring some years ago to allow that to happen, but obviously we’re accelerating the process now.
“The best way to train lawyers in insolvency is through a constant drip-feed, through analysis and talking through the cases and issues.”

Neil Griffiths, a partner in the insolvency and restructuring group at ­Denton Wilde Sapte, said his firm was seeing a lot of “cross-disciplinary” ­insolvency work. He told The Lawyer that this is across a broad spectrum, which includes pure insolvency work, ­banking and corporate and structured finance.

“With the way things are going it may well be that there are aspects of insolvency assignments where people with a property or corporate background can contribute and get the hang of it,” said Griffiths.

Nevertheless, he was sceptical as to whether the training offered by Walker Morris would be sufficient to equip a non-insolvency specialist.

“Nine hours is the sort of training we might give newly qualified lawyers with an initial dipping of a toe in the water. Without being too disparaging, it’s not going to get them very far.”

However, he added: “I can see why they’d want to do it though, as no one wants to lose good people.”

Taylor admitted that Walker Morris’s retraining scheme has not yet resulted in an increase in insolvency work for the firm, but ­pointed out that this was not the intention.

“Our expectation was that, where acquisitions, for example, were being made they would be made in ­circumstances of insolvency and we needed enough ­people to be able to advise on this,” he explained.

He ;added ;that ;the ­training programme was “not a marketing initiative”.
“The ;world ;knows the size of our team,” he said. “We didn’t need to ­demonstrate any credibility to them.”

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