Fees tight on law firm administrations

Law firms don’t get rich advising on the demise of other law firms

It’s pretty clear why the most elite firms keep away from advising on law firm administrations. Aside from potential conflicts for firms wishing to poach recruits from zombies (think Dewey & LeBoeuf), fees are, frankly, mediocre.

Halliwells’ administration gave CMS Cameron McKenna fees of £984,073.97, including disbursements, from the collapse in July 2010 to shortly before the administration ended in January 2012, plus a further £585,682 in pre-administration fees.

The Dewey case, still in progress nearly a year after its collapse, gifted £309,533.20 including expenses to CMS from the May filing until November, according to the administrators. On top of this was £57,448.50 in pre-administration fees.

Cobbetts’ administrators at KPMG have not yet confirmed their full legal fees, but pre-administration costs to Pinsent Masons were £169,367, while the collapse of Manchester’s Donns handed £30,112.85 in pre-administration fees to DLA Piper, advisers to the wind-down team. Post-administration fees from Donns’ termination in March 2012 to January 2013 were £32,713.

The demise of Hextalls – bought by a group of partners in a pre-pack deal – handed estimated legal fees of £243,656 to Lawrence Graham from the April 2009 collapse to the shift to a creditors’ voluntary liquidation in November that year. Pre-administration fees are unclear.

The accountancy firms fare better for their travails: Halliwells’ administrators incurred £1.15m at an average rate of £209 per hour, plus £16,911.24 in disbursements. Dewey’s BDO wind-down managers charged more on average (£409.72 per hour), but clocked up £482,223.05 to November; at that rate it should push Halliwells’ fees close. Fees to the administrators of Cobbetts, Donn and Hextalls were £267,840, £238,284 and £383,535 respectively.

The Cobbetts payments – at an average of £346 per hour – are only for a little more than the first month, so this figure will escalate.