What next for Halliwells?

Halliwells has filed for administration today (see story). The news will come as little surprise to some given the problems that have beset the Manchester firm over the last two years.

 However, it marks a fall from grace for a firm that posted mercurial rises in turnover during the boom years on the back of an acquisitive growth path (see story).

 The recession saw Halliwells make several rounds of redundancies, reorganise its finances and take the unprecedented move for a law firm of using its assets as security on the extension of its lending facilities with RBS.

 Some put the problems down to its decision to take on flash new central Manchester headquarters at Spinningfields in 2007, paying top-of-market rent believed to be £35 per sq ft, and subsequently distributing a property-related windfall to partners rather than investing it in the business (see story).

 When the firm had later cashflow issues it was forced to make a cash call. Cue a string of departures. Recent partners to leave include Mike Edge, who exited for Pinsent Masons, healthcare partners Christopher Briggs and Simon Wortley, who moved to Beachcroft and the majority of its Sheffield insurance practice, snatched by Kennedys.

 Now firms including Barlow Lyde & Gilbert and Hill Dickinson are believed to be circling to pick up the tastiest morsels.

 As for the lowly members of staff who didn’t share in the rewards of the boom years; for now their fate remains unclear.
In The Lawyer on Monday: The winners of this year’s The Lawyer Awards, plus all the pictures from the night; an interview with Capital One general counsel Rupert MacInnes; and Special Reports on Ireland and banking.