The “hardship fund” initiative launched by three King & Wood Mallesons partners to help staff affected by the firm’s EUME failure has met with a positive response, The Lawyer has learned.
Former King & Wood Mallesons EUME managing partner Tim Bednall and two KWM London partners have launched plans to set up a fund aimed at providing financial support to former staff affected by the collapse of legacy SJ Berwin.
The initiative is calling for former partners to donate generously based on conscience to compensate some staff that are experiencing “undue hardship”. The move is in clear contrast to the questionable behaviours of certain partners leading towards and during the collapse of the firm, which has received wide criticism from staff and peers outside of the now defunct firm.
David Wilman and Darren Roiser, now the general counsel and litigation partner of KWM’s new London office respectively, are the key drivers of the project alongside Bednall, who remains a partner of KWM’s Australian arm.
Bednall’s efforts in helping trainees, lawyers and staff find new roles during the chaotic months around the administration are generally appraised as heroic.
The initiative was unveiled in an email sent by Bednall to ex-KWM partners last week.
The recipients of the email were partners of the collapsed KWM EUME LLP, who were with the firm when it went into administration in January.
“This is absolutely right thing to do and I will definitely contribute,” one former KWM partner told The Lawyer.
According to a source close to the matter, ex-partners were invited to pay in to the fund, which will provide financial support to former KWM staff who are yet to land a new job or in a difficult situation. Beneficiaries of the fund are likely to include support staff and lawyers who are on maternity leave or are the main carers for sick dependents.
Bednall, Roiser and Wilman will act as the trustees to manage the funds. The list of beneficiaries, recommended contribution amount and the final arrangements of payments are yet to be finalised, according to the source.
The team is still in the process of setting up an account and going through legal requirements to set up a trust, but the launch is known to be imminent.
Another round of emails are set to be sent out once more details are finalised and additional partners who left the firm in more recent years are also to be contacted, The Lawyer has learned.
“It may seem to be too little too late, as we don’t know how much money could be raised. But we hope the effort will at least provide former colleagues in a difficult or distressed situation with some welfare. It will hopefully buy them some time to get through the tough times,” said the source.
“We don’t know if it is a good idea to set a minimum amount, but people should contribute based on their conscience. There has been some positive feedback so far,” he added.
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 was informed that their pay was halted from 4 January.
On 17 January, it 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.