Former KWM partners forced to reapply for practising certificates

Former King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) partners are having to reapply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to renew their practising certificates, in the latest fallout from the collapse of the firm’s European arm.

All lawyers who were partners in KWM’s Europe, UK and Middle East (EUME) arm up to three years before its collapse on 17 January this year must reapply to the SRA to renew the certificates, which allow them to act as a solicitor in England and Wales.

One former partner said: “Usually the SRA renew them automatically, but when they were being done at my new firm, mine wouldn’t go through. If you’ve been a partner in a bankrupt firm you have to have it reconsidered.”

Every former KWM EUME partner’s case is being individually assessed by the SRA. Some have had their current certificates extended by several months during the review process to allow them to keep working, while others have already had their certificates reissued.

According to one ex-partner, the more senior a partner was at KWM before its collapse, the more detailed the process is. He said: “It is irritating and more complex if you were in the management, or there right at the end. I think they take a closer look at you.”

Another added: “It’s irritating, but my assumption is it will be a relative formality. Of all the issues we’ve had to deal with from KWM, this is by far a lesser one.”

An SRA spokesperson said: “The Practising Regulations allow us to review a solicitor’s application for a Practising Certificate if they have been managers in the last 36 months at a firm subject to administration. We will assess the application to make sure that there is no risk to the interests of the public.”

KWM’s EUME arm collapsed into administration at the start of the year, representing the end of the line for legacy SJ Berwin following its 2013 merger with the Sino-Australian firm.

This September, a group of 288 former KWM staff were awarded more than £1m after they brought a claim over the way their redundancies were handled in the wake of the collapse.

The firm has since relaunched its EUME business, with China M&A partner Wang Rongkang, who has been at the firm since 1998, relocating to London to serve as managing partner.

In January, KWM came to an agreement with a number of partners to stay on at the firm following the EUME collapse, and while a number of those lawyers have since left, last month the firm recruited a five-strong team of lawyers in Germany with the takeover of a boutique led by former SJ Berwin Frankfurt corporate head Michael Roos.

Corporate partner Hui Zhao also came on board from Germany’s Noerr in July, along with Latham & Watkins finance and restructuring counsel Daniel Ehret, who joined as a partner in Frankfurt.