King & Wood Mallesons has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators.
The notice is designed to protect the firm from its creditors, and allows it to maintain client services as it “continues to explore its options.”
“This is a filing of a notice of intention to appoint administrator; we have not gone into administration and we continue to practice as usual,” a spokeswoman said.
The petition to court follows a year of partner departures and increasing debt pressures. On the same day, five partners left for Greenburg Traurig and six for DLA Piper.
Teams of lawyers from the firm have already been hired by Reed Smith, Covington & Burling and Goodwin Procter.
The European arm of the Asia-focused firm, which has accumulated debts of around £30 million ($37.4 million; €35.7million) had conducted talks with various rival firms about a takeover, which have failed. But it continues to discuss options with a small number of interested parties that may take on parts of the business.
The China branch of the business is also understood to have bid for the purchase of offices including Dubai, Germany, Italy and Spain. It is also talking with partners to keep an outpost in London.