Reed Smith may take on KWM partners

The law firm is among a number of big names still in rescue talks with King & Wood Mallesons as Dentons backs out of deal.

Reed Smith is in early talks with the European arm of King & Wood Mallesons to take on partners from the ailing law firm.

It is unclear how many could make the move, or when it might occur.

KWM, which has around £30 million ($37.4 million; €35.7 million) in debt and is expected to go into administration in January, has been negotiating takeovers with a number of law firms.

Talks with Dentons have failed, according to a source familiar with the matter. However, DLA Piper, Greenberg Traurig and Winston & Strawn are still reported to be interested in picking up teams of partners, including the real estate practice and litigation units.

The Chinese arm of the business may also buy out chunks of the remaining UK, European and Middle East partnership.

A spokeswoman for KWM declined to comment.

The firm has been haemorrhaging staff over the past year. A six-strong group of Paris-based private equity lawyers jumped ship in April, while a second group of London-based peers are expected to follow suit in due course.

High-profile departures have included investment fund head Michael Halford, who tendered his resignation in October, and global managing partner Stuart Fuller who will step down at the end of the year.

A recapitalisation plan with Barclays was paused in October following the announced departures of the key partners, while a subsequent rescue deal put forward by the firm’s Asian arm failed to garner support from the European partners.