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Exclusive: Magic circle and other top City law firms to take on all of King & Wood Mallesons’ trainees

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And stricken giant’s future trainees being pointed to priority TC vacancies

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A host of top City firms, including a trio of magic circle outfits, have put plans in place to take on all of King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM) trainees.

Legal Cheek understands that Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Linklaters have already held advanced discussions about taking on some of the stricken giant’s 50 or so trainee lawyers. With a number of other City firms also indicating a willingness to help out, our sources state that KWM’s entire trainee cohort — who are in their first, second and third seats — will very likely be given the option to complete their training contracts elsewhere.

Those in their fourth seat, and due to qualify in February 2017, are set to receive special dispensation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), allowing them to practise as a fully qualified lawyer next year.

There is also positive news for those with training offers at KWM. Legal Cheek has been told that the firm’s future trainees — who faced the daunting prospect of reapplying for training contracts all over again — will have their applications fast-tracked and prioritised by these firms.

It is understood that the outfits involved — including the magic circle threesome — are unable to go public with their plans until they are formally approached by KWM. Our sources state this will take place when KWM officially enters into administration, which is likely to be in January 2017.

Trainees who do make the switch may have a fight on their hands when it comes to securing an associate role post at their respective firm, but at least they will be a fully qualified lawyer.

The proposed move throws up some interesting points. A KWM trainee who moves to one of the magic circle firms mentioned above could receive, in theory, a tidy pay increase. Those in year two of their training contracts at KWM currently earn £44,000. However a move to Clifford Chance for example, where a second year trainee earns £49,000, could see them pocket an extra £5,000.

It’s worth noting some of the troubled firm’s trainees have already secured positions elsewhere. Yesterday it emerged that three trainees from KWM’s real estate team had been handed positions at global titan DLA Piper. Making the move along with eight other lawyers, it’s expected that more trainees will be snapped up as part of partner hire deals.

Things aren’t looking quite so optimistic for KWM itself. Last week it emerged that Dentons — the largest law firm in the world by lawyer headcount — stepped away from merger talks with KWM. This was seen as the last-ditch attempt to save the firm; it now looks almost inevitable that it will enter administration. But at least it looks like the trainees of this once well-respected City outfit have been handed a lifeline.

Update 23/12 — 11:49am: Linklaters and Allen & Overy have issued statements confirming their plans to take on KWM trainees [Legal Cheek]