Why KWM’s collapse could threaten YOUR firm’s reputation

Today’s headlines confirm the sad news that King & Wood Mallesons LLP is finally filing for administration.

Remaining London staff at 10 Queen Street Place are currently being doorstopped by journalists whose colleagues back in the newsroom are phoning round banks, creditors and ex-partners trying to glean any further gossip on KWM’s downfall.

The question is – is your firm next?

That’s not my question – it’s the one being asked by journalists looking for a story, banks feeling fearful because a member of the ‘global elite’ is unravelling, and the regulator which doesn’t want to be caught napping.

Information and communications that were once pretty mundane suddenly need high-level PR advice and support.


Put simply, anything that resembles part of the KWM story will have press, banks and regulators sniffing around a firm. Let’s think about the component parts of that.

First, lateral moves by partners. In the good times, partner moves are a fairly dull story – to be handed to the most junior of rookie reporters. Post-KWM they will draw a lot of attention to the firm – it was in retrospect the first sign that all was not well.

Second, firm results. Most firms produce figures that are more detailed these days – again, when a booming economy is floating all ships, reports on figures are a job for a trainee reporter. Now there will be an editor looking at the screen over their shoulder.

Third, worry about any third party the firm deals with. Who might have reason to gossip?

Finally there’s close attention needed on internal communications – staff tend to believe what they read in the press above what management say. Silence, or an evasive-sounding narrative will damage the firm internally.

PR advice for these events is about protecting reputation, and avoiding the sort of misunderstanding that, with a little push, can be self-fulfilling. King & Wood Mallesons has made everyone jumpy.

If you or your firm needs advice on crisis communications, please get in touch.

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