Two top lawyers at one of the City of London's biggest firms have found themselves embroiled in a public row after a chain of emails sparked by the company appointing administrators was leaked.

In the chain, apparently sent to all members of staff at King & Wood Mallesons (KWM), Tim Taylor QC appeared to criticise George Pinkham over what he perceived to be insensitivity towards outgoing staff.

The war of words started after Pinkham, who is based in New York, allegedly told staff who were being made redundant to "stay in touch" as he would not be in work on Monday because it is a holiday in the United States.

Despite admitting it was a "sad day", his chirpy send-off appeared to irk Taylor, who is based in Dubai, as he hit reply all and said: "Some recipients of your email will not be in work Monday, not because it is a holiday, but because they won't have a job to go to."

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He added: "Try re-reading your own email and then asking yourself whether a culture of self-preoccupation and blaming others might have had something to do with how all this has happened."

The attack, first leaked to the Legal Cheek website, appeared to irk Pinkham, who, again, hit reply all and accused Taylor of "distorting" his words.

"What gives you the right to attack me simply because I am trying to stay in touch with the many people in the firm I admire and respect?" he asked.

A final message from Taylor, whose son Hugo used to appear in reality television show Made in Chelsea, said he had just wanted Mr Pinkham to "clarify exactly who you want to blame".

He added: "Onwards and upwards!"

Their exchange came after the firm confirmed on Tuesday that it was appointing administrators. A spokesman said: "I can confirm that King & Wood Mallesons LLP (London) will appoint administrators today (17 January)."

Some recipients of your email will not be in work Monday, not because it is a holiday, but because they won't have a job to go to.

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It is thought the firm has debts of around £35 million (NZ$60m).

Taylor, Pinkham and KWM have been contacted for comment.