Heller Ehrman LLP Above the Law blog.JPGAIG, the American taxpayers’ very own insurance company, has taken a lot of heat for their company retreat full of facials and frivolity.

But in our own world of dissolving law firms, Heller Ehrman’s actions before the end have gotten far too little scrutiny. Yesterday, American Lawyer ran a story (subscription) about Heller’s 2007 partner retreat:

When Heller Ehrman partners gathered at Santa Barbara’s Bacara Resort & Spa in March 2007, there was already reason to be concerned about the firm’s future. Several practice areas were slow. The firm’s national and global ambitions were in disarray. And partners were increasingly skeptical about management’s ability to address the problems. But that weekend they were determined to laugh at this somewhat worrisome predicament.

The final night of the retreat featured a $300,000 skit. Performers from the Los Angeles Opera, accompanied by a professional orchestra, portrayed Chairman Matthew Larrabee and other firm leaders frantically searching for a merger partner. “Some people were laughing, but I thought it was surreal,” says one former shareholder (Heller’s term for partner).

Heller people, here’s some free legal advice: if you can get from this post to Matt Larrabee’s house without thinking, it might be a crime of passion. But if you read through to the end of the post, you’ll have entered the cooling down period and you’re looking at murder 2.

Please, it’s not worth it. San Quentin is a bad place. Just click on the jump.


Our friend Heller Drone has been able to confirm that the firm really did spend $300,000 on bringing in the Los Angeles Opera to make fun of Larrabee, even though Heller associates were undoubtedly willing to do it for free.

This episode speaks to the “hidden” reasons behind Heller’s stunning collapse:

Heller died because its partners lost confidence in their leaders. More than 80 shareholders left the San Francisco-based firm in 2007 and 2008, some embittered, some merely frustrated, by a roller coaster of ever-changing strategies, faltering financials, and less-than-candid communication. Those who remained to the end shared the frustration.

ATL tipsters, I challenge you. Somewhere there has to be a video or at least some pictures of this $300,000 skit. Please find it. Leave no camera phone unturned. Hilarity will ensue!

Why Heller Didn’t Survive [American Lawyer] (subscription)

Fiddling While Rome Burns [Heller Highwater]

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Heller Ehrman’s dissolution.


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