On Thursday morning, while talking to my therapist — no, not the People’s Therapist — I mentioned that I’ve been quite busy at work these days, covering the fast-moving story of a law firm implosion. I started to explain, but he interrupted.
“You mean Dewey?” he asked. “I know all about it. An old friend of mine is a partner there. He just asked me for a referral.”
Sign #1 that a law firm story has gone mainstream: your shrink knows about it. Sign #2: it’s getting covered by esteemed general-interest outlets like Slate and the Economist. (In Slate, Reynolds Holding argues that the experience of Ruden McClosky, the Florida firm that pulled off the bankruptcy-cum-merger maneuver last year, could provide helpful lessons for Dewey.)
Aside from a report that some partners want criminal charges brought against chairman Steven H. Davis, as noted in Morning Docket, things have been relatively quiet on the Dewey front over the past day or two. Perhaps too quiet, for some people….
One European-based Dewey partner told The Am Law Daily Wednesday that the firm’s newly created “office of the chairman” — a five-partner team that includes bankruptcy expert Martin Bienenstock, corporate department head Richard Shutran, and global head of litigation Jeffrey Kessler — “is silent now; it’s been like that for a few days.” This partner, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said that Steven Davis, the deposed Dewey chairman who is also a member the new five-person leadership team, has not been seen in London despite the late March announcement that he was relocating there to focus on Dewey’s international offices.
Are firm leaders too busy working on a possible merger with Greenberg Traurig? That seems improbable, since a merger seems improbable:
One top Greenberg partner told The Am Law Daily Wednesday that a full merger with Dewey is unlikely, and that the firm will most likely seek to “cherry-pick internationally” to bolster its own presence abroad, which currently consists of outposts in London, Milan, Rome, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, and Mexico City. (Several of those offices are affiliates rather than fully integrated offices.)
The same Greenberg partner, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that many of Dewey’s remaining U.S.–based “heavy-hitters” are not likely to join Greenberg as the latter already has significant expertise in their practice areas.
Yesterday afternoon, while communicating with GT for another story, I asked the firm if there were any updates on the Dewey talks. Greenberg sent over this statement (consistent with its prior public comments):
We have had preliminary discussions relating to lawyers at Dewey LeBoeuf but we have made no commitments, have not reached agreements and have had no involvement in the firm’s financial situation or relationships. We continue to focus on our unique strategy and have maintained our discipline, having grown the firm from 3 lawyers to over 1700 lawyers in 29 US locations and 5 overseas markets without ever having done a merger. This focus allows us to consider a range of quality opportunities in a challenging world on a regular basis.
Let’s read between the lines. If Greenberg takes pride in having flourished “without ever having done a merger,” would they be inclined to enter into a merger now? Perhaps not — especially if, as reported by Ashby Jones and Jennifer Smith in the Wall Street Journal, the Dewey name would have to come first in the new name of the post-merger entity.
In other Dewey news, of a spooky and ghoulish nature….