Biglaw, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Dissolution, Paralegals, Partner Issues, Secretaries / Administrative Assistants, Staff Layoffs

Dewey & LeBoeuf: A Paralegal’s Lament

Thus far, the story of Dewey & LeBoeuf has been told primarily from the perspective of lawyers. On the whole, the coverage has been quite partner-focused, centered on which partners are defecting to which rival law firms. There has been some discussion, but not a huge amount, of the plight of associates.

There has been even less discussion of the support staff. But if Dewey goes under, staffers will also lose their jobs. And in this day and age of law firms slashing staff, secretaries and paralegals may have a harder time finding new positions than attorneys.

Here is one paralegal’s perspective on what’s going on at D&L….

Late last week, we received a thoughtful, heartfelt email from a paralegal at Dewey. We thank him for his message, which we will now share with you. The email begins:

I write this missive from the viewpoint of a seasoned Dewey paralegal. I understand that my commentary on current events may not be desired or respected among certain members of the legal community but I could no longer remain silent.

I understand that you cannot control or be held responsible for some of the comments that are posted by members of your audience regarding Dewey events but it is disheartening to see callous and sarcastic comments in response to the stories. I have a very different point of view from some of my “esteemed” colleagues and wanted to share them with you.

Don’t let the sometimes cruel commenters get under your skin. It’s best to either ignore them or receive them with a sense of humor. It’s the internet; what are you going to do?

After years of witnessing corporate politicking and deceitful maneuvering, one starts to believe that money and power rule all. Loyalty and camaraderie died with Bear Stearns. It’s business, not personal.

Actually, loyalty and camaraderie died well before Bear did, don’t you think?

It is much easier for certain “rainmakers” to wash their hands and defect to another firm where they will continue their mediocre practice in the name of the narcissism and greed. Yet, during these difficult times, I find myself starting to believe there is still some good left in this industry. In the midst of the madness, there are partners who could walk away however they have refused to do so. There are the tales of those who demand every penny of their draw even though they work five hours a day and bring in zero business but there are also stories of partners who having willingly given up their draw for the sake of the firm. These heroic partners are working very hard to keep as many people employed as possible. They have taken the time to ask how the members of the staff are coping and offering help wherever they can. I stand firmly in admiration of their dedication and selflessness when others have run. Perhaps my blue collar upbringing foolishly leads me to believe that loyalty is the most important virtue a man could have.

Some of the partners who are sticking with Dewey deserve to be commended for their loyalty, their commitment to their colleagues, and their dedication to saving what can be saved. At the same time, I wouldn’t necessarily condemn lawyers for leaving the firm either. They have to do what’s right for themselves and their families. It’s a difficult situation for everyone involved.

I have read various comments posted on your site through the years and have learned that there are lawyers who believe the staff members are useless and easily replaceable. While this may be true to some degree there are many lawyers who are lackluster at best. Apparently the Ivy League no longer teaches the brilliant how to file documents with the Court, handle voluminous productions or (gasp!) create an adequate privilege log. I, the lazy replaceable one, am the same one they scuttle to for help and I have saved more than one elitist ass in my career and they know it. We are all replaceable in the grand scheme but we too need to support our children and have a place to live. I apologize that my heart does not bleed for those partners who are upset that they can no longer afford their two summer homes and monthly sojourns. The person who had to show a Harvard graduate how to fax a sheet of paper is one paycheck away from a shelter.

I wonder if our paralegal correspondent has a chip on his shoulder. Most of the lawyers I know have a great deal of respect for staff members and their contributions. One shouldn’t let a bunch of anonymous commenters on the internet — who might be staffers posing as arrogant attorneys, for all you know — give you an inferiority complex.

The email continues….

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