In August of 2009, while driving around Silicon Valley after speaking at Santa Clara Law, I saw an office park in East Palo Alto with a sign that jumped out at me. Being a Biglaw groupie, I stopped and snapped a picture:
I parked, got out of my rental car, and walked around. I was struck by the beauty of the overall office complex, with its expansive plaza, immaculate landscaping, and fountains. It was a veritable law firm Xanadu!
Or maybe an old Indian burial ground….
What do the dearly departed Howrey law firm and the rapidly imploding Dewey law firm share in common — besides, of course, names that lend themselves to question puns? A tipster sent us an email with a subject heading that could be a Harry Potter title: “Dewey and the Jinxed Office Park.” From the message:
(And also DLA Piper. But is there an office park in America without a DLA Piper?)
The office complex is called University Circle and is built where an infamous and notorious part of Palo Alto called Whiskey Gulch used to be. Lots of bad karma that seems to be continuing….
And it’s not just law firms like Brobeck and Howrey experiencing the University Circle curse. Scroll up and take a second look at the tenants listed on the sign (as of August 2009). The first name is Wachovia, which no longer exists — it came thisclose to failing, before it got swallowed up by Wells Fargo.
You’ll notice another law firm name on the office park sign: Bingham McCutchen. But Bingham relocated a few months ago, to California Avenue. What prompted the move — a desire to be in Palo Alto proper rather than East Palo Alto? Or did Bingham receive advice from Ghostbusters? (Look, if some law firms seek counsel from feng shui gurus, there’s nothing wrong with talking to paranormal locational consultants.)
So, Dewey have to move to new offices in Silicon Valley? Not necessarily. The firm can just hire an exorcist. There’s precedent for the practice: Bryan Cave allegedly tried it, and hey, it’s not like they’re hemorrhaging partners. “The power of Biglaw compels you!”
In other Dewey real estate news, back in Manhattan, Crain’s New York Business reports:
Deeply troubled law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf has tapped Newmark Grubb Knight Frank to sublease up to about 160,000 square feet—roughly a third of its space—at 1301 Sixth Ave., where it is the largest tenant, sources said.
The firm, which has been hemorrhaging attorneys and is reportedly considering a prepackaged bankruptcy, is looking to initially sublease three or four floors of the building, which average 40,000 square feet each, according to CoStar Property. The firm leases roughly 474,000 square feet, nearly a quarter of the space in the 1.8 million-square-foot tower owned by The Paramount Group.
Finding a taker for the space might be tough. It’s perfectly nice space; I’ve been there, when Dewey kindly invited me to speak in May 2009 for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. But Dewey is entering a crowded market, as noted by The Real Deal.
Meanwhile, rumblings of possible partner departures continue….