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Dewey Have Anyone Left To Turn Out the Lights?
(Plus an actual lawsuit, a possible lawsuit, and a partner’s theory of blame.)

That’s the question the WSJ Law Blog just asked about the [pick your favorite adjective: beleaguered / collapsing / flailing / troubled] law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Today brings big, bad news for Dewey: bankruptcy superstar Martin Bienenstock is taking his practice to Proskauer Rose. He’s moving with five other partners — Philip Abelson, Irena Goldstein, Timothy Karcher, Michael Kessler, Judy Liu — and nine associates.

Dewey’s loss is Proskauer’s gain. “He is absolutely the crown jewel over there, a fantastic lawyer who will be a great partner,” a current Proskauer partner told us. “This is going to vault us into the company of Kirkland and Weil, giving us one of the top bankruptcy practices in the country. We are really thrilled.”

As you may recall, Bienenstock was a member of the five-person Office of the Chairman at Dewey. As my colleague Staci Zaretsky wondered earlier today, “Dewey seriously have one chairman again?” With Bienenstock to Proskauer, Jeffrey Kessler to Winston & Strawn, Richard Shutran to O’Melveny & Myers, and Steve Davis off to who knows where, only Charles Landgraf remains in the chairman’s office. (Note that Landgraf’s bio is still on the Dewey website.)

Bienenstock’s departure doesn’t mark the end of Dewey’s difficulties. Let’s review the latest news….

Of course we’ve added UPDATES, after the jump.

1. A federal takeover of pension plans. As we reported last night, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has stepped in to take over three D&L pension plans covering almost 1,800 people. The plans were underfunded by more than $80 million.

2. A WARN Act lawsuit. We suspected this was coming. As we also mentioned last night (see the update to this post), Dewey has been hit with its first lawsuit alleging that it violated the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act, which requires employers to provide employees with advance notice of mass layoffs.

The complaint was filed in Manhattan federal court (S.D.N.Y.) by Vittoria Conn, a document specialist at Dewey. Conn is being represented by Jack Raisner of Outten & Golden — who was, as you may recall, one of the first lawyers to comment publicly on Dewey’s WARN Act issues. You can read more about the suit at the WSJ Law Blog, which has a copy of the complaint, and at Bloomberg and Am Law Daily (reg. req.).

3. A possible Securities Act lawsuit. As we previously discussed, some industry observers wonder whether the offering memorandum for Dewey’s $125 million private placement of bonds could give rise to litigation. The issue is discussed over at DealBook, which has a copy of the 58-page document. (We’re going to be returning to the offering memo later; if you have interesting observations about it, feel free to email us.)

4. Continued partner departures. Martin Bienenstock and his bankruptcy colleagues aren’t the only departing Dewey lawyers. For example, Orrick recently picked up two D&L partners, Dmitry Gubarev and Leo Batalov, in Moscow. Earlier this week, Bracewell & Giuliani added five Dewey energy partners to its ranks: John Klauberg and Frederick Lark in New York, Catherine McCarthy and David Poe in Washington, and Charles Vandenburgh in Connecticut. These are just selected lateral moves; feel free to mention others in the comments.

UPDATE (10:25 AM): There’s a long and detailed round-up of the latest Dewey partner hires in this Am Law Daily story. As we’ve mentioned before, Dewey partner trackers are available from Thomson Reuters, Am Law, and the Wall Street Journal.

So how did it come to this? One former Dewey partner has a theory….

(hidden for your protection)

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