Since this afternoon’s big Dewey & LeBoeuf development, namely, the defection of Morton Pierce and seven other partners to White & Case, there has been some additional news. It concerns the timing of Dewey’s possible shutdown, a subject that has been the subject of much speculation lately.

One rumor had the firm closing its doors as early as tomorrow. Another suggested a date closer to Memorial Day. The truth may lie somewhere in between: according to sources cited by Am Law Daily (reg. req.), “Dewey is poised to close by May 15 and possibly sooner.”

(Also at Am Law, a very handy Dewey Departure Tracker. It lists each defector’s name, practice area, departure date, new firm, and location. It’s a great resource.)

The May 15 date makes some sense. As reported by Thomson Reuters News & Insight, on Monday the firm received a two-week extension from lenders for renegotiating its $100 million credit line. Assuming the parties can’t reach a new agreement, which seems like a good assumption right now, the new deadline would fall on or about May 15, the shutdown date mentioned by Am Law.

Compared to other outlets, we’ve been focusing a lot on the human side of the Dewey story. We’ve talked about the partners, including the particular partners who might be blamed for Dewey’s demise. We’ve talked about the staff, bringing you a paralegal’s lament.

Tonight let’s consider the fate of would-be Dewey associates, both full-time and summer associates, who now find themselves left in the lurch….

As usual, UPDATES — including one relating to support staff — after the jump.

Last week, we broke the news of Dewey canceling its summer associate program. Prior to that, we broke the news of Dewey deferring incoming associates to January 2013, which at this point should be read as offer rescission. (We don’t know if Dewey has had further communication with incoming associates, perhaps to terminate their offers officially. If you know — perhaps you have a memo you can share? — please email us.)

UPDATE (10:00 PM): From an “incoming” Dewey associate:

We’ve received no communication from HR, or anyone else at the firm, about our positions since early April when we were informed about our delayed start date. Given the lack of communication, I’m assuming we will hear that the firm is dissolving when everyone else hears.

Thanks for the ATL post. The 2Ls are in a bad position, but at least they have another shot at OCI. It doesn’t seem like the firms are as interested in the 3Ls. I had four offers during OCI, and feel like this is a stroke of really bad luck.

What should these displaced Dewey-ites do with themselves? Catherine Rampell of the New York Times spoke with some of them:

“Firms, while wanting to help out, are generally not in a position to add to their summer class, and they respond accordingly,” said Andrew Aitchison, 27, a second-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center. “We kind of got the rug pulled out from under us.”

Mr. Aitchison and his counterparts at other elite schools had expected to walk out of their final exams this week and into a summer position promised back in the fall. Like summer associate jobs at most white-shoe law firms, they would have earned around $3,000 a week, plus free meals, field trips and other goodies. It would be a cushy, two-month courtship that virtually guaranteed equally lucrative employment with Dewey after graduation.

But now those jobs are gone, and just about every comparable opportunity was booked nearly a year ago.

Yup. Readers of Above the Law are familiar with the mating dance of 2L recruiting (which used to be called “fall recruiting,” until it got pushed back to freaking August, or even July). The summer associate gigs are unavailable, because Dewey’s “peer firms” filled all their slots a long time ago. They’re gone, baby, gone.

The same goes for positions for full-time associates in Biglaw. Offers to work full-time at a large firm after graduation are almost always the result of successful summer associate experiences between the 2L and 3L year. As Jim Leipold of NALP recently observed, “There is no 3L hiring market.”

Are other firms taking in the Dewey orphans? As you may recall, former Dewey partner John Altorelli was urging his former partners to do exactly that (see his email).

Alas, so far there hasn’t been a massive outreach to displaced Dewey folks. As Rampell reported:

Of the dozens of major firms contacted for this article, only one had picked up one of these stranded summer associates, and that was because one of its partners had a personal connection to the student.

The others all declined to comment, with the exception of one firm spokeswoman who said her firm did not have any openings, but even if it did, it would hire someone from its own shortlist rather than extend an offer to one of the Dewey students.

Is it possible that the Dewey connection is being held against some of these law students and lawyers, even though they had nothing to do with the firm’s troubles? From the NYT article:

[N]ot all lawyers will be benevolent, even if their firms do have last-minute slots available.

“It really depends on the hiring partner,” said one lawyer who was formerly a partner at Dewey. “Most firms have an inflated opinion of themselves, as do most lawyers. If last fall you offered a job to John Smith from Harvard, and he said, ‘No thanks, I’m going to Dewey,’ your reaction might be, ‘Why the hell did he go to that firm? He must be an idiot.’ ”

Ouch — and somewhat unfair, in my view. While Dewey’s brewing troubles might have been known to some within the firm well before the start of this year (see the comments to this post), it seems unlikely that a rising 2L in summer 2011 could have figured out that Dewey was a house of cards about to collapse (even if that 2L was a diligent reader of Above the Law and other industry publications).

So what should Dewey-ites do now? To that question we now turn. We’ll hear some expert advice, and we’ll also solicit reader input….


comments sponsored by

168 comments (hidden for your protection) Show all comments