Debtor in possession -- of a sign? Dewey still seems to have signage outside 1301 Avenue of the Americas. (Photo taken on Tuesday by yours truly.)
Ever since the once high-flying Dewey & LeBeouf filed for bankruptcy in late May, observers have been wondering about what type of financial arrangement the firm might work out with its former partners. Last month, we discussed the outlines of a possible settlement between D&L and its ex-partners, in which former partners would pay a certain amount of money into the Dewey bankruptcy estate in exchange for being released from future claims by Dewey’s estate, the firm’s creditors, and fellow ex-partners.
Would such a plan fly? We noted that the broad outlines sounded reasonable enough, but that much would turn on the specific contours of the proposal — especially the amounts that the partners would be asked to pay, and the methodology for determining those sums.
In the wake of a meeting held yesterday afternoon here in New York at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, we now have some additional information on that front….
Clean-up efforts are underway at Dewey & LeBoeuf — and we’re not talking about the work of the janitors (at least not the ones who were allegedly stiffed on $300,000). Rather, we’re talking about the work being done by Dewey as debtor, aided by its high-priced advisory team, to put its affairs in order and to maximize the recovery for its creditors.
One of the biggest messes: how to deal with the firm’s hundreds of former partners. Dewey’s lead lawyer, Albert Togut of Togut Segal & Segal, has already made clear his plans to seek some funds from them.
In a conference call yesterday afternoon, Dewey’s bankruptcy advisers informed ex-partners about the contours of a possible global settlement….
It has been a few days since our last detailed story about the largest law firm bankruptcy in history. So let’s check in on the Chapter 11 proceedings of Dewey & LeBoeuf, currently pending in bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York.
There have been a few recent developments. For example, as we mentioned in Morning Docket, Dewey is being counseled in bankruptcy by some pretty pricey advisers.
If asked to name people who might be worried about owing money to the Dewey estate, some observers might cite “the Steves”: former chairman Steven H. Davis, and former executive director Stephen DiCarmine. Some have accused the Steves of mismanaging D&L’s affairs (or worse), contributing to the collapse of a firm that was once in the top 30 U.S. law firms by total revenue.
But if you’re thinking that Steve DiCarmine wants to pay the Dewey estate some money and get on with his tanning life, think again. As it turns out, Steve DiCarmine is claiming that Dewey owes him money….
* Dewey know how deep in the red D&L’s international operations were? Enough to make you shout bloody hell and sacré bleu: the U.K. and Paris offices had liabilities of at least $175M. [Financial Times (reg. req.)]
* “To the extent that we the estate have claims, we would like to settle those claims sooner rather than later.” The joke’s on you if you thought you’d be able to keep your Dewey defector money. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]
* According to the allegations in former Cravath associate Ellen Pao’s sex discrimination suit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, the “Mad Men” culture seems to be alive and well in Silicon Valley. [New York Times]
* Who will be the first to puff, puff, pass the vote — Obama or Romney? It looks like the path to the White House in Election 2012 might depend upon the legalization of marijuana in key states like Colorado. [Reuters]
* Apparently you can’t take the “duh” out of “Flori-duh” when it comes to voting laws without a fight in the courts. A federal judge has blocked portions of the Sunshine State’s “onerous” voter registration law. [Bloomberg]
* “People want to go to our school, and why should we say no?” Because they can’t get jobs? Northwestern Law is considering shrinking its class sizes; John Marshall Law, not so much. [Crain's Chicago Business]
* Stop crying about coming in second in the U.S. News rankings, Harvard, because you can still brag about beating Yale in having the most-cited law review articles of all time… for now. [National Law Journal (reg. req.)]
* Gloria Allred is representing one of the Miami “zombie’s” girlfriends for reasons unknown. Maybe the zombie apocalypse is truly upon is and she saw an opportunity to stand up for undead women’s rights. [CBS Miami]
As we mentioned earlier today, retired partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf received some potentially good news. These former partners, whose unfunded pensions were supposed to be funded out of firm profits, will have a voice in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. As reported by the WSJ Law Blog and Am Law Daily, the U.S. trustee’s office has appointed an official committee of former partners (in addition to the standard official committee of unsecured creditors). The four ex-partners on the committee are David Bicks, Cameron MacRae, John Kinzey, and John Campo.
What prompted the move? As legal consultant Edwin Reeser, whose analysis of the Dewey situation recently appeared in these pages, told the WSJ, “The retired partners have uniquely separate interests which warrant consideration as a special class of creditors.”
It’s nice that they have a seat at the table, but will the ex-partners end up with any money at the end of the process? That’s less clear. As Jerome Kowalski, another law firm consultant, told the Journal, “There has never been a law firm bankruptcy that resulted in any payment being made to the equity partners… They’ll have zero sway other than perhaps some moral imperatives, and moral imperatives don’t have much play in bankruptcy courts.”
The unsecured creditors might have more luck than the former partners. Who’s on the unsecured creditors’ committee?
The law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf now finds itself in Chapter 11, but the story of Dewey has not yet reached its end. We’ll now turn the pages in the Bankruptcy Reporter.
Yesterday Judge Martin Glenn of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court allowed Dewey to use cash collateral to fund its wind-down operations, even though this collateral should really be seen as belonging to the firm’s secured creditors. Judge Glenn initially denied this request, at least when it was coupled with giving the secured creditors a lien on recoveries from future litigation. In deciding to let Dewey tap into the cash, Judge Glenn did not decide what the lenders might get in exchange for letting the firm use their money. That will be decided later, at a June 13 hearing.
With things quieting down on the Dewey news front, let’s turn to analysis. Here are some insights into what brought Dewey down and what other firms can learn from its fall, from a former managing partner who now works as a consultant to the legal industry….
So, Dewey & LeBoeuf filed for bankruptcy, as I’m sure you’ve heard. Here at Above the Law, we’ve been embroiled in nitty-gritty of the breakup of this once-proud firm. But a tipster suggested that we take an interesting step back. After checking out the comments to a Dewey story on Reuters, this reader observed: “It’s just funny (and alarming) to see how much the masses hate lawyers and cherish seeing them suffer. Makes ATL seem like a safe zone.”
The reaction from the general — and generally uninformed — public has been a crazy aspect to this Dewey story. The process of Dewey falling apart has sent some people into a frothing “eat the rich” lather. As if one law firm in Manhattan has anything to do with why an autoworker in Cleveland can’t get a job.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
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