I had a cup of coffee last week with an old friend who happens to be a legal recruiter.
“Are you going to try to pry me out of my job?” I asked. “That’ll be a pretty tough sell.”
“I couldn’t place you if I tried,” he said.
“You crossed that Rubicon two years ago. I do searches only for law firms, and they don’t hire in-house lawyers. You’re no good to me anymore.”
“Law firms buy books of business. Not only that — they buy only past books of business. Nobody buys a story — a promise of future work — these days. Firms buy only your past successes. That’s often incredibly stupid, but it’s what they do.”
The guy had my attention: First, I’m no longer a hot commodity; somehow, that annoyed me, even though I’m not looking to sell myself these days. Second, law firms are stupid about lateral hiring; this was a blog post waiting to happen . . .
In our last full post on Dewey & LeBoeuf, the fast-fading New York law firm, we tried to find some moments of humor in this generally depressing story. Now we’ll return to the hard — and gloomy — Dewey news. (We mentioned several D&L items in today’s Morning Docket.)
Without further ado, let’s find out what’s going on….
Based on recent remarks by current and former leadership at Dewey & LeBoeuf, it seems that the firm is going to end with a whimper, not a bang. The current plan apparently involves no bankruptcy filing or dissolution vote, but just the defection of one partner after another, until nobody is left.
It’s interesting to see how the pace of the Dewey story is shifting. We’re moving from the breathless breaking of news into a period of longer pieces focused on analysis and narrative. This makes sense, given that most of the major events have already transpired (with the exception of formalities that will be big news if and when they do occur — e.g., an official vote of dissolution, a filing of bankruptcy, etc.).
So let’s do a more comprehensive review of the latest Dewey stories from around the web. We bring you more theories of blame, more partner departures, and more revelations about the personal life of former chairman Steven H. Davis….
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.”
Partner departures from the fast-sinking Dewey & LeBoeuf have reached a point where it’s difficult to track them in real time. We’ll focus our coverage on the biggest defections. There are multiple other resources for monitoring all the moves, the latest being the Wall Street Journal’s interactive graphic. (Similar trackers are available from Am Law Daily and Thomson Reuters.)
Last week, an internal memo gave Dewey partners the green light to consider “alternative opportunities” with other law firms. Many partners have availed themselves of that permission, with dozens of partners leaving the firm since the memo’s issuance. According to Thomson Reuters, about 150 of Dewey’s 300 partners have resigned since the start of 2012.
And now one of Dewey’s leaders — the chair of the firm’s Global Litigation Department, and a member of the multi-partner Office of the Chairman — is departing. Where is he going?
As usual, various UPDATES — including news of another departure by a department head and Chairman’s Office member, and additional details of litigators on the move — after the jump.
The revolving door continues to spin, quite furiously, at the rapidly collapsing Dewey & LeBoeuf. We mentioned some of the latest partner departures in last night’s post (which we updated again this morning).
These are major defections, which strike at the heart of what was left of the firm. In case there was any doubt after last Friday’s WARN Act notice or yesterday’s big layoffs, it may soon be time to stick a fork in LeBoeuf.
On Friday, we broke the news of Dewey & LeBoeuf issuing a WARN Act notice to its U.S. employees. As explained by the U.S. Department of Labor, the WARN law generally requires an employer “to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”
We noted, however, that employees shouldn’t be lulled into complacency by the 60-day requirement. As Elie wrote, “Dewey employees shouldn’t expect to just show up to work every day until Independence Day. Remember, we’ve learned from the Heller dissolution and other firms’ dissolutions that things tend to happen very quickly.”
Very quickly indeed. We are now hearing reports that this Friday, May 11, will be the last day for an unknown number of D&L employees….
As usual with the fast-moving Dewey story, we have multiple UPDATES, including some from Tuesday morning, after the jump.
You know it’s tough times for your business when your firm is the butt of jokes throughout the legal profession. Who knows how many snide little remarks have been made about Dewey & LeBoeuf at Biglaw firms around the country? I bet there have been robust laughs at Dewey’s expense. If Austin Powers were here, he’d say, “Dewey’s like the village bicycle — everybody’s had a ride.”
We capture one of these little jokes over email. Let’s just hope nobody is making fun of your firm like this…
Yesterday, partners at Dewey & LeBoeuf received their $25,000 monthly partner draws. For many of them, that might be the last check they receive from the embattled firm.
Over 100 Dewey partners have left the firm since the start of the year. But we now have reports that as many as 200 people, including a large number of partners, will be departing today. Apparently, “the banks” (i.e., Dewey creditors) are calling the shots now. As we reported yesterday, we seem to be moving forward toward a May 15th end date for Dewey.
But as they say in Lion in Winter: when the fall is all there is, it matters….
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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