Dewey & LeBoeuf's sign at 1301 Avenue of the Americas. (Photo by David Lat. Feel free to use.)
“Our catering service requires a credit card; client matter numbers no longer accepted. Seamless food ordering requires a credit card or a corporate card.”
“It’s not clear that we still have health insurance.”
“Dewey has cut off subscriptions, and expenses are no longer being reimbursed.”
“Everyone is pretty much packing up. Bankers boxes are on backorder in supplies.”
“Dewey is quietly removing the art from the walls. Perhaps it belongs to the creditors?”
These are some of the sad stories we’re hearing out of Dewey & LeBoeuf today. Let’s discuss the latest news and rumor coming out of the deeply troubled law firm….
Multiple UPDATES and new links, after the jump (at the very end of this post). The Dewey story is moving so quickly that we will do multiple updates to our existing posts instead of writing a new post every time there’s a little additional news to report. Otherwise half of the stories on our front page would be about Dewey, and there is other Biglaw news to report — e.g., the new profit-per-partner rankings from Am Law, salacious lawsuits against prominent D.C. law firms, etc.
Over the weekend, when it looked like lenders to Dewey & LeBoeuf might be willing to give the troubled law firm more time to sort out its finances, I observed that “LeBoeuf is not yet cooked.” But it now looks like my fairly charitable assessment was unduly, or maybe even wildly, optimistic.
Can you say “warm red center”? As we reported yesterday, another slew of Dewey partners — about eleven in all, including former chairs of the tax practice and the corporate finance practice — started heading for the exits.
And perhaps they’re doing so with the blessing of firm management. Check out what D&L is now telling its partners….
UPDATE (10:10 AM): Now with text of memo appended.
UPDATE (10:30 AM): Now with discussion of London office added.
UPDATE (11:10 AM): Now with comments from Martin Bienenstock, a member of the firm’s four-person “Office of the Chairman.”
Over the weekend, we passed along some good news about Dewey & LeBoeuf. It appears that the firm has been given a new (even if temporary) lease on life by its lenders. Initial reports suggested that the firm was getting one week or maybe two in order to reach a new debt deal with its banks. It now appears, however, that the firm could be getting a more long-term extension, in the range of 90 to 120 days. The deal still needs to be finalized; keep your fingers crossed.
That’s the good news. Now, back to the bad news: more partner defections from Dewey….
On Thursday morning, while talking to my therapist — no, not the People’s Therapist — I mentioned that I’ve been quite busy at work these days, covering the fast-moving story of a law firm implosion. I started to explain, but he interrupted.
“You mean Dewey?” he asked. “I know all about it. An old friend of mine is a partner there. He just asked me for a referral.”
Sign #1 that a law firm story has gone mainstream: your shrink knows about it. Sign #2: it’s getting covered by esteemed general-interest outlets like Slate and the Economist. (In Slate, Reynolds Holding argues that the experience of Ruden McClosky, the Florida firm that pulled off the bankruptcy-cum-merger maneuver last year, could provide helpful lessons for Dewey.)
Aside from a report that some partners want criminal charges brought against chairman Steven H. Davis, as noted in Morning Docket, things have been relatively quiet on the Dewey front over the past day or two. Perhaps too quiet, for some people….
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!
Today we’ll give you a double dose of Dewey. This morning we published an eloquent email from a Dewey paralegal, which looked at the story from a human-interest perspective. Now we shall return to the business aspects of the crisis.
Here in New York, the theater community is gearing up for the Tony Award season. Which shows will snag coveted nominations for best musical and best play?
In the world of Biglaw, though, there’s no competing with the drama now unfolding at Dewey & LeBoeuf, the once elite and now rapidly imploding law firm. Thus far, the story of Dewey has been dynamic but depressing, more tragedy than comedy.
But might that change? Could the tale of D&L end happily, like a Shakespearean comedy — with a wedding?
What must it be like right now to be working at Dewey & LeBoeuf? One imagines a lot of whispered conversations, furrowed brows, and closed office doors. It’s a difficult and stressful time at D&L. To our friends at Dewey, keep your chins up (but, at the same time, do what you need to do to protect yourself and your career).
The anxiety at Dewey is increased by the firm’s cash crunch. Lawyers and staff at the firm are having a harder time doing their jobs because certain resources aren’t available to them.
Even in the digital age, with so many documents transmitted electronically rather than physically, FedEx is still a mainstay at major law firms — but not at Dewey. “We are restricted from using the account and now have to rely on UPS or express mail for overnights,” a source at Dewey told us. “Even if a package is labeled to go out via FedEx, when it goes down to mailroom it is relabeled for one of our new shipping methods. Do you know any other company that can stay afloat without FedEx?”
Will Dewey be staying afloat? Let’s hear the latest about other services that D&L lawyers and staff can’t use, some possible partner departures, and the firm’s ambitious plan for saving itself — via bankruptcy….
The attrition rate in Biglaw is legendary. Since the recession hit, associates are less likely to voluntarily abandon a six-figure job and more often believe that you don’t get up and go until they throw you out the door. On the other hand, since the recession hit, associates are less likely to have any choice in the matter should their firm feel the need to reduce headcount. But especially during the boom years when I began practicing, associates frequently left their firm gigs to do all manner of things, from going in-house, to starting a private practice, to hiking across the country, or moving to Nepal.
I worked in large and medium-sized firms for nearly a decade, and during my tenure, I saw an awful lot of associates come and go. Rarely if ever was I surprised to hear the news. In fact, I was usually surprised that others were surprised. In my experience, there are certain tell-tale signs that an associate is crafting a farewell email….
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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: email@example.com.
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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