Partner Issues

I recently got a lift to the airport from a lawyer at a mid-sized firm who I’d met only earlier in the day. “It must be a pleasure to work for you,” he said.

On the one hand, that seemed strange, since I work so hard to establish a public persona that I’m a pain in the neck. (Frankly, that’s not much of a charade.) On the other hand, this seemed not at all strange, since I’ve now grown accustomed to lawyers at firms sucking up to me.

But I figured I’d play along: “Why would it be a pleasure to work for me?” I asked, innocently. “I’m pretty tough on our outside counsel.”

“Because you can tell good from bad. You worked in private practice for 25 years, and you’ve labored in my field. I suspect that, back when you were playing the game, you could write a pretty good brief. When an outside lawyer sends a bad brief to you, you may criticize it, but at least when a lawyer sends a good brief to you, you’ll recognize that it’s good. I work with an awful lot of clients who can’t distinguish good work from bad.”

Ha! Here’s an issue that I’d noticed when I was in private practice, but never really thought about. And it’s an issue that arises frequently in-house, because an in-house lawyer’s clients typically are not lawyers. My chauffeur may have thought that he was currying my favor by flattering me, but in fact he was doing something much, much better — he’d given me fodder for a blog post.

What should lawyers do when their clients can’t tell good legal work from bad?

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As we reported late on Monday night, Dewey & LeBoeuf has filed for bankruptcy — the largest law firm bankruptcy in U.S. history, in fact. You can access a copy of Dewey’s voluntary petition to enter Chapter 11 over here (via Scribd).

Yesterday afternoon, Dewey’s lawyers appeared in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The firm’s lead lawyer, Albert Togut, introduced himself as follows: “I can finally confirm the worst-kept secret of the year. I am counsel for Dewey & LeBoeuf.” He’s going to be a very busy man over the weeks and months ahead.

Let’s find out what happened at the hearing, and also take a closer look at one of Dewey’s most intriguing unsecured creditors: a (rather attractive) litigatrix, a former Dewey associate now at another firm, who is owed more than $400,000 in “severance” by D&L….

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(And a report on Dewey’s day in bankruptcy court.)”

So yeah, Dewey is history. Everyone and his mother has written about what the bankruptcy of the “storied” law firm means. According to Kent Zimmermann, a legal consultant at the Zeughauser Group, Dewey could represent one of the first dominos. “Dewey’s failure is rocking the industry in the sense that most firms are saying to themselves, if Dewey could go down, could we?”

And for most firms, the answer is yes. After all, Dewey cited the economic downturn and massive partner compensation arrangements as the root causes for the firm’s collapse. Those causes are common to many large firms. Surely we have all seen the images of those sweet pads in Lawyerly Lairs. Reading those tea leaves, it is clear that Armageddon is a comin’ (or a stayin’, if you consider the other Biglaw firms that have folded).

Dewey’s fate is sad. Well, at least for Dewey and for other large firms. It might be good news for others, however. And, no I do not mean the other Biglaw firms who got to score them some Dewey rainmakers….

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This shouldn’t come as a surprise — we predicted it earlier this month — but the dying law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf has filed for bankruptcy. We hope that you had a nice holiday weekend, because Dewey’s bankruptcy lawyers surely didn’t.

Under which chapter of the Bankruptcy Code is Dewey filing? Who is serving as bankruptcy counsel to the firm? What does Dewey’s balance sheet look like?

We have added UPDATES, after the jump.

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Photo (no, not a photoshop) by ATL reader 'Anna.'

As we reported over the weekend, it’s looking like Dewey & LeBoeuf will soon find itself in bankruptcy (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not). The specter of bankruptcy raises a question for the many former partners of Dewey: dude, where’s my car capital contribution?

Let’s find out — and get the latest dispatches on the Dewey death spiral, including news of a new home for former vice chair Ralph Ferrara….

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(Plus more partner moves, including Ralph Ferrara.)

The “It firm” of May 2012 would appear to be Greenberg Traurig. It’s the Biglaw behemoth that’s generating the greatest buzz and the most headlines right now (not counting Dewey & LeBoeuf, which will soon find itself in bankruptcy).

Whenever there’s a big story, GT is there. In the past month, it has appeared in these pages as the possible savior of Dewey, the actual savior of Dewey’s Poland operations, and the victim of some alleged rudeness by a divorce lawyer in Texas.

And, of course, Greenberg Traurig has found itself at the center of the TD Bank controversy. Late last week, Judge Marcia Cooke held a contempt hearing, to decide whether Greenberg should be sanctioned due to a discovery debacle.

The hearing spanned two days and featured some high-powered witnesses. What happened?

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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.

“Excuse me?”

“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.”

“Excuse me?”

“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 . . .

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The ailing law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf is not long for this world. The only real question that remains is how Dewey’s death will take place. Will Dewey be pushed off the cliff, or will it jump?

We mentioned on Thursday that Dewey might be forced into bankruptcy by creditors, perhaps former partners concerned about their pensions. But now it seems that Dewey might do the deed itself.

Let’s hear the most recent reports — and look at the latest indicators that Dewey is done, including new signage outside 1301 Avenue of the Americas….

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Let’s talk about two of our favorite topics here at Above the Law: Dewey & LeBoeuf and real estate. They’re two great tastes that go great together.

There’s certainly news on both of these fronts. In Washington, for example, the firm is facing an eviction lawsuit. Dewey’s D.C. landlord, Property Group Partners, claims that the firm hasn’t paid $927,052 in rent on its 140,000 square feet of space.

In New York, home of Dewey’s headquarters at 1301 Avenue of the Americas, there’s bad news too. The Ben Benson’s steakhouse in the building, which was something of a company canteen for Dewey, is closing next month. Said a source: “Could it be that the building is cursed, ever since JC Penney moved out decades ago?”

Near the top of the 45-floor building, the office of Steven H. Davis, Dewey’s ex-chairman, is also getting packed up. This space, described to us as the “Taj Mahal” of law offices, is not what it once was.

Dewey have pictures? Most certainly….

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First, a stand-up comedy routine; then, my point.

In the early 1980s, Robin Williams performed in a nightclub. His performance was taped and later broadcast by HBO. During the performance, Williams spied on-stage a wine glass filled with a clear liquid (which was, in fact, water), and Williams was off and running:

“There are white wines. There are red wines. Why are there no black wines?

“Reggie wine! It’s a m*therf*cker! Goes with meat; goes with fish; goes with any damn thing it wants to.

“I like my wine like I like my women — ready to pass out.

“We’ll get Mean Joe Green to advertise the stuff: ‘Reggie wine! Drink this sh*t or I’ll nail your ass to a tree.’”

After HBO broadcast the performance, an African-American winemaker named David Rege (pronounced “Reggie”) sued Williams and others in California state court, claiming that Williams had damaged Rege’s reputation and adversely affected the sales of his wine. (You knew there was a lawsuit tucked in here someplace, didn’t you?)

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