Debt

I’ve watched Dewey’s collapse only from a distance, as have most lawyers. And I’m no student of law firm finances or management. But this struck me as I read the news:

Dewey: 2012.
Howrey: 2011.
Thelen: 2009.
Heller: 2008.
Coudert: 2006.
Brobeck: 2003.

And I’m probably overlooking other recent collapses of prominent firms, since I cobbled together that list from the names that came to mind unprompted.

This history suggests that another large, well-respected firm will collapse next year, and it’s a near certainty that a firm will collapse within the next two years. Who will it be?

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Brian Tamanaha

The average debt of law graduates tops $100,000, and most new lawyers do not earn salaries sufficient to make the monthly payments on this debt. More than one-third of law graduates in recent years have failed to obtain lawyer jobs. Thousands of new law graduates will enter a government-sponsored debt relief program, and many will never fully pay off their law school debt.

Washington University Law professor Brian Tamanaha, author of Failing Law Schools (affiliate link), painting a rosy picture of what life is like for recent law school graduates.

(What can be done to remedy this situation? Additional insights from Professor Tamanaha, 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 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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As of this morning, the Dewey & LeBoeuf web site is still live and trumpeting, among many other things, the firm’s recent award for “Private Equity Law Firm of the Year in Poland.”

Meanwhile, back on Earth and/or the rest of the internet, industry observers have been feeling a bit like voyeurs at a pre-mortem autopsy. Everyone agrees that the downfall of this once-great firm is hugely sad (well, nearly everyone), but there is less of a consensus about who or what is to blame.

Last week we asked the ATL readership for their take on where fault lies. Here’s what you had to say….

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It’s like I bought a house, and I burned it to the ground. And I’m still paying for it. I burned the house to the ground, and I’m still paying my mortgage.

– Attorney Jessica Ramm, explaining the difficulty of surviving while paying off thousands of dollars in law school student loan debt every month.

Not the alleged hot-dog hooker.

* While Dewey’s former culture gets roasted on a spit, and the seemingly unending drama gets turned into a montage of living lawyer jokes, we’re still waiting for the final punchline. [New York Times; Wall Street Journal]

* Don Verrilli tried so hard, and got so far (depending on who you ask), but in the end, it doesn’t even matter. When Linkin Park lyrics apply to your oral argument skills, you know you’re kind of screwed. [New York Times]

* The 9/11 arraignments went off without a hitch this weekend. And by that, we mean that it was a 13 hour hearing filled multiple interruptions, and grandstanding about “appropriate” courtroom fashion. [Fox News]

* In a “re-re-reversal,” Judge Jerry Smith, on a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit, reinstated Planned Parenthood’s injunction against Texas without even so much as a homework assignment. [Dallas Observer]

* The It Gets Worse Project: if you thought that the Law School Transparency debt figures were scary before, then take a look at them now. Six figures of debt just got a lot harder to swallow. [National Law Journal]

* Scalia gets busted on a case of hot-dog hooking. No, not that Scalia. A woman from Long Island has been accused, for the second time, of selling swallowing foot-longs in the back of her food truck. [New York Post]

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.

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The law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf, which is currently fighting for its life, might have good news to report — and we’re happy to share it with you. It seems that LeBoeuf is not yet cooked.

As we’ve previously mentioned, tomorrow, April 30, was supposed to be the deadline for Dewey to reach a new deal with its syndicate of bank lenders. The firm owes its banks a reported $75 million pursuant to a $100 million revolving line of credit.

So what’s the latest — and relatively upbeat — news about Dewey?

UPDATE (4:30 PM): Additional, less cheerful Dewey updates — about the talks with Greenberg Traurig, and about embattled ex-chairman Steven H. Davis — have been added after the jump.

UPDATE (6:00 PM): More Dewey debt news — good news, happily — has been added below.

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Here’s an unsurprising newsflash: young people have student loan debt, old people have student loan debt, and they have no idea what to do about it. With student loan debt having surpassed the one-trillion-dollar mark, we’ve officially reached a point where the media is calling this the crisis du jour.

We’ve discussed the dangers of incurring student loan debt time and time again throughout these pages, but it seems that people still don’t get it. They’d like some more — hmm, how shall we put this? — “sage” advice. They’d prefer to publish their woes for all to see on “the most popular and widely syndicated column in the world.”

They’ve chosen to go to Dear Abby for the answers….

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