Debts

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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* Arizona’s immigration law is heading to the Supreme Court today. Meanwhile, former Senator Dennis DeConcini lobbed the worst insult ever against his state. How embarrassing for you, Arizona. [New York Times]

* Will Wal-Mart regret not disclosing its bribery investigation sooner? Not when the delay saved millions in criminal fines. What Wal-Mart will regret is being forced into disclosure by the NYT narcs. [Corporate Counsel]

* Delete all the oil from ocean, and then maybe we’ll care about this. A former BP employee was charged with obstruction of justice for deleting texts having to do with the Deepwater Horizon disaster. [Bloomberg]

* The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners has granted Duncan Law an extension on its bid for ABA accreditation. Woohoo, five more years of allowing students to “negligently enroll.” [Knoxville News Sentinel]

* “Once you cross the six-figure mark, you think, what’s a few thousand dollars more?” You’re doing it wrong: you’re supposed to be bragging about a six-figure salary, not a six-figure debt obligation. [Baltimore Sun]

* New Jersey residents don’t always have the great pleasure of nearly being killed by two high-speed Lamborghinis, but when they do, they prefer that police officers be suspended and sue over it. [ABC News]

Oh, I remember the first time somebody threatened to throw me in jail because I didn’t pay a debt. I was young and stupid, but not ignorant and fearful. I said, “Debtor’s prisons were outlawed!” (I didn’t know that from law school, I knew that from AP History.) The debt collector stammered and said, “Well, we can still get you in trouble.” Since I was already “in trouble” what with $150,000 in principal outstanding, I instructed the collector to contact me via mail and hung up.

Debt collectors are like bullies: punch them in the mouth, and well, they don’t “go away,” but they stop getting all up in your face.

Eventually, a summons came in the mail, and I responded, and yada yada, I’m still not in jail. The key is that “I responded.” I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my debts over the years, but I haven’t made a lot of mistakes with “courts.” See, courts matter. Debt collectors with hard-ons do not.

Keep that in mind as your read this story about a cancer survivor who got thrown in jail after failing to pay a medical debt that she didn’t even actually owe….

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Yesterday we wrote about a recent law school graduate who is now eligible for food stamps. He owes over $200,000 in student loans.

It’s hard to wrap your head around such a big number. What does six figures of educational debt actually represent?

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There’s really no better expression of how law school can be a horrible financial decision than the story of a J.D. holder on welfare.

Usually, those stories involve a person who is mentally challenged in some way, or somebody who developed a hardcore drug or alcohol problem. A law degree obviously cannot protect you from all of life’s atrocities.

But the thought is that a practicing attorney of sound mind and body can earn enough to stay off of public assistance.

Or should I say “myth.” Law schools are very interested in taking your money, but they’re less interested in helping you find a job at the end of your journey.

Here’s one graduate’s sad, sad story. The only thing he did wrong was go to law school. Now, he’s qualified for food stamps….

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We’ve been chronicling the troubles of Dewey & LeBoeuf, a top firm facing tough times. Today brings more bad news for Dewey: eight additional partners have jumped off the ship.

Of course, this one firm used to be two. In 2007, Dewey Ballantine merged with LeBoeuf Lamb to create Dewey & LeBoeuf. At the time it was the rare merger of two top firms.

Now that the firm is struggling, legacy Dewey people and legacy LeBoeuf people have been blaming each other for the firm’s troubles. Who didn’t bring the prestige, who didn’t bring the rain, who is responsible for post-merger decisions that have led to turmoil?

Oh, recriminations. Fun times. We’ve been corresponding with some people who were at the respective firms before and after the merger, and listening to them blame the other side has been highly entertaining. Take a look, and vote for yourself about who is to blame…

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Professor William Birdthistle

Welcome to the latest installment of Lawyers & Economics, our occasional video series on financial topics by Professor William Birdthistle of Chicago-Kent College of Law. He’s joined in some of these videos by an acting professional: Johnny Kastl, television actor turned 2L at Iowa Law, better known to some of you as Dr. Doug Murphy of “Scrubs.”

In the last video, Birdthistle and Kastl tackled the Greek debt crisis. Sadly enough, that problem remains unsolved, to the detriment of the world’s financial markets.

Today’s topic isn’t going away anytime soon either. If you have — or are thinking of taking on — student loans, keep reading….

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Yale is making a slight change to its low-income loan forgiveness program, and it’s going to make it a little harder for people who leave Yale Law School and take low-paying jobs.

Now, this isn’t anything to yell and scream about. Yale is still committed to making loan repayment feasible for people who don’t take the Biglaw money and run. And they still have one of the most generous programs in the country.

But the program is getting a little less generous. Which isn’t a great sign about the long-term ability of lawyers who have the financial flexibility to service poor or working-class clients….

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