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….
Federal judges don’t take kindly to misstatements by counsel appearing before them. And when the judge is unhappy, the client is unhappy. And when the client is unhappy, outside counsel gets cashiered. It’s not a pretty process.
Let’s travel down to south Florida, where an allegedly incorrect statement by a partner at Greenberg Traurig has incurred the wrath of a federal judge — apparently resulting in the client replacing the firm, and the firm parting ways with the partner.
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?
Ekaterina Rybolovleva: 'But daddy, I want an $88M apartment now!'
* No dowry, no problem: Dewey we have a suitor for this imploding Biglaw firm? Rumor has it that Greenberg Traurig was seen whispering sweet nothings into D&L’s ear about its possible interest. [Am Law Daily]
* BlackBerry maker Research In Motion has hired Milbank Tweed to work out a restructuring plan. Just think, maybe if your product didn’t suck so hard, you wouldn’t be in this position in the first place. [Reuters]
* Sex, money, and betrayal… it sounds like another failed TV series about lawyers on ABC, but in actuality, it’s just a preview of the John Edwards campaign finance trial set to begin this week. [Los Angeles Times]
* Technophobes beware, because this copyright battle over code is getting serious. Oracle v. Google turned into Larry v. Larry in court last week as the CEOs for both companies gave testimony. [Bits / New York Times]
* George Zimmerman thought he’d have to stay in jail longer because he was having trouble coming up with his bail money, but he was released in the dead of night. Bet he looked pretty suspicious. [CNN]
* “There are [fewer students] coming in and crying. I haven’t had a crier yet, which I have had in the past.” Given the legal hiring market, that’s a real accomplishment for a career services official. [Charlotte Observer]
* Who gives a sh*t? Not this Russian fertilizer tycoon. When you’re a billionaire, buying an $88M apartment for your kid is just a run-of-the-mill transaction. Come on, he’s not hiding his assets for his divorce. [Telegraph]
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….
* So you made some anti-war comments, touched Dick Cheney, got arrested, claimed your First Amendment rights were violated, and your case made it all the way to SCOTUS. Greatest accomplishment? Not getting shot by Cheney. [Huffington Post]
* Whoa, whoa, whoa. You mean to tell me that Wachtell’s name partner, Martin Lipton, the man who created the “poison pill,” supports staggered boards? Consider my mind blown. [DealBook / New York Times]
* M&A maven Dennis Block and real estate rock star Jeffrey Feil each donated $1M to their alma mater, Brooklyn Law School. See, you don’t need to go to a T14 school to make bank. [National Law Journal]
* Protip: not even Dov Charney’s world-renowned creepiness can save you from an arbitration agreement. A former employee’s $260M sex slave suit has been tossed out of court. [New York Daily News]
* Two weeks from today, the Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments on the Obamacare case. Everyone thinks Justice Kennedy’s vote will swing the Court, but Chief Justice Roberts isn’t about to let him steal his sunshine. [New York Times]
* Gaming post-graduation employment statistics: the Columbia Law School and NYU Law edition. It looks like it might be time to fire up the Strauss/Anziska machine for the top tier of our nation’s law schools. [New York Post]
* But speaking of Alston & Bird, some Floridians are complaining about the firm’s bill. $475 an hour for four partners and associates? You really need to stop, because you’re getting the deal of the century. [The Ledger]
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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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