Martin Bienenstock

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.”

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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 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?

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It’s time for your daily dose of Dewey & LeBoeuf news. There’s a lot to cover, including updates about incoming associates, overseas offices, and contingency planning.

Word on the street is that Dewey is deferring incoming associates to January 2013. We reached out to the firm for comment, and they haven’t gotten back to us yet. But it seems logical for the firm to defer associates to early 2013, given how the situation at D&L remains in flux. By next year, Dewey will have a better sense of its ultimate size and its long-term associate needs.

Of course, incoming associates at Dewey might want to make some backup plans. Which brings us to the other D&L news….

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Dewey & LeBoeuf Chairman Steven Davis was last heard in these pages sounding like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House: “Remain calm. All is well.” Your bonuses will be delayed.

Oh, did I say “Chairman”? Sorry, that’s not entirely accurate anymore. “Chairman” connotes a single person who is in charge of a company’s operations. That’s just not Davis’s function anymore.

Instead, Dewey is creating a “chairman’s office” of five co-equal members.

Oh, I’m sure that will work. Just like the Jets will have no problem having two, co-equal, starting quarterbacks….

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The economy seems to be on the mend. Corporate profits are strong, and the Dow is north of 12,000. In the legal world, layoffs are down, bonuses are up, and hiring is way up.

But governments — federal, state, and local — are staggering under mountains of debt. State and local governments have borrowed $2.4 trillion as of mid-2010, and they’ve promised another $3 trillion in retirement benefits.

There is tons of talk out there about a possible wave of municipal bankruptcies. And even if the talk might be overblown, the possibility of default by multiple local governments or even state governments — which might someday get the ability to declare bankruptcy — can’t be ruled out.

If municipal bankruptcies start popping up all over the place, Dewey & LeBoeuf will be ready. The firm just picked up a leading expert in the area….

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Weil.gifSo should Weil Gotshal associates be rooting against a government bailout of GM and the other big automakers?

GM bankruptcy –> more fees for Weil –> bigger bonuses (which WGM has not yet announced)?

UPDATE (1:00 AM): As of now, it looks like the auto industry bailout talks have failed. This makes a GM bankruptcy even more likely.

But even if GM does file for Chapter 11 (or even Chapter 7), thereby generating thousands of billable hours for Weil associates, it’s unlikely that Weil will pay out Skadden-sized bonuses (although the speculation sure is fun). As noted in the comments, Weil generally follows the market, and the market has settled around Cravath.

Paying above market could create problems for Weil. As one reader previously noted, “Weil will never be a bonus leader because there is concern at the firm that it would seem unsightly by the firm’s bankruptcy clients to lead the market with bonuses.”

That concern seems warranted. As GM director George Fisher told Bloomberg last week, “We are fearful, very fearful, of a prolonged [bankruptcy] proceeding that would just destroy our brand in the marketplace and therefore that is not considered a viable option…. These Wall Street geniuses and law firms are coming up with all these solutions that make them a lot of money.”

FURTHER UPDATE: As noted in the comments, as well as the original WSJ article, GM has also retained former Weil partner Martin Bienenstock, now at Dewey & LeBoeuf, to help it become a “futuristic” automaker for the 21st century. Good luck with that.

GM Hires Advisers to Weigh a Bankruptcy Filing [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]
GM Hires Lawyer Bienenstock to Reconfigure Automaker [Bloomberg]

Earlier: If the Big Three Fall, Which Law Firms Rise?
Jones Day’s Chrysler Bankruptcy Coup
Chrysler Hires Jones Day As Bankruptcy Counsel [Dealbreaker]

Harvey Miller Harvey R Miller Weil Gotshal Manges Above the Law blog.JPGThis morning brings some big news in the world of bankruptcy law. From the WSJ Law Blog:

You can go home again, especially if you’re Harvey Miller (at right). The legendary bankruptcy lawyer is expected to rejoin to Weil Gotshal, whose partners are scheduled to vote on his return tomorrow.

“I would be delighted to have Harvey back, but it’s premature at this stage to comment on his rejoining the firm until the partnership votes on the issue,” says Stephen Dannhauser, firm chair.

Before decamping to investment bank Greenhill & Co. in 2002, Miller had spent the previous 33 years at Weil, building its bankruptcy department into one of the most prominent debtor-side practices in the country.

And from a little bird (so consider this to be nothing more than rumor at this point):

It appears four bankruptcy partners are leaving Weil and moving to Cadwalader (apparently to swim in Bob Link’s shark tank and make the big $$$). Partners include Deryck Palmer, John Rapisardi, and George A. Davis.

Could the return of Harvey Miller to Weil be related to the (rumored) departures of these younger partners?

We are following up on this rumor and will let you know what we find out.

UPDATE: Harvey Miller’s return to Weil is official. The WGM press release is available here. A longer version of the release, which was circulated by email at Weil, appears after the jump.

Bankruptcy King Harvey Miller Expected to Rejoin Weil [WSJ Law Blog]

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