I worked for twenty years at the darkest of the black-box compensation law firms: No one knew what anyone else was being paid, and the firm forbade talking about compensation. Here’s the curious part: We obeyed.
I saw the raised eyebrows of partners considering moving laterally to my firm: “Right — no one talks about compensation. You guys must talk about it all the time, just like we do at my firm. It can’t be a secret.”
Wrong. We really, honest-to-God did not talk about compensation. The subject just didn’t come up.
I’ve heard second-hand that this is true for other black-box firms, too. The managing partner of a different large, black-box comp firm recently told one of my colleagues: “Once you take compensation out of the limelight and forbid people from talking about it, then people stop talking about it. The subject drops off the table.”
That sets the stage: At firms where lawyers are permitted to talk about each other’s compensation, they do. And at firms where lawyers are prohibited from talking about compensation, they don’t.
Riddle me this: In corporate law departments, we are not prohibited from discussing each other’s compensation, but we don’t do it anyway. Why is that?
We first wrote about Laura Flippin back in October, when she was arrested for public intoxication after an event for her undergraduate alma mater, William and Mary. Police reports claimed that Flippin blew a .253 BAC and needed help standing up.
But when she was on the stand, here’s what she told the judge about how much she had to drink….
Why did Dewey agree to pay an associate from the class of 2006 more than $400K in severance? According to the Times, Saffitz received this severance agreement after she “complained over how she was treated by a former Dewey partner and told the firm’s management.” According to the Journal, she filed “a complaint regarding sexual discrimination by a Dewey partner who is no longer with the firm.”
Inquiring minds want to know: Who was the partner in question? And what did he allegedly say or do to Emily Saffitz?
Finding out such details is difficult. Settlements in cases of alleged sex discrimination or sexual harassment often contain non-disclosure or non-disparagement provisions that prevent the parties from speaking about what took place.
So we didn’t expect we would ever find out which former Dewey partner triggered complaints from Emily Saffitz. Until, well, he emailed us….
As we mentioned earlier today, retired partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf received some potentially good news. These former partners, whose unfunded pensions were supposed to be funded out of firm profits, will have a voice in the firm’s bankruptcy proceedings. As reported by the WSJ Law Blog and Am Law Daily, the U.S. trustee’s office has appointed an official committee of former partners (in addition to the standard official committee of unsecured creditors). The four ex-partners on the committee are David Bicks, Cameron MacRae, John Kinzey, and John Campo.
What prompted the move? As legal consultant Edwin Reeser, whose analysis of the Dewey situation recently appeared in these pages, told the WSJ, “The retired partners have uniquely separate interests which warrant consideration as a special class of creditors.”
It’s nice that they have a seat at the table, but will the ex-partners end up with any money at the end of the process? That’s less clear. As Jerome Kowalski, another law firm consultant, told the Journal, “There has never been a law firm bankruptcy that resulted in any payment being made to the equity partners… They’ll have zero sway other than perhaps some moral imperatives, and moral imperatives don’t have much play in bankruptcy courts.”
The unsecured creditors might have more luck than the former partners. Who’s on the unsecured creditors’ committee?
The law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf now finds itself in Chapter 11, but the story of Dewey has not yet reached its end. We’ll now turn the pages in the Bankruptcy Reporter.
Yesterday Judge Martin Glenn of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court allowed Dewey to use cash collateral to fund its wind-down operations, even though this collateral should really be seen as belonging to the firm’s secured creditors. Judge Glenn initially denied this request, at least when it was coupled with giving the secured creditors a lien on recoveries from future litigation. In deciding to let Dewey tap into the cash, Judge Glenn did not decide what the lenders might get in exchange for letting the firm use their money. That will be decided later, at a June 13 hearing.
With things quieting down on the Dewey news front, let’s turn to analysis. Here are some insights into what brought Dewey down and what other firms can learn from its fall, from a former managing partner who now works as a consultant to the legal industry….
Over on our sister site Dealbreaker, Bess Levin describes an angry letter to the president of the Piedmont Driving Club, a prestigious Atlanta country club. The letter alleges some incredible behavior by members of the Piedmont, including (but not limited to) naked golf (who cares?), a member picking up a golf ball with his butt cheeks (did they make MacGruber a member?), and a member “open[ing] his pants, pull[ing] out his penis, and slapp[ing] the passed-out member’s head with his penis” (WTF???).
Deadspin reports that the author of the letter is one John C. Weitnauer, and if you look him up, you’ll see he’s a partner at a Biglaw firm – one who apparently learned a modicum of lawyerly discretion, at least when it comes to keeping his Bird in his trousers. It does not appear that he intended for the letter to leak, but like so many Piedmont members out on the greens, leak it did.
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….
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?
As we roll into the Memorial Day weekend, things are fairly quiet on the Dewey front. There’s not much news to report.
As we previously mentioned, some former partners are hiring counsel to defend them against possible clawback claims. And the ranks of ex-partners continue to grow: some nine Dewey partners, led by New York-based transactional attorney Elizabeth Powers, have moved over to Duane Morris, along with three counsel and four associates (so 16 lawyers in all).
What else can we report about Dewey? Oh yes, the winner of our meme contest….
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….
Ms. JD is hosting their 2nd annual cocktail benefit to raise money for the Global Education Fund. The event will be held on August 21, 2014 at 111 Minna in San Francisco. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to fund the legal educations of four dedicated law students in Uganda who count on our support to continue their studies at Makerere University during the 2014-15 academic year.
The Global Education Fund enable womens in developing countries to pursue legal educations who otherwise would not have access to further education. According to the World Bank, investment in education for girls has one of the highest rates of return to promote development. In Uganda, more than 45% of women over the age of 25 have no schooling at all, and men are more than twice as likely as women to have access to higher education. Together, we can work to end educational inequality. For more information about the program, please visit http://ms-jd.org/programs/global-education-fund/
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.