When a Biglaw firm drops out of the Am Law 200 and starts hemorrhaging attorneys, you know that things are starting to turn sour. Much like the partners who fled Dewey & LeBoeuf like rats from a sinking ship, a mass attorney exodus is just a sign of other unfortunate events to come.
If a firm’s not careful, one of the first assets to go underwater will be retirement benefits for both current and former employees. That’s when the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation swoops in to rescue severely underfunded plans from certain doom at the hands of Biglaw firms experiencing financial woes.
Which law firm turned to the government for help this time, and how underfunded was its pension plan — was it short by $9 million or $39 million?
This morning I attended the confirmation hearing for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan of Dewey & LeBoeuf. As I mentioned on Twitter a few minutes after leaving the hearing, Judge Martin Glenn confirmed the plan.
Under the plan, secured creditors will recover between 47 to 77 cents on the dollar, while unsecured creditors will wind up with 5 to 14 cents on the dollar. Secured creditors hold about $262 million in claims; total creditor claims, secured and unsecured, amount to about $550 million.
So that’s the bottom line. But what was the hearing itself like? Here are my observations, including a few photos — because bankruptcy court coverage is totally WWOP….
In the words of Mark Zauderer, counsel to almost 60 former Dewey partners, “I’m not seeing overwhelming enthusiasm for the proposal.” A former D&L partner was even more blunt: “I think this is destined to fail. Let the trustee [of a Chapter 7 liquidation] go for it.”
But not everyone holds such negative views. One ex-partner — who claims that he’s being asked to pay more than he thought he owed, and that he’ll have to postpone his retirement by several years due to Dewey’s downfall — told Thomson Reuters that he will vote for the deal anyway. “My view is there’s nothing less desirable than having this drag out for years,” he said. “I’m willing to pay a lot of money to have this go away.”
Dewey have other issues besides how to deal with former partners? Most certainly. There are pressing problems regarding the disposition of client files, as well as issues regarding retirement benefits for former Dewey & LeBoeuf employees….
In our last full post on Dewey & LeBoeuf, the fast-fading New York law firm, we tried to find some moments of humor in this generally depressing story. Now we’ll return to the hard — and gloomy — Dewey news. (We mentioned several D&L items in today’s Morning Docket.)
Without further ado, let’s find out what’s going on….
* When Dewey tell the world that we’re dead, but not yet buried? The firm filed a notice with the New York State Department of Labor listing its closing date as yesterday. And what’s their reason for doing so? “Economic.” [Am Law Daily (sub. req.)]
* Dewey have anyone left in the Office of the Chairman? Apparently not: Charles Landgraf has moved on to greener pastures. There is no longer a captain at the wheel of the S.S. Dewey. [The Hill]
* “The continuing loss of revenue-generating partners and Dewey’s debt load has culminated in the imminent demise of Dewey.” Damn, the PBGC certainly doesn’t mince words. Meet the firm’s latest lawsuit. [Reuters]
* A judge reinstated Le-Nature’s $500M case against K&L Gates for failure to detect fraud. Hope the firm has a half-billion lying around — they haven’t been doing too well with the whole honesty thing lately. [Businessweek]
* You stay classy, DSK! Your aggravated pimp hand is strong! Dominique Strauss-Kahn filed a $1M countersuit against Nafissatou Diallo because she “ruined his life, personally and professionally.” [Wall Street Journal]
* Conspiring to price fix? There’s an app for that! A federal judge denied Apple’s and several book publishers’ motions to dismiss a consumer class-action lawsuit about e-book pricing. [Media Decoder / New York Times]
* Like FernGully in reverse? A judge refused to dismiss Chevron’s racketeering and fraud lawsuit against New York attorney Steven Donziger for his work done in Ecuador. [New York Law Journal]
* Thomas Jefferson Law will be the site of the next solo incubator. This is a great way to keep your grads from suing you (not to mention a great way to increase your employed-at-nine-months rate). [National Law Journal]
That’s the question the WSJ Law Blog just asked about the [pick your favorite adjective: beleaguered / collapsing / flailing / troubled] law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Today brings big, bad news for Dewey: bankruptcy superstar Martin Bienenstock is taking his practice to Proskauer Rose. He’s moving with five other partners — Philip Abelson, Irena Goldstein, Timothy Karcher, Michael Kessler, Judy Liu — and nine associates.
Dewey’s loss is Proskauer’s gain. “He is absolutely the crown jewel over there, a fantastic lawyer who will be a great partner,” a current Proskauer partner told us. “This is going to vault us into the company of Kirkland and Weil, giving us one of the top bankruptcy practices in the country. We are really thrilled.”
We have previously discussed the subject of pensions at the deeply troubled law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Right now it’s looking quite likely that the firm will wind up in dissolution or bankruptcy. If the firm does go down that path, what will happen to the retirement benefits of current and former employees?
Today we have some news on that front — plus UPDATES on other Dewey stories, of course….
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.
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 protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…