Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Michael Allen, the Managing Principal of Lateral Link, who focuses exclusively on partner placements with Am Law 200 clients.
Near the entrance of the Calyon Building, the previous headquarters of Dewey & LeBoeuf, lies Jim Dine’s “Looking Toward the Avenue,” a triumvirate of headless statues inspired by the Venus De Milo. Where lie the visages of this homage to the prototypical form of Venus and furthermore, in the aftermath of Dewey, where have the pieces of this former empire landed?
Since May of 2012, there have been numerous articles inciting gossip and foretelling the troubles of Biglaw, but few have offered a retrospective of the overall trends in lateral moves from Dewey since the closure of the firm. The “largest winner” of the Dewey sweepstakes was Winston & Strawn, which added 23 partners (about 11% of those who moved in the final month), including Jeffrey Kessler, a titan of antitrust law who has represented every players’ union in the “big four” sports in the United States. Approximately seventy lawyers followed Kessler’s group.
Which other firms fared well in picking up Dewey lawyers?
We recently learned that Justice Antonin Scalia is not a fan of women cursing. What would he make of partners at a leading law firm cursing?
And not just garden-variety cursing, but rather colorful deployment of highly profane language. As Hamilton Nolan of Gawker puts it, “The biggest law firm collapse in history began with ‘f**kwad’ emails.”
Which former Dewey & LeBoeuf partner referred to various former partners as “pathetic,” “little prick,” and “f**kwad”? Let’s take a look at James Stewart’s New Yorker magazine article on what caused Dewey’s demise….
Here’s an interesting irony: some of the Biglaw firms that spend the least amount of time thinking about money are the ones that enjoy the most of it. A number of super-elite New York law firms have lockstep compensation systems, in which partners are paid purely based on seniority, and these firms are among the most profitable in the country. These firms focus on doing great work for their clients, not on divvying up the spoils from such work — and, in the end, there’s more than enough filthy lucre to keep everyone smelling like money.
On an individual level, some of the wealthiest lawyers in Biglaw — the ones who make partner, and remain partner, for years and years — don’t fixate much on money either. They focus instead on their work, which they seem to just love (often more than any hobbies, and sometimes more than their families). As for the money, well, it just comes — in copious quantities.
Last month, we provided you with detailed information about how much various former partners of Dewey & LeBoeuf earned in the last two years of the firm’s existence. We also reported on how much these partners were each being asked to pay into the “Partner Contribution Plan,” a global settlement that would provide these partners with releases from future Dewey-related liability.
At the time of that report, we didn’t know which partners decided to sign up for the PCP and which ones declined the offer. But now we do, thanks to a recent bankruptcy court filing by Dewey.
Today at 5 p.m. is the deadline for former partners of the bankrupt Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm to sign up for the “Partner Contribution Plan.” Under the terms of the Plan, which in its latest iteration seeks $90.4 million in “clawbacks” from ex-partners, participating partners would contribute specified amounts to the Dewey bankruptcy estate in exchange for releases from future liability (to the Dewey estate, to other participating partners, and to Dewey lenders, thanks to recent revisions to the PCP).
When talk of the Plan first surfaced, I opined that “[s]uch a deal sounds reasonable in principle.” I later observed that even if the PCP might not be perfect, “[i]f you’re a productive partner, happily ensconced at a new and stable firm, and just want to forget the D&L debacle and return to serving your clients, this deal may Dewey the trick.”
But now, after numerous revisions to the Plan, seemingly endless extensions of the deadline to join, and a still-insufficient amount of participation, I’m beginning to think that maybe it just won’t fly — and Dewey should just be allowed to die, i.e., slip into a straight-up liquidation. Perhaps Dewey’s bankruptcy advisers should stop trying to flog a product that nobody seems interested in buying.
UPDATE (4:35 PM): It looks like the Dewey estate’s perseverance has paid off. The $50 million participation threshold has been reached.
Here’s one good thing about the Partner Contribution Plan: thanks to the PCP, we now have detailed information about how much each of Dewey’s partners received from the firm in 2011 and 2012. And yes, we’re willing to share the data for the top earners with you, in spreadsheet form.
Some people are big believers in the virtues of black-box compensation. But here at Above the Law, we’re all about transparency….
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….
The firm of Dewey Ballantine was never known for being particularly PC. From a 2004 article by Anthony Lin, for the New York Law Journal:
Nearly one year after lawyers at Dewey Ballantine infuriated members of the Asian-American community by performing a stereotype-laden parody song at their annual dinner, the law firm is again dealing with allegations of racial insensitivity….
On Monday, an employee sent a firmwide e-mail advertising the availability of some puppies for adoption. Douglas Getter, a London-based American who heads Dewey Ballantine’s European mergers and acquisitions practice then sent a firmwide reply.
“Please don’t let these puppies go to a Chinese restaurant!” Getter wrote in his e-mail.
Now Dewey has merged with LeBoeuf Lamb. Happily, it appears their firm cultures are a good match. Check out this email exchange appearing below — and note that Partner X came from the LeBoeuf Lamb side of the marriage….
Our client is a premier international law firm based in Texas with an immediate need for a mid-level environmental associate in the firm’s Austin office. This firm boasts one of the best environmental practice groups in the state and is known for the quality of its client roster and the collegiality and skill of its attorneys. The winning candidate will have two-plus years of major firm environmental law experience (both regulatory and environmental litigation experience is preferred), Top academic credentials (Top 20 JD; Top of class – no exceptions), and excellent communication skills. Qualified out of market candidates looking to relocate to Texas for valid reasons will also be strongly considered. This is a partnership track position and compensation is at the top of the market.
Don’t hesitate to contact email@example.com for more information. This is one of the best environmental law associate opportunities we have seen in some time and is a rare, major firm opportunity in Austin. The group would also consider adding this hire to its Houston office.
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