Law Firms

Ex-Dewey Vice Chair Says Firm Owes Him $61M; Secretaries Told of Layoffs; Departures Pick Up


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A half-dozen moving trucks lined up at the loading dock for troubled law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf in New York on Monday, while an artist out front asked employees to write comments on his impressionistic painting of ousted chairman Steven Davis.

The Am Law Daily (reg. req.) described the mood as somber, as staffers and associates vented to its reporter. This is the last week of work for secretaries at the law firm, according to the New York Times Dealbook blog and Above the Law.

One secretary told the Am Law Daily that the firm was not offering severance pay. “I’ve been here 14 years,” she said. “They never apologized. They never explained what was going on to us. It’s very disrespectful to the staff. It’s always about the lawyers. It’s never about the staff.”

Meanwhile, former vice chairman Morton Pierce informed the firm in his resignation letter that it owes him $61 million, DealBook says, relying on an unnamed source “with direct knowledge of the matter.” Pierce, who has moved to White & Case, refused to comment when contacted by the blog. (His late brother reportedly had an unpaid $9.6 million legal tab with the firm, according to prior coverage.)

“Dewey is careening toward collapse,” DealBook says, “after more than a third of its 300 partners have left the firm.” Employees at the firm were warned on Friday that it could close. In the latest round of defections, more than 25 partners and their teams have announced their departures. According to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), a Morgan, Lewis & Bockius press release and an Akin Gump press release, the latest defections include:

• The mergers-and-acquisitions group led by lawyers Richard Climan and Keith Flaum, headed to Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

• Dewey’s entire 31-lawyer office in Moscow, headed to Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The office is led by Brian Zimbler, one of six partners there, according to a press release. They are among 10 Dewey partners joining the business and finance practice of Morgan Lewis, including three in London.

• In New York, corporate lawyer Berge Setrakian and nine other partners are headed to DLA Piper.

• Three global oil and gas partners are joining Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, including former group chairman John LaMaster of London.

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