Law Firms

George Clooney at Dewey Ballantine

The new George Clooney film Michael Clayton—set in the world of big Manhattan law firms—was filmed in part in the New York offices of Dewey Ballantine.

Clooney plays a lawyer who has been with the corporate megafirm Kenner, Bach & Ledeen for 15 years, but never made partner. He serves as the firm’s “fixer” —we’re guessing that’s not his formal title—who “cleans up clients’ messes, handling anything from hit-and-runs and damaging stories in the press to shoplifting wives and crooked politicians,” according to the film’s publicity materials. The firm’s top litigator cracks when he learns his chemical company client knowingly sold a toxic weed-killer, and it’s the job of Clooney’s character to hold the case together behind the scenes.

According to the film’s production notes: “When you start doing research into the big law firms, it’s amazing to discover how massive they are, how they’re complete worlds unto themselves,” states production designer Kevin Thompson. “People go into the office and rarely leave during the course of the day and into the night. All their meals are catered, and they only go home to sleep and shower. We wanted to show how law firm life can become a parallel universe, and how that disconnect could foster insular thinking and corrupt ideals.”

Conference room scenes that open and close the movie were shot in Dewey’s biggest conference space—a 22nd floor room that runs the entire length of its Sixth Avenue building. But scenes in the senior partner’s office were filmed in the offices of Oaktree Capital Management—in the same building as Dewey, but on a higher floor and with a better view.

Michael Clayton opens in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto on Friday, and director Tony Gilroy will attend its screening Monday at the Chicago International Film Festival. It opens nationwide Oct. 12, and it has been getting good early reviews. It scores a 77 out of 100 on MetaCritic, a site that aggregates reviews from around the Web. David Denby, writing in the New Yorker, says the film is full of “confidential, inside-the-law-firm chatter.”

Denby says the film’s cinematography “turns the enormous law offices into a field of moral ambiguity—the shadows recede into the distance like little pockets of dread.”

Sounds like it’s a documentary.

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