Law Firms

Top Partner Recalls Last Days at Dewey: Efforts to Revise Pay Failed with 'Cascade of Departures'

One of four lawyers who led Dewey & LeBoeuf in its final days says he was among a group of lawyers pushing for a new partner compensation formula, but the effort came too late.

Insurance lobbyist Charles Landgraf, who joined Arnold & Porter in May, tells the Washington Post he joined with other partners earlier this year who wanted a more realistic compensation formula. Compensation guarantees had created a wide spread between superstars and those in the trenches, according to past reports, and the firm had to borrow to keep up.

“The problem was there was a lot of built-up tension about the fact that we had a compensation schedule last year that exceeded the actual earnings, and that had been true for a couple years,” Landgraf told the Post. “By the time we got serious about a new compensation schedule, people were beginning to leave. That created a cascade of departures. Probably if we had started that [process] earlier, a quarter earlier, maybe we would’ve been able to make it work. And if banks had settled on renewing the revolver, it would’ve settled partners’ anxieties.”

Landgraf also blamed partners who apparently leaked information about a probe of the firm’s former chairman for derailing a potential merger. “It appeared that the press attention was sought by [partners who requested the probe], not the DA’s Office,” he said. “Unfortunately, it is probably no coincidence that on that weekend following the Friday press reports of the criminal investigation, all realistic hope of a large-scale combination with other law firms effectively ended.”

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