Law Firms

Ex-Partner Blames Legal Recruiters, Excessive Pay Guarantees, Angry Colleagues for Dewey's Downfall

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A former real estate practice leader at Dewey & LeBoeuf blames legal recruiters, excessive guaranteed compensation deals and angry fellow partners for the law firm’s impending downfall in a video interview posted Thursday.

“A lot of partners are extraordinarily angry right now at the turn of events,” Stuart Saft, who is now at Holland & Knight, said in a video interview posted on Bloomberg Law’s YouTube channel.

“The story started with blogs,” he said, then became a “bonanza” for legal recruiters who worked over the past year to bring down the firm. They used confidential information from some partner clients to promote claims of law firm instability and earn commissions by placing them at other law firms, Saft said.

“It does not take a great deal to destablize a firm,” he said, describing it as “people in a box.”

The final blow, he said, was a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office of the firm’s former top leader, which was requested by fellow partners “out of anger and rancor and an attemp to stop a merger that would have provided a safe landing” for many of the firm’s lawyers and staff.

At least 100 partners reportedly had guaranteed compensation deals with Dewey; some of them were promised as much as $5 or $6 million annually, as detailed in earlier posts.

However, nobody, including at least many of Dewey’s current and former partners, really has a grasp of the big picture of all that happened, said Saft, who says he himself was focused on his clients rather than involved in firm decision-making.

“Most of the information that I learned, I learned from reading the newspapers,” Saft told Bloomberg Law.

It appears that much of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s attorney roster and staff will be gone by May 15.

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