International Law

Reports: As Dewey & LeBoeuf Refocuses on US, Multiple International Offices Mull Options

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As Dewey & LeBoeuf appears to be moving forward with negotiations with its lenders to allow the firm to reduce its partner roster while continuing to maintain its hefty financing, partners reportedly are considering plans to downsize the firm and refocus on its United States corporate and bankruptcy practice.

Relying on unidentified partners of the firm, the Lawyer says two top bankruptcy practitioners in leadership positions at Dewey, Martin Bienenstock, who heads the business solutions and governance group in New York, and Bruce Bennett, who serves as managing partner of the Los Angeles office, are working together to restructure the firm to focus on its most profitable U.S. offices. They include those in New York, Washington, D.C., and the West Coast.

Doing so would potentially make the firm attractive to a merger partner, the article says. While its international practice, such as the offices in Russia, are also profitable, they might no longer be a good fit with a Dewey & LeBoeuf potentially reinvented as a large U.S. corporate boutique, according to an unnamed partner.

Meanwhile, although an exodus of nearly 70 partners so far in 2012 has been largely based in the U.S. and London, the Lawyer reports that lawyers in a number of the firm’s foreign offices, including those in France, Italy, Russia and Poland, are mulling exit options. The firm had roughly 300 partners and 1,000 lawyers as of the end of 2011.

Also relying on unidentified partners, Legal Week reports that multiple U.S.-based firms—such as Baker Botts, King & Spalding, and White & Case—are talking with corporate and energy practice groups in Russia.

Bloomberg (scroll down) also has a story about the firm’s Russia offices, and another article in the Lawyer says (as does Legal Week) that the firm’s Italian offices are setting up their own corporate structure while still maintaining ties to Dewey.

In London, although 24 full-time partners are still listed on the firm’s website, an unidentified colleague tells Legal Week more departures are expected, and the firm is planning for a future that may include only a dozen partners there.

However, there is good news for Dewey on several fronts, the article says: A London partner tells Legal Week that the firm is moving ahead with efforts to renegotiate its loans and says a number of the attorneys who have exited the firm in recent months have done so at Dewey’s instigation.

“We are optimistic that New York is now taking the right decisions to turn this situation around,” this partner said. “Renegotiating our credit lines is the first step to recovery. It is worth pointing out that a number of the partners that have left since January were pushed.”

The Am Law Daily also has a story; it notes that the New York office lost another partner on Thursday.

Stanton Lovenworth, who formerly headed Dewey’s life sciences global industry sector group, has joined the New York office of O’Melveny & Myers as counsel.

Related coverage: “Three More Partners Depart Dewey; Firm Hires Crisis Expert and Denies Lender Problems” “Dewey Restructures in Middle East But Says Recent 12-Lawyer Exit There Won’t Hurt Bottom Line”

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