Where are they now? Law student tracks lawyers from disbanded Dewey firm, finds no 'scarlet letter'

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Blurry man walks past the Dewey & LeBoeuf headquarters sign

The collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf was one of the top legal news stories in the early 2010s. The law firm filed for bankruptcy in 2012. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

A law student who tracked lawyers from the disbanded law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf found little evidence that the stigma was a “scarlet letter” harming their careers.

Yale Law School student Andrew Granato tracked the careers of 685 lawyers who worked at Dewey before a partner exodus led to a 2012 implosion. He then compared 2022 outcomes for a “core sample” of lawyers from Dewey and comparable firms who worked in New York City offices in the practice areas of mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, debt finance, white-collar defense or antitrust.

The evidence suggests that former Dewey partners, after a decade, “are marginally less like to be partners at top law firms” than alumni of competitor firms, Granata writes in a paper posted on SSRN.

In addition, employment outcomes for former associates after a decade are “quite similar between alumni of Dewey and its rivals,” he wrote. (via Above the Law) and Bloomberg Law have coverage of the study by Granato, who is a candidate for a JD and a PhD.

Granato created a list of Dewey lawyers from the 2012 edition of the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory published Dec. 1, 2011. To find comparable lawyers outside Dewey, he also relied on Martindale-Hubbell and archived directories on firm websites that he found using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. He then tracked careers using news reports, LinkedIn profiles, bar search tools, firm websites and other online information.

In 2022, 10 years after Dewey’s collapse, 16% of Dewey associates were partners at a top-grossing Am Law 100 firm, Granato found. When comparing core samples of associates after a decade, he found that 19% of the former Dewey associates were partners in Am Law 100 firms, compared to 26% of associates who began their careers at competitor firms.

Granato told Bloomberg Law that the difference isn’t statistically significant.

“We can’t with any confidence say that having been a Dewey associate versus an associate at one of these control firms like Sidley Austin or Fried Frank led to a lower likelihood of becoming a partner a decade later at an Am Law 100 firm,” he told the publication.

Turning to partners, Granato found that 49% of Dewey partners were partners at Am Law 100 firms 10 years later. Sixty-three percent of ex-Dewey partners in core practices groups in New York City were working at Am Law 100 firms after 10 years, compared to 73% of partners at competitor firms.

Breaking down the results by gender, Granato found that 51.5% of male Dewey partners were BigLaw partners after 10 years, compared to 38.5% of female partners. Among Dewey associates, 22% of the men became Am Law 100 partners, compared to 9.5% of the women. Female ex-Dewey associates were substantially more likely to work in the nonprofit sector.

Granato suggested that the gender differences “are illustrative of gender dynamics in the legal industry in general.”

Granato also found different outcomes for former Dewey associates based on whether they landed in a BigLaw firm on their first job after leaving. Among former Dewey associates who did not work at an Am Law 100 firm in their first post-Dewey job, only 6% became Am Law 100 partners. Among those who stayed in BigLaw in their first job after Dewey, 26% later became BigLaw partners.

For associates at major firms caught up in a partner exodus, “it is extremely important to stay in Biglaw following the run” if they want to become partners at top firms, Granato concluded.

Granato told that he wasn’t able to track former Dewey staff members because it was more difficult to find publicly available data.

“I suspect they were the people who bore the greatest brunt of the damage from the partner run,” he said.

See also:

“How Dewey management’s rosy picture masked an ugly truth”

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