Dewey & LeBoeuf: Demise of a Law Firm

[Update: after we originally published this post, Bloomberg uploaded its latest video interview on the story – this one with former Dewey partner, Stuart Saft, the first partner to speak on camera:]

[Link: Dewey Ex-Partner: Headhunters and Media Tanked the Firm]

Earlier this week in its coverage of the unfolding Dewey & LeBoeuf story, Above the Law referenced an interesting 2009 article by business lawyer Edwin Reeser titled The Big Law Firm Demise – It Happens Like This.

As ATL pointed out: “Reeser identified nine signs that a firm is in trouble. Going into 2012 (if not well before the start of the year), Dewey exhibited all or almost all nine of them…”

It’s a thoughtful piece by Reeser, well worth a read in its entirety, with or without the Dewey story as backdrop. An excerpt:

“There is little transparency related to decision-making and strategic objectives. Decisions that were previously the subject of wide discussion become increasingly reserved for a smaller coterie of decision-makers without notice or even disclosure to the partnership at large. Essentially, the nature and role of the equity partner becomes more like an employee at will and less like a shareholder…”

For your interest, starting with these two Bloomberg Law video interviews, here’s a look at how others have analyzed the Dewey & LeBoeuf story over the past few weeks:

[Link: Businessweek Reporter: 6 More Dewey & LeBoeuf’s on Horizon]

[ Link: Are Dewey’s Difficulties A New Law Firm Trend? with ATL editor-in-chief David Lat]

From attorney, law firm management consultant, and certified title punster Jerome Kowalski:

Excerpted from the last link above:

“One of the odd things is that many at the top of Dewey’s dysfunctional
food chain – extremely bright, accomplished and talented lawyers –
could have avoided much of the pain that lies ahead of them by simply
characterizing their relationship with the law firm as something other
than ‘partners.’ The irony is that many of these folks were not
partners. They did not share in profits or losses. They had fixed
multi-year contracts under which their income was guaranteed, regardless
of the fortunes of the law firm. These agreements were the products of
avarice, greed and shortsightedness, which could have and should have
been avoided.”

Of additional interest is this earlier piece by communications pro John Hellerman, written with Howrey in mind, but certainly the points are relevant today: 5 Marketing Lessons from Howrey’s Graveside.

We’ll post further commentary as it comes in.

What’s your take on the story? Leave a comment…