On Monday early afternoon, the mood around Dewey & LeBoeuf’s office tower at 1301 Avenue of the Americas was somber. There was a feeling of sadness, but also some attempts at forced banter.
As a line of a half-dozen red moving trucks pulled one by one around the corner to Dewey’s loading dock and staff entrance along 51st Street, a focal point for groups of Dewey employees and passersby out front was a large impressionistic painting of ousted chairman Steven Davis (pictured at left).
“Can I offer you a Sharpie?” the artist, Geoffrey Raymond, asked of a group of passersby. He was flourishing a broad smile and two Sharpie markers—cobalt blue for Dewey folks, black for random gawkers—with his arm resting atop the four-foot-high painting. Raymond has made a vocation of “annotated” portraits of fallen Wall Street icons; when bad news strikes, Raymond gets out his paintbrush. Within hours, he sets up the unfinished canvases outside of the CEOs’ main offices so that employees can contribute comments. He has painted Lehman Brothers’s Richard Fuld and Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein, as well as Rupert Murdoch and Allen Greenspan. (You can see his work here.) But this is his first painting of a law firm head.
Over the course of an hour, dozens of people exiting the building stopped and stared, moving closer to hear Raymond’s pitch, then wandering away without a word. Only three took the proffered pen. “There’s a level of paranoia here. But it’ll get filled up soon,” Raymond says. “I think if you’re working at Dewey & LeBoeuf, writing on this painting is the least of your worries.”
Two Dewey associates, who recently moved to another firm a few blocks away, passed by during their lunch break where they were joined by a third who joked that he was applying to work for the Rockettes. (Dewey’s office is near Radio City Music Hall.)
“I don’t know how I feel,” said the first one, a midlevel insurance M&A associate who had started as a summer associate at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & McRae and who, like the other two, asked not to be further identified. Davis “has kind of become the face of everything that failed. But he wasn’t the only one responsible.”
“People say [to me], ‘Congratulations, you got a job!’ ” the first associate went on. “ But it’s sad. I mean, so [I] got a job, but the place fell apart.” He added, “We liked the place. But it became a very different place after the merger. It never felt integrated. It was like 50–60 firms under one roof.”
Davis “was just intrigued with the idea of being an elite global firm,” said the second associate. “One thing they boasted about at the time was how there was no overlap and there’d be such great synergies. But afterwards, everybody just stuck to themselves.”
“The only thing that changed was my business card,” said a third associate and fellow classmate, still at Dewey.
Among those in the crowd staring at Raymond’s painting was a 14-year Dewey staffer who declined the proffered pen, but turned to this reporter to vent. She said she and the 1,000-odd staff of the firm had only been notified after work hours on Friday that they were being let go. “They sent a single e-mail at 5:30, after everyone had left. So most people got in today and looked at their emails, and hey, they’re out of a job. ” (
The e-mailed letter
says that current developments “could ultimately result in the closure of the firm, which would result in the termination of your employment,” but it does not say that employees are being laid off now, nor does it indicate a possible date.)
She said the firm was not offering severance, at most, just paid time off. “I’ve been here 14 years,” she said. “They never apologized. They never explained what was going on to us. It’s very disrespectful to the staff. It’s always about the lawyers. It’s never about the staff.”
Behind them, but keeping his distance, stood Dewey’s director of finance, Frank Canellas, smoking a cigarette and frowning. How long was he planning to stay at Dewey? “All the way to the end,” Canellas said. “All the way to the end.”