The Dewey & LeBoeuf estate hopes to void two dozen leases on office space the now-bankrupt firm occupied around the world before it ceased practicing law last month, according to a filing made Wednesday in Manhattan bankruptcy court.
Bankruptcy law allows for the so-called lease rejections, which require court approval and are likely to encounter opposition from some of the firm’s landlords. (In a case involving another defunct law firm, Howrey, landlords are still fighting with the estate more than a year after the firm went bankrupt.)
In its motion, Dewey argues that with the exception of a subleased portion of its former Manhattan headquarters at 1301 Avenue of the Americas, it no longer needs the office space in question.
The Wednesday filing lists 14 domestic offices, including two in New York, two in Washington, D.C., three in California, and one apiece in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Hartford, and Houston. The firm also seeks in its filing to shed its leases on international offices in Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Brussels, Paris, Hong Kong, London, Madrid, Säo Paolo, and Saudi Arabia, though Säo Paolo was never listed as an official firm office in its marketing materials or earlier bankruptcy filings.
A handful of other offices out of which the firm operated, including Albany, Warsaw, Rome, and Milan, have already been taken over by other firms.
Landlords already figure prominently in the Dewey bankruptcy, with three of them appearing on the list of the firm’s largest unsecured creditors: 1301 Properties Owner, which is due $3.8 million for property taxes and May rent; 1101 New York Holding in Washington, D.C., which is owed $830,789 for May rent; and Commerzbank, which owns its New York building, due $512,063 for May rent. Dewey’s D.C. landlord also sued the firm May 17, before the bankruptcy filing, seeking $927,000 in back rent and other fees (that suit has been stayed pending the bankruptcy proceedings).
Dewey’s motion also says that it no longer has reason to own much of the property contained in those offices, apart from artwork in Houston and Los Angeles.
Several vendors that have leased office equipment to Dewey over the years, and now appear as creditors in the bankruptcy, have argued in earlier court filings that Dewey improperly sold some of their property without their consent in the weeks leading up to the firm’s May 28 Chapter 11 filing.
The Dewey team is due in court July 9, when U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Martin Glenn is expected to rule on the lease rejection question and other motions.