Update, 5/1/12, 12:59 a.m. EDT: This story has been updated to include new information related to a message sent by Dewey & LeBoeuf management to the firm’s partners Monday.
Amid an ongoing flood of partner departures and frantic efforts to save the firm in some form, Dewey & LeBoeuf management issued a memo late Monday informing the remaining partners that they are under no obligation to stick with the firm in its current precarious state.
According to a source with knowledge of the memo’s contents, the message was intended to let partners know that fiduciary duties do not restrict them from considering or pursuing career alternatives outside those the firm is discussing with possible transaction partners. As previously reported, Dewey had been in talks with Greenberg Traurig to execute some form of combination or mass lateral hire, but both firms confirmed Sunday that those discussions are over. Other firms, including Patton Bogg and SNR Denton, have also reportedly had discussions with Dewey. On Monday, representatives of both Patton Boggs and SNR Denton declined to comment on those reports.
The late Monday memo capped a four-day stretch that saw at least 11 more partners leave the embattled firm. It also followed closely Dewey’s Friday acknowledgment that the Manhattan district attorney’s office is investigating possible wrongdoing by former chairman Steven Davis and that the firm has launched its own internal probe of Davis.
With the most recent defections—from offices in Dubai, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C.—Dewey has now lost at least 83 partners since the start of the year. Amid the exodus, at least 32 law firms and two clients have brought on Dewey refugees.
The latest to leave include New York labor and employment partner Howard Adler and insurance-related mergers and acquisitions partner Gary Boss, who have joined Clifford Chance, former tax department head and executive committee member Gordon Warnke, who is jumping to Linklaters, and capital markets partners Donald Murray and Eric Blanchard, who are moving over to Covington & Burling.
Joining Warnke, who will lead Linklaters’s New York tax practice, is former Dewey tax partner Joseph Pari in Washington, D.C.
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, meanwhile, grabbed corporate partner Marshall Stoddard, who divides his time between Los Angeles and New York, and Houston energy partner Charles Moore. Stoddard, who led Dewey’s bank and institutional finance practice, took four other lawyers with him in the move to Morgan Lewis.
Former Dewey partner Gary Apfel, whose departure The Am Law Daily noted last week, has opened a Los Angeles office for Pepper Hamilton. The Daily Journal, which first reported where Apfel had landed, notes that Apfel is no stranger to opening Los Angeles offices for large law firms. He did the same thing for Dewey predecessor firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae in 1985 and was one of the founding partners of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld‘s Los Angeles office in 1997.
Further afield, Peter Gray—a local partner in Dewey’s Dubai office handling litigation and international arbitration, and the only partner left in the Dubai outpost after Dechert picked up a nearly 20-attorney team to launch its own office there—is now a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. And New York real estate blog The Real Deal also reports that Stuart Saft, Dewey’s New York–based global real estate chair, will join Holland & Knight on Wednesday.
A Dewey spokesman had no comment on the departures.
(Though New York partner Linda Ransom’s biography also disappeared from the firm’s Web site over the weekend, it was unclear as of Monday whether she has indeed left the firm and, if so, where she has taken her practice.)
The departures spanned a weekend that saw Dewey announce via an e-mail sent to its global partnership that Davis had been removed from the firm’s recently established five-partner office of the chairman—a month after being stripped of his title as the firm’s sole chairman.
As of Monday, Davis had retained white-collar lawyer Barry Bohrer of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason, Anello & Bohrer for representation in the fact of the dual probes. Though not immediately available for comment to The Am Law Daily beyond confirming his involvement, Bohrer gave a statement to The Wall Street Journal that Davis “is confident that fair-minded professionals will conclude that he engaged in no misconduct.”
Dewey leaders, meanwhile, continue their scramble to find a solution to the firm’s pressing financial problems, including $75 million owed to a syndicate of bank lenders led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and $150 million in bond debt that Dewey must begin making payments on next year.
Options being considered as the firm tries to ensure some kind of future for itself include a prepackaged bankruptcy filing undertaken in conjunction with a merger of sorts, according to our past reports. Greenberg Traurig, which had previously confirmed its possible interest in taking on an unspecified number of Dewey lawyers, released a statement Sunday in which it said it had discontinued its discussions with Dewey.
On the heels of the Greenberg statement’s release, The New York Times, citing a person with direct knowledge of the subject, identified Patton Boggs and SNR Denton as two firms with whom Dewey leaders have spoken.
An SNR Denton spokesman said Monday that while it has strong relationships with law firms around the world, “we never comment on rumors about specific discussions or our continuing efforts to enhance SNR Denton’s already robust global presence with locations in over 40 countries.”
Patton Boggs managing partner Edward Newberry released a statement in which he said that has his firm has high regard for Dewey and its lawyers, and that “from time to time we have conversations with other firms in connection with our interest in making strategic acquisitions to strengthen our practice. Out of deference to those with whom we speak, we have always refrained from commenting about such discussions.” (Patton Boggs has already hired three former Dewey partners this year.)
A source knowledgeable about Patton Boggs’s discussions with Dewey says the firm is talking with various lawyers from the firm with an eye toward bringing more aboard, but is not considering a merger or larger transaction.
Related: Morgan Lewis, Pepper Hamilton Grab Dewey Finance Partners (from sibling publication The Legal Intelligencer)
Christine Simmons, a reporter at sibling publication New York Law Journal, contributed reporting.