Dewey warns staff of termination of employment as losses continue

Stricken US firm Dewey & LeBoeuf has warned US employees that their jobs are under threat, admitting that the current difficulties could result in the firm shutting its doors.

The firm, which has suffered more than 100 partner exits since the start of 2012, issued a letter to staff on Friday warning that “adverse developments” could lead to the firm closing.

“As you are undoubtedly aware, Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP has unexpectedly experienced a period of extraordinary difficulties in the last few days,” the firm wrote in the letter.

“Although we continue to pursue various avenues, it is possible that adverse developments could ultimately result in the closure of the firm, which would result in the termination of your employment.”

The letter, attached to an e-mail to all US staff from executive partner Stephen Horvath, is the latest sign that the firm is planning to close.

Late last month the firm sent another memorandum to partners stating that they were “encouraged to seek out alternative opportunities”, hinting at the firm’s imminent collapse.

Meanwhile, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has confirmed the hire of Dewey energy partners John LaMaster and Marc Hammerson in London and Steven Otillar in Houston. Akin Gump had also been attempting to hire the embattled firm’s City-based bank and institutional finance group chair Bruce Johnston (26 April 2012), but the Dewey loyalist decided to join Morgan Lewis & Bockius instead alongside nine other Dewey partners including Russia stars Brian Zimbler and Jonathan Hines, fellow Moscow partners Oleg Berger, Carter Brod, Roman Dashko and Vasilisa Strizh, City partners Amanda Jennings, Amy Comer and Almaty managing partner Aset Shyngyssov (4 May 2012).

US media are reporting further damaging exits, including the Silicon Valley-based corporate team led by key partners Richard Climan and Keith Flaum, who are heading to Weil Gotshal & Manges along with three other partners and four associates. The Silicon Valley team, a surprise hire from Cooley Godward Kronish (now Cooley) in 2009 (13 July 2009), was brought in on a large guaranteed profit share, enabling Dewey to beat off competition from other firms for the team (16 April 2012).

Separately, Dewey New York-based corporate partner Berge Setrakian and global project finance and infrastructure practice group chair Joseph Tato are reported to be joining DLA Piper.

Yesterday The Lawyer reported that ex-Dewey partners in London were attempting to launch creditor claims against the firm in the event of administration, while US partners are assembling into groups to mull legal action (7 May 2012).

BDO has been advising Dewey London partners since Tuesday on a potential administration (1 May 2012).

Alongside Flaum and Climan, Silicon Valley corporate partners Jane Ross, Jim Griffin and John Brockland are also joining Weil. Separately, London corporate partner Simon Briggs has joined Dechert, following City capital markets duo Camille Abousleiman and Louise Roman Bernstein (16 April 2012).

Dewey’s Italian partners are also understood to be working on launching a spin-off under a new name.