Closing doors

New York firms Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae executed a near-perfect merger when they joined forces to form Dewey & LeBoeuf last October.

Not only did the union occur in record time but, crucially, there was no mass exodus from either side either before or after the deal was sealed. This contrasts sharply with Dewey’s earlier failed merger bid with San Francisco firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, when both sides haemorraged partners before the plans were ultimately ditched.

It’s interesting, then, that seven months into the merger Dewey & LeBoeuf has started closing offices, with three peripheral US bases to close their doors over the coming months. As reported on the 10-lawyer Jacksonville and 22-lawyer Hartford legacy LeBoeuf offices and 16-lawyer Austin legacy Dewey offices are all being culled.

However, far from representing the first cracks in this otherwise watertight union, the closures are indicative of a firm really focusing on its goal of becoming a true transatlantic player.

Last December firmwide chairman Steve Davis said London had been given strategic priority within the firm and a statement released this week said the US closures form part of a strategy to “expand the firm’s resources in major capital markets throughout the world”.

Smart thinking, surely, to focus on major financial hubs at the expense of marginal centres given the current economic climate.

Significantly, rather than making the lawyers at the closing offices redundant, Dewey & LeBoeuf is offering each of them the chance to relocate to a base of their choosing. That’s great in principle but will Fred Associate from Jacksonville Florida be ready to up sticks for Almaty?

There may be redundancies to come.

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