Dewey pulls shutters down on ‘ghost town’ New York office

Dewey & LeBoeuf has effectively shut its New York base, with the US firm’s head office now practically devoid of lawyers.

Almost all of the firm’s New York associates have left the office on 1301 Avenue of the Americas, with IT, HR and marketing staff still present.

A firm source described the office as a “ghost town”, adding that all staff had now left the firm’s Palo Alto base in Silicon Valley. The London office is still operating, with the UK and French LLP in the process of winding down.

The Manhattan clear-out follows a filing by the firm under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requiring employers to give 60 days’ notice of a ‘plant’ closing or mass layoffs.

The notice filed with the New York State Department of Labor, dated last Tuesday (8 May), states yesterday (15 May) as the New York office’s closing date and classifies the shuttering as a “conditional plant closing”. It says the reason for the closure was “economic” and that 433 employees would be affected.

The firm emailed New York associates last week (10 May), informing them that their employment would end yesterday. It had previously warned US employees earlier this month that their jobs were under threat (8 May 2012).

“As you know from the firm’s May 4, 2012 WARN Notice issued to all employees, Dewey &

LeBoeuf is unexpectedly experiencing extraordinary difficulties. Unfortunately, the situation is deteriorating at a more rapid pace than was initially anticipated,” the latest memo stated.

“Due to these adverse developments and the firm’s inability to find alternative solutions, this decision was not previously anticipated and notice of your termination was given as soon as practicable.

“Therefore, this letter confirms that your employment with Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP will end effective May 15, 2012. Your termination is permanent. In addition, you will not have any “bumping” rights (the ability to use your seniority to remain employed by displacing another employee from his or her job).”

Meanwhile, a lawsuit brought against Dewey by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), an agency designed to insure private pension benefits, claims that the beleagured firm is “liquidating and winding up affairs outside bankruptcy” and that Dewey had told the PBGC on 8 May that a “significant portion of Dewey’s administrative staff” were notified that they would have their jobs terminated within weeks. Roughly another 450 New York employees had their employment terminated last Thursday (10 May), according to reports.

Over 100 of the firm’s 300 partners have left since the start of 2012, with the most recent European exits occurring in London, Warsaw, Frankfurt and the Italian offices yesterday (15 May 2012).