Dewey London partners discuss wind-down of UK arm

Dewey & LeBoeuf’s City arm has started discussing options for an orderly wind-down of the firm’s London limited liability partnership (LLP).

The move, which would also affect Dewey’s Paris office as it is part of the firm’s UK LLP, was discussed at a meeting yesterday (30 April) attended by 13 of the office’s remaining partners.

The partners voted unanimously on the appointment of a ‘crisis management committee’ comprising London managing partner Peter Sharp, finance partner Bruce Johnston, US tax head Judith Harger and restructuring partners Mark Fennessy and Hazel Miller.

Partners within the firm told Legal Week they have started talking with insolvency practitioners about options for the UK LLP, including appointing administrators. In the meantime partners will continue servicing clients on existing matters while considering their future options.

At the end of March, Dewey had around 112 lawyers in London, including 35 partners, as well as 87 support staff.

One partner commented: “The partners agreed that instead of deferring to the US, we have to act as a UK partnership and wind down the office in an orderly fashion.”

Another added: “Our creditors overlap with those in the US and a large chunk of our receivables are pledged to the US banks. We have no choice but to seize control of the situation and instigate an orderly wind-down of the office.”

Any decision to be file for administration in the UK could be made independently of what is happening in the US. One London partner though said US management could ask all partners to vote on a prepackaged bankruptcy as early as next week.

The partner also stated that there was a possibility the firm’s creditors could petition the courts to place Dewey into “Chapter 11″ allowing its debts to be reorganised. If this were to happen there would not be a partner vote.

News of the London plans come after Dewey & LeBoeuf’s firmwide management yesterday issued a memo telling remaining partners that they were under no obligation to stick with the firm in its current state.

The message was intended to let partners know that fiduciary duties do not restrict them from considering or pursuing career alternatives. The memo stated that all partners, including executive committee and office of the chairman members, are encouraged to seek out alternative opportunities.

It continues: “In connection with such discussions, we ask that you advise any firms you consider that it may be beneficial to [Dewey & LeBoeuf's] creditors for you to continue collecting outstanding receivables and unbilled inventory from clients whose matters move with you to new firms.”

As previously reported, Dewey had been in talks with Greenberg Traurig over some form of combination or mass lateral hire, but both firms confirmed on Sunday (29 April) that those discussions are over.

Other firms, including Patton Boggs and SNR Denton, have also reportedly had discussions with Dewey.

The memo capped a four-day stretch that has seen at least 11 more partners leave the embattled firm, taking departures since the start of the year to at least 83. It has also emerged 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.

For more, see Dewey advises partners to consider new roles; latest exits join CC, Linklaters.