DRAGHI: One day my secretary walked in and
said, “The copy machines don’t work anymore
and they’re not delivering the mail.”
VICTOR: Oh, it became very, very clear. When you
no longer have Xerox machines, when you no
longer have access to Federal Express, etc., etc.,
you can no longer practice law.
LEVITSKY: You began to see moving companies
come in. You’d walk down the hall and you’d see
dollies with 50 to 100 to 200 boxes roll down
the floor. It was very depressing. As time went
by, there were fewer and fewer people on that
floor. You’d walk down the floor of [the firm’s]
huge Manhattan office building, you’d find
maybe three, four people.
DRAGHI: The end sort of came quickly. When
one very large group of lawyers walked out, all
of a sudden it started to look like things were on
a quick downhill. The slide was quicker than I
thought, and the information was harder to get
than I would have expected.
SCHIFFER: Unfortunately, some of us, including
me, should have moved substantially sooner. You
say to yourself, “It’s going to be fixed.” You assume
your partners are telling you the truth, and I’m sure
many of them believed that at the time.
LEVITSKY: It was devastating. To say that I was
suffering from terror wouldn’t have been an
exaggeration. It was made worse that I really
couldn’t mention it to my family because I didn’t
want them to have to go through the same. I was
hoping I’d be able to find a job and I wouldn’t
have to expose them to this stress.
SCHIFFER: You can’t lie to your spouse, you know?
It’s quite unpleasant to have these discussions.
LEVITSKY: I didn’t start looking for a job until
about two weeks before the firm closed. I really
waited far longer than I should have.
NONNA: Frankly, when we left, we didn’t think
Dewey & Leboeuf was going to go under. We
thought it was going to survive. We just didn’t
want to be there anymore. Our group left April
9, 2012, and the firm filed for bankruptcy in late
May. I quickly realized I was never going to get my
LEVITSKY: It was apparently the largest law-firm
failure in history.
Top attorneys landed in new firms. Support staff
such as secretaries and paralegals had more trouble.
PRIMPS: The phone started to ring like crazy
with headhunter calls coming in, and there were
people I knew at firms where I didn’t need to go
through headhunters. You use every conceivable
contact with a time like that.
NONNA: It was sad. Especially secretaries and
support staff—they had a much harder time
finding a job. We’re talking about a time the legal
profession was in a recession as well.
LEVITSKY: I keep in touch with about 1,200 people
and they are all suffering.
JEFFREY L. KESSLER, chair of litigation, now with
Winston & Strawn: We have an extraordinarily
busy practice, so we had major matters to service
every day while we were also conducting this [job]
search. So you can imagine that this particular
period, including genuine sadness over the state
of things at Dewey, combined to make for a very
VICTOR: We were fortunate. We had 15 law firms
interested in us and ultimately we brought 70
lawyers, which included 22 partners. In addition,
we brought 13 secretaries and four paralegals.
We brought a total of over 80 or 85 people to this
firm. It was probably the biggest group to move.
KESSLER: Happily, we had 15 or more firms who
were very interested in our group. We probably
had more serious discussions with seven, then cut
it to four, then it finally came down to one. It was
a constant process of weeding down.
HENDERSON: I ended up in a very good firm. I
wish the entire insurance practice could’ve come
here but there are certain limits to the amount of
attorneys any one firm can absorb at one time.
VICTOR: [Winston & Strawn] happened to have
a floor empty that was going to be refurbished.
They stuck us in there and now the refurbishing
is going to be done in steps. They sent us movers,
boxed us up, packed us up, and the next thing
you know, all your stuff is in new offices. I spent
35-plus years looking north over Central Park,
past the Washington Bridge. Now I have this
beautiful view of the Chrysler Building on my left,
the Empire State on my right and the East River
off on my left.
PRIMPS: I came over here [Dorsey & Whitney] with
a couple of associates and it was just a very good
fit. The senior counsel here, [Vice President] Walter
Mondale, used to be ambassador to Japan. That’s
a wonderful door opener. It’s wonderful to be out of
a very, very negative situation.
NONNA: My daughter had worked at Patton
Boggs as an associate for 10 months before she
went to work for a senator on the Hill. She had a
good experience there. I remembered that. They
had the managing partner and several other
partners come to New York [from Washington,
D.C.] in a matter of two days. We were impressed
DRAGHI: I decided I didn’t need another big firm. I
rented space. I’m doing what I did before. It is just
me. I’m working within the offices of another firm
and if I need support I can get it. I’ve been delighted
with the decision I made. I suppose I’m not going to
do any more sales of nuclear power plants.
In late April 2013, as part of an insurance
settlement, Davis agreed to pay $511,000 in
settlement claims, an amount The Wall Street
Journal described as “little or nothing.”
PRIMPS: If there’s a black hat, it really attaches to
SCHIFFER: Anytime you think you’re going to get
X, and you get substantially less than X, it affects
you financially. I’m in debt because of these
people. It’s as simple as that. Am I living in a box?
No. Do I have my health? Yes. But has it affected
my ability to retire at an appropriate age? Yes.
LEVITSKY: People now believe that due diligence
wasn’t done. I think people who voted for this
merger didn’t have full disclosure of the incredible
liabilities that Dewey Ballantine carried. That’s
one of those things that nobody investigated.
They were going out of business when [LeBoeuf
Lamb] acquired them and we went out of
business afterward. That’s not a coincidence.
SCHIFFER: Obviously, we all know from the
newspapers that certain people didn’t suffer
because they had agreements that none
of us knew about. They had guaranteed
compensations. That was not a pleasant thing to
LEVITSKY: A lot of people whose lives were
disrupted would like to at least know what part
the 30 people on the executive committee played
in these ridiculous decisions. People I talk to
always ask that question: “How come they don’t
account for what they’ve done?” People’s lives go
on, but these questions remain.