In 2007, two corporate law firms merged to form Dewey & LeBoeuf, a massive global legal conglomerate that grandly collapsed in the wake of the recession. Would you believe it all started when one partner called his colleagues "fuckwad" and "little prick?"
In this week's New Yorker, James Stewart details the rise and fall of Dewey & LeBoeuf. First, there was LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, a "pleasant" mid-size firm with decent profits and a conservative culture. Yet internal strife between partners eventually drove its chairman, Steven Davis, to seek out a merger with a bigger firm, Dewey Ballantine—a decision that ended in flames.
Why did Davis decide to take that risk? Well, in large part because he felt that the firm's stability was placed in peril after he was forced to sideline a powerful LeBoeuf partner, Alexander Dye, the head of the firm's compensation committee. The firm found out that Dye (who was responsible for many of the firm's most lucrative clients) had sent angry emails to a colleague talking shit about other partners, after Dye was passed over for the firm's chairmanship. A bit of color:
"Davis thinks it’s just you and me throwing our weight around. Woods hates us because we are the smart guys who gave him wedgies all his life; he can’t imagine working for us....Why the fuck is Woods the one guy who’s determining the future of this firm. These are the assholes who are afraid of melee, not us. I think many of our colleagues would be surprised to learn that squat, ignorant motherfucker is the king maker here. . . . Davis is the bad guy here. I think we need to be opportunistic about how we go after him"
At various points, Dye referred to other partners as “pathetic,” “little prick,” and “fuckwad.”
Dye's emails came out; the firm pushed him aside; Davis, fearing Dye would flee with important clients, decided a merger was necessary; it ended with the biggest law firm bankruptcy in history.
Totally worth it though. You can't let these fuckwads get away with shit.
[Read all about it in The New Yorker. Photo: AP]