Eulogy for Dewey

As we all give a moment of silence for the sad, preventable destruction of Dewey LeBoeuf it may be time for firms to recall the words of Sylvester Bowen of Bowen, Fong & Chandri:

 When we hire lawyers, we hire those who believe in what we believe.

 We don’t hire lawyers who are technically good and need a job.

 We don’t hire lawyers who are driven by money.

 We hire lawyers who are motivated by our principles of change and innovation.

 We don’t want lawyers who are seduced by the reliability of hours and profits per partner because that leads to resistance to change.

 We want lawyers who challenge everything, every day; who don’t see the world or their practice as a zero-sum game.

 We want lawyers who are passionate about why we do what we do, because then great things are achieved.

 BFC is committed to be a growing, vibrant place in which to work – that is how we recruit, inspire and retain exceptional people. We redeploy our capital to ensure that we always find the next innovation and we reward those who create value for the firm no matter how value is created.

 If you want steep pay, long hours, high stress and limited job satisfaction – go somewhere else.


  1. Looking for people who have a passion for their work and for the law, rather than a passion for making a lot of money, makes great sense, both for the future of the firm and for the pleasure of being associated with such people in the present.

    Being ‘motivated by our principles of change and innovation’, on the other hand, strikes me as meaningless or stupid. One does not go into any line of work for the sake of change or innovation. One has to be ready to innovate, and even love innovation, but not for its own sake. It has to serve some purpose, and in a service business like law, it’s presumably to better serve the clients. One innovates to keep clients or to find new clients, but there’s no point unless one is able to serve them all well when one does find them.

    I doubt that clients want lawyers who ‘challenge everything, every day’, though lawyers with open minds and a view of where the clients’ business and their own relation to the clients might be developed would be welcome (and not so easy to find.)

    I doubt that the folks at Dewey thought that long hours, high stress and limited enjoyment were features, along with the steep pay – they were tradeoffs. Challenging everything, every day, may also involve long hours and high stress.

    Anyway, being sanctimonious about how cutting-edge one is does not make a firm more attractive to job-seekers either.

  2. David Cheifetz

    It appears that BF&C was cut from the same cloth as DC&H:

    Would that Ambrose Bierce were alive to comment.

    In his absence, I’ll point out the obvious.

    In private practice, the “Ivory Snow” percentage of clients want lawyers who will get the client what the client wants at the least expense to the client. The lawyers’ preferences matter only to the extent they advance the client’s interest. (For most clients and lawyers, least expense usually means means legally. Good thing, too. One’s definition of “legally” may vary.That’s not necessarily a good thing.)

    The point of making a law firm bigger, faster, & cheaper is still to maximize the return to those who are entitled to share in the return.

    I suppose this is proof that, at least in my case, practising lawyer isn’t the larval stage between dinosaur and futurist.

    Oh well, I can always return to writing books – ok, one book – that very few lawyers seem to read any more, and articles that even fewer (at least in this province) seem to have ever read.