A few dozen students from some of the nation’s top law schools received a distressing e-mail last Friday from Dewey & LeBoeuf. The law firm’s 2012 summer internship program, which would have paid the students more than $3,000 a week, was being canceled.
On Monday, about 50 former Dewey partners opened their in-boxes to find a poignant note. A fellow former partner said he was starting an assistance fund for Dewey staff and junior lawyers who might find themselves unemployed.
The same day, Dewey’s remaining partners received a grim dispatch from the firm’s leadership. Given Dewey’s state, management encouraged them to look for new jobs.
These are dark days for Dewey & LeBoeuf, the New York law firm on the brink of collapse amid a partner exodus. Forged by a 2007 merger, it had set its sights on quickly becoming a global powerhouse in corporate law, employing more than 1,300 lawyers in 26 offices across the globe at its peak. Now the firm is teetering under the weight of too much debt and outsize pay guarantees made to its star lawyers.

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