Business Finance » Corporate

Gay Lawyer Blamed for Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Demise

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Thursday May 17, 2012

Steven H. Davis, the former chairman of the Dewey & LeBoeuf law firm, has received most of the blame for the company's demise. Although his alleged faulty business practices have been aired, one aspect of his personal life has not: Davis' sexual orientation.

The New York Times casually revealed in one of its DealBook blogs that Davis, 58, came out of the closet in 2001 and left his wife after being together for 24 years. He has been in a long-term relationship with another man for the last decade.

"Steve dealt with this part of his personal life with grace and courage," Tom Bernstein, his Yale classmate and good friend, told the Times. "I've known him for over 40 years, and to me, he's the same Steve Davis."

Dewey & LeBoeuf, a global law firm that is headquartered in New York City, formed in 2007 after a merger between Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae. The company entered into financial difficulties in late 2011 and 2012, which became public. During the same time, a number of the firm's partners left the business.

The New York District Attorney launched an investigation into alleged false statements Davis made about the Dewey & LeBoeuf. The law firm, once one of the most powerful in the country, is calling it quits quite soon -- possibly as early as the end of the month.

The Times points out there have been "a series of moves" made by Davis that may have lead to the company falling apart.

"He pushed the star-crossed merger in 2007 that created Dewey & LeBoeuf, a behemoth with 1,400 lawyers," the article says. "He also charted a rapid expansion fueled in part by heavy borrowing, overextended the firm by handing out lavish pay guarantees and oversaw a corrosive partnership culture of haves and have-nots."

"A dispassionate and disinterested review of the facts will confirm that I have not engaged in any misconduct," Davis said in an e-mail to his partners last month. "I did my best to navigate the firm through challenging and turbulent times, and I deeply regret our current situation."

Many people from the firm are pointing fingers at Davis, saying he is singlehandedly responsible for the current state of the law firm. A number of employees gave evidence of "possible financial improprieties" Davis committed to the district attorney.

The legal community in recent years has done a 180-degree turn on all things gay. Whereas there was a time when an out-gay lawyer had little chance of making partner at one of the top firms, today, these same firms tout their gay-inclusive policies.

Gay attorneys have a unique past: There was a time when firms would not touch a case centered around discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And gay lawyers would do their best to help the community by working from inside the closet. But now, several top law firms are representing gays pro bono and are taking on huge civil rights cases.

Today, having diverse lawyers is now something for which these powerhouse law firms strive. These attorneys are able to support clients that come from different ethnic and racial backgrounds as well as sexual orientation and gender identity.


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