Massive Law Firm to San Francisco Attorneys: 'Guess What? You're All Going to East Palo Alto'

"It's a hard time to be a lawyer, no doubt about it."
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." -- Henry VI, Act IV, Scene III.

Mr. Shakespeare was wrong in his chronology. The first thing you do, if you want to kill the lawyers, is kill the economy. Then the attorneys will wither and die like bees barricaded out of the hive and its honey.

A growing caravan of lawyers are watching San Francisco recede into nothingness in their rearview mirrors, and, this week, the international firm Dewey & LeBoeuf announced it is joining those ranks. It informed the attorneys in its San Francisco office that they will henceforth be working out of the firm's digs in East Palo Alto.

While one of the firm's lawyers told SF Weekly "I don't think anybody's really happy about this," the banished attorneys are lucky to have jobs to be griping about. D&L recently announced plans to shutter its offices in Charlotte, Hartford, Jacksonville, and Austin.

Calls seeking explanations for the closure of D&L's One Embarcadero Center office were shunted to an administrator -- who didn't call back. But you don't need a J.D. or an MBA to know this is a fiscal decision; whether or not the Embarcadero suite cost more to rent than the East Palo Alto office is anyone's guess, but one of the firm's lawyers told SF Weekly that D&L evidently thought "Silicon Valley has stronger possibilities for growth."

That may be true, but don't expect promotional material touting branches in "Rome, London, Brussels, New York and East Palo Alto" any time soon. The company will also have to scrub the language it uses to tout its "Silicon Valley" office: "With two locations in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dewey & LeBoeuf offers our clients unsurpassed accessibility and ease in doing business."  Looks like they've been surpassed.

But, again, it could have been worse. Last year saw the implosion of San Francisco mega-firms Heller Ehrman and Thelen. Around the Bay Area, Morrison & Foerster laid off 201 employees last week, while Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati recently laid off upwards of 100. So did Cooley Godward Kronish.

"It's a hard time to be a lawyer," said one D&L attorney with a nervous chuckle. "No doubt about it."
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