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by Vault Law Editors | March 04, 2009

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Anatomy of a Crack-up

A potential Marc Dreier biopic would have no shortage of readymade dramatic moments: his bizarre impersonations of other lawyers, his brazen unauthorized use of an ex-client?s office space, his seductive stare down of William Shatner?This month?s American Lawyer has a riveting account of Dreier?s self-destruction and serial fraud that is chock full of crazy details. One moment parallels that scene in Fargo when Jerry Lundegaard, the pathetic loser played by William Macy, gets a phone call from an angry GMAC representative whom he has defrauded. As the rep threatens to turn Jerry in, we witness an anxious Jerry realize that his scheme is imploding. In the real world, back in November of last year, Thomas Manisero, a partner at Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, called Dreier to confront him about a forged audit report, written on his client's letterhead, that had been used to try to fool a hedge fund into buying fake promissory notes. According to the AmLaw piece, Dreier, unlike Jerry, remained cool.


Dreier & Shatner

Anatomy of a Dissolution

Thacher Profitt managed to survive the destruction of its offices in the World Trade Center, but could not survive the credit meltdown. Another AmLaw article chronicles Thacher?s transformation from a sleepy, staid corporate shop (est 1849) into ?a runaway train fueled by the rising secondary market for mortgage securities.? Like a mousy librarian who suddenly spirals into a meth-crazed decline, Thacher became utterly overleveraged in these lucrative, unsustainable practices. Structured finance became the firm's business model, and by the time a merger was considered, it was too late.

Anatomy of a Seeming Anomaly

James Surowiecki?s Financial Page column in The New Yorker takes a look at the strange phenomenon of rising wages despite the recession?s tightening job market. Surowiecki offers a couple of reasons. First, employers are concerned about retaining top talent, and there is the concern that wage cuts may damage morale. (Of course, layoffs aren?t exactly uplifting, but as one of Surowiecki?s sources puts it, they do ?get the misery out the door? whereas wage cuts ?keeps the misery around.?)

But most important, in Surowiecki?s analysis, is increasing productivity. The ?just-in-time? revolution and corresponding lean operations made American workers more productive, and therefore more expensive, while also allowing firms to adjust the size of their labor forces more quickly. Well, law firms are certainly ?adjusting? like mad, with more layoffs last week than in any month of 2008 (and 410* more law firm job cuts so far today). When BigLaw upped the ante to $160,000 for first-years, was that a step toward their disposability?

Anatomy of a Murder

Did you know that that the novel upon which the Jimmy Stewart movie was based was written pseudonymously by a Michigan Supreme Court judge? Well it was!

-posted by brian

*=now up to roughly 565 (6:40 p.m.)

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