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经济学人:杜威路博国际律师事务所 砰然毁灭

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Business

商业报道
Dewey LeBoeuff
杜威路博国际律师事务所
With a bang, not a whimper
砰然毁灭,而不是轻轻消亡
When a law firm gets into trouble, it can be hard to recover
律师事务所,一旦陷入困境就难以摆脱
THE chief benefit of the merger of Dewey Ballantine and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene MacRae may have been a shorter name.
2007年,杜威律师事务所与路博律师事务所合并,带来的主要好处大概是新的律师事务所有了一个更简洁的名字
The deal, in 2007, created Dewey LeBoeuf, the world's 23rd-biggest law firm by revenue.
杜威.路博律师事务所,营业收入全球排名第23位。
The new firm was ambitious.
杜威曾经雄心勃勃,
But according to the American Lawyer, a magazine and compiler of legal league tables,
如今发展状况却不尽如人意。《美国律师》杂志编纂的律师事务所排行榜数据显示:
revenue for 2010 turned out to be $760m, $150m less than first thought;
2010年,杜威.路博律师事务所的年收入只有7.6亿美元,比预期低1.5亿美元;
last year's sum, $782m, was not much better.
去年的总收入为7.82亿美元,比2010年强不了多少。

Dewey has lost 70 of its partners—more than a fifth of the total—and more keep jumping ship.

杜威公司已经失去了70位合伙人,而更多的人也正打算跳槽。
It is said to be considering a prepackaged bankruptcy and a merger with another firm, Greenberg Traurig.
有消息称,该公司正在考虑预组破产,并计划与格林贝格.特劳里格公司合并。
The speed of Dewey's decline shows how fragile law firms' finances can be.
从杜威的迅速衰落可以看出律师事务所的收入何其不稳定。
If a public company gets into trouble, the price of its shares falls, giving investors an incentive to buy if they think the market undervalues it.
当一家上市公司陷入困境时,股价下跌,此时如果其市场价值被低估,可能会激励投资者进行收购;
In companies with physical assets, creditors can demand that they be sold to repay loans.
同时债权人可以要求出售公司实物资产来偿还债务。
But nearly all law firms are private partnerships whose only real assets are the partners themselves.
但几乎所有的律师事务都是私人合股制公司,其资产就是合股人本身。
Not only can they not be sold;
公司合伙人当然无法出售,
they can get up and walk to a new firm. Worse, American lawyers typically take their clients with them.
他们只能筹备建立新的公司。更加糟糕的是,美国的律师离去时会带走相应的客户资源。
Survivors of failed firms talk ruefully about what went wrong—usually, overexpansion in one of two ways.
一家公司破产后,幸存的管理层会遗憾地谈论他们的失误之处在于过度扩张—一般有两种情况:
The first is geographical:
一种是地理意义上的扩张,
a regional firm going national or a national one, international.
可能是一家区域性公司开始面向全国市场,也可能是一家国内公司转向跨国经营。
This tends to dilute profits per partner.
各个合伙人的利益往往会因此降低,
Offices abroad, especially, can take a long time to turn a profit.
特别是建立国外办事处这种做法很可能需要几年的时间才开始盈利。
The second sort of expansion is to hire hotshot partners from outside.
另一种扩张则是通过企业从外部引进行业高手作为合伙人实现,
According to lawyers from other firms, Dewey committed two sins:
这也是杜威公司的选择。据其他公司的律师称,杜威公司承认自己犯了两个大错:
guaranteeing poached partners their first few years of income, and borrowing from banks to pay for them.
先向那些新合伙人许诺头几年的高薪,然后又从银行借款来兑现这些承诺。
Unusually, in 2010 Dewey also issued bonds; the first of these mature next year.
反常的是,杜威还于2010年发行了债券,首批债券将于明年到期。
Firms with large debts are vulnerable if a big client leaves, a practice area sours or the economy weakens.
失去大客户,某一地区业务状况恶化或者经济疲软。
Partners may sit tight for one bad year, but after another some will scarper with their clients.
—这些都会使负担大量债务的公司变得十分脆弱。
Firms that have nurtured their own talent are likely to have more loyal lawyers;
遇到一个坏年景时,合伙人可能会静观其变,如果情况未能好转,部分人会带着他们的客户溜走。自己出资培养人才的事务所,其律师的忠诚度更高;
poachers such as Dewey, fewer.
而到处挖人的杜威就没有那么多忠诚的律师了。
Expensive hires can cause resentment.
高薪雇用也会引来他人的怨恨。
There's only 100% of the profit to go around, says Ward Bower of Altman Weil, a consultancy.
自Altman Weil咨询公司的Ward Bower认为工资总额是一定的,不可能超过利润的100%,
To the extent anyone is overpaid, by definition someone else is underpaid.
如果一些人拿的过多,显然其他人的报酬就过低了。
If enough people leave, the firm may break loan covenants with its banks, which can require it to have a minimum number of partners.
如果离开的员工过多,企业可能会违背贷款合约,而银行可能会要求企业把合伙人数控制在最低数量,甚至要求该公司立即清偿贷款。
Loans may be called in at once, or continued only under onerous conditions that can hasten the decline.
即便银行继续提供贷款,条件也会十分严苛,但这无疑会加快公司的衰退。
To stop an implosion, managers must act decisively, says Randall Miller, of Bryan Cave in Denver.
来自丹佛博凯律师事务所的Randall Miller认为,为了避免公司走向破产,管理层必须果断决策。
He was managing partner of Holme, Roberts Owen, which found itself in a tight spot several years ago.
Miller是HRO律师事务所的任事股东,数年前HRO律师事务所在西部各州扩张,
An expansion in western states and a split with the Salt Lake City office left the firm in trouble.
这一战略失败后又与盐湖城的办事处关系破裂,这使得公司陷入困境,
Partners were leaving.
合伙人纷纷离去。
Mr Bower's Altman Weil helped with a scouring of excess costs.
Mr Bower的Altman Weil咨询公司帮助HRO削减不必要的开支,
A brutally honest conversation with the partners helped convince enough of them to stay to allow the firm to stabilise and survive.
十分坦诚地向合伙人阐明了公司的情况。这些努力挽留下足够的合伙人,稳定了事务所的状况,避免其走向破产。
It merged with Bryan Cave this year.
今年HRO与博凯律师事务所合并。
But Mr Miller points out that his firm did not take on big bank debts, as Dewey did.
与此同时Miller先生指出,HRO并未像杜威那样承担大量的银行债务。
According to the Wall Street Journal, the firm has until the end of April to negotiate the extension of a credit line.
华尔街日报称,直到四月底杜威才与银行协商扩大信用额度。
Dewey's lineage goes back a century. It may survive for another century, but only if its leaders act decisively in the coming weeks.
领导层必须在随后的几星期内果断采取行动,已经走过了一个世纪的杜威才可能走得更远。
Other firms watch not with glee but with nervousness, knowing that a short run of bad luck could put them on the same wobbly precipice.
其他律师事务所也紧张的关注着事态发展,他们无法幸灾乐祸,毕竟一次小小的不走运足以把他们也推向危机的边缘。

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