For any legal folks who were MIA on Friday, Marc Dreier, sole equity partner for Dreier LLP and all of its affiliates, was arrested for impersonating an Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan attorney in a sham business transaction. Here’s the best recap of the scenario that I have found, Dreier Law Firm on the Brink After Founder’s Arrest.

Then there are the rumors of an inevitable dissolution, that there is no money for payroll, Blackberry’s will be turned off on today, and the empty escrow accounts.

Not a great way to begin the holiday season.

On Friday, little did the staff know that while they were preparing for their holiday party at the Waldorf, looking forward to receiving their bonuses, and feeling pretty darn lucky to have a stable and secure job in an insecure economy, their worlds were about to come crushing down.

The loss of the Dreier firm is shocking for all those who work there, but it is also tragic for all of us who looked to their business model as a possible alternative to the mind & grind models to which we are all accustomed.

After I left big law, I spent a long time interviewing around for the “right” firm for me. Dreier’s LA office was on my short list. They were just starting out, still in the construction phase of the build out. It was pretty exciting. They had an alternative billing structure: Partners could bill what they wanted, as long as they met their financial obligations to the firm. No more pushing a partner out the door because he or she couldn’t get $700-$800 an hour. They could set the rate that was right for them and their client base. No minimum billing requirements for associates. Why should they get penalized or punished if the didn’t have work? Wasn’t it the responsibility of the partners to pass it down?

There was an excitement in the air at the firm. The partners and associates were energized. The staff was ecstatic. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

For the past couple years I’ve been watching the firm grow, be successful, grow some more. They were getting great press. Great laterals. Grow. Grow. Grow. The alternative model was working.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get that job.

But my good friend did. And I was excited for her.

And the sister-in-law of one of my guests at my daughter’s birthday party just started working there. And the husband of one of my favorite peeps is a partner there. And the COO who interviewed me was a really, really nice guy.

And now it looks like it will be gone, just like that.

Unlike those who are getting laid off here and there, which are tragic stories in and of themselves, the Dreier folks will not receive 2-week’s notice. They have no final paychecks. Who knows when, or if, they will get their sick-time and vacation-time paid out.

And then I think, “How many of these partners will be willing to take a risk again on an alternative business plan?” How many will simply return to the safety of mind & grind or “eat what you kill”?

I know that groups of partners will hang their shingles out today and they will be fine, once the shock wears off. So now I turn my focus to the the secretaries, tech geeks, associates, receptionists & office services, HR and marketing professionals. Will they have a job today? With benefits??

What we can do.
I just hope that everyone reading this can take a moment today and reach out to your friends and colleagues at Dreier. Do what you can to support their job hunting efforts.

I’ve already reached out to my friend, passing along job leads for her and her staff. And for those who haven’t looked for a job in the past year, I highly suggest that they read You updated your resume … now what??