Legal pundits have been musing over the arrest and indictments of the Chairman and three other managing attorneys for fraud against creditors in the demise of former power firm Dewey & LeBoeuf. Some have joked over whether uniformed officers marched in unison through the hallowed hallways of a magnificently silent law office, as four handcuffed attorneys are escorted away while astonished staff members gaze in disbelief. This is a rare occurrence indeed, but it sure brings back memories for me.

I was a young attorney barely out of school, and fortunate enough to land employment with one of Chicago's largest and most prestigious law firms. For a rural kid from Galesburg, this was an intimidating experience all by itself. Imagine the added anxiety when I was assigned the very small office located right next to the very large office occupied by the firm's managing partner. To him, I was a newbie who neither required nor warranted much of his time. We rarely interacted beyond an occasional "hello." I doubt that he even knew my name. Nevertheless, you can't help but make certain observations and conclusions about someone when you sit next door to him for 10-12 hours a day. I remember thinking that he didn't seem to be working very hard compared to the rest of us.

Then came a dramatic change. On an otherwise routine and normal workday, I looked up from my desk to the sound of Miranda rights being recited and the hustle and bustle of uniformed police officers carrying out an arrest. Imagine my astonishment to watch these officers quickly escort the firm's managing partner toward the elevators and out the door. Wow, I thought. I couldn't help myself. I jumped out of my chair and ran to the doorway. I saw three other esteemed leaders of our firm quietly observing from the shadows of the west corridor, supervising the entire procedure. The surrounding staff had been evacuated from their work stations. "Go back to work," one of them whispered to me, as the three senior attorneys slowly turned and faded down the hallway.

The publicly filed documents later made clear that the firm's former managing partner was charged with stealing money from the firm, and that's about all I can say. Since I witnessed the incarceration and held an office next to him, I was later informed of all the juicy details, but forced to sign a confidentiality agreement not to disclose them.

The interesting part of this story doesn't end with the incarceration of the firm's former leader. You see, no matter how good or bad he might have been, the departure of the firm's managing partner left a massive void in leadership that needed to be filled quickly. Several attorneys made clear that they wanted the job. The ultimate winner was a guy who had only recently joined the firm after spending some time in State Government in Springfield. His name was Governor James R. Thompson. There were a few outspoken attorneys who opposed him mainly because he had only recently joined the firm. Within six months, these outspoken opponents had all been "outsourced" themselves. Since that day, the heights to which Governor Thompson has led the firm of Winston & Strawn are legendary.

By the way, shortly after Governor Thompson was appointed Chairman of my firm, there was a re-assignment of offices. You guessed it – I was assigned to a very small office located next to the very large office occupied by the firm's new managing partner. Those stories must wait for another day.

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VanFleet Law Offices

The VanFleet Law Firm has a strong history in Commercial Litigation, Banking Law and General Business Law matters. Founded by Joseph VanFleet in 1998, the practice has grown and flourished over the years thanks to the talent, expertise and tenacity of the VanFleet legal team. Today, it provides counsel to a broad range of local, regional, national and international clients.

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