The Blog

Odds and Ends

Howrey's demise, more deals and steals at Borders, and the quest for the perfect bourbon.

6:25 PM, Mar 22, 2011 • By VICTORINO MATUS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Last week, the partners at Howrey, LLP, voted to dissolve the 55-year-old firm. Most of the top brass have already been snatched up by other firms like Winston & Strawn and Baker Botts. Those who have yet to find new jobs will supposedly be paid until May 9. (Yet eerily, the firm's website is still up, still looking like it's open for business, listing partners in London and elsewhere who have long since fled, still looking like the firm that once pulled in more than half a billion dollars a year.)

Howrey CEO Bob Ruyak explained to the Wall Street Journal how and why the firm disintegrated (the steep decline in contingency fees, competition, and the resulting mass exodus of talent). The Washingon Post's Steve Pearlstein offers his own postmortem:

Howrey, however, was not a strong partnership. Over the past 20 years, it had more than tripled in size by luring away lawyers from other firms and setting them up in offices that had little traffic with each other, or with the lawyers back in Washington. For the most part, these were lawyers willing to switch firms because of the prospect of earning more money and attracting more clients, and for many years, it worked out just that way. But then, suddenly, it didn’t, for one year and then a second, without any clear indication of when or whether things would finally turn around. And it was then, by last autumn, that it began to be clear that the personal roots were not deep enough, the bonds of loyalty not strong enough, to hold Howrey together.

The Legal Times blog reports that the mood is "tense—but mostly very sad.... There’s no ceremony to mark the firm’s demise, although [spokeswoman Chris Till] said employees are gathering for an informal, low-key get together this afternoon."

Meanwhile at the soon-to-be-shuttered Borders at 18th & L, I found a few more bargains: Susan Boyle: The Woman I Was Born to Be was $29.95 but with a 30 percent discount can be had for only $21. David Archuleta's eponymous album is also on sale, previously priced at $18.99 but now $13.30. Yes, it was once on sale for $18.99.

I joke but, in fact, I did walk away with two items from the super-deal section in the rear of the main floor near the biography shelf—a dense pictorial history of modern military aircraft went for $6.99 (perfect for my son) and an even cheaper DK book on golf tips (probably useless for the father). There were also a few copies left of a history of weapons, priced similarly around $6.99.

A reader recently wrote in, regarding my mention of another reader who tried to hide a book until he could get it for 40 percent off (the book was gone when he returned). Here is what this person writes:

"How nice. It is because of cheapskates and conniving, dishonest, greedy customers like this that Borders stores are closing and I am out of a job. I will make it my business in the few days I may have left to recover all such 'hidden' merchandise and place it where the original 'hider' will never find it."

When I asked one of the cashiers if the store would still be open next week, he assured me it would be at least until April. "Is that next week?" he then asked.

Also, the cafe is now closed.

Now for some good news: Washington Post spirits columnist Jason Wilson asks if there is such a thing as perfect bourbon. Buffalo Trace has apparently been working on one:

Last summer in New Orleans, Mark Brown, the president of the Sazerac Co., which owns Buffalo Trace, gave a presentation on Project Holy Grail to a group of journalists. He told us that project workers had already identified 15 variables in whiskeymaking, which can lead to millions of outcomes. They had isolated 125 of the more than 300 chemicals in bourbon. They had rated all locations in Buffalo Trace’s vast rickhouses, where its barrels age for decades at a time, for quality.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers