Myerson & Kuhn

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Myerson & Kuhn was a New York-based law firm that operated from 1988-1990. It was formed by name partners Bowie Kuhn and Harvey D. Myerson, former partner in the defunct Finley, Kumble, Wagner, Underberg, Manley, Myerson & Casey who brought some 80 attorneys with him from the unraveling firm.[1] The new firm benefited from the arrival of former Finley, Kumble partners who brought such clients as Donald Trump, Lehman Brothers, Teleflex, Inc. and ConAgra. In 1989, the firm launched in Los Angeles with a group of 18 lawyers who defected from Shea & Gould.[2] The firm suffered a spectacular collapse in December 1989 amid discord with its biggest client, Shearson Lehman Hutton, predecessor to Lehman Brothers over the alleged padding of legal bills, and mounting debts of over $11 million. Named partner Bowie Kuhn fled to Florida as creditors sought to hold him personally liable for up to $3 million in firm debts. When the press and his creditors finally found him in Northern Florida, Kuhn told the New York Times, “My multiple great-grandfather Dr. William Worthington was the first Governor of this section of Florida after it was acquired from Spain in 1819.”[3] Harvey Myerson, first given the moniker “Heavy Hitter Harvey” for his litigation acumen was later given the nickname in the legal press, “Agent Orange of the legal profession″ due to his extravagant tastes and unfulfilled ambitions which drove his firm into the ground financially. For example, guests at the launch party for the firm each received a Cartier SA crystal apple with gold leaves and stem engraved with a quote from the Wall Street Journal remarking on the formation of the firm, 'A New Legal Powerhouse is Rising.' Though Myerson dreamt of relaunching a legal practice, he was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for tax fraud and defrauding clients.[4]


Myerson & Kuhn in many ways epitomized the excess of the 1980s financial market that percolated into the legal sector transforming it from a staid, white shoe profession characterized by genteel mostly WASP attorneys that shunned work such as hostile takeovers and bankruptcy into a dynamic 'business' sector where profitability rather than collegiality was the most salient barometer of success. The 1980s saw a number of old line law firms collapse, including Lord Day & Lord. Firms such as Myerson & Kuhn and Finley Kumble were organized along different models, aggressively pursuing national expansion (and in some cases, international expansion) and plunging into the debt-fueled corporate transactions, including junk bond deals underwritten by Drexel Burnham Lambert. Today's legal powerhouse, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom emerged at the same period with a reputation for being retained by corporate raiders waging proxy wars and other transactions, including bankruptcy (though it was founded earlier, in 1948). Skadden Arps was also the bankruptcy counsel for Finley Kumble. Latham & Watkins also aggressively entered the high-yield (junk bond) and leveraged finance legal markets and served as primary outside counsel for Drexel.

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  1. ^ E.R. Shipp, "Myerson & Kuhn Arises From Finley, Kumble," The New York Times, January 6, 1988, D1.
  2. ^ Stephen Labaton, '18 Lawyers Defecting From Shea & Gould,' The New York Times, March 7, 1989, D2.
  3. ^ David Margolick, 'Bowie Kuhn Is Said to Be In Hiding,' The New York Times, February 9, 1990, D1.
  4. ^ Arnold Lubasch, 'Lawyer Convicted of Defrauding Clients,' The New York Times, April 30, 1992, B3.