Thelen LLP new logo.jpgI don’t believe everything I read on ATL’s comment boards, but often accurate information is posted by our readers. Monday, we told you that Pillsbury had acquired Thelen’s China practice group. One reader said:

Look for construction partners to start jumping ship by next week. You heard it here first.

The only thing wrong about that statement was the timing. Pillsbury released the following statement announcing additional new hires:

Michael Evan Jaffe and Ronan J. McHugh, two construction litigators from Thelen LLP, have joined Pillsbury’s Washington, DC office as partner and counsel respectively, advancing the firm’s ongoing expansion of its national litigation and international dispute practices.

In fact, Pillsbury seems quite proud about scavenging Thelen:

Jaffe and McHugh are the latest attorneys from Thelen to join Pillsbury’s litigation team. Earlier this week, it was announced that Shanghai litigation partner Meg Utterback, was joining the firm as part of Pillsbury’s acquisition of Thelen’s China practice.

How many cherries can Thelen lose before somebody chops them down for firewood?

Other (potentially prescient) commenters weigh in after the jump.


The future of Thelen seems to be tied to whether they can pull off a merger. We’ve reported that Thelen has been in talks with Nixon, but that was a long time ago. Many commenters have lost faith in the Nixon-as-white-knight scenario:

Nixon Thelen as a merger is off. Nixon may cherry-pick though. …

Nixon is off unless they get past a major conflicts issues. Could be back on if conflicts are resolved. Thelen is resuming talks with two other unnamed firms, likely Bryan Cave and ???????

— Thelen insider

Most people agreed that the loss of the China practice was a big blow to Thelen:

When its other partners were departing, Thelen management tried to reassure the firm and the market by touting its remaining practices, including the China practice. Now, faced with the departure of the China group, suddenly it is described as a low margin headache. Which is it? Either the China group was worth something, and Thelen took a hit when they left, or the China group was worth nothing and Thelen management was lying when they bragged about having them after the other partner departures. Thelen has lost all credibility. The smartest thing they can do is admit their problems, and look to be acquired piecemeal by other firms (which is already happening now). Dissolution is almost a given now.

But the loss of these two construction partners could really be the beginning of the end:

Thelen, as in legacy TMJB, will never dissolve so long as its construction practice stays together, and the latter has no reason not to, for a hole host of cultural, economic, historical reasons. The business model of TMJB had always been a constellatin of minor practices revolving around the nucleus of its construction practice, and it has worked fine for a century.

Right now, all the news coming out of Thelen is bad. If there is one thing that the Heller experience is teaching us, people should at least be prepared for the worst case scenario. You want to have a chair if the music suddenly stops.

DC Litigators Michael Evan Jaffe and Ronan J. McHugh Join Pillsbury [Pillsbury]

Earlier: Is Thelen Next?

Prior ATL coverage of Thelen.


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