Thelen Reid & Priest

Isn’t Jewel v. Boxer a great case name? Doesn’t it sound like one of the classics of the 1L curriculum, right up there with Pierson v. Post, Hawkins v. McGee, and International Shoe?

It is definitely a case that lawyers ought to know. This appellate decision, handed down by a California court in 1984, remains the leading case on how to divvy up attorneys’ fees generated by cases that were still in progress at the time of a law firm’s dissolution. Dewey care about this case? Absolutely.

But Jewel might not maintain its status as the key precedent on so-called “unfinished business,” at least if one judge has anything to say about it. Check out an interesting ruling that just came down from the Southern District of New York, arising out of one of the biggest Biglaw bankruptcies of recent years….

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I’ve watched Dewey’s collapse only from a distance, as have most lawyers. And I’m no student of law firm finances or management. But this struck me as I read the news:

Dewey: 2012.
Howrey: 2011.
Thelen: 2009.
Heller: 2008.
Coudert: 2006.
Brobeck: 2003.

And I’m probably overlooking other recent collapses of prominent firms, since I cobbled together that list from the names that came to mind unprompted.

This history suggests that another large, well-respected firm will collapse next year, and it’s a near certainty that a firm will collapse within the next two years. Who will it be?

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He was clearly the salesman-in-chief, and he did a darn good job at it. I remember being told that despite the fact that the economy was essentially collapsing around everyone’s heads, 2008 was going to come in well over budget with record revenues and profits.

Andrew Ness, former managing partner of the D.C. office of Thelen LLP, commenting to Washingtonian magazine about former Howrey chairman Robert Ruyak, the poetry-writing power lawyer who lured Ness and his Thelen colleagues over to Howrey.
(Ness is now a Jones Day partner.)

(Additional excerpts from and discussion of Marisa Kashino’s interesting article, A Tale of Two Law Firms: Hogan & Hartson and Howrey, after the jump.)

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Yesterday we reported on talks last week between Jones Day and key partners in the construction group of Howrey. It appears that the talks have borne fruit.

As reported yesterday by the Daily Journal (subscription), a group of seven Howrey partners — led by prominent construction lawyer Steve O’Neal, former chairman of the now-defunct Thelen law firm — left Howrey this week for Jones Day. The move was confirmed yesterday by Robert Mittelstaedt, the partner in charge of Jones Day’s San Francisco office.

Who are the departing construction-law partners? And which other partners might be leaving Howrey’s California offices?

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After all, there are fewer partners for Howrey to lose with each passing day, as the Howrey lawyer diaspora continues to grow. Let’s review the recent activity — and discuss some possible future defections.

On Friday we reported that IP litigator Mark Whitaker would be joining Baker Botts. That news has now been publicly announced.

Back on February 4, we mentioned that government contracts lawyer Barbara Werther was leaving Howrey, most likely for Ober|Kaler. She’s now on the Ober|Kaler website (although the firm apparently didn’t issue a press release touting her arrival, as it did for two first-year associates).

UPDATE: Just this morning, Ober|Kaler issued a press release on Werther and insurance coverage litigator Stephen Palley (who also joined from Howrey).

UPDATE (4/5/11): All in all, five Howrey construction lawyers joined Ober|Kaler.

Other outlets have noted additional partner departures. K.T. “Sunny” Cherian, described by The Recorder as a “top IP litigation rainmaker” with a book of business worth more than $10 million, joined the San Francisco office of Hogan Lovells this past weekend. Four other partners will join him in soaking up the Ho-Love: John Hamann, Sarah Jalali, Constance Ramos, and Scott Wales (who had been the hiring partner for Howrey’s S.F. office).

Also in S.F., Pillsbury Winthrop picked up IP partner Duane Mathiowetz. The news was reported by the Daily Journal (subscription), which noted that Mathiowetz, who worked as a mechanical engineer for a decade before going into law, has taken five patent cases to trial in the past five years (winning four).

Who might be the next to leave Howrey? Here’s some speculation….

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It’s clear that Winston & Strawn isn’t happy about all the publicity it’s getting over Jonathan Bristol, the Winston partner — or former partner? — who has gotten entangled with Kenneth Starr

In case you haven’t been following the case of Kenneth Starr — not the one who brought us the delectable Starr Report, but the one who managed money for celebrity clients and now stands accused of a $30 million investment fraud — Jonathan Bristol did legal work for Starr. Bristol is referred to in the criminal complaint as “Associate-4″ — not as catchy as “Client No. 9,” but it’ll do.

Since the Starr story broke, Winston has refused to comment on the case or to clarify Bristol’s current status at the firm. On the latter subject, there are conflicting reports:

Bristol is a Winston & Strawn partner who arrived at the firm from the now-defunct Thelen. Bristol is not charged with any crime and faces no civil charges. But he appears to be gone from Winston, though firm higher-ups and a spokesman will not comment publicly on Bristol’s status. Two sources familiar with the matter say Bristol is indeed gone from Winston, though one source close to the case insists that Winston did not terminate Bristol.

Regardless of whether he’s still connected to the firm, Jonathan Bristol is definitely gone from the Winston website. As in really, truly gone.

Last week, Winston removed Bristol’s bio from the firm website. But that’s not all. Winston went to the trouble of taking the November 2008 press release touting Jonathan Bristol’s arrival at the firm (along with several other Thelen lawyers), revising it to omit any mention of Bristol, and then putting it back on the firm website….

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Thelen LLP new logo.jpgFormer Thelen associates might still be scrambling to pick up the pieces of their aborted legal careers, but former Thelen partners continue to land on their feet. The latest partner refugee is an All-Star. Richard Raysman (of what used to be known as Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner) has ended up at Holland & Knight.

Raysman left Thelen in August for Otterbourg Steindler. He got out before Thelen collapsed. Not surprisingly, Holland & Knight’s announcement downplays Raysman’s connection to his defunct former firm:

After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and receiving his J.D., from Brooklyn Law School while working at IBM as a systems engineer, Raysman founded the firm of Brown, Raysman, Millstein, Felder & Steiner which grew to 250 attorneys. The Brown Raysman firm was the first significant firm to focus on computer law. Raysman was among the first lawyers to recognize that the practice of law in the area of computers would be increasingly important as digital technology spread through commercial enterprises.

But ex-Thelen employees still remember My. Raysman. Remember, earlier this month former Thelen employees were granted class status to pursue claims against Thelen. Their lawyer has indicated a willingness to go after former partners of the firm.

But clients probably won’t care about Raysman’s connection with the unfortunate events surrounding Thelen. He’s a leading lawyer in an important field. We’re sure Holland & Knight will be thrilled by the extra rain.

Check out the full press release after the jump.

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Thelen LLP new logo.jpgThelen dissolved, not that long ago. But some former employees claim that they did not get sufficient notice under the WARN act. Those employees are now allowed to pursue remedies as a certified class:

Lawyers and staff for the now-defunct firm Thelen have won class certification of their suit claiming the firm failed to give federally required 60 days notice that it would close its doors….

Thelen stipulated to class certification, a move praised by Steven A. Blum, who represents former Thelen employees.

Congratulations guys. Good luck getting blood out of a rock.

Of course, there are people affiliated with Thelen that still have money, and the lawyer representing former Thelen employees intends to go after those deep pockets, regardless of where they practice now:

Asked if sufficient funds exist for a recovery, Blum said, “From one source or another there should be a substantial recovery. From Thelen itself there are banks to contend with first and we may have to go to other sources in addition to Thelen to get maximum compensation.”

He said those other sources would include “other law firms that have taken large groups of Thelen partners and discarded the employees.”

Interesting. Nixon Peabody picked up 90 Thelen attorneys. Any chance that former Thelen partners now at Nixon will disgorge profits to this new class of former employees?

Ex-Thelen Lawyers Granted Class Certification [ABA Journal]

Judge approves class certification of suit filed by employees of shuttered Thelen [National Law Journal]

Earlier: Thelen Officially Dissolves

Nixon Peabody Picks Up 90 Thelen Attorneys (This is Different From a Merger How?)

Muskasey alert and talking.JPG* Mukasey is going to be okay. He’s telling jokes and talking to the President. A GW doctor said “”The attorney general is conscious, conversant and alert.” [CNN]

* Do you feel sorry for sex offenders? The California 4th district court does. They ruled that Jessica’s law, a law that prohibits sex offenders from living within 2,000 feel of a school or park constitutes “banishment under another name.” [San Francisco Chronicle]

* “A U.S.-triggered spate of global carmaker-bailout proposals may spark trade disputes over whether the Americans are unfairly trying to subsidize their industry or just making up for state aid foreign rivals already enjoy.”[Bloomberg]

* Meanwhile, the EU’s antittrust chief says the EU should resist an auto-industry bailout. [Bloomberg]

* On Thursday, a federal judge ordered the release of five Algerian prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [Los Angeles Times]

* If you’ve been following Proposition 8, you may want to watch an upcoming gay marriage case that will be coming before the Iowa Supreme Court. [Iowa City Press Citizen]

Robinson cole logo.JPGThelen attorneys in NYC and Hartford have a new landing spot. Robinson & Cole picked up 30 displaced Thelen attorneys. According to the Connecticut Law Tribune:

The move adds heft to Robinson & Cole’s construction, real estate, employment and finance practice groups, among others.

“It’s a smart move and good pick-up,” said Connecticut-based law firm consultant Peter Giuliani, but not one that challenges Day Pitney’s status as the leading law firm in the state.

Of course, the Robinson & Cole press release shows no signs of Pitney envy:

The addition of these accomplished attorneys to Robinson & Cole speaks to our strength as a regional firm and will add considerable value to expansion of our New York City office, expansion of our intellectual property practice, and the addition of a prominent construction practice, all goals of the firm’s strategic plan,” said Robinson & Cole’s managing partner, Eric D. Daniels.

Meanwhile, back at the artist formerly known as Thelen, the situation continues to be fluid and confusing:

“At this point it is every group for themselves and not a coordinated top-down plan,” said San Francisco-based Thelen spokesman Kevin Livingston. “Thelen really doesn’t exist anymore. I barely know what is going on in San Francisco.”

Heller Drone comes to the rescue of a disorganized Thelen response, after the jump.

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