We’ve previously reported that Nixon Peabody was acquiring 60 ex-Thelen attorneys, but only Thelen refugees located in Manhattan.
But now it is looking like Nixon is picking up 90 ex-Thelen lawyers (partners and associates), former Thelen support staff, and tripling its presence in Silicon Valley.
Yesterday’s press release from Nixon reported:
The new attorneys are joining all four of Nixon Peabody’s departments: business, intellectual property, litigation, and real estate. The firm also plans to hire a number of associates and staff from Thelen to help support the new partners. With the addition of these new attorneys from Thelen in Silicon Valley, which will triple in size, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Shanghai, it is anticipated Nixon Peabody will have more than 825 attorneys worldwide in 19 cities.
After the jump, remember when Nixon and Thelen were supposed to merge?
The Recorder has published the people who will be in charge of winding down operations at Thelen:
The three members of Thelen’s dissolution committee are David Graybeal, Douglas Davidson and Thomas Hill. The firm has also hired as outside counsel Peter Gilhuly, the Latham & Watkins bankruptcy partner who advised Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison on its dissolution half a decade ago.
We already know that some Thelen people have found a new home. It’s been widely published that Nixon Peabody has sent offer letters to 60 former Thelen partners and associates.
But all of those offer letters were sent to attorneys in Thelen’s Manhattan office. San Francisco associates haven’t yet been picked up in droves. In fact, the New York focus of the dissolution committee members is causing some consternation with other partners at the firm:
Some former Thelen partners voiced frustration over Hill’s inclusion as a member of the wind-down committee.
Hill was in a position of “running the numbers” in his former role, one former Thelen lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “You would think that would be a reason to keep him off the committee.” People were not happy with the way Hill ran the office, the lawyer said, citing complaints that he didn’t consider other’s ideas and generally did not communicate.
Readers have cited Thelen’s expansion beyond their traditional San Francisco roots as part of the problem. Now, a cadre of non-San Francisco based partners will be overseeing the end.
[Ed Note: This post was written for ATL by "Heller Drone," who created the blog Heller Highwater in response to a lack of information concerning Heller Ehrman's dissolution. We asked Heller Drone for helpful advice to offer Thelen associates and staff. Good luck to everybody dealing with these difficult circumstances.]
Being capsized is often something quite jarring and comes upon you suddenly and painfully, say like food poisoning or an episode of The View. And despite the fact that you can see that iceberg in the distance, a soon-to-be ex-staffer of a BigLaw firm can’t always anticipate each and every wave that will buffet his or her lifeboat. Here are words of advice for our colleagues at Thelen and perhaps other firms which are in the process of dissolving:
You don’t necessarily need a blog but it is a nice way of communicating to a large group without hosting a website on your domain, etc. Blogging is a very “turnkey” operation and with platforms such as Blogger or WordPress or Typepad you can be on your way to your first post in less than five minutes. Any stressed and harried soon-to-be unemployed staffer can do it.
Besides a blog, set up some form of networking such as Facebook or better yet LinkedIn. This will allow former staffers to communicate with each other once the firm’s email system is offline.
Know Your Rights as an Employee
Do your research – and if you don’t know where to start enlist a paralegal or associate to assist. Realize that labor laws differ by state and this includes vacation accrual, how to file a wage claim, etc. Make sure you understand clearly anything you are being asked to sign and ask to make a copy of the document, take it home and review it first if possible. Do not sign any of your rights away during what can be a very emotionally trying time.
Thelen has officially announced they will dissolve.
According to the release, Thelen:
[B]reached a partner departure covenant that restricts the number of partners who may depart the firm within any twelve month period.
In other words, the bank pulled Thelen’s line of credit, much like they said was not going to happen.
Most disturbingly, Thelen apparently does not think it is obligated under federal regulations:
Although not necessarily required, Thelen is seeking to pay its employees 60 days salary under federal and state WARN Acts. The firm is also seeking to pay all accrued vacation pay. The response to date from the bank is that it will fund employee salary through Nov. 30, but will not pay accrued vacation pay. Both of these issues are still under discussion.
We’ll see how that flies in court, which is undoubtedly where this will end up.
After yesterday’s news that Thelen Chairman Stephen O’Neal was in talks to move to Howrey, the Thelen partnership met today.
That meeting is still ongoing, but early reports are that a partnership committee recommended dissolution to the full partnership.
The firm has been maintaining that they had a plan that would avoid dissolution ever since their proposed merger with Nixon Peabody fell through.
Update (5:05): As we understand it, Thelen has two different options from this point.
Option 1 is the plan they have arguably been pursuing: breaking up the firm practice group by practice group to interested parties. As we reported yesterday, this is the best option to save associate jobs. However, that plan is dependent on Thelen’s banks signing-off on the plan and maintaining their line of credit. Did Stephen O’Neal’s aggressive and ultimately public pursuit of his own lifeboat at Howrey scuttle that option? Once everybody is told that the managing partner could be leaving in ten days, why would other potential suitors compete for full Thelen practice groups? Instead, it’s easier to wait for an official dissolution and cherry-pick the rainmakers. This is what happened to Heller.
Option 2 is essentially what happened to Heller. If the full partnership accepts the recommendation and dissolves, this would likely trigger the WARN Act. As we know from the Heller situation, employees are entitled to 60 days notice. Many people predicted that Thelen would move to dissolve this week, last week one tipster told us that Thelen wanted to wrap up their operations before the end of the year. If true, that all but necessitates an official dissolution announcement this week. But, as Heller teaches us, just because you get 60-days warning doesn’t mean you get 60-days pay. We know that various Thelen associates were told that this type of dissolution was not going to happen. But … it appears to be happening.
We’ve spent the day collecting our Thelen rumors. This morning The Recorder reported that Thelen chairman Stephen O’Neal has been in talks to move to the D.C. firm Howrey. Apparently, he’s poised to take 30 attorneys with him.
The firm is set to hold an all partner meeting on Tuesday to discuss their options:
A much anticipated all-partner meeting is being held Tuesday, according to a Thelen partner, although the agenda hasn’t been made available to rank-and-file partners. The meeting had been set for last Thursday, but was rescheduled at the last minute.
“It’s certainly clear to us as industry observers that Thelen has reached a tipping point,” said William Nason, a recruiter with San Diego-based Watanabe Nason Schwartz & Lippman. “It’s amazing to us how quickly firms dissolve when they get to that point.”
Distinguishing Thelen from other dissolution targets after the jump.
If there are Thelen associates that are not actively trying to get another job, if there are “incoming” Thelen first years who are waiting for “concrete answers” from the firm: this is your last warning. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, just remember that your closest exit might be behind you.
This morning the Recorder sounded the latest alarm bell:
While Thelen is looking for firms willing to pick up various pieces, a core group may choose to stick together, and Thelen partners are meeting on a weekly basis to discuss their options, said the partner, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Nixon Peabody merger is off. All the white knights Pollyanna sees on the horizon are actually scavengers looking to pick up useful pieces.
More alarmist rhetoric and mixed metaphors after the jump.
I 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.
Bingham McCutchen plans to announce on Monday that four D.C. attorneys from Thelen are moving over: Partner Carl Valenstein — recently listed on Thelen’s Web site as a member of the firm’s partnership council — as well as partners Jerome Akman and David Vidal-Cordero, and senior counsel Rebecca Hartley.
I don’t know who any of those people are, but it’s safe to assume that the laws of “subtraction” still apply to Thelen. It’s not like Nixon (or anybody else) is going to merge with the Thelen associates. A book of business is very different from an active Facebook page.
At least Thelen is trying to get the word out that not all of their partners are up for sale:
Two Thelen partners made a point of showing solidarity with their firm Thursday afternoon.
[Michael] Hallerud said that he’s been with Thelen for more than 13 years and has “no interest in going anywhere,” adding that the San Francisco office is “a family place.”
Another partner, [John] Heisse, replied in an e-mail: “As I have told what seems to be every headhunter in the continental U.S., I have no intention of taking my practice to any other firm. If your article has the effect of stopping their calls, then I appreciate your help.”
It’s awesome that Mr. Heisse is in such great demand. But wouldn’t it be nice if he put in a good word for whatever mid-level has been doing his dirty work for the past few years? Something like:
Hey Mr. Recruiter for a firm with much more stable financials. I’m sticking with the date I came with, but you might want to call up Tippy Highflower whose a 6th year in our San Fran office. She’s great and a future star, and based on the bottle of Zoloft I just saw her eating for lunch, I bet she could use some reassurance about her future prospects.
Associates need lifeboats too. Sometimes just knowing that you have one can help you weather the storm.
If your firm is in ‘go’ mode when it comes to recruiting lateral partners with loyal clients, then take this quiz to see how well you measure up. Keep track of your ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.
1. Does your firm have a clearly defined strategy of practice groups that are priorities of growth for your office? Nothing gets done by random chance, but with a clear vision for the future. Identify the top practice areas for which you wish to add lateral partners. Seek input from practice group leaders and get specifics on needs, outcomes, and ideal target profiles.
2. In addition to clarifying your firm’s growth strategy, are you still open to the hire of a partner outside of your plan? I’ve made several placements that fit this category. The partner’s practice was not within the strategic growth plan of my client, but once the two parties started talking with each other, we all saw how it could indeed be a seamless fit. Be open to “Opportunistic Hires.” You never know where your next producing partner might come from, so you have to be open to it. I will be the first to admit that there is a quirky element of randomness in recruiting.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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