It would hardly be an overstatement to say that the 2008 debacle of Wall Street hit the world of BigLaw like a tsunami. In October of that year, Thelen’s management — which was already on its last legs after its ill-fated acquisition of Brown Raysman only one year earlier — began parcelling out entire sections of their firm. At the same time Heller Ehrman, whose partners had voted to dissolve on September 26, was closing its cafeterias and starting to remove coffee machines from its numerous offices nationwide. Like falling dominoes, one firm after another began throwing as much baggage overboard as possible in seeming desperation. By the end of the month, Katten had laid off 21 attorneys, Sonnenschein 24 and Clifford Chance 20. Even firm captains were jumping ship. Thacher Proffitt’s Vice Chairman lateralled to Greenberg Traurig and Thelen’s Chairman was reported to be in talks to join Howrey. Firms across the board were scaling back and in some cases eliminating their summer programs outright, forcing law students everywhere to consider debt forgiveness programs and alternative careers even before graduation.
In the midst of all this dissolution hoopla, we would be remiss not to mention Brown Raysman, the once thriving New York start up that was swallowed up by soon-to-be former Thelen management in the latter’s last ditch effort to salvage their Titanic. So at least we know what Thelen was thinking. But what about Brown Raysman? No one ever placed them in the desperate category pre the ill-fated merger.
Over the last month we have seen venerable Heller dissolve and predict Thacher Proffitt and Thelen are not far behind; relentless attorney hemorrhaging at these firms has already reached the top ranks with Thacher’s Vice Chairman joining Greenberg Traurig and Thelen’s Chairman reportedly in lateral discussions with Howrey.