Highlights Thelen LLP
History: 2 big firms = 1 bigger firm
In 1935 Reid & Priest was formed when in-house counsel from Electric Bond and Share Company (Ebasco) formed a firm in New York City to serve public utility clients. Early practice focused on restructurings, both domestic and international. Reid & Priest then grew into a firm well-regarded for its expertise in energy and utility law, finance and corporate transactions. Among the first ever to do so, the firm established a Washington, DC office in 1948.
In 1924 Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges formed in San Francisco to serve a wide range of construction projects in the growing West, including the Boulder Dam Project, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge. In modern times, the firm's highly respected practice in California came to focus not only on construction but also commercial and technology litigation.
In July 1998, the two firms officially merged, thereby completing, according to the firm, "the largest bi-coastal law firm merger in history." Now Thelen offers seven offices. Rumors are also flying that Thelen is shopping around for merger partners in the UK. Nationally, the firm boasts practice expertise in over twenty areas.
Thelen associates say the firm offers a high level of job satisfaction. Another raves that "this is a great place to work, and it seems to be growing every day." A New York associate tells Vault.com that the "firm is still growing" and associates should "get in now."
Recent statistics leave little doubt that this advice is being heeded. With offers of full-time employment made to 1999 summer associates at close to 100 percent, acceptance rates were similarly near the 100 percent mark.
One reason Thelen's associates are so content is that the firm grants them a rare level of autonomy. Insiders report that the firm's compensation structure gives associates the flexibility to choose whether to burn the midnight oil and make the big bucks or to get home in time to watch prime time TV. In the words of a Thelen associate, "you have some control over your own destiny."
Merging was so much fun they want to do it again
The formation of Thelen Reid & Priest in 1998 has been referred to as a model of a successful merger. So it should be no surprise that it continues to acquire firms that give it footholds into other regions nationwide.
Los Angeles has been the site of steady but significant expansion. From 1996 to 2000, over 25 attorneys have joined the L.A. office's labor and litigation-focused practice, recently offering further variety in such areas as white-collar crime and corporate & securities litigation. June 2000 saw the announcement that Thelen Reid & Priest would expand its high tech practice by acquiring San Francisco technology firm Britton Silberman & Cervantez, lauded in The Recorder as "the SoMa hightech community's choice for venture funding, corporate licensing and IP work."
Of his well-regarded high tech firm's merger with Thelen, former BSC managing partner, Gil Silberman remarked, "What stood out about Thelen Reid & Priest above other big names in the field is that they are a very solid, well-run firm?Their own clients speak very highly of them, which is no small thing these days."
You can have friends at work, friends outside of work - and see them both
Although the firm has offices on each coast and origins in two entirely separate law firms, most insiders say the culture on each coast is fairly similar - "laid-back," "relaxed," and "comfortable." That "laid-back" and "relaxed" atmosphere translates into a happy social life for many at Thelen Reid lawyers. "People seem to get along very well at work" - "during the work day it is VERY friendly and there are always people willing to go out for drinks on a Thursday or Friday."
But while the associates get along, everyone understands that when the workday ends, some just need to get away. Says one corporate attorney, "People have 'work friends' and 'real friends.' Luckily at Thelen we can see both." Explains another: "The firm respects our time and our other priorities."
This is not to say the firm does not try to get its associates together socially. Associates in New York tell Vault.com that the firm sometimes sponsors "associate-only bar nights" at Big Apple hot spots. In San Francisco, an office "fun committee" has hosted everything from an all-firm bowling night to a citywide scavenger hunt.
Horsepower, power tools and people power
Thelen Reid & Priest is nothing short of an energy powerhouse. The firm's energy and utility practice group is over 60 attorneys strong and represents more than 100 energy utility clients on a wide range of business matters. In addition to representing large utilities, the firm also represents a variety of independent power project developers and has expertise in a host of energy-related transactions.
In May 2000, the firm announced its acquisition of the public utility & finance practice from Berlack, Israels & Liberman. The addition cemented Thelen Reid's energy, utility & infrastructure practice as a world-class group capable of competing with the largest of international law firms.
Complementary to these strengths, Thelen Reid might have the preeminent construction and government contracts practice in the field. Whether you want to build a skyscraper or a bridge, Thelen Reid is there to help from project initiation to dispute resolution. With over 50 attorneys specializing in construction alone, the firm possesses the expertise and depth to handle construction matters in any part of the world. Moreover, the firm has utilized its technological savvy to develop a "portal," at www.constructionweblinks.com. The portal has become an industry resource, providing links to a variety of sites and information for those interested in construction.
Thelen Reid also boasts one of the largest full-service labor and employment practices in the country with over 60 attorneys in each of the firm's five largest offices. The group represents clients in wrongful discharge, discrimination, compensation, and labor organization disputes. Thelen also counsels employers on fighting unionization, collective bargaining, and compensation, among many other matters.
Partners who will treat you like a human
"The number one reason I am here," says one New York first-year, "is the high level of respect partners have for the associates." That attorney is not alone, as numerous associates uniformly praise Thelen Reid partners. "Doors are always open and all questions are answered with respect," says an associate. "All of the partners I have worked with are great," raves another.
A comfortable atmosphere
Most associates at Thelen Reid are impressed by their firm's efforts to recruit and retain women practitioners, mentioning the firm's "women's forum which keeps the partners up to date on issues that are important to women." Associates also agree that the firm has a welcoming atmosphere. "Thelen has a great environment for an ethnically diverse workplace. We are not a good old boy, backslappin' firm. Quite the opposite." Another points to the firm's "diversity committee, which is devoted to increasing diversity at the firm." The firm's treatment of gays and lesbians receives high marks across the board. "The firm has been nothing but supportive to me and to other G/L associates," remarks an insider.
Training on the up and up
New York insiders tell us that "excellent programs [are] in place and [an] effort is made" to improve on the firm's strong training. High marks are given to the "patient and very helpful" partners and senior associates who will "go out of their way to teach younger associates." One associate observes that partners will "give you a lot of responsibility if you want it."
Junior litigators at Thelen Reid are involved in learn-by-doing workshops that focus on discovery, motion practice, depositions, oral advocacy and ADR. Training for junior transactional attorneys spans a variety of the firm's practice areas and is done through a twelve-unit, bi-weekly lecture series that runs from November through June. Topics range from corporate governance/choice of entity, financial statements/basic accounting and UCC secured loans to equipment leases, employee benefits and intro to the stock exchanges & Nasdaq.
Better hours than other firms in the market
As with any firm in the booming New York and San Francisco legal market, Thelen Reid associates are busy, busy, busy but claim that their lives are a notch or two better than that of their friends. The "work load can vary greatly from week to week," associates tell Vault.com. And those in San Francisco claim that among comparable firms they have the lowest average hours in the city. "For the New York market, it is certainly livable," Big Apple associates claim. A tax associate in New York explains that even an ambitious attorney can work reasonable hours.