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Thacher Proffitt Announces Expected Dissolution

Posted Dec 22, 2008 8:30 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: Thacher Proffitt & Wood announced its expected dissolution Monday evening following news that the troubled law firm had lost about half its 200 lawyers to Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

"It is anticipated that Thacher Proffitt will discontinue the practice of law and will begin an orderly dissolution after December 31, 2008," the law firm said in a press release. "The partners who are departing for Sonnenschein will make every effort to make sure that client service is not interrupted. Thacher Proffitt will continue to operate for the purpose of winding down its business, including the collection of all amounts owed by clients."

The news followed a day of speculation and leaked information. Multiple sources told Above the Law that Thacher was dissolving and giving remaining lawyers and staffers the news in a series of meetings on Monday. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that a dissolution vote was likely to be held soon.

By mid-afternoon, an unnamed partner had told the AmLaw Daily that the Thacher firm would announce dissolution plans by Dec. 31.

Four practice groups and their chairs, including 40 partners, are making the move to Sonnenschein, according to its press release issued late Sunday evening. The groups are structured finance, corporate and financial institutions, real estate, and litigation and dispute resolution.

Thacher's loss is a coup for Sonnenschein. The addition of the 100 Thacher lawyers brings Sonnenschein's headcount to 800. The firm's goal is to reach the 1,000 lawyer mark.

Thacher had a troubled year. About 100 lawyers had already left the firm,and it was pursuing a merger with King & Spalding to stave off a dissolution. As the talks faltered, the firm offered its offices for lease, fueling speculation that the firm would not survive.

"For months, Thacher had tried and failed to convince King & Spalding to acquire the firm outright," recounts the AmLaw Daily post. "Discussions with the Atlanta-based firm to instead hire a chunk of its lawyers had plodded along for weeks. A deal to hire about 75 lawyers was close, but still not final, two sources at the firms say. With time running out for the 150-year-old firm, Thacher's lawyers began talking to others, including Sonnenschein."

Under federal law, Thacher employees are eligible for 60 days’ notice of any closure and continuing pay during that time, Above the Law reports. “Getting let go days before Christmas is only supposed to happen in the movies,” the blog says.

Corrected at 3:40 p.m. CT to change notice time requirement. Updated at 6 p.m. to include AmLaw Daily coverage and link to Blog of Legal Times post. Updated at 6:25 p.m. to include Thacher Proffitt press release.

Additional coverage:

Blog of Legal Times: "Sonnenschein Snags Thacher Lawyers"


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