Thelen Cuts 26 Associates, 85 Staffers

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Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner has confirmed it will lay off 26 associates and 85 members of its support staff.

Co-chairman Stephen O’Neal told the Recorder and Above the Law that the associate layoffs are in response to the economic downturn, which has cut into its capital markets practice. He also said some of the staff cuts were partly because of redundancies following the firm’s 2006 merger, which combined Francisco-based Thelen Reid & Priest and New York-based Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner.

“We are being prudent businesspeople,” O’Neal told Above the Law. “When you are dealing with recessionary pressures, you adjust your business so you will have—and maintain—a strong level of profitability, notwithstanding those pressures.”

At least one associate has been cut in each of the firm’s nine offices. Both junior and senior-level associates are being laid off, mostly in the firm’s business and finance, litigation and construction practices.

The firm is also cutting the length of its summer associate program from 11 to eight weeks and is pushing back the start date for new associates from September to January, the Recorder story says.

Above the Law asked O’Neal if severance packages were the standard three to four months of pay, and he replied the firm is “in that ballpark.” Later, a source told the blog that severance packages were in the two- to three-month range.

While some practice groups have been hit by the economic downturn, others are thriving, O’Neal said. Areas doing well include renewable energies, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, the China practice, litigation, and bankruptcy.

“We are anticipating a profitable 2008,” O’Neal told Above the Law.

Law firm consultant Peter Zeughauser told the Recorder that this won’t be the last law firm to cut lawyers, and some may cut partners as well as associates. “There’s no question about it—you’re going to see other layoffs,” he said.

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