Four lawyers are set to guide Thelen's wind-down.
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.
While the dissolution vote is ongoing, there is little doubt that the partnership will accept management's recommendation to shut down the firm by Dec. 1.
"We're already planning and, to the degree necessary, implementing many details of what's involved in a wind-down of a very major law practice," Davidson said. That includes handling client matters or transferring them to new firms and helping staff and young attorneys relocate -- the first order of business, he said.
"Once the partnership approves the recommendation, then the committee will be officially constituted. In the meantime, we are operating as a committee in managing the process, which has essentially begun, of people preparing to transition out of the firm," said Davidson, who joined Thelen Reid & Priest in New York eight years ago. He is the co-chairman of the corporate and securities practice and managing partner of the New York office.
Thelen management met with partners, associates and staff in separate meetings on Tuesday to announce its recommendation that the partnership vote to dissolve. The seven-day vote was opened shortly after the partner meeting.
Gilhuly, the Los Angeles Latham partner hired to advise Thelen, said he could not comment. Graybeal, citing a heavy workload, would not comment. Hill did not return e-mails or a voice message left Wednesday and Thursday.
None of the three dissolution committee members are based in San Francisco.
Graybeal, a longtime New York partner, has headed the firm's compensation committee for several years, a former partner said. Graybeal is a co-chairman of Thelen's business and finance practice and ran for vice chairman of the firm in 2003 and again in 2005, when Stephen O'Neal was elected chairman. In 2003, Graybeal lost against Mark Weitzel, who this summer took a lucrative practice with three other partners to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.
Hill is the managing partner of operations at Thelen. He and O'Neal make up the "office of the chair," which until last month also included former firm co-Chairman Julian Millstein, who joined Thelen through its 2006 merger with Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner. Millstein stepped down in mid-September to lead the firm's technology and sourcing practice, a position left vacant by a previous partner departure.
Hill shares a practice with labor and employment Chairwoman Linda Husar, another Los Angeles partner, and the two are said to split a book worth between $5 million and $10 million, according to September interviews with recruiters, former lawyers and competitors.
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.
However, the composition of a dissolution committee carries little importance, said L. William Nason, a recruiter with San Diego-based Watanabe Nason Schwartz & Lippman.
"I don't know ultimately that it matters that much who's on the wind-down committee. As long as almost everyone lands upright with good, solid firms, ultimately everyone will have forgotten about this six months from now," he said.
"Most of the wind-down in law firms are largely pro forma issues," Nason added. "Generally, there's not a ton of line items that need to be debated."
Reporter Petra Pasternak contributed to this story.