In the fall of 2008, just before the economy collapsed, Nixon Peabody scooped close to 100 lawyers from the wreckage of the Thelen firm, half of them in California.

It was a bulk deal, and the smart money at the time was skeptical. While the group included rainmakers like labor and employment partners Robert Dolinko and Michael Hallerud, business litigator Gregory O’Hara and asbestos litigator Jennifer Kuenster, it also included many others with small to nonexistent books, lawyers and recruiters said then. Most lawyers from Thelen’s preeminent practice, construction litigation, had gone to Howrey.