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A marriage between Thelen Reid & Priest and Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner is becoming a distinct possibility, and an agreement could be announced later this summer, according to sources at both firms. The two firms have been talking for at least three months and one Brown Raysman source characterized the discussions as “advanced.” The firms have shared financial information, although they haven’t yet approached rank-and-file partners or signed a letter of intent, the sources said. Peter Brown, name partner at Brown Raysman, acknowledged the talks Thursday, but he minimized their importance. Talks with Thelen “are not at an advanced stage,” he said. “There have been some talks, but we have also had talks with other firms.” In fact, Brown said his firm has spoken about possible mergers with eight law firms over the past two years. “How many times have you dated people and not married them?” he asked. Meanwhile, Thelen Chairman Stephen O’Neal would neither confirm nor deny discussions. The prospective combination arrives as Thelen adopts aggressive plans for its growth. O’Neal said he wants to boost lawyer count in all markets and grow to more than 100 attorneys in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. He wouldn’t be specific about his plans for New York, where Brown Raysman has more than 200 of its 225 lawyers. In 1998, what was then San Francisco-based Thelen, Marrin, Johnson & Bridges sought to bolster its New York office by merging with Reid & Priest. But this year, the firm lost over a dozen partners there � despite experiencing a spike in profitability firmwide. A combination with Brown would add about a half to Thelen’s size, which numbered 392 attorneys at the end of 2005, according to data compiled by The American Lawyer. Thelen has higher revenue per lawyer and profits per partner than Brown. Thelen had an exceptional 2005, thanks in part to a contingency case that accounted for 10 percent of the firm’s revenue. That put revenue per lawyer at $710,000, while Brown Raysman’s RPL is at $560,000. Thelen’s profits per partner rose to $850,000 in 2005 from $590,000 the year before. Profits per partner at Brown were $720,000. Legal recruiter Larry Watanabe characterized Brown Raysman as “a general practice firm with an emphasis on corporate and technology � not just IP.” “Thelen’s practice in California is predominantly litigation-driven and that would complement the overall practice mix,” Watanabe said. “The acquisition of Brown Raysman would give Thelen needed corporate strength in New York, and Brown Raysman also has a good technology licensing practice.” “It is very positive for Thelen to strengthen its New York presence,” echoed legal recruiter Avis Caravello. “They have a very good practice in San Jose, which will be complemented by a strong IP practice.” “Overall, Thelen is seeking to grow strategically on many fronts and so this makes sense,” Caravello added, although she did not have specific knowledge of the deal. “But they are very cautious and measured in their growth.” Brown Raysman opened an office in Silicon Valley earlier this year with two partners. The office this month attracted Perkins Coie partner Riaz Karamali, who said he was joining the firm in part because of its outsourcing capabilities. He had no comment about the prospective merger.

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