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Partners at Thelen Reid & Priest and New York’s Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner voted to combine the two firms Monday, creating a 617-lawyer firm that, based on last year’s revenue, would have placed 56th on the Am Law 100 list. The firm will be called Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner, and will be co-chaired, for 2 1/2 years, by Stephen O’Neal, Thelen’s chairman, and Julian Millstein, Brown’s co-managing partner. Thelen, strong in “old economy” practices such as energy and construction, is a good match for Brown Raysman’s expertise in technology, intellectual property and media, O’Neal said. “By joining the two, it’s the best of both worlds.” The combined firm will have 255 lawyers in New York. Despite Thelen’s merger with N.Y.-based Reid & Priest in 1998, Thelen now has just 78 lawyers there. Brown has only 20 lawyers in California. Partners at the combined firm will be slotted into San Francisco-based Thelen’s two-tier system of equity and non-equity partners. “It works awfully well,” O’Neal said. “It’s served us well for 82 years.” But it might not work so well for some existing equity partners. Millstein said some of his colleagues will lose equity status, though he wouldn’t say how many. At the same time, he said, some Brown Raysman partners who don’t now share in the firm’s profits at all will be given some equity in the combined firm. “At our firm we’ll have fewer equity partners, but more partners with equity,” Millstein said. O’Neal said that some Thelen equity partners, too, would become non-equity partners and vice-versa. He declined to offer any estimates, but said a thorough compensation review will be conducted early next year. At Thelen, 105 of the firm’s 169 partners have equity status. At Brown, 41 of 79 do. Richard Gary, who chaired Thelen from 1992 to 2003 and is now a law firm management consultant, said that, on the whole, it’s a merger of equals. One of the key elements, he said, is the shared chairmanship. Millstein said that after the 2 1/2-year transition period, the firm may revert to a single chair. In terms of revenue and headcount, Thelen outweighs Brown. In 2005, Thelen’s 392 lawyers generated $278 million in revenue, though about $24 million of that was a contingency fee. Brown’s 225 lawyers grossed $126 million last year, according to The American Lawyer. “We’re certainly larger than they are,” O’Neal said. But in terms of practices of equal stature, O’Neal said it’s “absolutely” a marriage of equals. Millstein said his firm wouldn’t have considered the merger unless it was treated equally, adding that the firm had broken off talks with others over the issue. The deal with Thelen was attractive because of its offices in California. “The West Coast is very important to us,” Millstein said. “It creates a footprint that is critical to us.” Brown Raysman has 20 lawyers in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles and none in San Francisco. The combined firm will have 242 lawyers in those three locations. Thelen will add its 78 New York-based lawyers to Brown Raysman’s 177. The combined firm will have 70 lawyers in Washington, D.C., 34 in Hartford, Conn., 12 in New Jersey and four in Shanghai.

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