Archive for April 2006

AmLaw 100: Philly Firms Stay Put

April 28, 2006

The results are in from the latest AmLaw 100 survey from The American Lawyer, and while I haven't seen all the numbers, there are some surprises. Despite a number of firms posting record profits and profits-per-partner, there wasn't as much upward movement on the list as some might have thought. Only one local firm made a significant jump up the list. And one Philadelphia firm fell off the list from last year.

So what gives? How can firms being doing so well and yet not moving ahead of their peers across the nation? Is it all about mergers and opening new offices? Honestly, I don't know the answer. But reporter Gina Passarella is digging into the story and will be able to give you some insight in Monday's edition of The Legal Intelligencer.

And for a preview, just checkout the The Legal's Web site, www.thelegalintelligencer.com later today to get a peek at Gina's story.

–Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

DLA Piper on the Moveā€¦Again

April 27, 2006

The biggest law firm behemoth with a presence in Philly is showing no signs of slowing down in its quest for growth.

The National Law Journal (http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/index.jsp) is reporting that DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary – which according to the NLJ 250 has become the second largest law firm in the U.S. – is opening up an office in Atlanta. Frank Burch, the joint chief executive officer of DLA Piper, has said it’s “the last piece of the puzzle” for the firm’s national presence. They’re leasing 46,000 square feet of space and expect to have 50 lawyers by year’s end. Who are they opening the office with? Twelve litigation and finance attorneys.

Sound familiar? DLA Piper – in an earlier incarnation – started out modestly in Philadelphia a few years ago and grew the office around litigation until it had 50-some lawyers.

Reaction in DLA Piper’s Philly office was apparently very enthusiastic.

James M. Brogan, managing partner of DLA Piper’s Philadelphia office, said the office opening is “fantastic” news for the Philadelphia partners.

“We have substantial litigation and other business engagements in Atlanta already,” he said. “This not only fits the firm plan, but the Philadelphia partners are very excited about this.”

According to Brogan, Philadelphia partners have been doing work in Atlanta in the areas of litigation, real estate, intellectual property and other capitalization projects. Brogan said some of the Philadelphia partners were involved in the vetting process of their new colleagues in Atlanta.

Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief and Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Aronchick Takes Role As Policy Chair of Fattah Committee

April 27, 2006

Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin name partner Mark Aronchick joined the Fattah for Mayor Exploratory Committee last month as chairman of the policy steering committee.

Aronchick will work with policy director Harry B. Cook and other members of the committee in formulating a prospective policy agenda for Congressman Chaka Fattah’s potential run for mayor of Philadelphia.

Aronchick previously worked on policy issued for Governor Edward G. Rendell and was the youngest person ever to hold the post of city solicitor.

“I’m enthusiastic about trying to convince Chaka Fattah to run for mayor,” Aronchick said.  “I’ve known him for 26 years. I’ve worked with him on a large number of policy projects. He personifies leadership and vision.”

Aronchick was previously the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association and served as chairman of the board of ethics for Philadelphia.

 — Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Toll Brothers CEO Gives Penn Law $10 Mil.

April 20, 2006

Robert Toll, CEO of Toll Brothers Inc., and his wife Jane have given Penn Law School what it says is one of the largest gifts it has ever received.

Toll, a 1966 graduate of the school, gave the school $10 million to increase participation in public service.

The award will be used for students and young alumni who want to pursue careers in public interest law.

They have devoted $5 million to establish the Toll Public Interest Scholars Program and another $5 million to help graduates pay off their law school debt.

The scholars program begins next fall and will help fund full scholarships for the first year and two-third scholarships for the second and third years.

The contribution will also help Penn Law underwrite the expansion of its Public Interest Loan Repayment Assistance program.

“The Law School has given me more than any other institution,” Toll said. “I thought the education and experience so fabulous that I want to give back especially so others who might not have had the chance can enjoy what I got.”

This is not the first time the Tolls have donated to the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1991, in honor of his parents, Robert Toll established the Albert and Sylvia Toll Scholarship Fund at Penn Law School. A year earlier, the Tolls contributed to the Say Yes to Education Program at Penn’s Graduate School of Education, offering to pay for college for students who graduated from a high school in West Philadelphia.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Awards — and Advice — for Law Firm Web sites

April 20, 2006

The Internet Marketing Attorney Awards for 2006-07 are in, and many Philadelphia firms are on the list, for good and for bad.

Law firms from around the country have their sites reviewed by law firm marketing consultant Micah Buchdahl of High-Tech Marketing for Lawyers, and can be awarded a maximum score of 50 points for topics such as design, content and usability.

Reed Smith ranked 2nd among the 249 largest law firms that were put to the test, resulting in a score of 44. Buchdahl said the site was descriptive, navigable and gave a unique touch with the use of pictures of firm attorneys as graphics.

“All large international law firms strive to create a Web site that looks, feels and works like Reedsmith.com. Here is some free consulting advice for Dechert — visit this site and start stealing ideas,” Buchdahl said. “Not every firm chooses the Web as a significant business development tool. Reed Smith has dedicated the time, money and resources. The result is superb.”

Saul Ewing wasn’t too much further down the list with a total score of 40 points.  Buchdahl said he liked the newly redesigned site.

“The site is loaded with content, including promotion of upcoming Webinars. In the firm’s home city of Philadelphia, a bunch of others who shall remain nameless (Fox, Dechert, Cozen, etc., etc., etc.) could take a lesson,” he said. “Excellent integration of design, data and the firm’s brand.”

Speaking of Fox Rothschild, Dechert and Cozen O’Connor, those were the three lowest-ranking Philadelphia firms on the list.

Cozen O’Connor came in second to last among the 249 firms with a total score of 11.

“The copyright 2001 symbol on the site should say it all,” Buchdahl said. “I could not believe that dark, ‘say nothing’ home page was still my introduction online to a firm that is known for doing so much pro-active marketing.”

Dechert racked up a total of 18 points, with comments that the firm’s new office is a much better presentation than its Web site.

“They’ve never gotten it right,” Buchdahl said. “For some reason, the firm’s marketing vision has never matched the enormously successful growth.”

Buchdahl said Fox Rothschild has one of the oldest sites remaining on the list, giving it a total score of 19 points.

He said the only comments he could give were a repeat of two years ago because nothing has changed.

“For the most part, this is that family car that you know you need to replace, but if you could just get 10,000 more miles out of it … next time the engine blows, trade it in,” he said.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Altman Weil Adds Professional Development Consultant

April 18, 2006

Law firms aren’t the only ones that can do a little lateral hiring. 

Consulting firm Altman Weil has just added adjunct consultant Douglas B. Richardson to its Newtown Square, Pa.-based firm.

Richardson will advise law firms and law departments on professional development and leadership.Richardson began his career as a lawyer at Dechert and had stints as state and federal prosecutors.

He then became counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.Most recently he has worked with several human resources consulting firms.Richardson is a longtime board member and program leader for Leadership Philadelphia, a program providing leadership development to emerging community leaders.

He also serves as a program leader for Altemus, a Brussels-based leadership development program for emerging leaders of Eastern European countries.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Interesting Med Mal Case Headed to High Court

April 18, 2006

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear a medical malpractice case in which a Superior Court panel ordered a new trial on damages after finding a jury award of $29,207 on the wrongful death claim bore "no reasonable relationship to the proven damages."

But while it was the defendant in Carroll v. Avallone who petitioned for allocatur over the Superior Court's decision to order a new trial, what makes the case one to watch is the expert witness issue that was at the heart of the lower court's opinion.

The three-judge panel, led by Superior Court Judge Joseph A. Del Sole, said it was OK to let a defense expert conclude that drug use caused the plaintiff's fatal stroke. The court said it was following a 2003 Superior Court opinion that permitted experts to extrapolate conclusions based on the facts of a case.

The high court granted allocatur April 4. While it is certainly up in the air as to whether the justices will bother to examine the expert extrapolation issue, the court's order didn't limit its review, and according to Del Sole's opinion, the high court has yet to weigh in on the debate.

— Hank Grezlak, Editor-in Chief