Archive for May 2006

Spector Gadon Working in Mongolia

May 30, 2006

Spector Gadon & Rosen has been retained as legal counsel for developer Winwheel Bullion to handle its tax, securities, and other legal needs during the company's work in developing Mongolia's international Zamiin Uud Free Economic Zone.

Jonathan Greystone of Spector Gadon handled the negotiations with Winwheel Bullion and will be the lead attorney on the development.

"This is a five to 10-year project involving multiple billions of dollars," Greystone said. "As this ambitious zone develops, Mongolia will increasingly be in the global spotlight."

As part of the project, the Mongolian government has provided 104,000 acres of land for Winwheel Bullion to develop a commercial center. 

The development will include an airport, casino resorts, a convention center, shopping complexes, office buildings, a sports stadium and a theme park.  There will also be housing, hospitals, parks and a retirement community.

 –Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Fox Rothschild Bumps First-Year Pay

May 25, 2006

Fox Rothschild has increased the starting salary for its first-year associates to $125,000 in most of its offices.

The firm was most recently at $110,000 for first-years, according to PaLaw's listing of the top 100 firms in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia office managing partner Scott Vernick said the firm made the decision now because it is just coming off of its April 30th fiscal-year end.

The raise is effective Sept. 1, and will benefit the incoming class.  Vernick said subsequent associate levels would benefit from the increase, but not necessarily with a $15,000 jump.

Read more about it in The Legal next week.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Buchanan Ingersoll Makes Changes

May 22, 2006

Buchanan Ingersoll announced changes in its governance structure today.

The firm re-elected Tom VanKirk as CEO and chairman of the board.  That would put him in that role through at least 2009. 

The firm created two new executive shareholder positions that will report to the board and VanKirk.

The first is chief strategic officer and will be handled by Francis A. Muracca II who most recently was the firm's chief operating officer.  The position comes with a three-year term.

Douglas P. Coopersmith will fill the newly created position of chief development officer for a two-year term.

Bob Mukai of the firm's Virginia office and Rick Rose of the Pittsburgh office are two new members of the firm's advisory committee.

The firm also elected a new board of directors which is made up of ten attorneys throughout the firm as well as VanKirk.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

New Bond Counsel Policy for the Redevelopment Authority

May 22, 2006

Philadelphia’s Redevelopment Authority has announced a new bond counsel selection policy that the agency hopes will bring some protection from pay-to-play allegations.

Under the new policy, any lawyer who wishes to perform bond-related services for the RDA will have to disclose all political donations — monetary or otherwise — they have made.

The RDA, according to its Web site, is the city’s point agency for financing affordable housing development.

In revealing its new policy, the RDA noted that its bond counsel screening process will go beyond that of the City of Philadelphia, whose transparency regulations haven't always applied to bond counsel. (However, the city has recently started to require disclosure about political donations.)

“The RDA continues to take a leadership role in making our city’s government more accessible, transparent, fair and ethical,” RDA Board Chairman John J. Dougherty said in a statement. “The city’s bond transactions — who received them and how they obtained the work — were at the heart of the initial phase of the ongoing federal corruption probe that has damaged Philadelphia’s national reputation and shaken our citizen’s trust and confidence in this government. … We have sent a message that the ‘old boys’ network’ is off the air at the RDA.”

Is union heavyweight Dougherty looking to give himself some ethics ammo ahead of next year’s mayoral race? The Legal will explore that question among others in print later this week.

— Asher Hawkins , Staff Reporter

Be Careful What You Complain About

May 17, 2006

After I wrote a column for the paper complaining about getting called every year for jury duty in federal court, a number of people warned me I was putting a bulls-eye on my forehead.

But since I believe in free speech — and I also thought it might make someone think twice about picking me for a jury (on top of being a journalist for a legal newspaper) — I thought I would be safe.

No such luck.

I was picked for a jury in a criminal trial last week. When I told my staff, they laughed. When I told the editorial board, with whom I was supposed to meet with last week, a number of members also laughed.

When I told Papa Grez — who I pointed out in my column has the same name and lives in the same zip code and is retired and has never been called — he was delighted.

See, Papa Grez doesn't want anything to interfere with his golf games. And he's convinced now that I've outed him that the federal courts are going to call him.

"Serves you right," he said before laughing.

So what was jury duty like? Often tedious to the point of wanting to shove a screwdriver through my ear, but it was better than waiting in the jury room.

I must say though that the judge, Legrome Davis, was great, as was his staff, particularly his courtroom deputy Marcella El-Shabazz. They were very considerate of the jury and did what they could to make it as good an experience as possible.

The lawyering was pretty good as well. There were times when the lawyers dwelt too long on minor points or beat a dead horse well beyond the after-life, but on the whole they did a nice job, and each attorney had their stellar moments.

As for my fellow jurors, we got along well. It reminded me a bit of The Breakfast Club — you know, being thrown together with people you might normally never speak to.

On the whole I found it an interesting experience and I think I did learn a lot. I'll be writing a more detailed column about being on the jury in an upcoming issue of The Legal.

Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

Wolf Block Adds Bond Attorney to Harrisburg Office

May 11, 2006

Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen has added Robert H. Long as of counsel to its Harrisburg office.

Long will serve as the firm’s senior municipal bond attorney.

His practice focuses on the representation of local government units as investors in cases involving bankruptcy or insolvency of investment providers. Long has served as bond counsel for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and  the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

The firm said Long’s addition is part of its renewed emphasis on its public finance practice.

— Gina Passarella

No Reasons Given for Williams’ Move to Law Dept.

May 11, 2006

Though local media have reported the departure from the Minority Business Enterprise Council of Michael P. Williams, who headed the city agency for slightly more than two years, not much is clear about the circumstances surrounding the move.

Was there a specific incident that caused Mayor John Street to ask him to step down, such as the widely publicized March incident in which Williams appeared before City Council without written testimony or the data that certain members of council  were interested in seeing?

Or does it indicate that the Street administration is interested in extending an olive branch to local African-American business community leaders who have been upset over the choice of Williams — a line of critique that, some say, has more to do with Williams’ status as an openly gay man than anything else.

Street’s press office did not respond to The Legal’s request for comment, and Williams likewise has not been reachable.

In a statement released earlier this week, City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. said that Williams would be joining Philadelphia’s law department as a senior attorney for child welfare appeals.

Did Williams seek out this new position, or did the Mayor’s Office help broker the move?

Diaz did not respond to a request for an interview.

Barbara Ash, chair of the law department’s social services law group, said that she is always glad to have another attorney join her team, but deferred all other questions to Diaz.

Before going to work for the city, Williams practiced at Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads and was deputy director at Community Legal Services.

In 2003 and 2004, he participated in Street's “Philadelphia 21st Century Review Forum,” which issued a number of ethics-related reports, as a member of the subcommittee on gifts, ethics codes and personnel rules.

A native of the inner city community of Compton, Calif., Williams went from being homeless as a young man in the 1970s to graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1996.

Despite his leadership credentials, Williams likely won’t be on the management track when he gets to his new workplace: The law department’s “senior attorney” position is typically held by more experienced attorneys who chose to focus on a particular practice area, rather than seek a management role in the department.

— Asher Hawkins