Archive for July 2006

Founder’s Death Kept From Lawyer Until After Closing Arguments

July 28, 2006

On the day that Raynes McCarty founder Arthur G. Raynes died, his partner A. Roy DeCaro was scheduled for closing arguments in litigation against a manufacturer of Tylenol, McNeil-PPC for the wrongful death of a one-year-old.

When the call came into the firm at about 8:45a.m. about Mr. Raynes’ death, Gerald A. McHugh Jr. made it a point to keep the news from DeCaro until after closing arguments were finished.

He gave DeCaro a pep talk and sent him on his way.  Accompanying DeCaro and his co-counsel David F. Binder was colleague Martin K. Brigham.

Brigham’s job was to ward off anyone who might offer their condolences to DeCaro while on break from arguments.  He did that through a lunch break, through the defense closing and DeCaro’s rebuttal, McHugh said.

While it was common for colleagues to sit in on trial, DeCaro and Binder were becoming suspicious that Brigham stayed as long as he did.

After the jury deliberated for two hours and came back with a win for DeCaro in the amount of $5 million, Brigham asked Judge Rizzo if he could use his chambers to share the bad news.

McHugh said one of the most interesting things about the turn of events was that Mr. Raynes made his mark in the legal field through pharmaceutical work, and on the day of his death, a colleague won against a major pharmaceutical company.

McHugh said that he later told DeCaro, “This was a tough case. This means that if Art has two more miracles, then he’s a saint.”

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

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Explaining “Baby Seal” Stories

July 23, 2006

Every so often I have people call up and complain about the amount of coverage we devote to a particular story.

“How many times are you going to write about it?” is usually how the line of questioning goes.

My answer is normally a variation of this: “Whatever it takes to give the full story, from start to finish.”

It’s an approach most general circulation newspapers take with regard to major developments. You don’t just write about the start of an event and its resolution — you cover everything in-between. A stellar example would be Watergate. A not-so-stellar example would be the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.

What happens on any given day is going to dictate coverage, and big breaking news will often trump continuing coverage, but newspapers often strive to demonstrate mastery and committment to the stories they’re pursuing.

In addition, newspapers can’t make the assumption that everyone sees every story — so when there’s a follow-up story, that’s often why you’ll see background material. It’s there in case the reader missed the previous story and needs to be filled in, or to provide general context and support for the newer material.

And when you’re a reporter, you often get excited about each new development that makes you keep chasing and writing about every new angle to that story.

I learned it as a young reporter in Montana covering a serial arsonist burning down the town I was living in, and I took the same approach — and had success — with covering legal debates in the 1990s for our sister paper, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, a lot of them centered around things like limited tort, bad faith and governmental immunity.

Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, journalists are often full of mirth and gallow’s humor. And when things are boring, you try to say and do things to keep the newsroom lively.

So once, after I had written my umpteenth article on what constituted a “serious injury” for limited tort purposes, one of my co-workers started kidding me about how many I intended to write.

“Plenty more,” was my response. “It’s a baby seal story.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I’m going to beat it to death.”

After her shock wore off she laughed and forgave me. (And just for the record, I love animals and think killing baby seals is awful — and while many might think it unnecessary that I provide that disclaimer, I’ve learned the hard way over the years that quite a few animal lovers don’t have a sense of humor about our furry friends). But since then, that’s the term I’ve always used to describe relentless coverage of an issue.

So twisted humor or not, I still believe in that approach when readers are interested in a story. It certainly doesn’t apply in every case. But when it does, it tends to pay off.

For instance, when we broke the story on the Buchanan Ingersoll-Klett Rooney merger, we knew it was something we had to cover the hell out of. Pennsylvania hadn’t seen an in-state merger of that size in some time and the result was going to potentially be the largest firm in PA. We called around; people (not firm management) called us. We wound up writing roughly four stories over about a week-and-a-half: first on the news of the merger talks, then on how there was a question whether Klett’s labor group in Philly was going to make the move to BI, then on the scheduled vote and some of the concerns being talked about, and finally on the aftermath of the vote and the completion of the merger.

A number of people, both inside the firm and out, said they were surprised how much inside information we found out and got right.

But a few weeks after the stories ran, one person complained to me about all the stories and basically implied we were giving the firms — now firm — free publicity. Which was absurd, especially when you consider that managment at both firms would have probably been happier had we not written the first three stories. Or when you consider the fact that some of the material dealt with whether lawyers wanted to make the move or contained quotes from sources questioning whether the merger made sense or not.

Despite this person’s dissatisfaction with all the coverage, people were reading. How do I know? Simple — heavy Web traffic on the days those stories ran, feedback from readers and sources, etc. Virtually everone I talked to on the phone or met with in person was talking about it. There was a buzz in the community over it and our coverage simply reflected that.

That’s basically how it works. We write about the news. If we get an indication there’s more to the story or people want to know more, then we pursue it. That’s what guides us, regardless of whether a person or institution is going to look good or bad. For instance, in the case of the BI-Klett story, if the merger doesn’t work out, guess what? We’ll be writing a lot about that too.

It’s not just limited to law firm stories either. We do it with cases that we follow from the common pleas all the way to the state Supreme Court, as well as judicial administration stories, verdicts, judicial elections, legislation, etc. If we’re covering something repeatedly, it’s because we think the story merits it — and people in the community have said so too.

–Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief 

Cozen Responds To Specter’s Take on $20 Mil. Verdict

July 13, 2006

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently put on hold a $20 million verdict in a medical malpractice case and asked the Superior Court to clarify why it upheld the verdict against Temple University Hospital.

A Philadelphia jury awarded the compensatory damages in October 2003 to a former University of Pennsylvania student whose family claimed he suffered brain damage after staffers at Temple were slow to respond to a clogged tracheotomy.

In Temple University Hospital v. Gallagher, the Supreme Court vacated the award and remanded the case to the lower court to determine whether the hospital suffered prejudice.

Stephen A. Cozen of Cozen O’Connor represents the hospital and had argued from the time the verdict was awarded that the jury confused compensatory damages with punitive damages.

One key issue as the case proceeded to trial was that, after more than two years of discovery, it emerged that the original flowsheet from the night Gallagher’s brain damage occurred had been removed from Gallagher’s file, replaced with a copy and placed in a safe kept by Temple University Hospital’s risk manager. The original had also been whited-out and rewritten in certain places.

Shanin Specter of Kline & Specter represents Gallagher. He added a punitive damages claim to the suit when he found about about the flowsheet.

“Any time you allow punitive damages to be introduced into the compensatory damages [part] of a case..you ipso facto taint the case,” Cozen said yesterday. “The fact that they vacated the judgment with respect to compensatory damages and compensatory liability is extremely telling.”

Cozen said that the Superior Court will either find evidence of prejudice or find that the record is silent on the issue.  Either way, he said, the case is going back to trial.

Specter, who has requested consideration for reargument, had said that the Supreme Court should resolve the case once and for all.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter 

Ladov Gears Up For “Her Year”

July 11, 2006

Sayde Ladov, a veteran and heavily involved member of the Philadelphia Bar Association, has long made known her intention to one day become chancellor of that organization.

But like many political candidates, Ladov wanted to wait until the moment was right.

In 2004, Ladov, a trial attorney with Abrahams Loewenstein & Bushman and that year’s secretary of the association’s Board of Governors, opted not to run for the 2007 chancellorship against Jane Leslie Dalton of Duane Morris, who won after an unopposed race.

At the time, Ladov promised that she would run in 2006.

“That is my year,” Ladov said. “I’ve staked it out.”

 Ladov has officially announced her candidacy for this year’s race, and is getting right down to business.

She has hired Dan Cirucci, the Philadelphia Bar Association’s longtime (and recently former) press guru, as her public relations consultant.

And she has set up a Web site — http://ladovforvicechancellor.com/ — to help promote her candidacy. The online tactic, she noted, seemed to work well for Saul Ewing’s Gabe Bevilacqua, who served as chancellor in 2004.

According to Ladov, the race is shaping up to be a contested one.

She said that Alec Kerr, a former name partner at Hoyle Morris & Kerr who is now a partner with the local office of North Jersey-based McCarter & English, is expected to be her opponent.

Kerr did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

–Asher Hawkins, Staff Reporter

Cozen O’Connor Names New CFO

July 6, 2006

Cozen O’Connor brought in a new chief financial officer from a large Philadelphia firm to handle its finances.

David W. Ellman will be responsible for conducting strategic financial analysis for the firm, overseeing the firm’s annual budget process and preparing cost/benefit analyses.

Ellman worked for the last five years as the CFO for Dechert.  Before that he spent 18 years at an accounting firm where he left as a partner in the firm’s services group. He is a certified public accountant licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“Dave will be working closely with the firm’s management and accounting team to ensure firm profitability, and to oversee and implement the financial procedures of the firm,” Cozen O’Connor president Patrick J. O’Connor said in a statement.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Drexel Law School Adds Nine Faculty Members

July 6, 2006

The new law school at Drexel University is bulking up the faculty for its incoming inaugural class of 185 students.

The school recently announced three associate professors and one visiting associate professor to its legal writing program.  The new associate professors are Emily Zimmerman, from Villanova University School of Law; Kevin Oates from Touro College Law Center; and Rex Glensy who comes from five years of private practice and will also teach property law and an introductory to intellectual property law.

Visiting professor Ellen Wertheimer is a professor at Villanova Univsersity School of Law and will teach a section of torts.

Visiting professor Louise Hill is a law professor at Widener University and will teach a section of contracts during the first academic year.

Amy Montemarano is one of two visiting assistant professor and joined Drexel after serving for five years as the career law clerk for Judge Robert B. Kugler of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. 

Visiting assistant professor Patricia M. Legge is a full time member of the faculty and joined the school after serving as a career law clerk for U.S. District Judge Joseph H. Rodriguez of the District of New Jersey.

The law school also appointed the first two practitioners in residence who will be charged with aiding in the school’s development.

Steven J. Rocci, the managing partner of intellectual property boutique Woodcock Washburn was named the distinguished practice professor.  He will teach patent law and litigation courses beginning in the 2007-2008 term.  His firm will also provide placements for the school’s co-op program.

U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Edmund V. Ludwig was named the school’s jurist in residence.  He will assist in the development of the pro bono program and help engage students in interactions with the judiciary.

The size of the school’s inaugural class was expanded from two to three sections after acceptances were received. More than a quarter of the students have advanced degrees, 52 percent are women and 22 percent are minorities.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter 

Post & Schell Adds Appellate Lawyer

July 6, 2006

Appellate lawyer Michael E. Gehring joined the Philadelphia office of Post & Schell as a partner on Tuesday, June 27.

He came to the firm after three years at Philadelphia-based Bolognese & Associates where he handled class action matters for plaintiffs.

Prior to that, he was an assistant district attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office where he focused solely on appellate work.

Gehring will make Post & Schell’s fifth full-time appellate lawyer as the firm strives to grow its appellate work, namely through outside clients whose trial work was done at another firm, firm CEO Brian M. Peters said.

Prior to joining the District Attorney’s office, Gehring spent six years at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.  He had moved there from Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter