Archive for August 2006

Former SunGard Chief Counsel Joins Morgan Lewis

August 14, 2006

Morgan Lewis & Bockius tapped into the corporate counsel pool with its addition of Lawrence A. Gross as a partner in the firm’s business and finance practice group.

Gross joined the firm in its Philadelphia office after spending 20 years at SunGard Data Systems as its general counsel and most recently as the chief legal officer and chief administrative officer.

When the company went private in 2005, Gross decided he was ready for a change.  He said he stayed on to help transition his replacement and began mutual discussions with Morgan Lewis.

“I had a great job,” he said. “I felt that it would be easy to stay and I wanted to challenge myself.”

Morgan Lewis did work for SunGard for the past ten years or so, Gross said, and he built a relationship with the firm through that work.  He said the firm has been very supportive of him and the company over the years.

Gross wouldn’t comment on whether SunGard would become a bigger client of Morgan Lewis, adding that the company already is a large client for the firm.

Gross said there is no concern about the fact that he isn’t bringing over a book of business.

“It just is what it is,” he said. “I think I will pursue my contacts around the world for business.”

Gross will focus his practice on mergers and acquisitions and high-tech transactions, areas he said he had a lot of experience with while at SunGard.  Gross said he completed about 150 transactions and financings during his tenure with the company. He helped the company go private last year in a deal that was worth $11.4 billion. He said he also hopes to work on international matters.

Frank D’Amore of Attorney Career Catalysts said that Gross was one of the only attorneys at SunGard when he joined and built a legal department that was one of the most respected in the area.

“It’s a coup for Morgan Lewis to get him,” D’Amore said. “He’ll be an instant hit.”

D’Amore said Gross should be able to tap into the contacts he has made worldwide and will be able to create a practice off that.

Gross’ legal department extended into areas like Hong Kong and the United Kingdom, places D’Amore said are key to Morgan Lewis as well.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

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Summary Judgment Denied in Bochetto Defamation Case

August 4, 2006

A Philadelphia judge has denied a defense motion for summary judgment in a defamation action that prompted a landmark media rights decision from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 2004.

In his most recent opinion in Bochetto v. Gibson, Judge Albert W. Sheppard Jr. ruled that it will be up to a jury to decide whether or not George Bochetto of Bochetto & Lentz was defamed by the attorney who represented a former client of Bochetto’s in a legal malpractice case against Bochetto.

At the heart of the case are statements made in a complaint filed in a legal malpractice action against Bochetto. Certain statements in the complaint were reported in an October 1999 article in the suburban edition of The Legal Intelligencer.

Attorney Kevin Gibson, at the time a member of the firm Kassab Archbold & O’Brien, filed the legal malpractice suit against Bochetto in Chester County on behalf of the Pickering Hunt Club, a nonprofit fox hunting organization. That action stemmed from Bochetto’s representation of Pickering Hunt in a quiet title action. (Bochetto prevailed in that underlying malpractice suit.)

After the complaint against Bochetto was filed, Gibson faxed a copy to a reporter from The Legal, sparking the instant defamation case.

In March 2002, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Albert W. Sheppard Jr. granted both Gibson’s and Bochetto’s cross-motions for summary judgment on each other’s defamation claims in the case. Sheppard further ruled that Gibson’s actions in faxing The Legal a copy of his complaint fell within the scope of judicial privilege.

In March 2003, the majority of a three-judge Superior Court panel affirmed Sheppard’s decision on the basis of his “well-reasoned trial court opinion.”

But in the fall of 2004, a divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court held in favor of Bochetto.

The 4-2 Bochetto court concluded that because faxing the document to a reporter was an “extrajudicial act that occurred outside of the regular course of the judicial proceedings and was not relevant in any way to those proceedings, it is plain that it was not protected by judicial privilege.”

Sheppard’s ruling against the defense last week means the case is one step closer to going to trial.

“We’re very pleased that Judge Sheppard has cleared the way for a trial, and we’re looking forward to going to trial,” Bochetto said in a recent interview.

Defense attorney Robert Tintner of Fox Rothschild said he plans to raise at trial the issues argued during the summary judgment battle.

“The judge believes that a qualified privilege applied, but that the question of whether that privilege was abused is a question for the jury,” Tintner said.

Among Sheppard’s findings in his recent decision was that Bochetto, though a former Pennsylvania Boxing Commissioner and past Philadelphia mayoral candidate, is not a public figure for the purposes of his defamation action.

Bochetto said he doesn’t feel slighted by Sheppard’s conclusion on that point.

“In a libel case, being deemed a public figure is practically a knockout blow,” he said.

–Asher Hawkins, Staff Reporter 

Sweet Takes on New Role(s) After Drinker

August 1, 2006

Former Drinker Biddle & Reath chairman James M. Sweet has joined Boston-based Law Practice Consultants as a principal. 

Sweet will be based in Philadelphia and plans on focusing his work on coaching and mentoring law firm leaders.

He spent five years as the head of Drinker Biddle and said that he had people outside of the firm that he would rely on for advice.  He said he looks forward to doing the same for other firm leaders.

Sweet said he will spend about three-and-a-half to four days a week doing consulting work, spending the rest of his time on two other new projects.

He is about to be named the executive director of a new foundation, the Global Impact Fund, that will donate money to different projects in the Third World. The focus of the fund is on HIV/AIDS, anti-slavery and sex trafficking and micro-finance.

Sweet also recently took on the role of director of new projects at a theological seminary as a favor to a friend.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter