Archive for April 2007

Saul Ewing Bumps Up Starting Salary

April 30, 2007

Saul Ewing has become the latest Philadelphia firm to increase its first-year associate salary.

The firm will move from $125,000 to $135,000 in all of its offices with the exception of Harrisburg, effective Sept. 1, 2007. The Harrisburg office will move from $115,000 to $125,000, the firm said. Each subsequent associate level in all offices will receive a $10,000 raise as well.

Both Pepper Hamilton and Drinker Biddle & Reath will increase their salaries to $145,000 as of Sept. 1. Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Dechert have been at that level since the beginning of this year.

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis announced recently an increase in its starting salary from $125,000 to $135,000.

Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Flaster Greenberg will raise its starting pay from $120,000 to $130,000 in all of its offices, effective in September.

Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll will move from $125,000 to $135,000 in all of its offices on July 1.

Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen moved its starting Philadelphia salary to $135,000 and its New York starting salary to $145,000, retroactive to the start of its fiscal year on Feb. 1.
Duane Morris, Blank Rome and DLA Piper have each raised associate salaries in Philadelphia to $135,000 retroactive to Jan. 1.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

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How Consistent Is Your Firm’s Diversity Effort?

April 27, 2007

These days, law firms are continuously aware of the push for diversity. And it’s not news that many, if not most, firms still have a long way to go.

But in the effort to recruit a more diverse group of attorneys, firms should also be looking at diversity as it relates to firm administration, Altman Weil senior consultant Virginia Grant Essandoh told Philadelphia’s chapter of Association of Legal Administrators at the group’s monthly meeting yesterday.

Essandoh said firms should make sure their commitment to diversity is consistent, in their message outside — and within — law firms.

Firms should look at their diversity competencies at all levels of the firm, including its support staff, human resources, and marketing materials, she said.

Obviously, this means focusing on diversity when recruiting and hiring. But it also means looking at the firm’s internal policies and procedures that may, or may not, be consistent with the firm’s diversity creed, she said.

For example, Essandoh said, a firm may have a policy of being open to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. But if the firm doesn’t have domestic partner benefits, there is a disconnect.

Essandoh said top-down management of diversity was a strong strategy — but that means from the top all the way down.

All levels of staff should be involved, she said. That includes, file clerks, marketing directors, recruiters, secretaries, associates, and so on.

— Stephanie Lovett, Staff Reporter

Pepper Hamilton Grows New York Office

April 25, 2007

After some rearranging last year, Pepper Hamilton said it was planning on bulking up its New York office. The firm wanted to make it more than a pit stop for attorneys looking to take depositions or hold meetings.

Pepper Hamilton moved into bigger space and moved Berwyn, Pa.-based partner James D. Rosener up to the Big Apple.

Other firm partners split their time between offices, spending a portion of their time in New York. Pepper Hamilton has recently hired two new partners who will be resident full-time in the New York office.

Kenneth J. King and Samuel J. Abate, Jr. have joined the firm and will focus their practices on pharmaceutical and medical device litigation as well as commercial litigation.
King joined from Patterson Bellknap Webb & Tyler where he was a partner since 2003. Prior to that, he was the managing partner of the New York office of the now-defunct Brobeck Phleger & Harrison.

Abate joined Pepper Hamilton from the New York office of McCarter & English, where he was a partner and practice group leader for the pharmaceutical group.

King and Abate worked together earlier in their careers at Brown & Wood and Beatie King & Abate in New York.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Attorneys Struck in Center City Accident

April 23, 2007

Two attorneys were injured on Friday after an SUV ran onto the sidewalk on Locust Street near 15th Street. William Harvey, name partner of Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg & Ellers was struck and fell on his face, according to a firm spokeswoman.

She said he had primarily facial injuries and could be discharged from the hospital as early as today or tomorrow. She said there was never anything life threatening, and Harvey is “resting comfortably” at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

The spokeswoman said it was sheer coincidence that the car struck two attorneys. They were not walking together and had not known each other, she said.

There was no answer at the office of the second victim, solo practitioner David S. Winston. The spokesperson said Winston was much more seriously injured.

According to The (Philadelphia) Daily News, Winston was pinned under the SUV and sustained rib and leg injuries as well as a ruptured spleen. ~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Judge Throws Out Suit Involving Member of Boxer’s Entourage

April 19, 2007

A Philadelphia judge has thrown out of court a lawsuit brought by a former member of prizefighter Bernard Hopkins’s entourage who claimed he was not given his due share of the $14 million purse “The Executioner” won in a September 2004 bout with middleweight rival Oscar de la Hoya

Judge Mark I. Bernstein of the city court system’s Commerce Case Management Program granted a defense motion for summary judgment in Williams v. Hopkins.

Beginning in 2002, according to Bernstein’s opinion in the case, Vernon Williams was paid $500 per week to handle Hopkins’ gym equipment, assist with his training and helped with his security detail.

But Williams said Hopkins orally agreed to give him a “reasonable percentage” of the de la Hoya fight’s purse, according to the opinion.

Less than a month prior to the Las Vegas-based de la Hoya bout, Williams was fired by Hopkins “following an altercation at a press conference,” Bernstein wrote.

Hopkins, a Germantown native, went on to beat de la Hoya; he told reporters afterwards that his knockout punch to the right side of de la Hoya’s abdomen had resulted in “chopped liver with Hopkins sauce.”

A few months after that fight, according to Bernstein’s opinion, the Hopkins camp paid Williams $5,000 — .035 percent of the de la Hoya fight purse.

Bernstein found that that sum had not been unreasonable based on the limited amount of work Williams did with respect to the de la Hoya bout.

Hopkins’s attorney in the case, Arnold Joseph of Cozen O’Connor in Philadelphia, said his client was pleased with the judge’s ruling.

“Mr. Hopkins knows that he’s always been the target of overzealous people,” Joseph said.

Joseph added that Commerce Court was the perfect case management program for Williams, as Philadelphia’s regular civil trial courts are, in his opinion, reticent to grant summary judgment motions in heavily contested cases.

Williams’ lawyer, Pasquale Colavita, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
–Asher Hawkins, Staff Reporter

Castille v. Ledewitz: The Full Text of the Letter

April 6, 2007

When the news broke last week during a state Senate hearing that Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Ronald D. Castille had sent a letter to a Duquesne Law School professor ripping frequent court critic and Duquesne Law Professor Bruce Ledewitz and suggesting that he might file disciplinary charges, I got a number of calls asking me if we were doing anything on the story.

I told them we were on it. As soon as I got wind of the story, I assigned it to reporter Peter Hall, who writes for The Legal at times, but works primarily on our sister publication Pennsylvania Law Weekly, because I thought it would be better if we took a more in-depth look at the story and explored some of the underlining issues surrounding it.

Well, Pete delivered, and his 2,000-plus word story will be in Monday’s Legal and PLW. He talked to a number of people around the state to get their perspective on the situation and Ledewitz. It’s an informative, interesting read.

What the letter controversy has done, at least in the short-term, is re-ignite tensions between some members of the Legislature and the Supreme Court. As I wrote in a column last fall, the Harrisburg insiders I spoke with then said the legislators were furious with the court for what they saw as a flawed decision in the pay raise case. Those same people predicted there might be some changes aimed at the courts, such as throwing out the tie between federal and state judicial salaries. Castille’s letter might be all the ammunition some in Harrisburg need to step up those efforts.

But what about the letter itself? Read below.

What follows is the full text of Justice Ronald D. Castille’s letter to Duquesne University School of Law Professor Ken Gormley, declining an invitation to appear at a tribute to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. It was released to the news media by Steve MacNett, general counsel to the Republicans in the state Senate.

March 22, 2007

Dear Professor Gormley: Thank you for your kind invitation to the Carol Los Mansmann Award for Distinguished Public Service honoring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Justice Alito is certainly an appropriate nominee given his public service to the State of New Jersey as Attorney General and on the Bench of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Third Circuit.

Though I would have liked to attend this prestigious event, I am declining the invitation. At the present time I feel it would be inappropriate to lend the prestige of this Court to this event by my attendance as long as one of your cohorts in the teaching profession at Duquesne Law School continues his unfounded, slanderous, and libelous attacks on the integrity of this Court. His latest attacks appear in the Beaver County Times dated February 22, 2007 in an article where the professor is quoted as stating that the seven Justices of this Court are “even more corrupt than the Legislature” and stating that the judicial compensation opinion was a “judicial swindle.”

While these statements may be the personal opinion of your colleague, they are charges that an attorney cannot make against the Supreme Court and its members without subjecting that attorney to possible sanctions by the Disciplinary Board. The charges appear to me to be clear violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and therefore worthy of the Board’s attention.

 It is disgraceful that Duquesne Law School continues to provide the professor a forum to make these charges. This Court has struggled to overcome the problems caused by the earlier impeachment of a former Justice of this Court. It is not helpful to our efforts where your colleague continues to level unfounded and baseless charges of criminal conduct towards this Court.

You may share these thoughts with whomever you deem appropriate.

Sincerely,

 /s/

JUSTICE RONALD D. CASTILLE

So there’s the letter. What do you think? If you’ve got an opinion, let us know.

–Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

Fattah’s Planned Appeal of Campaign Contribution Limits Under Fire

April 4, 2007

Just hours after the Commonwealth Court upheld the constitutionality of Philadelphia’s campaign finance ordinance, U.S. Rep. — and mayoral candidate — Chaka Fattah said he planned to appeal.

With that annoucement comes its critics. The Committee of Seventy, a political watchdog group that filed an amicus curiae in support of upholding the contribution limits, denounced the planned appeal yesterday.

The group’s president, Zack Stalberg, said the organization hoped the state Supreme Court would refuse to hear the case. If the case does to go up to the high court, Stalberg said the Committee would file another amicus brief.

“The Commonwealth Court was resolute in its determination that Philadelphia has every right to enact campaign contribution limits,” Stalberg said. “To discard contribution limits would invite a return to the very pay-to-play culture that the city’s ordinance was specifically designed to end.

He said the removal of the limits so close to the May 15 primary would result in a “fundraising frenzy.”

“Given the municipal scandals this town has endured, it is unfortunate that some candidates continue to believe that they need to raise unlimited sums of money in order to win the election,” Stalberg said. “I wish that allowing a wealthy candidate to spend his own money was not constitutionally permissible, but it is,” he said, referring to millionaire mayoral candidate Tom Knox.

The Commonwealth Court’s ruling puts back in place the $5,000 campaign contribution limit for individuals and a $20,000 limit for businesses or political action committees. It is believed that all of the candidates had been following those limits even though a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge ruled in December 2006 that the ordinance was unconstitutional. ~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter