Archive for August 2007

Duane Morris First-Years “Likely” to Be At $145,000

August 29, 2007

While an official decision hasn’t been made, Duane Morris Chairman Sheldon Bonovitz said an increase in associate salaries in January is “likely.”

The firm bumped up first-year associate pay to $135,000 this year, and Bonovitz said that could go to $145,000 in January when the firm makes its annual salary adjustments.
“We’re going to be competitive in the marketplace,” he said, adding that several firms have already gone to the $145,000 mark in Philadelphia.

“If that is the market, we’ll be at $145,000,” he said.

A going rate of $145,000 is toward the higher-end of the Philadelphia market as of this coming September when several firms will move to that mark.

Drinker Biddle & Reath raised its starting salary to $135,000 earlier this year with plans to go to $145,000 in September. Pepper Hamilton announced that it would move from $125,000 to $145,000 in September as well.

Dechert and Morgan Lewis & Bockius are already paying first-year associates at that rate.
Several other firms have increased this year to $135,000, including; Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, Saul Ewing, Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, Duane Morris, Blank Rome and DLA Piper.

Flaster Greenberg moved from $122,000 to $130,000 and Dilworth Paxson moved from $117,000 to $120,000.

Other firms have taken a bit of a stand against rising salaries. Fox Rothschild and Cozen O’Connor have said they will not raise salaries above their current rate of $125,000.

“We said to ourselves that there are financial implications to raising associate salaries and there was no appetite for our partners to absorb it,” Fox Rothschild Administrative Partner Mark Silow said. “No firm is asking their partners to absorb increases in associate salaries; they’re asking their clients.”

— Gina Passarella

Timoney Knox Expands In Lancaster Through Merger

August 28, 2007

Fort Washington, Pa.-based Timoney Knox merged in July with the Walmer Law Offices of Lancaster.

Litigator Richard L. Caplan opened a Lancaster office for Timoney Knox in November 2006 and sole practitioner Mark F. Walmer will be the second attorney in the office.

“When Richard Caplan opened our office in Lancaster, he started to identify sole practitioners and small firms that would help us grow our office and our specialty of complex litigation,” firm Managing Partner George Riter said in a statement. “He identified Mark, who has a terrific reputation with a specialty in criminal defense and some transactional work.”

The firm said it expects Walmer to continue his criminal defense practice, including white collar defense and complex civil litigation.

Riter said in an interview that the client demographics in Lancaster are attractive to the firm’s goals.

While the market is close-knit, with many out-of-town firms servicing clients there from Harrisburg or Philadelphia, Riter said he wanted the firm to find an attorney on the ground who could more efficiently service local clients.

Timoney Knox already had some corporate clients in the market and is looking to handle complex commercial litigation with the possibility of expanding into more of a general service office, Riter said.

He said Caplan has learned that many local Lancaster firms seek assistance in handling complex civil litigation cases, so the firm wants to be a supplement to their work.

Riter said the office could slowly migrate toward general services, including trusts and estates. He said the firm has received several inquiries from other sole practitioners in the market. For now, Timoney Knox will monitor the growth prospects and focus on integration of the recent merger, Riter said.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Sunshine Act Violation Claim Against Gaming Board Survives – For Now

August 24, 2007

The Commonwealth Court gave Society Hill Civic Association a second chance in its attempt to file a claim against the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for a violation of the Sunshine Act.

In a memorandum opinion in Society Hill Civic Association v. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, President Judge Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter allowed the association to file in the court’s original jurisdiction a proper petition for review nunc pro tunc.

The group had improperly filed a writ of summons to bring the claim when it should have filed a petition for review.

Because a writ of summons is the proper method to bring a claim before the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, Leadbetter said it was clearly a simple mistake on the association’s part. The claim was filed on the last possible day and she said it should have been accepted as timely filed.

“The association should have been directed to amend its filing by submission of an appropriate petition for review,” Leadbetter said.

In the order, Leadbetter said the petition for review in the court’s original jurisdiction is granted.

On Dec. 20, 2006, the Philadelphia-focused association attended a board meeting at which point the chairman announced the board met in an executive session the day before. The association filed its writ of summons on Jan. 19, 2007 in the Philadelphia filing office.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Ditching Billables? Would You?

August 23, 2007

While we don’t predict one law firm’s choice to do away with billable hours for first year associates will have the domino effect of salary increases, we’re curious.

Ford & Harrison, a 190-attorney labor and employment firm based in Atlanta, ditched the billable hour requirements for its first-year associates. The firm said it wanted to train its first-years in the practical skills of law firm life before making their clients pay for their services.

Is this a good idea?

Should firms have to pay for a year of training when salaries are rising?

Does it work better for a boutique firm like Ford & Harrison than a general services shop?

As always, we’re curious. Let us know what you think of dumping billables.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

GC to U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Joins Stradley Ronon

August 14, 2007

Mark E. Chopko spent more than 20 years representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as its general counsel.

He left the conference earlier this month to serve as a partner in the Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia offices of Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, where he will lead the firm’s nonprofit and religious organizations practice.

“As a nationally recognized authority in constitutional law and church-and-state affairs, Mark will strengthen our existing litigation capabilities and expand the services we can offer to nonprofit and religious organizations,” firm Chairman William R. Sasso said. “His experience will also allow us to build on current relationships and strengthen our national religious-services practice.”

At USCCB, Chopko led a seven-lawyer staff that handled litigation, corporate, tax, intellectual property, employment and government contract matters.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Schnader Harrison Creates Tax and Wealth Management Department

August 14, 2007

Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis has consolidated its trusts and estates and tax practice to form the tax and wealth management department.

“This is a logical reorganization that better aligns the practice groups,” Chairman Ralph Wellington said. “This new structure will allow for better oversight and will give our clients the advantage of having all the necessary perspectives and areas of expertise available to them.”

Bruce A. Rosenfield, who previously led the trusts and estates department, will serve as chairman of the new department. Within the new department, Mark T. Carlidge will lead the trusts and estates practice, Carolyn S. Nachmias will head the tax and business planning practice and Roy S. Ross will serve as the administrative chairman.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Ballard Spahr Honors Memory of Davis With Pro Bono Award

August 6, 2007

Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll created a pro bono award to honor the memory of former partner Alan J. Davis, who died in May at the age of 70.

The $25,000 award will be given each spring to an individual or group at the firm who provided “exemplary legal representation in a matter involving the public good.”
Davis was a litigator and former city solicitor who spent the majority of his legal career with Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen, the law department and Ballard Spahr.

“This notion of taking his lawyerly skills and applying them to public ventures was something Alan always kept in mind,” said his widow, Lyn Davis. “If he volunteered to do something, he wanted to be effective. He had a sense of responsibility toward his community and a sense of accomplishment in doing something meaningful for someone else.”

Individuals and groups of individuals in all 10 Ballard offices give time to pro bono cases and will be eligible for the award. It is expected that attorneys who win the award, or a portion of the award, will donate the amount to charity.

Ballard ranked 49th in the nation in the recently released Pro Bono Performance survey by The American Lawyer. The firm devoted 28,000 hours last year to a wide range of public-service cases, from representing disabled refugees in a fight for benefits to helping Habitat for Humanity gain zoning approvals.

“Many people at Ballard provide much-needed legal assistance to worthy organizations and to individuals who otherwise might not be able to get help,” Mary Gay Scanlon, executive director of Ballard’s pro bono program, said. “Alan’s career personified our expectations for Ballard’s pro bono work: excellence in the pursuit of the public good.”

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter