Archive for January 2008

Midsized Firms Bulk Up Staff in 2007

January 29, 2008

In researching for a piece last week on how Pennsylvania midsized firms fared in 2007 and their projections for 2008, the majority of firm leaders I spoke to reported modest to significant increases in revenue and clientele last year.

Of course, more business often necessitates more staffing and many midsized firms across the state got a little bit bigger in 2007.

Meyer Unkovic & Scott bulked up its roster slightly with two new associates for its litigation group.

Managing partner Kevin McKeegan described the firm as “very cautious” when it comes to hiring.

Philadelphia-based IP firm Woodcock Washburn hired eight associates fresh out of law school, three trademark and copyright lawyers for its Philadelphia office and added three partners and an associate to its Atlanta office.

Executive director Jay Rose called the new recruits a “good synergistic fit” and explained that while some of the hires were made to assist with the workload or fill a void, others were made simply as a means of organic expansion and growth.

“The trademark and copyright group really fit something [we needed],” he said, adding that 2008 is slated to include even more new hires than 2007. “And we saw an opportunity in Atlanta to add to our critical mass.”

Harrisburg, Pa.-based McNees Wallace & Nurick added all four attorneys and their staff from Lancaster, Pa.-based Chesters & Miller to its Lancaster office as well as adding six associates to its Philadelphia office.

According to David M. Kleppinger, managing attorney of McNees Wallace, it’s standard protocol for the firm to hire five or six first-year associates every summer but it rarely brings anyone else on board unless absolutely essential.

“We’re not in a position to over-hire ahead of the need,” he said.

Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein hired two new associates, Tucker Arensberg hired five new attorneys to replace five departing attorneys, and Dilworth Paxson added thirteen new associates to replace ten that left.

Lancaster-based Hartman Underhill & Brubaker didn’t hire anyone new in 2007 but that’s not for lack of need.

“We’re very particular in terms of who we hire and about finding people who are interested in working in our part of the country [as opposed to the city],” said managing partner Alexander Henderson, III. “We probably would hire two right attorneys right now.”

— By Zack Needles, Staff Reporter

News From Orrick is… There’s No News

January 24, 2008

Word on the street was that Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe was looking into opening an office in the City of Brotherly Love.

While most international firms based out-of-town have opted for New York, D.C., or even Delaware rather than Philadelphia, Orrick’s interest made some sense given its recent hire of longtime Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner Howard Shecter.

But Shecter – who already splits his time between Orrick’s New York office and shared space in Philly – said he was surprised to hear the buzz.

“I am not aware of that plan, and I certainly would be,” he said.
Shecter said he might be one of only a few Orrick attorneys who are even licensed to practice in Pennsylvania.

While he would certainly be happy to have the firm take an interest in his hometown, Shecter said Philadelphia isn’t exactly a “strategic priority” for Orrick and might never be.

The firm is holding a partners meeting in San Francisco next week and Shecter said that he would probably ask his colleagues in the M&A practice whether there are any other strategic locations that would help grow the practice. He said his guess would be he would hear answers like Germany or Spain and not Philadelphia. He said Orrick is much more global than even his previous firm.

When Shecter moved to Orrick in the fall of 2007, the firm offered to rent space in Philadelphia in an executive office rental facility or some other formal space. Shecter declined and just borrows extra office space of a friend in the One South Broad building. He said he is spending about two days a week in Philadelphia.

–Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Court Gives Out Pro Bono Publico Awards

January 24, 2008

Attorney Mary Moran lived up to the award she received for her pro bono work.
During the First Judicial District’s second annual Pro Bono Publico Awards ceremony last Thursday, Moran volunteered for the several judges gathered at the ceremony to assign her more pro bono cases.

“It would be my honor to extend my services to them,” said Moran, selected by the criminal division of the Philadelphia Municipal Court to receive an award.
Moran said that after leaving her work as a public defender 2½ years ago to enter private practice and reaching some financial success, she went to judges and volunteered for pro bono assignments in order to give back to the community from the harvest of her prosperity.

During the ceremony, the names of Moran and over 300 attorneys who provided pro bono services in 2007 scrolled over a screen as attorneys and court officials mingled in the sixth-floor City Hall Alex Bonavitacola Law Library.

Moran, five other attorneys and a committee were selected to receive an additional pro bono commendation by a committee composed of judges, a court system civil servant and three outside attorneys.

These honors are important because it comes from judges to honor ethical, effective advocates of indigent clients in their courtrooms, said Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Annette Rizzo.

The Landlord Tenant Liaison committee, chosen for an honor by the civil branch of the Common Pleas trial division, was selected for improving the forms and information used in the court for pro se tenant litigants and, among other proposed procedural improvements, developing a mandatory mediation program to handle landlord-tenant disputes.

“I was very pleased, surprised, more shocked,” said Kenneth Baritz of Kenneth L. Baritz & Associates about receiving the award along with other participants in the Landlord Tenant Liaison committee. The committee with an estimated 12 members included both attorneys like Baritz who represent property owners and attorneys who represent tenants.

Gary Server, selected by the juvenile branch of the family division for an award, was humbled to be recognized by judges for his work handling both delinquent and dependency cases. “I didn’t realize anyone was watching,” Server said.

Server said his ultimate reward comes when family members scream out in jubilation “when families get back together and a judge discharges the case.”

Server was selected because he represents the advocacy that can check judges’ power in litigants’ lives, “power best contained and curtailed by legal representation,” said Administrative Judge Kevin M. Dougherty of the Family Court division.

Server has worked alongside another honoree, W. Fred Harrison Jr. on felony, including death penalty, cases, Harrison and Server said.

Harrison was selected by the criminal branch of the trial division to be honored for his superior knowledge of the law and his passionate advocacy of indigent criminal clients, President Judge C. Darnell Jones II said.

Attorney Megan Watson, selected by the domestic relations branch of the family division, was honored, Family Court Judge Idee Fox said jokingly, for letting judges guilt trip her and chase her down the hallway to take pro bono assignments. Watson is able to get angry, bitter families to focus on the children they’re fighting over, Fox said.

Attorney Howard Soloman was selected by the Orphans’ Court division because of his above-and-beyond pro bono work, including volunteering to create a guardianship manual, said Administrative Judge Joseph D. O’Keefe of the Orphans’ Court.

David H. Denenberg of Abramson and Denenberg, selected by the civil division of the Municipal Court, said he has been driven to volunteer with cases involving elderly clients since he was once asked to evict a 92-year-old tenant mid-winter. Since then he has accepted any pro bono cases that have ever come into his office. “I don’t think I’ve ever said no,” Denenberg said.

Jones said it’s easy to volunteer time episodically. He thanked the honorees for giving more. “It’s another thing to give time. It’s another thing to give energy. It’s another thing to give heart,” Jones said.

— Amaris Elliott-Engel, Staff Reporter

Gormley to Replace Cappy?

January 17, 2008

Peter Hall is reporting in our sister publication, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, that Duquesne University law professor Kenneth E. Gormley has emerged as a possible front-runner to win the appointment to replace retired former Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy.

Gormley is currently the president of the Allegheny County Bar Association and once clerked for Cappy.

To read more about it, check out Hall’s story at www.palawweekly.com

— Hank Grezlak, Editor-in-Chief

Philly Court Stats Show Sharp Drop in Class Actions

January 14, 2008

The Philadelphia court system has seen a sharp drop in the number of class actions filed between 2005 and 2007, reports Charles Mapp Sr., the deputy civil administrator in the civil division of the First Judicial District today.

In 2005, 56 class actions were filed in the FJD. In 2006, there were 26 class actions. In 2007, there were 10.

The dramatic decline in the number of class actions filed in City Hall likely reflects the impact of a federal law, the 2005 Class Action Fairness Act. The law, which became effective in February 2005, created a new category of federal jurisdiction over diversity of citizenship class action complaints, including class actions with more than 100 class members, controversies that exceed $5 million and in which the citizenship of one member of the defendants is different from the citizenship of one member of the plaintiff class.

Many class actions filed in state courts are removed to federal court. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has the eighth-highest increase of diversity class action filings among federal district courts, according to an interim report from the a study being conducted by the Federal Judicial Center.

Since the CAFA regime started, FJD court officials expect that very few class actions will proceed in FJD. “It’s going to dry up,” said Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark I. Bernstein, who has presided over two high-profile class action trials including Hummel v. Wal-Mart and Braun v. Wal-Mart, as well as Samuel-Bassett v. Kia Motors America Inc.

— Amaris Elliott-Engel, staff reporter

Ballard Spahr Creates Subprime Lending Team

January 8, 2008

Just a few days after the American Dialect Society named “subprime” as its word of the year, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll created a practice around litigation and business issues that might stem from this summer’s subprime lending crisis.

The group will offer legal services and guidance to clients regarding the litigation, government action and business problems related to subprime lending, the firm said Tuesday.

The multi-disciplinary group includes existing Ballard Spahr attorneys from the firm’s consumer finance, real estate, investment management, bankruptcy, securitization and white collar litigation practices.

“When the American Dialect Society choose ‘subprime’ as the word of the year, they not only touched on a subject that is popular in the media, but on an issue that has a significant and on-going impact on the overall commercial financial health of the United States,” Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., partner in Ballard Spahr’s litigation department and a member of the subprime lending team, said in a statement  “As the subprime crisis grows, it’s clear that the effects will be felt across several disciplines and throughout the country.”

The firm said it is well positioned to help clients in Arizona, Nevada and California – states with high default rates – because of its existing offices in those areas.

— Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Cozen O’Connor Names New CFO

January 8, 2008

Cozen O’Connor named John A. Curran as its new chief financial officer.

Curran replaces former CFO David W. Ellman who moved into the firm’s chief operating officer position in August 2007.

Curran will be responsible for conducting strategic financial analysis for the firm, overseeing its annual budget process and decision support analyses.

For the last six years, he served as vice president of finance and planning at InfraSource Services. Prior to that, Curran held financial planning and analysis positions with Exelon Corporation.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter