Archive for March 2008

Megatrends in Trusts and Estates

March 31, 2008

Megatrends is a name given to important changes in the economy or in the behavior of many people. People write books and articles about megatrends, hoping to identify them before others do and to benefit in some way (usually by selling more books). There are several megatrends that have a definite impact on trusts and estates work, and that will be discussed in future blogs:

  • People are becoming wealthier, even with the current stock market setbacks. This is a worldwide phenomenon and contributes to the international flavor of much estate planning.
  • A large number of people (the always demanding baby boom generation) are getting close to retirement and to a “final” disposition of their assets.
  • There is a strong interest in business succession planning, particularly in this part of the country, where there are so many family-owned businesses. To deal with these issues, trusts and estates lawyers often have to act like psychologists, or at least hire them.
  • People want to protect their assets against litigation and divorce, among other threats.
  • There is and will continue to be a need for increased tax revenues, which leads inevitably to more complex tax laws and the need to plan for them. When Congress talks about tax simplification, tax lawyers go car shopping.

The combination of these megatrends demonstrates the growing importance of the broad practice area of trusts and estates, often referred to by more general names such as personal wealth, private client or wealth transmission, and ensures that this will be an area of growing importance for lawyers, one that focuses not on death but on the enjoyment of life.

In the next blog, we’ll review the campaign to repeal the federal estate tax and the likely future of the tax and the exemption from tax, as well as efforts to repeal the Pa. inheritance tax.

Robert H. Louis

Saul Ewing


PBA Closer to Directly Electing Leadership

March 28, 2008

The Philadelphia Bar Association moved one step closer to directly electing all of its leadership after the Board of Governors accepted a bylaw amendment during its meeting Thursday that will eliminate the nominating committee in favor of a completely member-and voter-directed process.

The proposed amendment must now be publicized and put to a vote by the membership during the next quarterly meeting. The quarterly meeting will likely be held in June, but an exact date and time have not yet been determined.

The new system will be in place by this year’s annual meeting for the selection of the next vice chancellor and other bar leaders if the membership approves the proposal.

The amendment to kill off the nominating committee was adopted out of the commonplace critique that an official body giving approval to some, but not all, leadership candidates discouraged some good-quality potential leaders from pursuing bar association leadership posts.

A. Michael Pratt, current chancellor of the bar association, created a nominating committee task force at the beginning of the year to evaluate the efficacy of the nominating committee. The task force, chaired by Bruce A. Franzel of Oxenburg & Franzel, recommended the elimination of the nominating committee and the creation of an elections committee.

Meanwhile, the current system will stay in place until the membership either approves or disapproves the system. The current setup allows the endorsement of one or more nominees for vice chancellor, secretary, treasurer, assistant secretary and assistant treasurer as well as three nominees for membership on the Board of Governors by a committee made up of the chancellor, chancellor-elect, vice chancellor, the two immediate past chancellors, three members of the Board of Governors picked by the board, one person designated by each section or division from among its executive committee members and four chairs of standing committees picked from four groupings of committees.

Stephanie Resnick, chair of the Board of Governors, said during Thursday’s meeting that the until the system is changed, the nominating committee needed to be formed by the end of this month and the Board of Governors still needed to select its trio of nominators.

The Board of Governors selected board members Karen L. Detamore, Jeffrey S. Gross and Jacqueline S. Segal.

Under the proposed system, the elections committee would be chaired by the immediate past chancellor and made up of 10 others appointed by the current chancellor and approved by the board. The elections committee would hold candidate forums during which candidates would present their qualifications and their interest in the positions they’re running for. The candidate forums also would be available via podcast on the association’s Web site.

Candidates for a board membership post would be required to collect 25 signatures and submit their nominating petitions to the secretary of the association. Thirty-five signatures would be required for line officers, and 100 signatures would be required for the vice chancellor.

— Amaris Elliott-Engel, Staff Reporter

Client Interviewers Increasing in Popularity

March 28, 2008

While Ballard Spahr was the latest Pennsylvania firm to add a client interviewer, it isn’t the only one to have such a position.

Duane Morris, well known for having one of the largest marketing departments in the country relative to its lawyer headcount, has had a dedicated client relationships manager for more than four years. The former attorney has been doing the interviews for about three years and has spoken with between 40 and 50 clients, the firm’s chief marketing officer, Edward M. Schechter, said.

Five other senior marketing team members assist the manager in talking to several people in each client organization. The firm asks the client who it should meet with in the company in addition to the in-house attorneys, and that can often lead to anywhere between two to 10 interviews per client, Schechter said.

The firm then asks the attorneys who work with those clients to address the concerns within 10 business days with the understanding that they may not all be resolved in such short order.

Duane Morris also has business developers working in a sales function who sometimes act in a client relations capacity, Schechter said.

He said the goal has nothing to do with selling — it’s all about listening and responding.

According to Schechter, the client interviewer role is being utilized country-wide on a much more frequent basis than it had been even two years ago.

As previously reported, Reed Smith has a director of general counsel relations. The firm started the position in 2005, but the original director was hired away by a firm client. Reed Smith filled the spot in December 2006 with a former general counsel.

Ballard Spahr brought on a former reporter to handle its new client interviewer post.

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Schnader Harrison Brings Back Former Partner

March 28, 2008

Jeffrey O. Greenfield rejoined Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis as a partner in the firm’s business services department. He was most recently with the firm in 2001.

Schnader Harrison said he plans to use is experience as an attorney for more than 18 years along with his business background to work with the firm’s corporate clients on transactions.

Just prior to joining Schnader, Greenfield was the owner and chief operating officer of a wholesale book distribution company, and prior to that he was the founder and president of privately held company that sought to acquire and operate middle-market companies within broad industry categories in the mid-Atlantic region.

Greenfield began his career at Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson in 1987, becoming a partner in 1995. He served as a member of the firm’s executive committee and the hiring partner. He originally became a part of Schnader Harrison when it merged with Mesirov Gelman in 2000.

“We are extremely pleased to have Jeff back at Schnader,” Chairman Ralph Wellington said in a statement. “His experience both as an attorney and as an executive gives him a unique perspective that will benefit our clients. I am confident that his extensive background in corporate and commercial finance, real estate and leasing, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and syndications will allow him to be a dynamic addition to the Schnader team.”

~Gina Passarella, Staff Reporter

Court Decision Perpetuates Fodder in Mumia Case

March 27, 2008

The Legal Intelligencer reported online today that Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death sentence has been overturned but his conviction upheld.

Shannon Duffy reported that the “3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that affirmed Abu-Jamal’s conviction but overturned his death sentence due to potentially confusing jury instructions.”

 It doesn’t surprise me at all that the opinion was 118 pages (36 pages short of the 154-page PCRA opinion that I worked on with Judge Albert F. Sabo as his law clerk in 1995) or that the three-judge panel was divided.

 Having read more that 10,000 pages of transcripts when we heard the PCRA matters in 1995, I personally believe that the appellate claims are meritless.

What really irks me, though, is that this case, some 26 years later, is still unresolved. The evidence clearly shows that Abu-Jamal murdered Officer Daniel Faulkner in cold blood. If he had just gotten life in prison at the original trial, I doubt he would have ever become a cause celebre. Let’s face it, Pennsylvania may claim to be a capital punishment state but getting the death penalty is no different than life in prison.

 The death penalty, as with this decision, just gives rise to plenty of fodder for the media, continues to keep the case alive and perpetuates the injustice to the Faulkner family.

 In the book, “Murdered by Mumia,” co-authored by Michael Smerconish and Maureen Faulkner, Maureen remembers the day Judge Yohn overturned the death sentence. She says that she received a call from “Hugh Burns of the District Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia. He had news that would drain the blood from [her] face. . . [she] felt sick … [then] the phones started ringing from reporters.” 

 I presume, seven years after Judge Yohn’s decision, Maureen Faulkner is experiencing much of the same. So the saga continues.

Gina F. Rubel, Esq.
Furia Rubel Communications, Inc.

Rendell Sounds Off on Merit Selection, Pa. Primary, etc.

March 26, 2008

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell told a sold-out crowd of young lawyers mingling in the lounge setting of G that the fresh push for the appointment of appellate judges is needed because the state’s elected system of judges is a terrible system for diversity.

“Look at Darnell Jones,” Rendell said, referring to Philadelphia Common Pleas President Judge C. Darnell Jones II’s unsuccessful shot last year at the state Supreme Court during the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division annual meeting Tuesday at the bar and mingling space below Davio’s on S. 17th Street.

An appointed system is also needed, Rendell said, because judicial candidates shouldn’t have to raise money from lawyers or potential litigants like the Chamber of Commerce or the AFL-CIO. Legislation was introduced this week in the General Assembly to abolish the election of appellate judges in favor of nominations by a citizen commission, appointments by the governor and confirmations by the Senate.

Rendell said that the merit selection proposal might not get far in Harrisburg’s political climes. But this proposal has one political survival skill: it’s key that voter enfranchisement would not being taken away regarding common pleas and other local judges because in the commonwealth’s rural counties — unlike in Philadelphia — candidates for that level of judge are well-known to voters and voters are invested in selecting judges, Rendell said.

Rendell took questions from the audience in lieu of giving a speech as the keynote speaker.

In response to one presidential race question, Rendell, an outspoken backer of U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential nominee race, said that Clinton would win the Pennsylvania primary, but the “only question is what the margin will be.”

He said he believes U.S.  Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton’s opponent, will be damaged if Clinton wins Pennsylvania by 14-17 points, but won’t be too damaged if Clinton only wins by 10 points or less.

He said that no matter who wins the Democratic Party nominee contest, that after three debates with Republican presidential nominee U.S. Sen. John McCain, “Senator Obama is going to be president or Senator Clinton is going to be president.”

Once Rendell leaves the governor’s mansion, he said in one answer, he would increase his teaching load, do foundation work, join a law firm as of counsel to advise clients on whom to go see in the government for their particular issues and write a book.

He said he thought he might title the book: “Life in Politics: You Can’t Make This Shit Up.”

Tuesday night’s event sold-out with 250 tickets, event organizers said.

Scott P. Sigman, an associate at Bochetto & Lentz, received the leadership gavel from outgoing chair Alan Nochumson. Sigman said his goals for the YLD this year echoes Mayor Michael Nutter’s goals of improving the city’s crime rates and public education system.

Earlier in the meeting, the YLD gave out three awards.

DaQuana L. Carter, an associate at Pepper Hamilton, received the Craig M. Perry Service Award, which is given to a young lawyer who has devoted substantial time and energy to community-oriented activities. Carter, the president-elect for the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and a graduate of Villanova University, mentors a Villanova minority law school student each year, serves as secretary of the Villanova Alumni Minority Society Board and is an active member of her firm’s pro bono committee.

Maria A. Feeley, a partner at Pepper Hamilton, received the F. Sean Peretta Service Award, which is given to a member of the legal community for exceptional community service. Last year, Feeley co-chaired the Women in the Profession committee of the bar association, which established a new call to action and best practices to increase the retention and promotion of women in the legal field. Feeley is a new member of the Board of Governors.

Law firm Dechert received the YLD Vision Award, which is given to an organization that has provided support to the YLD in fulfillment of its mission. Dechert sponsored the YLD holiday party in 2006 and 2007.

 — Amaris Elliott-Engel, staff reporter 

Nutter’s Plan for Prison System Overhaul Moves Forward

March 25, 2008

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter today signed an executive order to develop a plan of action to tackle overcrowding in the city’s prisons that have resulted in the double bunking and triple bunking of prisoners, a number of lawsuits and a system that is 35 percent over capacity.

Nutter also appointed a permanent leader for the city’s prisons. Louis Giorla, who has been acting commissioner of the city of Philadelphia Prison System, will now be its permanent head.

The executive order Nutter signed in the mayor’s reception room during a press conference at City Hall requires Giorla and Everett A. Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, to produce a plan within 30 days to posit both short-term and long-term reforms that can ease the strain on the city’s prisons.

“It’s no secret our prison system is bursting at the seams,” Nutter said.

In 1997, running the city’s prisons cost $117 million; the 2009 proposed prison budget calls for $230 million, Nutter said.

There were 5,700 inmates in 1998, but now there are over 9,000, the mayor said.

Possible reforms, Nutter said, include establishing an advisory board composed of representatives of all the stakeholders in the prison system, establishing a re-entry plan for each inmate from the day an inmate enters the system and increasing the job and educational training and drug and alcohol counseling available to former inmates in order to assuage recidivism.

Building a new prison is prohibitively expensive, Giorla said, but the development of short-term contract housing, the increase of day reporting programs for inmates and the development of a mental health court that would divert some inmates from the system all will help.

While Nutter’s crime-fighting plan under the purview of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is anticipated to increase the number of inmates in an initial swell, diverting initiatives will help the system deal with an increased population, Giorla said.

Stephen A. Madva, chairman of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, chair of the Philadelphia Prison System’s board of trustees and a member of the prison commissioner search committee, said Giorla impressed him with his understanding that the prison system not only keeps the larger community secure from people deemed to be a public danger but also must do what it can to reduce recidivism.

Giorla also was a popular choice to lead the prisons. “He has the reputation as a straight-shooter,” Madva. “He has the clear respect of his staff.”

Giorla, a Northeast Philadelphia resident, has come up through the prison system, including leading prisons as a warden. His father also was a corrections officer.

— Amaris Elliott-Engel, Staff Reporter