Alva Wants to Represent Small Firms as Bar Leader

When Daniel-Paul “Danny” Alva’s wife received a clean bill of health from her lymphoma cancer last year, Alva began gearing up for a bid to become the Philadelphia Bar Association’s chancellor in 2011, chancellor-elect in 2010 and vice-chancellor in 2009.

The interest of Alva, a trial lawyer specializing in blue collar and white collar criminal law at three-member firm Alva & Azzarano, in becoming the bar’s leader will make this year’s race a contested one. Rudy Garcia, a shareholder at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, has already declared his candidacy.

Alva argues that his background of working in small firms would provide an important change in leadership at the bar association. Small firms, which make up one-third of Philadelphia’s legal community, have never been represented at the bar association’s top, Alva said. He said that small firms are “a silent majority” which often don’t vote for chancellor and don’t think the trade association has much to offer them. Alva wants to change that by running as the small-firm chancellor candidate.

“There are some goals and programs that hopefully every chancellor wants to continue with,” Alva said. “What’s really important is the perspective you bring to those goals. I’m the first small-firm candidate who hopes to become chancellor.”

The bar association can help attorneys with the business end of their practices, Alva said. Alva learned from his own experience about the benefits of the association. When his malpractice insurance was canceled, the bar association was able to go to bat for him, and Alva’s insurer came back to him with a cheaper rate.

“I’ve got to mobilize the one-third, to use an unfortunate analogy, the silent majority,” Alva said. “There’s lots of people who never voted before. It’s my job to convince them. It’s important as a trade association. With everything we do, we have a lot to offer our members that they don’t partake of.”

Alva, echoing a call by current Chancellor A. Michael Pratt to hire a Philadelphia city lobbyist, also believes that a permanent liaison should be sent up between the bar association and the city government.

The functioning of this “city, for all intents and purposes, as a manufacturing center is gone. Like most big cities we deal with services, and attorneys in this city form an essential part of the service sector,” Alva said. “All of the tax amendments [Mayor Nutter] wants to put through will contribute to it, hopefully not only to attorneys, but to other people in this city. We want to ensure that climate continues.”

Alva, like many other past chancellor candidates, has been active in the bar association for many years. In 16 years, Alva chaired the association’s Board of Governors in 2006, represented the criminal justice section on the board after chairing the section, served on the Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention, and is currently serving on Pratt’s taskforce on judicial selection reform, among other activities.

Alva said that he has a dynamic, outspoken reputation, but he understands that if elected to become chancellor that he will need to be the tempered voice of the bar association, rather than the aggressive advocate. Alva said he has already taken on an even-tempered leadership role with the bar association, despite his personality, when he was chair of the Board of Governors.

– Amaris Elliott-Engel, Staff Reporter

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