The Legal‘s editorial staff recently set out to select our Diverse Attorneys of the Year, in which we highlight the achievements of some of the state’s minority attorneys. Every two years, in an effort to illuminate the efforts of members of the legal profession across the state, we name a new group of attorneys who have done remarkable work in the prior two years.
Our staff examined our archives and asked for insight from respected legal professionals in coming up with our list of honorees. We maintained a broad scope in searching for the right group of attorneys, looking at those in private practice, public interest groups, government agencies and anywhere else that minority attorneys are making an impact.
This list is, by its nature, unable to represent all of the minority attorneys who have made a mark with their work in Pennsylvania, but we feel it is a group that deserves to stand in the spotlight. These attorneys hail from all corners of the state, leading practices, guiding corporations, issuing opinions and representing their constituents in government.
They are all helping to push the legal profession forward and are reinforcing the value of diversity in the process, through their work in their offices, on the bench and with committees focused on bringing equality to the profession.
We are honored to name the following attorneys as The Legal‘s 2013 Diverse Attorneys of the Year.
Albert S. Dandridge III
Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis partner Al Dandridge has long led the firm’s securities practice, but he has added other leadership positions to his resume in the past two years.
In November 2011, Schnader Harrison named Dandridge as the firm’s first chief diversity officer, adding to his existing role as chairman of the firm’s diversity committee.
As the CDO, Dandridge said his goal was to focus on retaining diverse attorneys and ensuring the firm is committed to the "walk-down-the-hall hard work" that it takes to assure minority attorneys are getting assignments and thriving in the workplace.
Dandridge’s commitment to diversity isn’t limited to within his firm’s walls. He also serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, which counts among its missions the placement of minority law students into summer associate programs in the city’s largest law firms and corporate law departments.
Aside from his leadership on diversity initiatives, Dandridge is also a leader in the bar in general. In 2012, he ran and won a rare contested race for Philadelphia Bar Association chancellor. Currently the vice chancellor, Dandridge will serve as chancellor of the association in 2015.
William M. Carter Jr.
In July 2012, William M. "Chip" Carter Jr. began in his new role as dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He took on the leadership role at a relatively young age, but with the strong support of the search committee, a member of which called Carter an "incredibly engaging person" who knows the legal education field "inside and out."
Carter had been an associate professor at Temple University Beasley School of Law since 2007. In that role, he had focused on constitutional law, civil rights, critical race theory and international human rights law. He also taught litigation and civil procedure.
In a climate where public universities were faced with decreased funding, Carter said one of his missions was to draw on the research university’s resources to increase the interdisciplinary programs offered to law school students. Some potential ideas there might be health care and the law or law and entrepreneurship, he said.
In his new role, Carter planned to continue his own scholarly work as well as build out the law school.
Paul Lancaster Adams
In 2011, Paul Lancaster Adams left the West Coast and his job as associate general counsel of Microsoft to return to Philadelphia.
He now serves as managing partner of the Philadelphia office of labor and employment boutique Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart. Since joining the firm in early 2012, Adams has stewarded the office’s growth, bringing on a number of notable lateral partners, including Alexander Nemiroff and Min S. Suh.
At the time he joined the office, there were 10 attorneys and Adams said he had plans to grow that number to 30 or 40 lawyers within two years. The office is now up to 12 attorneys.
While at Microsoft, Adams first served as associate general counsel and chief employment litigator for the company. He also handled the investigation, management and tactical responses to the firm’s foreign and domestic class action matters. Another role Adams handled was corporate investigations for the company and general compliance needs. He held those roles for three years until April 2011, when he moved from Redmond, Wash., to Washington, D.C., to serve as Microsoft’s senior director of U.S. government affairs.
Eric Diaz is a partner with 13-lawyer boutique firm Jacoby Donner, known for its work in the construction area, among others.
Diaz has focused his practice on real estate and finance matters related to debt and equity finance, acquisition, disposition and leasing.
In the past two years, Diaz and a small team of lawyers at his firm have handled a number of significant financing deals for clients across the country. Diaz, a former in-house counsel, has proven he can lead small teams on big deals and help clients navigate tricky legal hurdles.
Since 2011, Diaz has, among other matters, led teams assisting the owner of an apartment building to negotiate a $6.6 million refinancing with a Fannie Mae Delegated Underwriting and Servicing lender; assisting a New York private equity firm in financing a $55 million deal to tear down an Aspen, Colo., Gap to build a luxury retail and fine-dining facility; helping a mortgage and mezzanine lenders on a split of a $341 million mortgage among five notes and a $16 million mezzanine loan among two notes.
A. Verona Dorch
In 2012, Verona Dorch took over as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Camp Hill, Pa.-based Harsco Corp.
The $3.3 billion company ranks 24th on Legal affiliate PaLaw 2012‘s listing of the 100 largest public corporations in Pennsylvania based on revenue.
Dorch previously served as vice president, deputy general counsel and assistant corporate secretary at Harsco. Prior to joining Harsco, she served in senior legal positions with leading law firms in Boston, New York and San Francisco, and was a member of the legal team for Sumitomo Chemical Co., based in Tokyo. She joined Harsco in 2006.
In her role as general counsel, Dorch is involved in the overall management and administration of the company’s legal function and took on additional responsibilities for providing direction to Harsco’s legal resources, including overseeing the work activities assigned to the company’s Americas-based attorneys, as well as outside counsel. She also continues to serve as the company’s primary corporate and securities counsel and provide support to the company’s board of directors.
Kenneth A. Murphy
Kenneth Murphy is a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath and vice chairman of the firm’s products liability practice group.
Murphy’s practice includes the defense of products liability and other tort claims, including unfair trade practice and off-label promotion claims on behalf of pharmaceutical companies and other commercial entities. He has often taken cases to trial, and in the past few years has been part of a team to win a significant trial, and subsequent appellate victory for major firm client Johnson & Johnson.
In June 2010, a Philadelphia trial judge granted J&J’s nonsuit in a $150 million common law fraud and misrepresentation case involving allegations J&J defrauded the state’s Medicare program on the efficacy of the company’s anti-psychotic drug Risperdal.
In July 2012, a unanimous en banc panel of the Commonwealth Court agreed with J&J’s arguments and upheld the dismissal of the case against their client.
Joe H. Tucker Jr.
Joe Tucker is name partner of boutique litigation firm Tucker Law Group and has represented numerous universities in trials on a variety of legal questions.
In 2012, he was part of a team representing client Cornell University in a personal injury case against the school in which a paralyzed student gymnast was seeking $57 million in damages.
After a month-long trial that became very heated between co-counsel and included demands for settlement of no less than $20 million, the unanimous 12-member jury found the university was not negligent in the plaintiff’s tumbling accident at a student-run club and therefore never reached the other questions on the verdict slip regarding causation and assumption of risk.
Although it appeared at trial that the judge invited the plaintiff to file a motion for mistrial or new trial after the verdict based on actions of Tucker’s co-counsel in the case, Tucker and his co-counsel successfully argued against those motions, resulting in a February order from the trial judge upholding the complete defense win.
Danielle Banks is a partner with Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, where she focuses her practice on representing companies and individuals in employment law matters, including claims brought under Title VII, Section 1981, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. She also represents clients in other complex litigation matters, including class actions, commercial lending disputes and contract disputes.
While keeping a busy practice, Banks has also carved out a significant amount of time for promoting diversity in the profession.
Banks recently stepped down as one of the co-presidents of the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, a role she held from 2010 to 2012. She also serves as chairwoman of Stradley Ronon’s diversity group. From 2011 to 2012, she was chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award Committee.
The task of ensuring that the state Superior Court, one of the busiest appellate courts in the country, doesn’t produce conflicting results ultimately falls on Philip Yoon, a veteran of the court who recently took over as its chief staff attorney.
He is no rookie to the state’s frontline appeals court, or the appellate system in general, for that matter.
A graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law, Yoon started as a clerk for now-President Judge Correale F. Stevens. He went on to serve as chief clerk for Judge James J. Fitzgerald, with whom Yoon clerked after Fitzgerald was appointed to the Supreme Court, as well. Immediately before assuming the chief staff attorney role, Yoon was the assistant to the president judge, Stevens.
Yoon and his staff are responsible for guiding a court that, in 2011, accommodated 7,675 new appeals, according to the most recent data available from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. The court concluded 7,939 appeals that same year.
Yoon is also scheduled to be on the host committee for the American Bar Association’s young lawyers division national conference, which is scheduled to be held in Pittsburgh in 2014.
Carlton L. Johnson
Archer & Greiner partner Carlton L. Johnson recognizes that in order to see increasing diversity in the legal profession, you’ve got to go to the source: law school.
Johnson, co-chair of the firm’s civil rights and government relations practice groups, played a key role in the creation of the Diversity Scholarship Program at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, a collaborative effort between Archer & Greiner, the city of Philadelphia and Temple Law. The goal of the program is not only to provide financial assistance to minority students at the school — it also offers two students paid work experience at Archer & Greiner and in the Philadelphia Law Department.
Johnson was key in getting Philadelphia City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith, Temple Law Dean JoAnne Epps and key players from Archer & Greiner to the same table in planning the program and was then responsible for executing its components and bringing it to fruition.
That program’s inaugural class performed work for both the law firm and the city last summer.
In honor of his devotion to diversity in the legal profession, Johnson was honored with a diversity award by the Black Law Students Association at Temple Law, his alma mater, in 2012.
Prior to switching to private practice, Johnson spent more than two decades with the Philadelphia Law Department.
Isla L. Long
Pepper Hamilton commercial litigation partner Isla Long, in a column written for The Legal, wrote that being a successful, young, diverse attorney in a big firm is as much about accommodating the "internal client" as it is keeping those clients on the outside happy.
By "internal client," Long was referring to the senior associates and partners to whom young attorneys report. Refining this skill, Long wrote, helps a young attorney claim high-quality and challenging assignments, which, coupled with a positive attitude, lay the bricks on the path to success.
Long’s done alright at it, herself. When the former head of Pepper Hamilton’s commercial litigation practice group left, Long assumed the responsibility for that partner’s major clients, including two long-term clients that have big engagements (including multimillion-dollar trials) with the firm.
In 2012, the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity named Long a fellow. The program was formed to increase diversity in the profession by helping diverse attorneys sharpen their networking skills and expand their networks. Long is also a regular contributor to Pepper Hamilton’s diversity newsletter, Diversity Matters, and she serves on the firm’s hiring and diversity committees.
Stella M. Tsai
Archer & Greiner business litigation partner Stella Tsai, the 2012 chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Diversity in the Profession Committee, has a pretty diverse resume, herself.
In her private practice, Tsai has represented multi-national businesses in litigation, transactional and regulatory matters. She has also handled products liability cases, litigated RICO matters and represented insurance companies over coverage disputes.
Her area of expertise expands beyond business litigation, though, perhaps most notably through her work as chair of the engagement committee on the city Zoning Code Commission, a position for which she was handpicked in 2008 by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. While working for the commission, Tsai helped rewrite the city’s dated zoning code to modernize future developments and ensure sustainable growth.
Rahat N. Babar
Rahat Babar is an attorney in Princeton, N.J.-based Bayne Law Group’s litigation and commercial transactions practices and president-elect of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania.
Babar, who also serves as co-chair of the bar association’s community outreach committee, worked closely with the Pa. Voter ID Coalition last year on outreach programs designed to educate the community on the voter ID law requirements.
His work included holding community workshops to educate voters, ensuring pamphlets were translated into several Asian languages and taking part in press conferences. Babar is currently leading the committee in addressing issues impacting the local Cambodian community.
Prior to joining Bayne Law Group, Babar, who earned his law degree from Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del., served as a New Jersey deputy attorney general.
Tsiwen Law, head of Law & Associates in Philadelphia, is one of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania’s founders. As a member of the bar association’s community outreach committee, Law penned an amicus brief regarding the voter ID laws. In March, Law received the A. Leon Higginbotham Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award during the 25th annual Pennsylvania Bar Association Minority Attorney Conference.
Law, a University of Pennsylvania Law School alum, is a former member of the Pennsylvania Board of Governors and former chairman of its civil and equal rights committee. Law is also a former member of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s board of governors and former chairman of both its civil rights committee and public interest section.
Laura E. Krabill
Laura Krabill is a partner at Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia, where she focuses her practice on general commercial and intellectual property litigation, including securities fraud, patent infringement, contract disputes and class actions. Krabill heads up the Equality Ballard: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Lawyers and Friends affinity group, which aims to provide business and professional development opportunities to the LGBT community. She also sits on Ballard Spahr’s diversity council, which works to help the firm meet its diversity goals. Krabill is also a member of the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association and American Inns of Court.
Jason E. Hazlewood
Jason Hazlewood focuses on complex commercial litigation as an associate in Reed Smith’s commercial litigation group in Pittsburgh, but he has recently given exceptional pro bono service in a prisoner’s civil rights case.
Among the most challenging types of pro bono matters handled in Allegheny County are cases representing inmates who have filed civil rights claims. The cases are time-consuming, often go to trial and bring with them the difficulty of representing someone who is incarcerated and possibly hard to deal with. These factors did not deter Hazlewood, who, in 2011, accepted an appointment from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to represent a plaintiff in a civil rights case on a pro bono basis.
The plaintiff was housed in an institution outside of Pittsburgh, where Hazlewood traveled to meet with him in prison. The client had alleged that after his cellmate repeatedly threatened him with harm, the prison manager failed to respond to his repeated requests that he be transferred to another cell.
Eventually, the cellmate attacked the plaintiff, causing him serious injury.
The case went to trial before Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan, where Hazlewood won a jury verdict. He not only served his client well, but provided a great service to the court by taking a case that the court would otherwise have had to try with an incarcerated, pro se litigant.
Helen Casale concentrates on family law in the Norristown, Pa., office of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller and has become an expert in issues facing same-sex couples, like the legal dissolution of civil unions, second-parent adoption, custody and support.
Casale brought that expertise to the development of a proposed standardized procedure for second-parent adoptions, which was the main force in drafting the rule. It would apply to both gay and straight parents who aren’t married. The rule is pending with the state Supreme Court.
She has also been recognized for her commitment to diversity by former Governor Edward Rendell when she was appointed in 2005 to serve on the Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness. She currently serves as vice chairwoman of the commission.
Nikki Johnson-Huston is a tax attorney for the Philadelphia Law Department and a 2004 graduate of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
Johnson-Huston is a frequent speaker on how she overcame a life of poverty and homelessness to become an award-winning young attorney. She is the former co-chairwoman of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Women in the Profession Committee, a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors and former co-chairwoman of the Women in the Profession Public Service Task Force of the Philadelphia Bar Association. Johnson-Huston used that position to start a mentoring program for high-school students interested in pursuing a career in law, conducted numerous panels about issues related to educational opportunities and the law and co-moderated a fireside chat with Bill Cosby in November 2008.
She has won several awards, including the Craig M. Perry Community Service Award given by the Philadelphia Bar Association young lawyers division.
In 2012, she was an Eisenhower Fellow, for which she traveled to India and New Zealand in September 2012 to work with women and children who were living in poverty. Johnson-Huston was recently appointed the diversity chair to the Philadelphia Bar Association.
When state Representative Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, was elected in 2012, he became the first openly gay Pennsylvanian to be elected to the House of Representatives (another legislator, state Representative Mike E. Fleck, R-Huntingdon, already was elected but came out between when Sims was elected and took office). Prior to his election, Sims also has been active on issues of civil rights as president of Equality Pennsylvania’s board of directors and as chairman of GALLOP, the gay and lesbian lawyers of Philadelphia group. Sims previously served as staff counsel for policy and planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association.
David C. Williams
David Williams of Kline & Specter was co-counsel along with Shanin Specter and other attorneys on one of the top Pennsylvania verdicts in 2011. A federal district judge rendered a $17.5 million verdict for a man who suffered a stroke and a catastrophic brain injury following the extraction of several of his teeth at the Veterans Hospital in Philadelphia. The case is believed to be one of the largest Federal Tort Claims Act verdicts that have been rendered, outside of injuries related to birth. Williams also has served in the U.S. Army in Iraq, for which he received the Army Commendation for Meritorious Service. Williams also served in Bosnia and Germany.
Just four years out of law school, Michael Lee is co-founder of a new legal aid organization, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, which has as its central project an effort to bring legal services directly into the Philadelphia neighborhoods most affected by criminal records. The Criminal Record Expungement Project had its first expungement clinic just over two years ago, and Lee has argued thousands of petitions to expunge criminal records or redact criminal records. Lee also started his own law firm with an emphasis on community lawyering. He is also chair of a National Lawyers Guild committee that takes positions on Federal Communications Commission regulations and other information-age issues.
Everett Gillison became Mayor Michael A. Nutter’s chief of staff in the fall of 2011, and since then the administration has hit such milestones as completing new assessments for most of the city’s properties and overseeing the enactment of a new zoning code hailed as likely to make Philadelphia a more livable and competitive city. Gillison became chief of staff after serving almost four years as the deputy mayor of public safety overseeing the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Philadelphia Prison System, the Office of Emergency Management and an office for the reintegration of ex-offenders. Gillison also has kept a hand in the public safety realm, including overseeing a process in which the city is looking for a new model of legal representation of indigent defendants and family-court litigants where the Defender Association of Philadelphia has a conflict.
Behind every good judge is a good staff, and that’s the case with Rachel Gallegos, who is a court administrative officer managing the nationally renowned mortgage foreclosure diversion program overseen by Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Annette M. Rizzo. Starting as Rizzo’s law clerk, Gallegos now has taken on a full leadership role in the program’s day-to-day operations. The program’s leaders estimate that 23,000 Philadelphia residents have been served by a program in which lenders meet with residential homeowners face-to-face before foreclosures can proceed. Twenty to 28 percent of cases have resulted in successful agreements in which people have saved their homes.
Petrese B. Tucker
Judge Petrese Tucker, who joined the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2000, will be the first female chief of that court when she takes the position this year.
Before being seated on the federal bench, Tucker was a state court judge for 13 years. She served in the family court as well as both the civil and criminal section of the trial division and she was appointed as the administrative judge of the orphans’ court division.
Tucker was the assistant chief of the rape unit and assistant chief of the child-abuse unit when she worked at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
She has also taught at the Great Lakes College Association and Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
Tucker is a member of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and past member of the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. •