Saul Ewing has continued the aggressive expansion of its year-old Pittsburgh office, adding three partners and one special counsel from Pittsburgh-based Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, including its litigation, construction, and mergers and acquisitions heads.

The additions bring the office’s total headcount to 13 lawyers.

Former Leech Tishman partners Charles Kelly, who was chair of the firm’s litigation group, and Joseph H. Bucci, who was the chair of the firm’s construction group, have joined Saul Ewing as partners in the firm’s litigation department.

Former Leech Tishman partner Ericson P. Kimbel, who is also a construction attorney, has joined Saul Ewing as special counsel in its litigation department.
In addition, Kevin B. Acklin, who was also a partner at Leech Tishman and head of its mergers and acquisitions practice, has joined Saul Ewing as a partner in its business and finance department.

The move comes less than a month after Saul Ewing added four Employee Retirement Income Security Act attorneys from Thorp Reed & Armstrong to its business and finance department.

Sarah Lockwood Church, who had been the head of Thorp Reed’s employee benefits group, joined Saul Ewing last month as special counsel. Former Thorp Reed senior counsel Paul A. Kasicky and Kevin A. Wiggins, along with counsel Joni Landy, all joined Saul Ewing as special counsel as well.

In January, K&L Gates partner John P. Englert joined Saul Ewing’s Pittsburgh office as a partner in the firm’s energy, environment and utilities department.

Saul Ewing opened its Pittsburgh office in May 2012 with four attorneys from the Pittsburgh office of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis.

The group, which is composed of partners Jay Panzarella, Adam F. Kelson and David R. Berk and associate Christopher Evans, focuses on corporate finance, business counseling, tax, and mergers and acquisitions.

Saul Ewing managing partner David S. Antzis said Pittsburgh’s economy is currently growing, at least in part due to the Marcellus Shale natural gas play.

Along with creating demand for energy and environmental lawyers, that industry growth has also ramped up the need for other legal services, according to Antzis.

For example, Antzis said, the Pittsburgh market is currently experiencing a "construction boom," as increased oil and gas activity has created a need for more hotels, housing developments and office buildings.

Bucci represents contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, owners, developers, architects, engineers, sureties and property managers in construction litigation.

Kimbel’s practice is also focused on construction litigation.

Bucci agreed with Antzis that the construction industry in and around Pittsburgh has seen an uptick recently.

While part of that is attributable to the oil and gas industry’s rise in the region, Bucci said, a lot of the construction work is also coming from universities and other educational institutions.

In addition, Bucci said, the commercial construction market has picked up after a dry spell.
"Money is cheap and contractors are hungry," Bucci said.

Antzis said the economic growth in Pittsburgh has likewise led to a need for transactional attorneys and commercial litigators.

Acklin centers his practice on mergers and acquisitions, with a specific focus on private equity and venture capital transactions, and Kelly focuses his practice on media, health care and complex commercial litigation.

Antzis said Saul Ewing views Kelly, a complex litigator in his 50s, as a "great basis" on which to grow its Pittsburgh litigation practice.

Antzis noted that the firm is now in the market for some younger litigators, particularly those who can do courtroom work in matters related to its interstate pipeline clients.

Antzis said that because Bucci, Kelly, Kimbel and Acklin were all partners at Leech Tishman with, for the most part, their own independent practices, they’re bringing a substantial book of business to Saul Ewing with very little client overlap.

"They’re bringing an awful lot of new, indigenous Pittsburgh clients," Antzis said.

While he had initially been concerned about possibly encountering difficulties in breaking into a close-knit legal market like Pittsburgh, Antzis said it seems the economic expansion in the region has afforded many lawyers the freedom to move around.

Bucci said he and his colleagues decided to make the jump to Saul Ewing because they liked the way the firm’s various offices collaborate with each other, as well as its open and transparent management structure.

Pete A. Fuscaldo, managing partner of Leech Tishman, said the group’s departure would not negatively impact his firm’s business.

"Turnover is a part of the business," Fuscaldo said. "This happens and we’ll be fine."

According to Fuscaldo, Leech Tishman partner David V. Weicht has taken over as chair of the firm’s litigation group.

Fuscaldo said Bucci and Kimbel were Leech Tishman’s only full-time construction attorneys but added that the firm is about to hire a new lawyer to that practice.

The firm has yet to replace Acklin as head of its mergers and acquisitions practice, however, Fuscaldo said.

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or zneedles@alm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI.