Christie, Pabarue, Mortensen and Young has announced it will soon become Christie Pabarue & Young when its seven-lawyer insurance coverage defense team, led by co-founding shareholder Bradley J. Mortensen and including managing shareholder Ralph J. Luongo, leaves to open a Philadelphia office for northern New Jersey firm Carroll, McNulty & Kull.
Joining Mortensen and Luongo are shareholders Elaine Whiteman Klinger and Cynthia Ruggerio and associates Susan Bradford Thauer, Elizabeth A. Bartman and Anneliese Scott.
The group will open a Philadelphia office for Carroll McNulty, a 56-lawyer full service firm based in Basking Ridge, N.J., that also has an office in New York City.
The attorneys focus their practices largely on representing insurance company clients in insurance coverage disputes.
As of press time Friday, the group was set to start at Carroll McNulty today.
Carroll McNulty managing member Gary S. Kull told The Legal on Friday that the firm was looking to enter the Philadelphia market because it has a number of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey clients.
Kull said he's known Klinger and Luongo for years and that he first reached out to Klinger eight or nine months ago to inquire about having her open a Philadelphia office.
From there, Kull said, the talks eventually expanded to include the other six attorneys.
"I think they wanted to get to something that had a bigger platform for them," Kull said, describing his firm as having a national practice. "Their practice really melds well with ours."
Kull said his firm also had a number of clients in common with the group.
"It just kind of made sense," Kull said.
The announcement comes just a few weeks after the departures of professional liability attorneys Marc L. Bogutz, his father, Jerome E. Bogutz, and partner William F. McDevitt from Christie Pabarue to Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker's Philadelphia office earlier this month.
But Christie Pabarue was adamant in the press release it sent out Friday afternoon that the two moves had nothing to do with each other.
"The timing is totally coincidental," Christie Pabarue co-founding shareholder James A. Young told The Legal on Friday.
The departure of Mortensen's team will decrease Christie Pabarue's headcount from 36 attorneys to 29 attorneys.
Young said that his firm has been planning for some time to scale back its insurance coverage defense practice.
"This has been kind of an evolving issue because the nature of that business has changed," Young said, adding, "The number and scope of the cases has decreased."
Whereas a few years ago it wouldn't have been unusual to staff an insurance coverage case with 10 or even 15 lawyers, that's no longer the case, Young said.
In addition, Young said he believes insurance clients "are really looking for a bigger regional presence and, in some instances, a national presence with law firms who are much more fully devoted to that practice."
In its press release, the firm said it plans to "focus more time and resources on its growing medical malpractice defense and life sciences litigation, workers' compensation, general liability, employment counseling and litigation, mass torts, attorney malpractice defense, canon law litigation and commercial practice areas."
According to Young, while Christie Pabarue has offices in Philadelphia, Westmont, N.J., Boston, New York City and Wilmington, Del., the majority of its insurance coverage defense work has been done out of the Philadelphia location.
Young said the firm has been aware of the changes in the insurance coverage defense practice for a while now and when Mortensen and his team were presented with the opportunity to join Carroll McNulty, the timing was right.
"It's friendly," Young said of the team's departure. "We just decided it's not the best fit."
Mortensen helped found Christie Pabarue in 1992, after he, Christie and James A. A. Pabarue left now-defunct Philadelphia firm Clark, Ladner, Fortenbaugh & Young with 15 other attorneys and joined up with Young, who had been a partner at Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young in Philadelphia.
Luongo, meanwhile, has served as the firm's managing partner since October 2003.
Mortensen and Luongo did not return calls seeking comment Friday afternoon.
Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI. •