Pittsburgh-based Burns White has hired Manning J. "Jim" O'Connor II, former managing partner of Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman's Pittsburgh office, along with two other former Cohen Seglias partners and a senior counsel.
O'Connor and former Cohen Seglias partners Mark Stadler and Patrick Sorek joined Burns White as members August 1, as did former senior counsel Douglas C. Hart.
O'Connor focuses his practice on employment, commercial and health care litigation. Sorek also focuses his practice on commercial litigation. In addition, Hart's practice centers on commercial litigation, employment, discrimination, real estate, construction and health-care-related matters.
Stadler is a business transactional lawyer who also does some work representing health care providers and charities.
The move leaves Cohen Seglias with one partner, Lisa M. Wampler, and one associate in the Pittsburgh office. Cohen Seglias President Roy S. Cohen splits his time between the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh offices.
According to Cohen Seglias managing partner Jason A. Copley, Cohen managed the Pittsburgh office before O'Connor joined the firm and has now assumed those duties again.
Burns White's announcement of the group's hiring comes about three weeks after three Burns White members, including the chair of its construction group and co-chair of its business practices group, left the firm to start Burke Cromer Cremonese, a litigation boutique with a focus on professional liability.
Speaking to The Legal on Tuesday, Burns White founding member David B. White said the firm is in a growth mode, but is looking to expand strategically.
"I have been out looking for opportunities in areas we think make sense for our firm and so when I did have a casual meeting with Jim, the lights and bells and whistles went off," White said.
According to O'Connor, he had reached out to White, with whom he has been friends for years, to congratulate him on receiving the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award from Duquesne University School of Law.
White said the two met for a casual breakfast meeting, during which discussion turned to the possibility of O'Connor and some of his colleagues joining the firm.
According to White, the firm was interested in both enhancing its existing capabilities and expanding the scope of its practice.
"Jim, Pat Sorek and Doug Hart are all seasoned litigators — Jim being the most seasoned of the three," White said. "They have a particular emphasis on commercial litigation and we do some and have been asked to do quite a bit more."
Stadler, meanwhile, brings both corporate transactional and health care regulatory experience to the firm, both of which Burns White's clients have a need for, White said.
According to White, transactional work is becoming more and more in demand as the economy improves.
In addition, health care regulatory work is a natural extension of the firm's health care litigation practice, White said, explaining that Burns White lawyers are in meetings with health care providers on a daily basis hearing about the issues they're facing.
"Certainly, it was a natural evolution of those meetings," White said. "Now we can help them in other areas."
O'Connor said he, Sorek, Hart and Stadler all worked closely together at Cohen Seglias.
All four attorneys joined Philadelphia-based Cohen Seglias' Pittsburgh office in January 2010, though not all from the same firm.
Prior to joining Cohen Seglias, O'Connor and Sorek were partners at Pittsburgh-based Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, while Hart was an associate.
Stadler, however, was a director at Pittsburgh-based Cohen & Grigsby.
The group joined as part of Cohen Seglias' push to expand its capabilities beyond the construction law practice it had long been known for.
But O'Connor said promoting other practices turned out to be a challenge because clients identified the Cohen Seglias brand with construction law.
"It wasn't an issue of anything negative at Cohen Seglias, it just seemed that because the firm had such an intense concentration in construction that other areas we were trying to market proved a little more difficult," O'Connor said, adding that while the firm was very supportive of the group's efforts to promote their practices, "whenever clients around the region hear the name Cohen Seglias, they think about construction."
But Copley said this has not been the firm's experience as a whole.
"We have not encountered that with other practice groups that have joined the firm and have sought to practice in other areas," Copley said.
O'Connor said he had long been an admirer of Burns White and found there was a convergence between the firm's practice and his and his colleagues' practices.
According to O'Connor, client reaction to his and his colleagues' move has been "very positive, not only toward the services we provided at Cohen Seglias, but we've also seen a very positive reaction to Burns White."