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With Barry Ungar deciding to step down as a partner and start an alternative dispute resolution practice, Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen is left with only two partners from its May 2002 acquisition of venerable litigation boutique Mann Ungar Spector & Labovitz. Effective yesterday, Ungar, 60, took counsel status at Wolf Block. This comes on the heels of Theodore Mann, 76, opting to take counsel status at the beginning of this year. That leaves only Judah Labovitz, 64, and Larry Spector, 53, to continue as partners. Ungar, considered the key to the May 2002 merger, will take counsel status for the time being but said he will take the next month or two to determine whether or not he can maintain an ADR practice while still a lawyer at a large firm like Wolf Block. Most lawyers and judges who start ADR practices do so by opening their own businesses. Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young partner Bennett Picker is one of the few partners to successfully navigate both worlds. “I think I would enjoy advising lawyers [about cases], and the resources of Wolf Block are great,” Ungar said. “But there is the question of [client] conflicts that might arise.” Though he earned his professional reputation over the past 35 years as a commercial litigator, Ungar has been handling a variety of ADR matters for the past quarter-century. “When I came [to Wolf Block], this wasn’t in my mind,” Ungar said. “But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that I enjoy ADR work more than litigating.” When asked whether the move to Wolf Block worked out as planned, Ungar said the results of the merger have certainly been unpredictable. He has spent the past several weeks working with litigation department co-chairman Norm Goldberger to transfer his caseload to other lawyers. “This was a good time to do this because I had a lot of matters wrapping up,” Ungar said. “I have good relations with the people here. I have no complaints. I handled some major matters for the firm and received all the support I desired.” Wolf Block chairman Mark Alderman said that he was not aware that Ungar was considering leaving the firm and that he plans to discuss it with him. Despite Mann and Ungar taking counsel status, Alderman said he still views the much-hyped acquisition as a success for the firm. “If I could do the deal all over again, I would,” Alderman said. “Even though it hasn’t worked out precisely as expected, [the Mann Ungar group] has been an asset to the firm.” For the past several years, Wolf Block has been looking to interject new leadership into its litigation department. Though still an active partner, longtime chairman Jerry Shestack is 78 and now serves as co-chairman with Goldberger. Rainmaker Ian Strogatz has long resisted assuming a practice management role. So it was assumed when the merger occurred that Ungar would be a logical choice to assume a leadership position. But a new generation of leaders is emerging. Dana Klinges, 43, was recently named vice chairwoman of the department. Citing an increasing inability to secure its usual array of high-end cases, the Mann Ungar name partners dissolved their 31-year-old firm and folded it into Wolf Block in June 2002. Alderman said at the time of the acquisition that the four additions would add to the depth, expertise and experience of the litigation department. He said Mann brought his stature as one of the commercial litigation bar’s deans, Ungar and Spector brought experience and versatility, and Labovitz brought a focus on antitrust work. Ungar concentrated his practice in complex commercial litigation, especially securities, antitrust, real estate waste disposal, legal malpractice and pharmaceutical litigation. Picker, whose practice focuses primarily on mediation work after years as a successful litigator, said he believes Ungar has the requisite skill set to make a fine neutral party negotiator. In addition to grappling with conflicts, another problem with having an ADR practice within the confines of a large firm is that there is no room to leverage the work with associates. Picker said the key to making it work at Stradley Ronon had been avoiding conflicts and assembling a multi-lawyer practice group that focuses on advising clients of preventive measures in addition to handling mediation work.

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