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Since taking the helm of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Chancellor Gabriel Bevilacqua has replaced two lawyers who held prominent association positions. Blank Rome partner Larry Beaser, who was chancellor in 1994, was succeeded as counsel to the Board of Governors by Joe Sullivan of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis. Fox Rothschild partner Abe Reich, the 1995 chancellor whose third two-year term as one of the association’s two delegates to the American Bar Association ended last year, has been replaced by Rudolph Garcia, who was active in Bevilacqua’s campaign for chancellor and is a fellow Saul Ewing partner. While bar insiders were reticent to speculate as to Bevilacqua’s motives for the switches, several sources said that they were not surprised by his decisions, given the fact that both Beaser and Reich publicly supported 2003 Chancellor Audrey Talley when Bevilacqua unsuccessfully ran against her for the bar’s top spot. Beaser, who specializes in nonprofit corporation law and was counsel to Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp from 1973 to 1978, became so adept at helping bar leadership draft resolutions and answer legal questions that the position of counsel to the board was created for him. “If something came up and no one knew what to do, and legal analysis was needed, you’d think of Larry,” said Carl Primavera, who was chancellor in 2001. After serving as chancellor, Beaser said, his role transitioned from ad hoc to de facto, until he was eventually named counsel to the board by 1996 Chancellor Francis Devine III, although the position is never mentioned in the bar’s bylaws. Beaser said that as a good deal of his practice involved serving as counsel to a number of nonprofit professional associations, the position of counsel to the board was a good fit. “The issues faced by a professional association are very similar across professions,” Beaser said. “You have member organizations that need bylaws drafted, and that have all sorts of personnel and contract and tax issues. That’s something I handle on a routine basis [in my practice].” Members of the board — and anyone else who attended one of the board’s monthly meetings — became accustomed to a frequent scene, in which a question of draft language or nonprofit corporation law would arise, and all heads would turn in Beaser’s direction. “He would show up, and they would defer to him,” said Edward Chacker, who served as chancellor in 1999. Bevilacqua praised Beaser’s years of “service without recognition” but stressed the need for “fresh points of view and ideas.” And Beaser was quick to point out that he served as counsel to the board only at the presiding chancellor’s pleasure. “Gabe decided that he wanted to make a change, and that’s within his prerogative,” Beaser said. But Bevilacqua’s decision was not without its critics. One member of the board, who did not wish to be named, said that he was disappointed that the board was not at least informed or asked for input concerning the position change. Others suggested that the switch smacked of revenge. “It is political retribution,” said another board member who did not wish to be named. “Everybody knows it. And Larry knows it.” The same source also said that Bevilacqua’s choice not to reappoint Reich as an ABA delegate was regarded by many board members with equal circumspection. Bevilacqua called charges that his decisions were politically motivated “ridiculous.” “Both Abe and Larry are terrific individuals who have given many years to the association, and I appreciate it,” Bevilacqua said. Whatever the controversy surrounding the switches, one would have to struggle to hear uttered an off word about Beaser’s and Reich’s replacements. “Joe Sullivan is a super, super lawyer,” Primavera said. “If you had to pick a person to fill Larry Beaser’s shoes, he’s the person you’d think of.” Chacker praised Garcia, a former board member who chairs the federal courts committee, saying that he was “confident that he would do well as an ABA delegate.” Nevertheless, Chacker said, a “conscious decision” was reached by the board several years ago to pick ABA delegates with the intention of allowing them to serve more than several terms. The decision followed a presentation to the board by 1997 Chancellor Clifford Haines, who argued that only a longtime delegate could be effective in the ABA. “We’re never going to get significant play at the ABA unless we appoint long-term, committed individuals to be delegates,” Chacker said. “In order to become a leader within the ABA, a delegate needs to be there for six, seven, eight years at the least.” In August, Reich addressed the entire ABA House of Delegates in San Francisco to support proposed changes to a model rule on attorney-client privilege. “I respect the chancellor’s prerogative,” Reich said. “But I hope and expect to be reappointed in the future.”

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