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Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis is following suit with several other large Philadelphia firms in raising its first-year salary from $115,000 to $125,000. The increase will be effective July 1, 2006, and be given in each of the firm’s seven offices. That does not mean, however, that all of the offices will start at the same level, according to firm managing partner Diana S. Donaldson. Some offices will be higher and others lower. The $10,000 increase will be given at every associate level with the exception of those high-level associates that made a lateral move into the firm and are already under special salary arrangements, Donaldson said. The firm chose July 1 as the starting date for increases because it recently came off paying out its bonuses at the end of January, she said. The firm had a reserve in its budget for these types of contingencies, and Donaldson said that would pay for part of the cost of the increase. The remainder will be handled through cost management, which has been a focus for the firm in the past few years, she said. Billable hour requirements will not change because of the increase, she said. Donaldson said the increase was motivated by how much the firm values its associates, who she said work very closely with the partners on a regular basis. “We are highly competitive in recruitment, and we want to make sure we maintain that competitive edge,” she added. Schnader Harrison bumped its pay most recently on the heels of Buchanan Ingersoll, which raised its starting salaries to $125,000 on Wednesday. DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary kicked off the trend in January, increasing Philadelphia first-year pay to $125,000. Drinker Biddle did away with its base/bonus program the same day, making first-year pay $125,000, excluding bonuses. Wolf Block Schorr & Solis Cohen and Duane Morris pushed their starting salary to $125,000 the same day. Announcing in between those firms was Morgan Lewis & Bockius, having raised its starting salary to $135,000 in Philadelphia. Morgan Lewis had a short stint as the highest-paying firm in the city until Dechert matched it at $135,000 March 1. Other firms that raised salaries in March include Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll – which announced the increase in February, but made it effective March 1 – Blank Rome, Pepper Hamilton and Saul Ewing. All of those firms bumped first-year pay to $125,000. Saul Ewing, Pepper Hamilton and Ballard Spahr gave the $10,000 increase to each of its associate levels, with the exception of Pepper Hamilton’s Detroit and Harrisburg offices, where pay went up $7,000. - Gina Passarella Judge Asks for Dismissal of Eskin Suit to Be Upheld Because sports media pundit Howard Eskin did not have any reason to believe a Temple University police officer was lying when he told Eskin a drug-addicted assistant coach for the school’s basketball team had been involved in a locker room theft incident, summary judgment was properly granted to Eskin in the coach’s defamation suit over a television broadcast in which Eskin reported the theft allegations, a Philadelphia judge has written in a recently filed opinion. This past fall, Judge Lisa M. Rau effectively dismissed former Temple assistant coach Nathaniel Blackwell’s suit in a one-page order. In a 27-page opinion filed Tuesday, Rau urged the Superior Court to affirm her decision. Eskin’s report followed local media coverage in March 2003 of the fact that Blackwell had been suspended by Temple for missing a number of recent games. Blackwell, a former Temple and NBA player who had previously been described as a prot�g� of and possible successor to legendary Temple men’s basketball coach John Chaney, had not disputed his history of drug abuse, but did argue that the theft accusations were false and should not have been reported by Eskin. But Rau, finding that Blackwell is a celebrity, concluded that Blackwell had not proved that Eskin knew the theft statement was false or probably false. “The report that Mr. Blackwell was allegedly involved in theft did not occur in isolation,” Rau wrote. “The report was part of a larger story, that Mr. Blackwell was using cocaine to such a degree that he missed games and received an indefinite suspension from his job. Mr. Eskin testified that after hearing [Temple police] Officer [Charles] Campbell’s report of theft, he believed that Mr. Blackwell’s illegal drug use had led to theft since many drug users need money to support their expensive habit[s]. “Certainly it does not strain credulity to think that an assistant coach who engages in an expensive and dangerous illegal drug habit and who was so out of control that he was missing public games and risking his job, might also engage in other illegal behavior like theft to support his cocaine habit. The criminal courts abound with cases of individuals who have taken this unfortunate path. The issue is not whether the statement was true but whether Mr. Eskin knew that the statement was false or probably false.” Blackwell’s attorney, James E. Beasley Jr. of The Beasley Firm, has said his client had made an initial demand of $5 million when the case began. Defense attorneys Amy Ginensky, Robert Heim and Kristin Hynd of Dechert had stated in court papers in Blackwell that Eskin had made his report “in good faith belief” that it was both true and of legitimate public concern. Rau agreed, noting that under U.S. law, actual malice carries a subjective, rather than an objective, standard. “Thus, whether Mr. Eskin actually knew the broadcast was false or probably false is the issue to be addressed, not what some other person knew or what Mr. Eskin should have known,” she wrote. And under Pennsylvania law, she continued, reporting that was negligently performed, “while regrettable,” does not constitute defamation. - Asher Hawkins

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