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Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll has added a former Philadelphia City Planning Commission official to its real estate group as a nonlawyer. Richard L. Lombardo, who retired from his post as the executive director and secretary for strategic planning at the commission last July, joined the firm’s Philadelphia office as a project executive. In that role, Lombardo will focus on driving development projects from the planning stages, through construction to occupancy. “Where a lawyer will bring a very specialized knowledge of the law, I sort of bring a broad-based knowledge of the process,” Lombardo said in an interview. He said that during his time as head of the commission, he handled all of the major projects that went on in Philadelphia by walking the architects and their attorneys through the process, informing other departments about upcoming developments or preparing legislation. “I sort of mapped their way through the process,” he said. Lombardo, who began at the firm at the end of April, said he brings an institutional knowledge of planning and planning laws. In his experience, architects are more likely to take constructive criticism from a nonlawyer than a lawyer, he said. Lombardo said in a statement that there are several facets of a real estate deal that do not require legal expertise, including working with city departments and dealing with the city’s zoning ordinances. He said in an interview that lawyers who were taking their clients through the development process would ask him the questions about how to get a street closed or their plans reviewed. Lombardo will now have those answers for Ballard Spahr and its real estate development clients. But Lombardo said he wouldn’t have done this for just any firm. “I’ve had a lot of experience in dealing with major projects, but also a love for it,” he said, adding that he has spent his career trying to make Philadelphia a destination city. At this point in his career, he said he didn’t want to be involved with a four town-home project. Lombardo said he decided to join Ballard Spahr because its real estate department chairman, Michael Sklaroff, always came through the commission with large-scale projects. “It was sort of the magnitude and importance of the creation of jobs and value to the area,” Lombardo said of his interest in the projects Ballard Spahr handled. He said he and Sklaroff had discussed the possibility of adding a planner to the real estate department quite some time ago. Lombardo said that while he thinks Ballard Spahr may be the only firm in Philadelphia to make such a move, it is really no different than adding any other type of specialist such as someone with a business degree. Lombardo said that during a recent event for professionals involved in the real estate arena he learned that a few other Philadelphia firms might be considering adding a similar project executive position. Lombardo is not a partner at the firm and is paid based on a yearly salary, he said. “As a public official he has been integral to virtually every major development project in recent memory, from the transformation of Center City that began in 1988 to the renewal of Manayunk to the rebirth of the Delaware riverfront,” Sklaroff said in a statement. “Clients will benefit from his unparalleled ability to see projects through from conceptualization to completion.” Peggy Dixon of Abelson Legal Search said the business development function of a law firm, which essentially is what Lombardo will be doing for the real estate department, is the fastest growing in law firms. While she doesn’t know of other firms who have someone with Lombardo’s function in the city, Dixon said she has had several attorneys looking to do nonlawyer work at firms. “There are so many attorneys who really want a more creative role,” she said. Dixon said that Lombardo, in a business development role, will be able to do a lot of substantive work for the firm in connecting the attorneys with the right people. “His industry knowledge and experience is going to set [Ballard Spahr] apart from the competition,” she said. With 110 real estate lawyers in seven offices, Ballard Spahr’s real estate department represents corporate, institutional, entrepreneurial, and public clients in acquisition, development, financing, leasing and sales transactions.

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