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New Jersey firms that want to open shop in Pennsylvania are finding it’s easier when there’s an office already up and running. Acquiring an existing operation – fully staffed, with a nice book of business – is the tactic of choice of two firms that are crossing the Delaware this month. For McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter of Morristown, the branch office in waiting is 15-lawyer Monteverde, McAlee & Hurd, of Philadelphia. For Princeton’s Hill Wallack, it’s three-lawyer Sullivan & Sullivan of Langhorne, Pa. Both Pennsylvania firms, which now operate under the N.J. firms’ monikers, offered ready-to-go bases of operations. “As the clients have learned we have a new office there we’ve already started to get the work,” says McElroy Deutsch managing partner Edward Deutsch, noting that for years his firm’s corporate clients have held out the offer of their Philadelphia work if only the firm had a presence there. Deutsch says the acquisition will help the firm expand its banking, insurance and litigation practices. Monteverde McAlee has a list of banking clients that includes Bank of America, Sovereign Bank, Equity Bank, Firstrust Bank, Stonebridge Bank, and Willow Grove Bank. Deutsch says his firm has used Monteverde McAlee for years as local counsel. For Hill Wallack, the acquisition is an opportunity to obtain Pennsylvania business for the firm’s commercial litigation, real estate transactional, debtor-creditor and community association practices. The firm also hopes to build on its core land-use practice, says managing partner Robert Bacso. Sullivan & Sullivan focuses on litigation, commercial law and trusts and estates in its Bucks County market. The firm’s clients include the Bucks County Courier-Times, McCafferty Ford Sales Inc., Meenan Oil Co., Inc. and Dynacell Corp. The husband and wife team of Francis Sullivan and Rosemary Sullivan will join Hill Wallack as partners while Jeffrey DiAmico comes aboard as an associate. McElroy Deutsch’s Philadelphia office will be headed by Monteverde McAlee partner Thomas Hurd, who says clients have reacted positively to the change. “We feel this merger gives us the opportunity to serve across a larger geographic area and offer them a greater array of services,” he says. “It’s a very good fit in that respect.” Hurd and three other lawyers from Monteverde McAlee joined their new firm as partners. Four others joined as of counsel, four as counsel and three as associates. Five other lawyers will not be joining in the merger, however. Deutsch says a decision was made not to continue Monteverde McAlee’s small plaintiff personal injury practice. The firm had also lost a substantial client, the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which recently had decided to bid out its legal work. Monteverde McAlee chose not to participate, fearing a price war, but some of its lawyers departed and took that work with them, Deutsch says. Monteverde McAlee recently shut its Southern New Jersey office, in Woodbury. The Doylestown office remains open, largely as a convenience to a few partners who live nearby, but the future of the office is unclear, Deutsch says. McElroy Deutsch, which with the current merger grows to 220 lawyers in seven offices, plans to relocate at least two of its New Jersey lawyers to Philadelphia, and hopes to add more local lawyers. Hill Wallack’s Bacso says the expansion made sense because of its proximity to Princeton headquarters, noting that the new office is “closer to our office than most of the places we practice in New Jersey.” The Langhorne office becomes Hill Wallack’s second in Bucks County. In January, it opened up an office in Doylestown, staffed by plaintiffs’ employment lawyers Joanne Rathgeber and Virginia Hardwick. That was Hill Wallack’s first foray into plaintiff’s employment law, an area Bacso says he expects to continue to grow. Real estate lawyer L. Stephen Pastor, a 20-year Hill Wallack veteran, lives nearby, splitting time between Doylestown and Princeton. Other New Jersey firms with offices in Philadelphia are McCarter & English and Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, both of Newark; Stark & Stark of Lawrenceville; Connell Foley of Roseland; Budd Larner of Short Hills; and Archer & Greiner of Haddonfield.

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