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Appellate and bankruptcy attorneys at Reed Smith will be working more closely now that the firm has created an appellate bankruptcy group involving issues before the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The firm said it wanted to bring together the specialty of appellate practice combined with the knowledge of intricate bankruptcy law to help clients in the 3rd Circuit where bankruptcy cases are particularly common. Leading the group will be Pittsburgh partner and appellate lawyer James C. Martin and Wilmington partner and bankruptcy attorney Kurt Gwynne. Martin said the firm has seen an increase in appellate bankruptcy work over the past 18 months and expects that trend to continue. The firm has found, he said, that the combination of appellate practitioners with any number of specific practice areas provides a better presentation to appellate courts. That combination is particularly helpful in the bankruptcy arena because appellate courts are not specialty courts and their judges are not always experts on the nuances of bankruptcy law, he said. “Bankruptcy procedure is different than regular litigation and is also substantively different,” Gwynne said. Appeal timelines are much shorter from bankruptcy court to the appellate level as opposed to the district courts to the circuit courts, he said. Often time orders that are interlocutory in regular courts might be final – and therefore appealable – in bankruptcy court, Gwynne said. Under new federal bankruptcy laws passed in 2005, some bankruptcy cases can be appealed directly to the circuit courts, he said. It is for those reasons, Gwynne said, that having bankruptcy attorneys work on appeals is so important. Reed Smith targeted the 3rd Circuit for this practice because the firm has a number of cases before the court already and the court seems to attract a number of cases dealing with technical bankruptcy issues, Martin said. That is most likely due to the fact that one of the leading bankruptcy districts, the District of Delaware, is part of the 3rd Circuit, he said. The Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has also been a hotbed of consumer litigation, the firm said. Reed Smith has about 50 bankruptcy attorneys, many of whose practices bring them to the 3rd Circuit, Gwynne said. William H. Schorling, a bankruptcy practitioner at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, said bankruptcy work at the appellate level is certainly a specialized area. At the bankruptcy court level, cases are much more practical and based on the best outcome for the client, whereas the appellate courts handle policy and issue-oriented matters, he said. That is something practitioners need to think about when laying out their briefs, but it becomes all the more important in the 3rd Circuit because the court will frequently base its decision on briefs without holding oral arguments, Schorling said. The 3rd Circuit is known for taking an interest in bankruptcy cases, he said, and will be ready to pepper attorneys with specific policy questions if the case does go to oral argument. He said a firm is often interviewed again for the appellate work even if it handled the client’s case in the lower courts, and it is often different attorneys who would handle the appeal. Grouping appellate and bankruptcy attorneys together makes sense, Schorling said, because even an experienced appellate lawyer needs a bankruptcy attorney to explain certain areas of the law. It is a “sore point” with 3rd Circuit Judge Marjorie O. Rendell when attorneys can’t relate issues back to bankruptcy law, he said. While Schorling said it is good to have bankruptcy and appellate attorneys working together on matters, he wouldn’t limit such a practice to just the 3rd Circuit. He said he would include the 2nd, 4th and 6th U.S. District Courts as well as the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Martin said the firm would “most definitely” want to expand the practice concept beyond the 3rd Circuit. “The basic concept is marketable nationwide,” he said. Bankruptcy does not often involve local, nuanced statues, but more of a national statutory scheme, Martin said. The firm plans on using attorneys from the group to counsel on cases “headed for appeal” from the start. Other Reed Smith attorneys who will serve in the newly formed practice group include, commercial bankruptcy and restructuring practice group leader Peter Clark, Philadelphia office managing partner and bankruptcy attorney Claudia Springer, financial services litigation partner Mark Melodia, bankruptcy partner Eric A. Schaffer and appellate litigator David Bird.

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