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The seven-attorney immigration boutique Klasko Rulon Stock & Seltzer has added two new attorneys to its ranks with the addition of a former ICE official and the head of a large Philadelphia firm’s immigration practice. Theodore Murphy joined the firm as senior counsel last week after more than 10 years with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – most recently as the assistant chief counsel. Elise Fialkowski joined Klasko Rulon yesterday as a partner from Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, where she was a labor and employment attorney who headed up the firm’s immigration practice. As Schnader Harrison’s Chairman Ralph Wellington put it, Fialkowski’s departure was “completely business-driven.” Klasko Rulon was looking to grow and Fialkowski’s immigration practice – as with many immigration attorneys – didn’t really fit into the large firm model. With increasing frequency, immigration clients are looking for fixed fees, particularly when it comes to budgeting the cost of a new hire, Fialkowski said. When Klasko Rulon Chairman H. Ronald Klasko and his group left Dechert in 2004 to start their boutique, they had been one of the few large-firm immigration groups who were working on a fixed fee. He said it is difficult for large firms to grow immigration practices because the hourly rates often can’t compete with the fixed-fee structure of boutiques. Fialkowski said she did almost all hourly rate work at Schnader Harrison with some fixed-fee matters. “The pricing of the large firm is [setup] in a way where it’s hard to staff this relatively routine immigration work,” Wellington said. Immigration work is very paper intensive, according to Peggy Dixon of Abelson Legal Search. It generally requires a lot of trained paralegals with specific expertise in the practice area, she said. “Not everybody wants to tangle with it,” Dixon said. With Fialkowski’s departure, Schnader Harrison will no longer handle traditional immigration work, Wellington said. Both Fialkowski and Wellington said they expect a strong referral relationship between the two firms. Fialkowski will not be taking any of her labor and employment work with her to Klasko Rulon, but Klasko said her experience in the area would be an asset for the firm. He said the crossover between labor and employment and immigration law is becoming increasingly apparent. Government officials are, with greater frequency, doing work-site enforcement, which basically equates to raids on corporations to ensure they are in compliance with immigration laws, he said. Fialkowski will be able to handle the compliance and labor and employment implications of those enforcements while Murphy will be able to use his litigation experience, Klasko said. The firm’s work has been growing “exponentially” in the areas of litigation in both immigration and federal courts, he said, particularly in the area of writs of mandamus. In the four-year period Murphy was assigned to York, Pa., he won 90 percent of the 400 appeals he filed. From January 2003 to August 2004, he was appointed as a special assistant U.S. attorney, assisting in the investigation and prosecution of a multistate immigration fraud ring. Fialkowski had been with Schnader Harrison for 15 years, focusing on foreign employees obtaining positions in the United States as health care professionals, executives, managers and scientists. She said she would be bringing all of her immigration clients with her, which include multinational corporations in the areas of pharmaceuticals, distribution and imports. Cathy Abelson of Abelson Legal Search called Klasko the “best in the city” when it comes to immigration law and said it would be a “fabulous opportunity” for any attorney to join his firm at the partner level. When Klasko Rulon decided it wanted to add attorneys to help with a growing workload, Klasko said the firm made a list of partner-level immigration lawyers in the city and Fialkowski was on the top. He said the list was short, but the firm didn’t have to go to the number two. When the firm approached Fialkowski, she said she thought it was a perfect fit. Her immigration practice had been growing and a boutique firm seemed like the best option. “It really was up to me in terms of needing to make a move,” Fialkowski said. In the 1980s and early 1990s, large firms were looking to bring on immigration lawyers and those marriages have been breaking up in the last few years, Klasko said. While many large firms have moved away from immigration practices, Dixon said there are some that have managed to make it work – like Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. The practice, led by an addition from Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling, has been successful because of the cohesion between the immigration and labor and employment attorneys, Dixon said. Klasko said the number of companies his firm represents has been growing. Although the addition of Murphy and Fialkowski will help handle that work and bring new matters, the firm is still in growth mode. He said he is currently in discussions with other attorneys. For the large firms, growth is not in the game plan for immigration practices, Bob Nourian of Coleman Nourian said. “They’re definitely not interested in growing,” he said. For the large firms that do have an immigration presence, it is usually as a support practice for other areas of law and has steady – not necessarily increasing – profits, Nourian said.

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