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Shelley Smith admits Exelon Corp. didn’t hire her in October 2007 for her regulatory experience but for her leadership skills. And just three months later, she took those skills to the city’s Law Department, where she now manages Philadelphia’s attorneys as the acting city solicitor. She was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter and took over for Romulo L. Diaz Jr., who served under former Mayor John F. Street. Smith needs confirmation from City Council to officially become solicitor. If she so chooses, Smith has the power to change leadership positions within the department and make hiring decisions. When she spoke to The Legal the day after Nutter was sworn into office, she said she hadn’t come to any conclusions in that regard. But with then-only 12 hours on the job, Smith did have two broader goals that could mean some changes for the department internally and externally. “Without intending to denigrate anyone in previous administrations,” Smith said, she wants to focus on improving relations with City Council and making sure the Law Department has the appropriate resources. She said she wants to bring to the department an understanding of how to represent both the mayor and City Council. The Street administration and City Council differed greatly at the end of his term, particularly on how to handle gaming litigation involving the building of casinos in Philadelphia. City Council, under Street, would generally be advised to hire its own attorneys to represent it in several lawsuits brought against the city. Smith wouldn’t say whether City Council would still be asked to hire its own attorneys, but in his first few days in office Nutter has shown his willingness to review previous decisions on gaming. She said some aspects of gaming are still “unbelievably” the subject of litigation and she and the mayor are reviewing the cases and looking into how best to handle those issues. The city is “obviously” facing significant legal issues and the mayor has a different view than previous administrations on how to handle them and on what he needs from the solicitor’s office, Smith said. Her goal, she said, is to ensure that her office satisfies the needs of both the mayor’s office and City Council. Smith’s second objective draws upon her previous experience working in the Law Department. She spent more than 10 years at the department, ultimately rising to head of the corporate and tax unit in 2005. She left for Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll in February 2006 during a time when the Law Department was toward the end of a hiring freeze and saw several members of its top leadership leave for the private sector. Smith said she would focus on a general effort to identify personnel needs and attract talented people to the office. She said she wants to make sure the staff has the tools and training it needs to best counsel and represent the city. “One of the values I bring to this job is my experience here,” she said. Nutter has brought in several people from outside of the city and outside of traditional city jobs. Smith said she would help ground those people with her experience working in the Law Department. She said in an interview Friday that no major changes have been made to department heads. Nutter has made five new appointments to the Zoning Board of Adjustment – including attorney Joseph Manko – and wants the law department to figure out how best to counsel the board as part of Nutter’s economic development initiatives. To that end, Smith said she is reviewing who will serve as direct counsel to the board. Cheryl L. Gaston had previously handled the relationship between the Law Department and the Zoning Board. Smith said the role could be filled with an external person, but the decision hasn’t yet been made. Gaston is still with the Law Department. Diaz said he is “thrilled” that Nutter selected Smith to fill his old post. He said not only is she a terrific lawyer, but she is very familiar with the department and “will do an outstanding job.” As for Diaz, he has only made one decision about his plans, and that is to stay in the city. He said he has “fallen in love with Philadelphia” and has no intention of returning to Washington, D.C. As of Friday afternoon, Diaz hadn’t settled on a new job. He said he is “casting the net widely” and has been interviewing and talking with a number of people about potential opportunities. His experience in the Law Department regarding economics, government regulations and international issues has created a number of possible prospects for a job in this region, Diaz said. Smith’s legal experience began as a senior law clerk for former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert N.C. Nix Jr. During her 13 years in the Law Department, she spent more than a decade in the litigation group, where she was a trial attorney and supervisor in the civil rights unit, chief of the affirmative litigation unit, and chief of the labor and employment unit. She was chairwoman of the corporate and tax department when she left in 2005. At Ballard Spahr, Smith practiced in the firm’s labor, employment and immigration group. Her clients included the city of Philadelphia, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. She oversaw the orchestra’s most recent contract negotiations. She left Ballard Spahr to serve as associate general counsel for regulatory affairs-East at Exelon Corp. While previously at the Law Department, Smith tried nearly 60 federal civil rights matters to verdict, and litigated hundreds more. Some of the matters include the 39th Police District litigation, NAACP v. City of Philadelphia, and the jury trials of Joseph Frazier v. City of Philadelphia, Estate of Shannon Schieber v. City of Philadelphia, and Robert Mitchell v. Mayor John F. Street. Smith also served as in-house legal counsel for former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Neal.

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