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After a year’s foray in-house at Netgov.com Inc., three veteran lawyers have returned to law firm life, bringing with them a new perspective to their practices. Andrew Fletcher, who spent the bulk of his career at Philadelphia-based Hangley Aronchick before joining Netgov.com last summer, has joined the litigation department of Pepper Hamilton, also based in Philadelphia. John Estey returns full time to Montgomery McCracken in Philadelphia, bringing with him Netgov colleague and former Post & Schell partner Adrian King Jr. At Netgov, Estey served as general counsel, Fletcher as associate general counsel and King as assistant general counsel. Led by former Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith, Netgov was formed in April 2000 with the goal of developing Internet services for state and municipal governments in an effort to help them communicate better with constituents. But a drastic decline of private investments during the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year led the board of directors to decide to sell the company’s assets to partner companies. While at Netgov, Fletcher was responsible for overseeing the sales aspect of one of its subsidiaries, Gov24.com, which focuses on peddling e-filing systems to federal and state court systems (including Allegheny County). When Netgov sold its assets, Fletcher had the opportunity to stay on with Gov24 but he chose to get back into the law firm world. “I had some impressive suitors,” Fletcher said. “John and I talked about me joining Montgomery McCracken, which is an extremely impressive place. But I heard from several firms, and Pepper wound up at the top of my list because of its focus on things like e-commerce licensing, intellectual property and complicated finance work. This was the orbit I was in at Netgov, so I got a feel of which firms were involved in it.” Pepper Hamilton executive partner Jim Murray said Fletcher’s experience, gained from his tenure at Netgov, blends with the firm’s emphasis on venture capital and emerging growth companies. “His time in the dot-com arena shows that he has an entrepreneurial approach to the world,” Murray said. “He’s very energetic and ambitious and came away from the business world with relationships that he can take to another level here.” The challenge Fletcher faces is building up a practice geared toward the technology world during an economic slowdown. In addition to commercial and intellectual property litigation work, Fletcher plans to leverage his Netgov experience into handling some general counsel work for high-tech clients. “And even though the downturn washed away some of the good [companies] with the bad, the Internet remains a powerful force in the economy,” Fletcher said. “It might move at a difference pace but there is a continued pressure for governments and businesses to automate for efficiency reasons. So there will always be clients to serve.” A 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, Fletcher spent a year clerking for a federal judge in Alabama before joining King & Spaulding in Atlanta. He joined Hangley Aronchick as a litigator. He became a partner in fall 1999. Much of his work was geared toward representing the city of Philadelphia and other governmental entities in a variety of litigation matters. So when Estey, a former Hangley Aronchick colleague in the mid-1990s, called him about Netgov, it seemed like an obvious fit. Like Fletcher, Estey said he believes his time at Netgov will give him new skill sets that he can parlay into additional business at Montgomery McCracken. Unlike Fletcher, he never totally left the firm, moving from partner to of counsel and spending an estimated 25 percent of his time working on Montgomery McCracken client matters. “I still have a lot of the same clients; I’ll just be able to do more work for them now,” Estey said. “And I’ll be able to use the experiences I gained at Netgov into generating new clients for Montgomery McCracken. I’m working with a number of emerging technology companies, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to do before. But we bought three companies while I was at Netgov, and that really served as a crash course in setting up and managing companies.” Estey and King currently serve as of counsel, but Montgomery McCracken chairman David Marion said he believes Estey will eventually regain his partner title. “John always told me that he looked at [Netgov] as a short-term move,” Marion said. “A lot of people outside the firm kept saying he would never come back, but I felt he would. That’s why we left the door open and had him stay on [as of counsel].” Estey made a splash in April 1999 when he stepped down as former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell’s deputy chief of staff and joined Montgomery McCracken rather than returning to his former stomping grounds at Hangley Aronchick. And in another twist, he did not resume his career as a litigator, instead opting to start a transactional practice from scratch. According to those monitoring his progress since that time, he was off to an impressive start building new relationships for the firm and solidifying old ones. Estey’s father was once chairman of the firm and still remains in a counsel capacity. Estey began his career at Hangley Connolly Epstein Chicco Foxman & Ewing in 1991 and moved on to Hangley Aronchick with William Hangley and Mark Aronchick when the firm split. It was there that he became a partner and litigated several high-profile cases, such as the long-running Philadelphia prison-cap dispute with Aronchick and Fletcher. He also worked with the Department of Human Services, advising the agency regarding state and federal funding issues.

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