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The three partners who are considered the heart of Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath’s personal and fiduciary law department have decided to go out on their own. Chris Gadsden, Pam Schneider and Steve Woodward, who have been with the firm for 27, 22 and 18 years, respectively, will open up their own suburban-based firm this spring. The trio of trust and estates lawyers made their intentions known to Drinker chairman James Sweet earlier this month. The firm, which will be known as Gadsden Schneider & Woodward, has an estimated start date of March 15 as the group tries to wrap up affairs at Drinker and find office space in the Radnor-Gulph Mills-Conshohocken area. While each had their own reasons for making the move and has a level of affection for Drinker, the group clearly was looking for a new challenge for their practices in a small-firm setting. “I told Jim back in August that I was looking for a new challenge,” Gadsden said. “For me personally, I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years with management issues. I guess I wanted to have more direct contact with my clients.” Schneider said the intimacy of a three-attorney office will allow the group to have more interaction with each other. “With it just being us, we’ll be able to better keep track of what each of us is doing,” Schneider said. “And that’s almost impossible at a large firm. But there definitely are mixed feeling because, while this is a professional decision, we are leaving a lot of great people behind.” Gadsden wears many hats at Drinker. He is the partner-in-charge of the firm’s Berwyn, Pa., office, one of 14 managing partners (similar to an executive committee) and chair of the personal and fiduciary law department. Sweet said he has appointed partner Thomas Wood as the new managing partner of the Berwyn office. He added that the firm still has seven partners and 17 total lawyers in the personal and fiduciary law department, with Philadelphia’s Nora Pomerantz and William Bullitt and several other attorneys in Princeton and Florham Park, N.J. “We still have a core of experienced people,” Sweet said. “Chris and I started together [and shared an office together] at Drinker in 1973. I know he’s been thinking this over for a while, and I guess the entrepreneurial spirit caught hold of him.” Gadsden focuses his professional practice on estate planning and related legal needs of individual clients and trust and estate administration. A smaller portion of his practice focuses on litigation and representation of non-profit organizations. He moved out to Berwyn a little more than four years ago and became managing partner of the office a few months later when his predecessor retired. The move to the suburbs was made to capitalize on all the estates work available in Chester County, Pa. Woodward has been in Berwyn for about a decade and has a practice similar to Gadsden’s, with not as much non-profit representation. Schneider, who is based in Philadelphia, splits her practice between estate planning and non-profit client work but does not handle as much administration work as Gadsden and Woodward. She has a national reputation in the practice area, since she is the immediate past chair of the real property, probate and trust law section of the American Bar Association. She is also an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law. Both the departing lawyers and Sweet said there will almost certainly be a client-sharing arrangement between Drinker and its soon-to-be ex-partners. As for associates, Gadsden said the trio’s needs have yet to be determined. No Drinker associates have made the move with them.

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