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Ten lawyers, including virtually all the partners from the vaunted labor and employment department, have resigned from Philadelphia’s Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads to become partners at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll. The departures, viewed by many in the legal community as a major blow to Montgomery McCracken, include labor and employment department chairman Tom Felix, rainmakers Kenneth Jarin and Anthony Visco, business and finance partner John H. Estey, and James Eisenhower, litigator and former Pennsylvania attorney general candidate. Ballard Spahr chairman David L. Cohen said the firm had been courting Felix and Jarin back to the time when Cohen was Ed Rendell’s chief of staff during Rendell’s tenure as mayor of Philadelphia. The wooing continued, Cohen said, as Ballard Spahr had approached the Montgomery McCracken labor and employment group “a half-dozen times” in recent years before receiving a call from Jarin in late November. “I never thought the timing was right,” Jarin said. “Yet, in my heart of hearts, I always thought that Ballard was the right place for me. But I was extremely loyal to Montgomery McCracken because I loved the people and the firm.” Jarin said the union of two very powerful labor and employment groups would be both synergistic and complementary. The synergy comes from both departments having a major presence in public representation. The complementary aspect is Ballard’s additional strength in private-sector representation. In addition to his labor practice, Jarin has led Montgomery McCracken’s government relations practice group. Estey also played a major role in that group since rejoining the firm full time last year after a stint at a dot-com with Eisenhower. “I think with all of Ballard’s connections and resources, we’ll have the best government relations practice in Philadelphia,” Eisenhower said. Ballard Spahr is already known as one of the most politically connected firms in the city. In addition to Cohen and Rendell, the firm boasts former City Solicitor Alan Davis, former mayoral chief of staff Stephanie Franklin-Suber, and politically active attorneys such as litigation chairman Arthur Makadon and real estate chairman Michael Sklaroff. On the Montgomery McCracken side, Jarin is best known in political circles for being a finance national co-chairman for Gore-Lieberman 2000. Estey was deputy chief of staff under Rendell and Eisenhower was the Democratic nominee for state attorney general in 2000, as well as one of the top contenders to replace Kenneth Trujillo as city solicitor last year. But it is the labor and employment group, which also includes partners Arlene Angelo, Frank Chernak, Mary Theresa Enyart, Patrick Harvey and John McLaughlin, that is considered the key to the deal. Ballard Spahr has eight labor and employment partners based in its Philadelphia office, including department chairman John Langel and colleagues such as Brian Pedrow and Charisse Lillie. “One of the major targets I’ve had since I came back was the Montgomery McCracken labor group,” Cohen said. “It’s a significant transaction that, combined with our group, creates one of the premier labor and employment practices in the city. “I am close personally to both Tom and Ken. Their practices are active in government, so there’s sort of a link through the government relations aspect of their practices. Plus, John is an aggressive, young business and finance partner, and Jim will fit in nicely with our white-collar criminal group.” Cohen said no starting date had been determined. He also confirmed that the firm had interviews scheduled last week with nonpartners from Montgomery McCracken and expected that some would go along and join the partners at Ballard Spahr. As for Montgomery McCracken, chairman David Marion met with the remaining attorneys to inform them of the departures on Jan. 2. The loss comes less than a year after two high-profile departures: A five-partner litigation group led by Howard Scher left in March for Buchanan Ingersoll, and Doreen Davis, labor partner and former Philadelphia Bar Association chancellor, left in May for Morgan Lewis & Bockius. Marion insisted that the firm’s revenues actually increased after last year’s departures. He labeled the most recent departures a sign of the times and said the firm was already moving forward, finalizing negotiations to acquire a small firm and adding laterals such as Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley health care partner Jeffrey Bernstein and former acting New Jersey Attorney General Paul Zoubek. The firm did manage to hold on to one partner from the labor and employment department, employment litigator Edward Ellis. “The impact will not be serious,” Marion said. “The employment practice in Philadelphia in the old, traditional sense is not very profitable any more. Employment litigation is, though. And Ed Ellis and the people working with him are staying. “That group had trouble fitting in here. And I think with the political aspects of working with David Cohen and the folks at Ballard, there will be a lot of synergy there. And John Estey is a dynamic, entrepreneurial lawyer and a fine guy. But he’s on the move and he moves a lot.” One attorney familiar with the situation, though, said that the loss of the labor group would be problematic for Montgomery McCracken, which has been trying to build transactional practices around its traditionally strong litigation and labor departments. “The labor group is very dynamic and client-development-oriented and is one of the real strengths of the firm,” the source said. “In my opinion, it’s going to have to become a litigation boutique to survive.” One observer of the local law firm scene said the departures confirmed the view that Montgomery McCracken should have shed all of its practices except labor and litigation rather than focus on adding transactional groups. “Howard Scher is a big litigator, and Ken and Tom are top labor lawyers, and perceptions are everything,” the source said. “In an era that places a premium on law firms having stars, Montgomery McCracken keeps losing its stars.” Marion, though, said outside consultants had been advising the firm to focus on litigation and labor for the past 15 years. He and the rest of the firm’s management had never agreed with that philosophy. “We don’t intend on becoming a litigation boutique,” Marion said. “And we will do more than survive. We are going to grow and prosper. If we had done what all those people wanted us to do, we would have forfeited millions of dollars in revenue that has been generated by our transactional practices. It’s easy for people from the outside to judge, but I think we’ll be just fine.” Scher, who made a splash with his departure last year, said his old firm would be just fine. “The Felix-Jarin group is the premier public employment group in the city,” Scher said. “Doreen’s focus was on the private sector, so Morgan Lewis was a good fit for her. And Ballard is a good fit for this group because all the political connections the firm has will be very useful in the public employment arena. But I think this will make Montgomery McCracken more unified, and it will not have a significant effect on the firm’s bottom line. So I don’t think this represents a death blow.” Aside from Chernak and McLaughlin, the six other departing labor lawyers went to Montgomery McCracken in 1991 from labor boutique Sprecher Felix Visco Hutchinson & Jarin. Felix, 68, is considered the dean of Philadelphia’s labor and employment bar. His practice focuses on collective bargaining, employment discrimination and arbitration. He has represented several public entities in high-profile labor negotiations. Most recently, he represented the Philadelphia School District in its negotiation with its teachers union. In addition to become a member of Ballard’s labor and employment group, Jarin will also serve as a member of the firm’s expanded board. Jarin counsels both public and private employers in matters relating to labor relations, contract negotiations, interest arbitration, employment discrimination litigation, and wage and hour disputes. Angelo’s practice is concentrated in the areas of labor arbitration, negotiation and administration of labor contracts, Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board and National Labor Relations Board litigation, union organizing campaigns, employment discrimination claims, and employment agreements and restrictive contracts. She also counsels clients in the development and implementation of human resources strategies. Chernak’s practice emphasizes employment defense litigation involving Title VII, race discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, reverse-gender and retaliation, age discrimination, national origin hostile work environment and Americans with Disability Act cases. He also counsels clients in regard to compliance with the ADA, equal employment opportunity laws, hiring and firing practices, racial and sexual harassment investigations, and restrictive contracts and noncompete litigation and counseling. Mary Theresa Enyart will join as a partner in the labor and employment group. Enyart concentrates her practice in public- and private-sector employment and labor law on behalf of management, as well as defense of employers charged with Title VII violations including race, national origin, religious and reverse discrimination. She also counsels clients in regard to age discrimination cases, sexual harassment investigation and issues, NLRB and PLRB representation and unfair labor practice proceedings, labor arbitration, collective bargaining, employer campaigns in union organizing attempts, ADA and other personnel-related matters. She also works with clients in training on sexual harassment, EEO issues, hiring and discipline practices. Patrick J. Harvey will join as a partner in the labor and employment group. Harvey’s practice includes employment defense litigation involving Title VII, race discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation, reverse-gender and retaliation, age discrimination, national origin hostile work environment in ADA cases. He also counsels clients with regard to labor arbitrations and negotiations, NLRB and state labor litigation, compliance with the ADA and EEO laws, Heart and Lung Act disability issues, police and fire disability issues, hiring and firing practices, and racial and sexual harassment issues. McLaughlin’s areas of practice emphasis include employment defense litigation involving claims of discrimination, harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the ADA and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He also counsels clients in regard to general employment litigation involving claims of wrongful discharge, trade secret and restrictive covenant disputes, whistleblower claims, and employment tort and contract claims; labor litigation involving claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Labor Management Relations Act and ERISA; labor and management relations; compliance with federal and state EEO and other employment laws; hiring and firing practices; and sexual and other types of harassment investigations. Visco’s areas of practice emphasis include contract negotiations, wage and hour compliance, labor arbitration, union organizing campaigns, fair employment claims, private-sector labor law and public-sector employer representation. In particular, he is labor counsel to the Pennsylvania Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging, and labor counsel to many areas long-term care facilities. Visco has extensive experience in the graphic arts and insurance industries. Eisenhower, who will become a partner in the government enforcement/white-collar crime group, concentrates his practice in government relations, criminal defense, investigative services, designing and implementing compliance programs, election law and complex civil litigation. He joined Montgomery McCracken seven years ago after spending the beginning of his career in the public sector as a prosecutor. He said he worked with two of Ballard’s white-collar litigators, Eric Sitarchuk and Ronald Sarachan, when they were at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Estey, who will join as a partner in the business and finance department, counsels information technology and telecommunications companies in e-commerce and Web-based business issues. His practice is also concentrated in the areas of corporate and securities law, government relations and commercial litigation. A former partner at Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, Estey joined Mongtomery McCracken in 1999 after his stint in the Rendell administration. The son of former Montgomery McCracken chairman John C. Estey, Estey was ticketed by the firm as one of the keys in enhancing its business and finance practices. But he became of counsel so he could devote most of his time to working as general counsel for Net-Gov.com, formed in April 2000 by former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith with the goal of developing Internet services for state and municipal governments in an effort to help them communicate better with constituents. He returned full time to Montgomery McCracken last year when the business fizzled, but he remained of counsel. “I’m just looking for a broader platform to do government relations and dot-com work,” Estey said. “With David Cohen and Ed Rendell at Ballard, it’s obviously a good fit for government relations. And they have some outstanding lawyers in the emerging growth areas. They also have a national platform while Montgomery McCracken has a great regional platform. And since I have relationships with people on the West Coast, I just thought it would make sense to be part of a firm with offices close to that region [Denver and Salt Lake City]. “It is bittersweet to leave a firm where my father spent a great deal of his life building it into the excellent firm it is today. But I have to look out for the interests of my client base, and this was the best decision in that regard.”

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