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A little more than four years after returning to take the reins of Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, chairman David L. Cohen has resigned from the Philadelphia-based firm, effective July 1, to accept the position of executive vice president of Comcast Corp. Litigation department chairman Arthur Makadon will succeed Cohen as Ballard Spahr’s chairman, following a vote of the firm partnership last week. In his new role at Comcast, Cohen will be a member of the executive management team, serving as senior counselor to president Brian L. Roberts, with a broad portfolio of responsibilities. Cohen declined to specify what those responsibilities will be, but one can assume that his plate will be filled with matters pertaining to Comcast’s pending merger with AT&T Broadband, which would create the nation’s largest cable company. Cohen said he has been approached in recent years with several lucrative business opportunities, but has never regretted turning them down in favor of staying at Ballard Spahr. It was his close personal and professional relationship with Roberts — Ballard Spahr does legal work for Comcast — that led to discussions less than a month ago. “I just think it came down to the quality of the company and its senior management team as well as the enormity of the opportunity,” Cohen said. “It’s already one of the top telecommunications companies in the country, and if the AT&T merger goes through, it will be the largest cable company in the country. “No matter how well we do at Ballard Spahr, we will never have $20 billion in revenue and 85,000 employees. This is a chance to apply my executive and management skills on a stage much larger than anything a firm could offer.” Cohen and Roberts have worked closely together on other projects, most recently serving as co-chairmen of Philadelphia 2000, the host committee for the 2000 Republican National Convention. According to Steve Burke, one of Comcast’s five executive vice presidents, adding someone like Cohen was imperative, since the AT&T merger is expected to lead to a massive increase in the company’s size. “Once we get regulatory approval in the fall, we are going to be a big company with a lot of complex issues,” Burke said. “The way things are structured here, I’m in charge of the cable side, and we have two executive vice presidents who basically combine as our CFO. “What we needed was someone to handle everything else — government relations, press, legal. I’ve been trying to help Brian Roberts with all of that but the quantity of it has just grown immensely. And just having someone with David’s skills and work ethic to handle key issues will really be a tremendous asset to the company.” Cohen left his position as Philadelphia Mayor Edward G. Rendell’s chief of staff in March 1997 and became chairman-elect at Ballard Spahr. Nine months later, he succeeded the retiring Peter Mattoon, who had been the firm’s chairman for 16 years. A 1981 University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate, Cohen started his career as an associate at Ballard Spahr after clerking for U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Lord III of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. By the time he left Ballard Spahr to become Rendell’s campaign manager — and eventually his chief of staff — Cohen had become a partner at the firm. At the time Cohen announced his return to Ballard Spahr, the firm had 242 lawyers in its seven offices and was already viewed as one of the city’s premier law firms. Today, the firm has more than 400 lawyers in those same offices, which are concentrated in the mid-Atlantic and Rocky Mountain regions. Rather than pursuing large mergers and growing in big gulps like some of his peers, Cohen’s philosophy has been to build through lateral hires and practice groups. Significant additions during the Cohen era include real estate lawyers Howard Grossman and David Pollack, intellectual property lawyer Roberta Jacobs-Meadway and most recently, the vaunted labor and employment group from Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. Cohen also reconfigured the firm’s Voorhees, N.J. office through the acquisition of two small but significant South Jersey firms — Levin & Hluchan and Brandt Haughey Penberthy Lewis & Hyland. “David has been a magnet for attracting top talent,” Coleman Legal Search president Michael Coleman said. “In this day and age when attorneys are moving around with more frequency, leadership and direction are of the utmost importance. And David has been the epitome of law firm leadership. There’s a buzz at Ballard … . It’s become the place where you wanted to be. And I think it will continue because all the pieces are in place there now.” Though 12 years Cohen’s senior, the 59-year-old Makadon’s career started in a similar fashion. A 1967 graduate of University of Pennsylvania Law School, Makadon also clerked for Lord. He then spent two years as a tax attorney at New York’s Paul Weiss Rifkind & Garrison before returning to Philadelphia to become chief assistant District Attorney under Arlen Specter. He joined Ballard Spahr in 1975 and has been the firm’s litigation department chair since 1984. Over the years, Makadon has been called on to represent several high profile clients in major cases. He represented Major League Baseball in a lawsuit over businessman Vincent Piazza’s (father of Mets catcher Mike Piazza) proposed investment in the San Francisco Giants, the University of Pennsylvania when it was accused of collusion over financial aid awards, SmithKline Beecham when it was charged with price-fixing and PNC Bank Corp. when it was accused by shareholders of secret trading in derivatives. As litigation chairman, Makadon recruited some of the city’s top litigators into the Ballard fold — Alan Davis, Donald Goldberg, David Pittinsky and employment partner Charisse Lillie. Makadon also was the person who in 1986 persuaded Rendell, his old law school classmate, to hire a then 30-year-old Cohen as press secretary for his mayoral campaign. Makadon said he plans to keep the firm heading down the same path as it has under Cohen, who was one of his students at Penn Law. “But we want to make our message more indelible that this is the firm to come to if you have a complex problem, not just an everyday problem,” Makadon said. “And we will continue with our approach to growth. We won’t grow for the sake of growing.” Makadon said the firm’s management will soon meet to name his successor as litigation department chairman. Both Cohen and Makadon said that Makadon was elected by a “significant consensus” of the firm’s partnership. As for the possibility that Cohen might return to the firm when and if the AT&T merger is consummated, Makadon said he believes Cohen’s move to the business world is most likely a permanent one. “I fully expect David to be at Comcast for the rest of his professional career,” Makadon said. “And I expect Comcast to thrive.”

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