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Pepper Hamilton finance practice group chairwoman Lisa Kabnick and partner James Lawlor will be leaving the firm to join Philadelphia-based Reed Smith. Sources familiar with the situation said Kabnick and Lawlor would be making the move after wrapping up pending matters at Philadelphia-based Pepper Hamilton. Reed Smith officials on Friday afternoon confirmed the additions and indicated that the pair would most likely start sometime after the new year. “This is a chance for Lisa to be part of an organization that has more of a commitment to the financial services industry,” said Leonard Bernstein, chairman of Reed Smith’s consumer financial services group. “We have more financial services practitioners in different offices and more of a commercial finance presence as well. Lisa has a lot of experience and a great client following.” Reed Smith Philadelphia managing partner Robert Nicholas said the firm was not courting Kabnick. She was working on a matter with a Reed Smith partner and one thing led to another, he said, and the two sides entered discussions about her making the move. Kabnick, who declined an interview request Friday afternoon, joined Pepper Hamilton directly after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh Law School in 1980. She is considered one of the top women rainmakers among the region’s transactional lawyers. She has held leadership positions at Pepper Hamilton and earned a name for herself through her work with local and state bar associations. Kabnick, a partner with Pepper Hamilton since 1989 and chairwoman of its finance practice group since 1999, concentrates her practice primarily on the representation of banks and financial institutions, as well as borrowers, in credit transactions. She also devotes a portion of her practice to the representation of foreign entities making investments in the United States. Bernstein said Kabnick’s experience with commercial lending transactions fits nicely at Reed Smith, which has added lawyers in that area in other offices but does not have anyone in that practice in Philadelphia. He said the firm’s financial services practice includes 40 Act work, insurance regulatory work, as well as commercial and consumer finance. In Philadelphia, the firm has a small 40 Act presence though it has just expanded in that area with the addition of 12 lawyers from Federated Investors — most of whom will be working out of the Pittsburgh office. Partner Michael Browne spearheads the firm’s insurance regulatory work while Bernstein heads the consumer finance work, which focuses on providing credit compliance advice on various laws and regulations to financial institutions. Kabnick will fill a void in the Philadelphia office for commercial lending transactions. Bernstein said the firm had added two attorneys who handle that type of work — partner Paul Shur in the firm’s Princeton office and David Grimes in its New York office. Bankruptcy lawyer Jim Keating, who joined the firm’s Philadelphia office last year from Duane Morris, handles some real estate finance work, but Kabnick gives Reed Smith a lawyer who represents major banks in regional and national commercial lending transactions. Lawlor is a younger partner who works on commercial lending matters with Kabnick but also has an independent municipal finance practice. Reed Smith has a municipal finance practice in Philadelphia, headed by partner William Richter. “Jim is a very versatile lawyer,” Nicholas said. “And we think he has an opportunity to grow here.” Robert Heideck, who will become Pepper Hamilton’s executive partner after the new year, said he was sorry to see both lawyers leave the firm. But he said the firm still has several financial institution clients and financial services capabilities in Philadelphia and other markets such as Wilmington and Detroit. “Lisa represents mainly Philadelphia area banks,” Heideck said. “And as everyone knows, there has been a lot of consolidation in that area. So I think she felt there were more opportunities at Reed Smith, which has bank clients outside the area.” As for losing a high-profile woman partner like Kabnick, Heideck said the firm has numerous attorneys who fit that criteria, such as litigation department chairwoman Barbara Mather, tax practice chairwoman Joan Arnold, commercial insurance and reinsurance practice chairwoman Deborah Cohen and health effects litigation practice chairwoman Nina Gussack. Kabnick is a former Philadelphia delegate to the Pennsylvania Bar Association House of Delegates, a past chairwoman of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s banking and financial institutions committee (1992-95) and a past member of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s business law section executive committee (1996-97). In addition to leading Pepper’s finance practice group, Kabnick was the firm’s hiring partner from 1992 to 1993 and was a member of the associates committee for three years in the 1990s. Lawlor, a 1987 Villanova University School of Law graduate, is past chairman of the Uniform Commercial Code committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s business law section and a board member of the Pennsylvania Economy League’s eastern division.

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