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It’s been a little over a year since former Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner Frank Thomas was defeated in the Democratic primary for the Sixth Congressional District, and in that time the environmental and commercial litigation specialist has had an opportunity to reassess the legal market and his own career. “I basically had to say to myself, That didn’t work out quite the way I hoped. So where do I go from here?” Thomas recalled. “I came to the realization that I believe I have a certain skill-set that I can offer clients by creating what I refer to as a virtual law firm. “Taking the years of experience that I have as someone who has represented companies before a variety of regulatory agencies, I can sit down with corporate clients at a senior level to handle risk management issues and regulatory matters, not only in the context of finding scientific experts for engineering and technical help, but also in putting together a legal team comprised not of people on my payroll or that of any one law firm, but taking people from the legal community generally, based upon what the client needs.” Thomas believes there is an unexploited niche in Philadelphia’s market that he can fill as an independent attorney who makes the most of today’s instantaneous communications technology and ever-changing employment landscape. “It’s still an idea that I’m working through, but what I’m trying to do is take advantage of modern technology, and of communications and interconnections between companies and their lawyers and tech assistants, and really make the most of those technologies in a way that delivers efficient advise or litigation services,” said Thomas, who recently opened his own Center City office after temporarily practicing out of a Haverford space following the election. “I’ll take individuals from different firms. I’ve created a network of people who I trust either because I’ve trained them, or because I have in some way seen them perform in the legal arena and feel confident I know what they can do. So, I can go to a client and say, You need my skills, but in addition you really need someone who is, say, eight years out of law school and a senior level associate. I know exactly the right person for you; you don’t necessarily have to just take any person from the law firm you’re currently dealing with. I know where to locate the person who will precisely be able to handle what we need to have done on this case.” Thomas said that he believes the prevalence of firm-jumping within the profession offers new possibilities for forming teams of individual attorneys from multiple firms. “You now have almost a free-agent situation developing, certainly within the larger firms, where people are with a firm for a number of years and switch to another firm for a bit and then go back to the first firm,” he said. “There’s a lot of fluidity in the legal community that didn’t exist 15 years ago, but most clients haven’t been able to use that trend to their advantage. I can show them how to make the most of the current fluidity. And if the case is worthwhile and will bring in revenue, it’s rarely a problem to request an individual lawyer from a firm.” But first and foremost, Thomas considers his principal skill to be choosing experts and coordinating their testimonies. “I’m trying to build on my facility in dealing with experts and helping clients get the most out of the experts’ services,” Thomas said. “That’s not an easy task, because one of the largest issues you have when dealing with experts — whether they’re medical experts or financial specialists or physicists or engineers — is translation. You always have to ask, How can we take this biological or economic concept and make it intelligible to somebody who doesn’t have a Ph.D. in that subject matter (as the judge or jury likely won’t)? I firmly believe that you can do that in each and every instance. In fact, it’s been my experience that the experts who are unwilling to translate their findings into plain English don’t know what they’re talking about. Those types of people resist the concept of translation because they’re not really sure about the underpinnings of the jargon.” Thomas said that he did not wish to name any of his clients, due to the potentially sensitive nature of the matters he is handling for them. But he said that most of his clients are businesses or corporations, and that most of the cases he’s dealing with involve regulatory and litigation issues. Thomas believes his knowledge of handling experts comes from his many years of often complex, expert-heavy environmental litigation work, as well as his yen for discerning what, exactly, an expert is talking about. “I’m the kind of guy that reads articles on physics and biology before he goes to bed at night,” he joked. Thomas, who holds a master’s in city planning from Harvard University, began his career as a conservation planner with the U.S. Department of the Interior, where he managed Wild & Scenic Rivers studies and other conservation projects. He received his law degree from Penn in 1977, and joined Morgan Lewis as an associate. Two years later, he left Morgan Lewis to join the city law department, where he handled cases involving toxic waste and projects for the city’s water department. He returned to Morgan Lewis in 1983, becoming a partner in 1987. He left in the spring of 2002 to participate in the election. Thomas, still wishing to engage in public service in some form, decided to rekindle his involvement in conservational organizations, becoming a member of the board of directors of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, an organization that raises funds to be used by the Fairmount Park Commission. “The fund-raising skills I learned during the campaign really made a difference in terms of working with the conservancy,” Thomas said, smiling. He does not rule out a return to politics. “The congressional district in which I live is now represented by a Republican, and I’m a Democrat,” he said. “A number of people have asked me whether I would run as a Democratic candidate. I’m thinking it over.”

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