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Most of the nation’s major law firms have made no secret of their desire to expand their criminal defense practices, as long as the defendants are “white collar.” Buchanan Ingersoll is no different. But to lead its effort in New York, the Pittsburgh-based firm has tapped a lawyer best known for representing clients like subway vigilante Bernhard Goetz and Vincent “the Chin” Gigante, a reputed organized crime boss. Barry Slotnick and the nine other lawyers at Slotnick, Shapiro & Crocker have agreed to join the New York office of Buchanan Ingersoll. With the addition, the Manhattan office will account for about 50 of the firm’s 340 lawyers. Slotnick, 65, said Monday the move was about bringing his firm “into the 21st Century.” In the last few years, he said, Slotnick Shapiro has turned toward more white-collar cases as well as complex commercial litigations. He said he expects the widespread expertise of Buchanan Ingersoll’s lawyers in areas like tax and antitrust to be a major asset in such cases. William O’Connor, the managing shareholder of Buchanan Ingersoll in New York, said the firm hopes to build a practice focused on internal investigations and compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Slotnick said he looked forward to such work but he said the firm also had given him the option of taking non-white-collar criminal cases. “If it’s a case that I would take, Buchanan Ingersoll will take it,” said Slotnick. “We’re all lawyers and if someone’s accused of a non-white-collar crime, they deserve representation.” Even as they eagerly pursue criminal defense work, large firms have generally drawn the line at violent crimes like murder or rape. Firms have hired lawyers, especially ex-prosecutors, who have handled such cases but have steered them toward defending clients accused of non-violent offenses like fraud or grand larceny. Those cases, of course, generally have rich clients who can pay for the services of a large firm. O’Connor said the high billable rates that Slotnick could command would likely limit the number of non-white-collars cases he could take. But the rich also can be accused of violent crimes. “A major celebrity accused of killing somebody, that’s a great case,” said Benjamin Brafman, another well-known criminal defense lawyer. “But a lot of white-shoe firms wouldn’t want to be involved in it.” Brafman, who practices at seven-lawyer Brafman & Ross, said he had been approached by a number of major firms, especially after he successfully represented rap impresario Sean “P. Diddy” Combs on charges of weapons possession. But Brafman said he got the impression those same firms would have discouraged him from taking the very case that had brought him to their attention. The freedom to choose their own cases, said Brafman, was one reason many criminal lawyers continued as solo practitioners or in boutiques. On the other hand, he said, there are clear advantages to joining a large firm, such as the ability to expand into other practices and to benefit financially from the labors of partners across the firm. Slotnick said money was not a factor in his decision to move to Buchanan Ingersoll but added the firm had been generous. “They’re paying me like a baseball player,” he said. Slotnick is most famous for his representation of Goetz, who in 1984 shot four teenagers who he said attempted to rob him while he rode the subway. Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder and other serious charges. He also defended Gigante for several years, during which the alleged crime boss claimed he was mentally incompetent to stand trial. The other name partners of Slotnick Shapiro are also joining Buchanan Ingersoll. Michael Shapiro, a former special assistant attorney general and New York state special prosecutor for corruption, and Lawrence Crocker are also litigators.

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