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After 26 years at Fox Rothschild, including a long stint as managing partner and later as chair of the firm, attorney Louis W. Fryman is leaving to join Conrad O’Brien Gellman & Rohn, a 35-lawyer litigation boutique, saying he decided to make the move because he was facing the prospect of mandatory retirement. “I would be a retired partner, and I’m not ready for that designation. I want to be an active, participating and productive lawyer for as long as I can be,” Fryman, 72, said in an interview. When Fryman became managing partner of Fox Rothschild in 1985, the firm had 50 lawyers in one office. Fryman oversaw a period of significant growth, through mergers and acquisitions, and the firm now has 425 lawyers in 14 offices spread across seven states. Fryman said the discussions that ultimately led to his move to Conrad O’Brien actually began as preliminary merger talks. As chair emeritus of Fox Rothschild, Fryman said he reached out to his law school classmate, William J. O’Brien, to suggest the possibility of a merger. O’Brien said he’d have to discuss the matter with his partners and said he’d get back to Fryman. At that point, Fryman said, he explained to O’Brien that he was going to be retiring soon, because of Fox Rothschild’s mandatory retirement policy, and that O’Brien should instead reach out to Abraham Reich, a co-chair of the firm. But when O’Brien raised the subject with Conrad O’Brien’s chairman, James J. Rohn, the conversation quickly took a turn from merger to lateral hire. Rohn called Fryman and suggested a “reverse commute.” Fryman was puzzled and Rohn explained: “Instead of our coming over there, why don’t you come over here?” The proposal was “intriguing,” Fryman said, and one that he quickly took seriously. Although he had planned to finish his career at Fox Rothschild, Fryman said the prospect of doing so as a “retired” partner had its downside. “I’m not ready for the leisure of retirement,” Fryman said. “I want to keep at it, and as long as I have the energy, and hopefully the good health, and there are those that want to seek my professional opinion, I want to be doing that rather than be in the state of retirement.” Rohn said Fryman is a “giant in the Pennsylvania legal and business community,” and that his decision to join Conrad O’Brien will strengthen the firm’s arbitration and mediation practice headed by Louis C. Bechtle, the former chief judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania federal court. “His guidance and wisdom, gained from years of leading a major firm and service on numerous corporate and community boards will make us all markedly better at what we do,” Rohn said. Reich, in an interview, said he is going to miss Fryman, but that he “couldn’t in good conscience” urge him not to go because Conrad O’Brien is “a great firm with outstanding lawyers.” “Everyone at Fox Rothschild values Lou’s substantial contributions to our organization over the years,” Reich said, “and we look forward to continuing our relationship with him.” When asked if Fox Rothschild is considering abandoning its mandatory retirement policy, Reich said, “This is something we’ve been looking at for a while.” For his part, Fryman said he won’t miss the folks at Fox Rothschild because he expects their relationships will endure. “I had some marvelous relationships over there that I won’t miss because I know they’ll continue,” Fryman said, adding that he expects the bond between the firms to grow as each refers cases to the other. Legal recruiter Michael Coleman of Coleman Nourian said Conrad O’Brien’s hiring of Fryman is “a grand slam,” and said it shows the firm has savvy in recognizing the value of seasoned lawyers. “Why put someone out to pasture before they’re ready?” Coleman asked, adding that mandatory retirement policies were designed to “weed out” lawyers who had grown less productive but are now “on the wane.” Coleman said he was impressed by Conrad O’Brien’s recent decision to transfer firm leadership duties to a team of four younger lawyers, led by new managing shareholder Nicholas M. Centrella. Law firms fail, Coleman said, when they lack leadership and when they fail to plan for succession. Conrad O’Brien, he said, has avoided both of those potential pitfalls by naming new leadership and by bringing in seasoned lawyers who can play key roles in guiding the firm’s leaders. Coleman said that Fryman, like Bechtle, is a “big name,” and that both can be expected “to bring in work by virtue of their names and who they are.” But the value of such seasoned lawyers goes beyond bringing in work, Coleman said, because other lawyers will be attracted to make a lateral move to Conrad O’Brien by the presence of such high-profile partners. Rohn said Bechtle has proven to be an invaluable resource for the firm by consulting on any matter where junior lawyers want the guidance of a former federal judge in making decisions on litigation tactics, and that he expects Fryman will do the same. Fryman, a 1962 graduate of Villanova University School of Law, spent his first 20 years in a small firm named Becker Becker & Fryman where he practiced with the late Edward R. Becker, a lawyer who would go on to become a titan in the Philadelphia legal community, first as a federal district judge and later as chief judge of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 1982, Fryman joined Fox Rothschild as chair of its litigation department and just three years later was named managing partner, a title he held for 15 years until he was named chair of the firm in 2000. Fryman has also held numerous prominent positions in civic organizations including stints as president of the Big Brother/Big Sister Association of Philadelphia, president of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition, president of Har Zion Temple, chair of the board for The Episcopal Academy, chair of the 3rd Circuit Lawyers Advisory Committee and chair of the board for the Walnut Street Theatre.

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