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Philadelphia-based general practice firm Pelino & Lentz has expanded its labor practice by adding the three attorneys who comprised litigation boutique Neil A. Morris Associates. The merger, which becomes official May 1, will bring a municipal law element to the firm’s labor group. According to Neil A. Morris, managing partner of Neil A. Morris Associates, interest in his firm had begun to surge recently among whispers that a number of firms, including Gibbons, McCarter & English and Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, were interested in developing labor practices in Philadelphia. After 18 years of managing the firm, Morris decided it was time to take his practice to a new level while lessening some of his own administrative burden. He entered into talks with a number of firms, ultimately deciding Pelino & Lentz was the best choice. “They were very respectful of my practice,” he said. “All my people came with me and [the firm] let me have my practice group essentially be the same, except we can now do bond work and transactional work for our clients, which we didn’t do before, and now I have backup.” Joining Morris in the move are attorneys Richard R. Morris and Robert C. Beck Jr. All of them are joining the firm as partners. Firm administrator Robena R. Moore will also make the move. Martin R. Lentz, shareholder and managing partner of the 29-lawyer Pelino & Lentz, said the firm was not specifically in the market for attorneys with specialties in municipal litigation but were enticed by Morris’ reputation as a “formidable opponent” in the courtroom, as well as his established book of clients. “This wasn’t a speculative thing,” he said of Morris’ book of business. “He has a very substantial practice in that area.” Neil A. Morris Associates represented 18 Pennsylvania municipalities, including the state’s seventh largest, Bensalem Township, as well as Bucks County and the Camden Housing Authority, all of which will follow the firm to its new home. Morris counts some of the state’s largest firms, such as Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Reed Smith and Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, among his practice’s competitors in the field of labor law. He said Pelino & Lentz’s existing cache of labor law attorneys would help make his practice stronger. “I don’t think being with them will help us get a municipality we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten, but it will help us to provide better service to our clients,” he said. Last December, there were rumors that Morris’ firm was set to join Trevose, Pa.-based Lamm Rubenstone. Morris confirmed that the two firms had been negotiating. “We had been approached by the Lamm firm, and we were in talks with them,” he said. “In the end, it didn’t work out. They’re good people, but for us [Pelino & Lentz] was a better fit.” Anthony L. Lamm, managing partner of Lamm Rubenstone, could not be reached for comment. Morris said he was attracted to Pelino & Lentz because the firm was willing to accept that he simply could not charge municipalities big firm rates. Instead, business depends on the volume of municipal work a firm does. The consolation, he said, is that municipalities tend to be more trusting and willing to work with firms than privately owned companies are. “A lot of the big firms don’t understand that municipal rates are not going to be $500 and $600 an hour, but that municipalities will give you less hassle in terms of billing than private companies will,” he said. Morris said now that he won’t have to worry about day-to-day management of the firm, he intends to devote more time to his practice and to marketing, since most of his business thus far has come from referrals from township solicitors.

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