With the new year comes a new name for the New Jersey education law firm long known as Schwartz Simon Edelstein & Celso, as name partner Nathanya Simon has moved to Scarinci Hollenbeck.
Simon, who joined Lyndhurst-based Scarinci Hollenbeck as partner as of Dec. 18, will help lead the special education law practice. She joins a trio of other Schwartz Simon alums who made the move to Scarinci Hollenbeck earlier this year.
Simon’s departure also follows that of fellow name partner Nicholas Celso III, who left in November for a Middlesex County firm.
Whippany-based Schwartz Simon, meanwhile, will be renamed the Schwartz Edelstein Law Group as of Jan. 1, and form a new management structure.
Simon, reached by phone, said she “needed a much bigger platform for the practice I have.” Scarinci Hollenbeck, apart from having about 60 attorneys to the Schwartz firm’s 20, has more specialized practice areas that her school district clients have begun to demand in more recent years, including environmental, tax, and intellectual property, she said. In environmental, for instance, more districts are dealing with lead and oil tank issues of late, Simon noted.
Simon said she’s in the process of urging clients to make the move with her, and is keeping her current rate structure of roughly $150 to $200 per hour for school districts.
“I wouldn’t have done it if it would mean a big increase for my clients,” Simon said, noting that school boards will begin appointing and reappointing outside counsel at their January meetings.
For the Schwartz firm, the new executive committee is to consist of Stefani Schwartz, Andrew Brown, Denis Murphy and Paul Kalac. Schwartz heads the litigation department; Brown and Kalac, the education department; and Murphy, the construction and public procurement departments.
Stephen Edelstein will remain in the managing partner role on a transitional basis, after which the committee will split managing duties, or designate a managing partner or partners, he said.
The management-by-committee structure is “consistent with the trend in law firm management,” said Edelstein by phone, noting that the firm has been strategically planning for succession for roughly the past year. “Firms are much more democratic now than when I was a young lawyer, and I think that’s a good thing.”
For Simon, there was a clear path to Scarinci Hollenbeck from Schwartz Simon. Less than a year ago, partners John Geppert and David Blank made the move. Geppert now heads Scarinci Hollenbeck’s education law practice. Also changing firms was associate Carolyn Chaudry, who worked closely with Simon in Schwartz Simon’s special education practice.
In late November, Celso left the firm for the Busch Law Group, a nine-lawyer firm based in Metuchen. That firm’s founder, Jonathan Busch, previously practiced at Schwartz Simon, too. Celso, who had been on senior status before leaving Schwartz Simon, according to his former partners, is of counsel at the Busch Law Group.
Departures notwithstanding, Edelstein said, the Schwartz firm heads into its reorganization ”strong,” and with “the same core practice areas” that it always had, though the firm earlier this year added a lateral partner with a corporate transactions focus—Pamela Kapsimalis, who had been general counsel for Preferred Freezer Services in Chatham—as well as a handful of associates.
Even without Simon, the firm maintains a special education practice, and hopes to retain some of the school district clients Simon has been representing, Edelstein said.
When Geppert, Blank and Chaudry left, “I really was on the cusp,” Simon said, and ultimately “felt I wanted to reunite,” noting that Schwartz Simon did not appear set to greatly expand its practice offerings.
Geppert in a statement said Simon “will be a welcome and positive addition,” pointing to her “wide breadth of experience.”
Simon, a 1975 graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law, clerked for Union County Superior Court Judges Milton Feller and Donald McKenzie before beginning her career as associate counsel at the New Jersey School Boards Association. She was a prosecutor for the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control from 1976 to 1979 before joining the firm in 1981 that would become Schwartz Simon. By 1982, Simon was made partner, and later became a management committee member and co-chairwoman of the education practice.
In the years that followed, she worked on numerous significant cases, including Bernardsville Bd. of Ed. v. J.H., where in 1994 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit established filing deadline standards for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act claims.
Simon said her departure from Schwartz Simon was “very amicable.”
“I wish their reorganization and rebranding to go well,” she said.
Edelstein, in a statement announcing the name and management structure changes, said of Simon and Celso, “We wish them the best of luck and good health.”