Jonathan Grode, Green and Spiegel

Jonathan Grode Green and Speigel

Grode is an immigration lawyer and the U.S. practice director of Green and Speigel. Although Green and Spiegel was known as one of Canada’s most prestigious immigration law firms, it had virtually no brand recognition in the United States until its offices were founded under his leadership in 2012. Starting from a small cubicle, it is now the second-largest immigration boutique in Philadelphia.

Grode’s signature victory in the immigration realm was his leadership in the Assali case, an immigrant family that was turned away from the United States when the Travel Ban was announced in January 2017. He has further pioneered creative uses with the J-1 visa to allow for entrepreneurial startups at colleges, and the firm now represents major, multinational companies.  

What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer?  

I would be a screenplay writer or a cinematographer.

Name a mentor or someone you admire.

I admire mother for raising three children on her own after my father passed away.

 What is the best advice you ever received?

Nobody is going to do it for you except for yourself.

 In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers?  

An acknowledgment that traditional means of lawyer growth within a firm is not only about meeting billable hours. We must cultivate an understanding of the business of law and professional development in young lawyers so that Firms can better adapt to changing client needs and expectations.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone when dealing with a crisis? 

Try to think back to what was bothering you the most three years ago. You probably will have a tough time remembering what it was—but even if you can, the crisis was most likely resolved. With a pragmatic, rather than an emotional response, this too will pass.

Lee Rudy, Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check

Lee Rudy Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check

Last year, Rudy managed a team of lawyers who took on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook in the Delaware Court of Chancery. The litigation challenged Facebook’s decision to issue a new class of nonvoting stock with the explicit purpose of extending Zuckerberg’s control over the company.

On behalf of a large Swedish pension plan, Lee’s team litigated the case until the eve of trial, when Facebook withdrew the proposal just days before Zuckerberg was set to testify. As the case only sought injunctive relief, Facebook’s decision to abandon the transaction granted plaintiffs the full relief they sought at trial.

What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer? 

I thought seriously about becoming a teacher. I like the challenge of explaining complicated things to people.

Name a mentor or someone you admire.

My first bosses out of law school, in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, who taught me not to take shortcuts, to keep digging when I wasn’t sure, but then to stand firm for what I thought was right.

What is the best advice you ever received?

In 1992, for my first Valentine’s Day with my (now) wife, I bought her a series of gag gifts. It didn’t go over great. My father shook his head and said, “You don’t f— with Valentine’s Day.”

I’ve bought her flowers every year since.

In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers? 

Millennials get a bad rap—they’re considered self-absorbed and easily distracted. But they’ve also grown up in a world where texting and email has replaced oral communication. We need to figure out how to harness the incredible energy and passion of millennials and direct it in a positive way, e.g., on oral advocacy, rather than on avocado toast.

What’s the one piece of advice would you give someone when dealing with a crisis?

Everyone always expects an instantaneous response. It’s OK to take a moment to think.

Pamela Lee, DiOrio & Sereni

Pamela Lee DiOrio & Sereni

Over the past year, Lee has demonstrated initiative and leadership to achieve impressive results. She is a co-founder and co-chair of the women in the law committee (WILC) of the Delaware County Bar Association. In just a short year, she spearheaded and organized not only the WILC itself, but she was instrumental in the planning and presentation of several Continuing Legal Education courses on behalf of the WILC. 

Also, on behalf of the school districts she represents, Lee successfully litigated actions where she obtained a verdict of $345,600 in revenue recovery, plus an increase in revenue collectible into the indefinite future; obtained a verdict in excess of $800,000 revenue recovery, plus an increase in revenue collectible into the indefinite future; secured an administrative decision yielding more than $263,000 revenue recovery for a school district, plus an increase in revenue collectible into the indefinite future; and obtained a result after hearing which yielded $434,119 in revenue recovery for a school district. She also recovered revenue in excess of $325,000 through settlements of various tax appeal litigations.

What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer?  

Being a lawyer is my second career path so I am not sure what I would be if I were not a lawyer. I started law school when my youngest of three children entered kindergarten, and I have not looked back since. In my younger days, I was an account executive providing graphic arts services to Fortune 500 companies and, when I became a full-time mother and my kids were little, I was a professional volunteer working as a co-chair for two large community events.

Name a mentor or someone you admire.

I admire Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. I have had the honor of hearing her speak in person on two occasions and both times she was articulate, brilliant and pragmatic. What struck me the most was listening to her tell her story of her legal career, including graduating third in her class—in two years—and not being able to obtain a job after law school. Justice O’Connor did not complain about her past difficulties; instead she worked hard to make it work for her.

Regarding mentors, I am thankful to have learned from several really good attorneys including my fiancé, Hank Van Blunk, and colleagues Jennifer Emmons, Lisanne Mikula and Mark Sereni.

What is the best advice you ever received.

I have two. The first one was from my divorce attorney who said to me “on your 40th birthday you can turn 40 and be 40 or you can turn 40 and be an attorney.” At the time, I was admitted to law school but had not yet begun and was contemplating attending.

The second one is to take one step at a time.

In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers?  

New lawyers become better lawyers and learn effective advocacy and strategy by trial and error. This means arguing motions, conducting discovery, trying cases, preparing post-trial motions and appeals through smaller cases or pro bono work. 

What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone when dealing with a crisis?  

Take a moment to breathe, and then take one step at a time.

Thomas Baumann, Abes Baumann

Thomas Baumann Abes Baumann

Baumann, of Abes Baumann in Pittsburgh, successfully argued before the state Supreme Court to invalidate the state Workers’ Compensation Act’s automatic adoption of “the most ­recent ­edition” of the American Medical Association Impairment Rating Guides. The case, Protz v. WCAB, was described by many as the most important workers’ comp decision in decades. 

Baumann, who represented plaintiff Mary Ann Protz, agreed that retroactive application of Protz “will be a major litigated issue going forward.” Baumann called Protz “the most significant case of my career.”

“It’s probably one of the most significant workers’ comp cases in the last 30 years,” he added.

What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer?  

I probably would have become a college professor teaching either history or political science.

Name a mentor or someone you admire.

I’d have to say my parents. They instilled in me a lifelong love of learning and to never give less than my best effort. Also, a man I coached with by the name of Harry Miller. He taught me to be fearless.

What is the best advice you ever received?

The best advice I’ve received was to never give less than my best effort.

In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers?

The next generation should become lawyers only if they really want to be lawyers. There are a lot of unhappy people in the profession whom I think may have chosen the profession out of default. It should also be educated that there are many areas of practice that are not emotionally rewarding.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone when dealing with a crisis? 

Stop, consider your options and make a decision after you understand them.

Kelley Hodge, Elliot Greenleaf

Kelley Hodge Elliott Greenleaf

Hodge took on the difficult task of leading the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office immediately following Seth Williams’ resignation and, later, helped prepare the office for the transition to Larry Krasner’s administration. While there, she reached out to community interests and neighboring jurisdictions, and worked to enhance several high-interest programs within the office. She also made several high-level staffing changes and worked to implement new programs and initiatives.

Hodge, now of counsel at Elliott Greenleaf, graduated from the University of Virginia in 1993, and worked in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from 2004 until 2011, rising from the position of a line prosecutor to the chief of the Municipal Court Unit and then assistant chief of the Juvenile Court Unit.

What career path would you have pursued if you weren’t a lawyer? 

 

If I wasn’t a lawyer, I would have wanted to pursue a career as a leader of a nonprofit entity that probably focused on children and education. 

Name a mentor or someone you admire.

I cannot name just one. I have a few people who I admire. I will name four who come quickly to mind: Judge Sheila Woods Skipper, Judge Lydia Kirkland and Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes and president of the University of Virginia, Teresa Sullivan.

I share the names of these four individuals because I have been able to look to and learn from them some critical lessons in my professional growth. They have all knowingly or unknowingly assisted me in a positive way.  They have all demonstrated marvelous examples of  poise, intelligence, values and strength that I continually try to emulate. There are more names that  I wish I could share, but I hope they know who they are.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Just be yourself. 

In 50 words or less, what does the legal profession need to do to prepare the next generation of lawyers?

In order to prepare the next generation of lawyers, the legal profession needs to lead by example and provide new, young lawyers with the mentorship and tutelage to grow in this profession. Often, attorneys enter practice with little guidance on how to manage clients, cases and navigate their new employment setting while also developing those key intangible qualities that are important in becoming a well-rounded practitioner. Young lawyers need to be given direction on how important relationship building is in shaping their reputation and, thus, their legal portfolio. 

What’s the one piece of advice you would give someone when dealing with a crisis? 

Take a breath … and then take another! Oftentimes the situation is not as dire as it may seem in that agonizing moment. If you can take a breath and think things through, you can slowly move toward alleviating the feelings that come with being in a crisis and make a more thoughtful decision that—while it may not erase the impact or pain of a negative event or circumstance—will make the next day better than the last.