Robert Byer, Duane Morris

Robert Byer Duane Morris

Byer is a pioneer of appellate specialty practice in Pennsylvania. Through his many high-profile appeals, teaching activities and work in the Pennsylvania Bar Association and other organizations—including the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers—he has succeeded in increasing recognition of appellate practice as a distinct legal specialty and improving the quality of both written and oral appellate advocacy in Pennsylvania. Through his many years as a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Appellate Court Procedural Rules Committee, including five years as chair, Byer has helped modernize appellate practice and worked hard to eliminate unfair waiver traps for litigators.

The legal profession is constantly evolving and that evolution only seems to have accelerated in recent years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the profession during your career?

As our clients’ needs evolve in an ever-flattening global marketplace, it is imperative that we evolve as well, on individual and institutional bases. The impact of technology on the delivery of legal services cannot be overstated, including communications, legal research, records review and discovery, and the ability to work remotely or across offices.

What is one thing about the profession that has remained unchanged over the years?

Fundamental ethics principles.

Name one thing you’ve learned over the course of your career that you wish you knew as a young lawyer.

I could not name one thing; I wish that I knew as a young lawyer everything that I know now as the result of over 40 years’ experience.

Herman C. Fala, General Counsel, Liberty Property Trust

Herman C. Fala General Counsel, Liberty Property Trust

Fala, General Counsel to Liberty Property Trust, is among Philadelphia’s most renowned real estate lawyers. For 45 years, he has played a leading role in remaking Philadelphia’s skyline, revitalizing urban landscapes and driving the region’s economic growth. He is a fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and, until he left private practice in 2014, was the only real estate lawyer in Pennsylvania with Chambers USA’s highest “Star Individual” ranking.

The legal profession is constantly evolving and that evolution only seems to have accelerated in recent years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the profession during your career?

Technological change has been the greatest transformation in the profession since I started. This is true not only in the obvious respects, but also because the technological changes in communication and document distribution have profoundly reduced the opportunities for personal interaction and for formation of lasting professional and personal relationships. What is one thing about the profession that has remained unchanged over the years? The legal profession always was and remains a service profession. Technical legal skill and technological expertise can get a lawyer only so far. First and foremost, you need to be committed to serving the needs of the client. Name one thing you’ve learned over the course of your career that you wish you knew as a young lawyer. See #2 above. In law school and in the early years of my career I thought lawyering meant legal analysis, advocacy and related skills. It took me years to learn that lawyering is really about service.

Alan Hoffman, Blank Rome

Alan Hoffman Blank Rome

Hoffman joined Blank Rome in 1992 and rose from litigation department head (‘96-‘08), to firm co-chairman (‘08-‘13), to managing partner (‘11), to chairman and managing partner (‘14-present; the first in the firm’s history to be elected to both roles). When he became co-chair in 2008, the legal industry was reeling from the recession. However, Alan grew the firm’s client base and made strategic decisions to remain on solid financial footing, setting the stage for 10 years of steady progress.

The legal profession is constantly evolving and that evolution only seems to have accelerated in recent years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the profession during your career?

Advances in technology and its impact on eliminating certain jobs and creating more efficiency in the time it takes to complete work. For instance, the roles and responsibilities of young associates has changed dramatically, particularly in litigation when document reviews, legal research, and other tasks can be performed by artificial intelligence and alternative service providers. On the transactional side, the speed of transmitting documents and due diligence on deals has also changed dramatically.

What is one thing about the profession that has remained unchanged over the years?

Our entire profession is based on providing excellent legal advice to clients and remaining relevant to their needs. Client demand for excellence, responsiveness, and results has remained consistent throughout many years of change in the industry.

Name one thing you’ve learned over the course of your career that you wish you knew as a young lawyer.

Business Development. I don’t think I fully appreciated the need to make contacts to develop client business, whether through referrals or otherwise, until I became a junior partner. The earlier you can join organizations, bar associations, and commit time to charitable endeavors, the easier it will be to become known in the profession and be a business developer.

Margaret Klaw, Berner Klaw & Watson

Margaret Klaw Berner Klaw & Watson

Margaret Klaw is a founding partner of Berner Klaw & Watson, an all-women law firm located in Philadelphia, dedicated exclusively to the practice of family law. Klaw has chaired both the family law section and the women’s rights committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association and been an adjunct professor of family law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law. She writes and lectures extensively on family law topics.

The legal profession is constantly evolving and that evolution only seems to have accelerated in recent years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the profession during your career?

The increased presence of women. When I first started practicing, the vast majority of lawyers, judges, and leaders within the profession were men. That has changed dramatically. Opposing counsel in my cases are now just as likely to be women as men, over half the judges I regularly appear before in Philadelphia Family Court are women, and the chancellor, immediate past chancellor, and chancellor-elect of the Philadelphia Bar Association are all women.

What is one thing about the profession that has remained unchanged over the years?

The commitment to service and social justice has been a constant. It’s such a strong thread within the Philadelphia legal community and continues to be exemplified in the policies and practices of the Philadelphia Bar Association.

Name one thing you’ve learned over the course of your career that you wish you knew as a young lawyer.

I wish I knew that I can’t solve every problem a client has. I probably did always know that on an intellectual level, but not on an emotional one—I used to feel responsible for fixing everything that was broken. I am way more realistic now about which problems can realistically be addressed through the legal system and which ones cannot, which I think has made me a far more effective advocate.

David Pudlin, Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller

David Pudlin Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller

President since the firm’s founding in 1994, Pudlin has been a strong leader and a steady hand through every stage of the firm’s growth. He has been instrumental in growing the firm from 11 to 50 attorneys, expanding its practices, and steering strategic and succession planning for the future. Under his leadership, the firm has won numerous honors, taken on high-stakes matters, and established itself as a top-tier firm. His work ethic, integrity, and sense of humor have indelibly shaped our firm’s culture; he is a mentor to many and an example for all.

The legal profession is constantly evolving and that evolution only seems to have accelerated in recent years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the profession during your career?

When I began my legal career in 1974 upon graduation from law school, there was almost no focus on the “business” of law.  While the quality of our services, our expertise, and our ethics continue to be of the highest priority, the focus on the business of law, including the profitability of our practices, is the biggest change I have seen.

What is one thing about the profession that has remained unchanged over the years?

Working hard for our clients, including providing them with the best work product and outcomes that we are able to provide.

Name one thing you’ve learned over the course of your career that you wish you knew as a young lawyer.

We are better lawyers if we have fulfilling lives outside of the practice of law, and that is in both our personal/family lives and the community activities in which we engage.

Michael Sklaroff, Ballard Spahr

Michael Sklaroff Ballard Spahr

During a career spanning more than 40 years, Sklaroff has participated in landmark cases in Pennsylvania law and guided projects that have shaped the skyline, including the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Kimmel Center. In the early 1970s, he was part of the team that filed the first civil rights action to open the suburbs to multifamily housing in the aftermath of the Girsh Appeal (434 Pa. 237 (1970)) and established the precedent for site-specific relief in exclusionary zoning cases. He has served in government, including 12 years on the Philadelphia Historical Commission, with five years as chair. Sklaroff started the movement to save the Dream Garden, Philadelphia’s iconic Maxfield Parrish/Louis Comfort Tiffany mural at the Curtis Center, when it was under threat of removal to a Las Vegas casino. 

The legal profession is constantly evolving and that evolution only seems to have accelerated in recent years. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the profession during your career?

Time has contracted. The internet and advanced word-processing have accelerated response time and left little room for contemplation.

What is one thing about the profession that has remained unchanged over the years?

In spite of the growing monetization of legal services, the impatience of clients and the American Lawyer’s transformation of what we do into a competitive sport, the abiding flame of the profession is love of craft.

Name one thing you’ve learned over the course of your career that you wish you knew as a young lawyer.

Context is everything.