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Acquiring lawyers with specialized knowledge and niche practices has been a popular strategic move among Pennsylvania’s large and midsize law firms this year. And it has continued into the final weeks of 2018.

Throughout the month of December, large firms including Greenberg Traurig, Ballard Spahr, and Cozen O’Connor have been picking up lateral hires in Philadelphia with specialized backgrounds in government or in targeted practice areas. Outside Philadelphia, midsize firms have made their own additions of both legal practitioners and business-side professionals.

Greenberg Traurig added a former federal prosecutor to its Philadelphia office, adding to its white-collar defense and special investigations practice.

Jessica Natali joined the global firm after 11 years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. During her time there, in the criminal division, she successfully prosecuted more than 100 cases, the firm said. Before that, she practiced law as an associate at Ballard Spahr.

Natali said she liked the idea of growing a white-collar practice in her home town, but doing so as part of a global firm. “The fact that they are expanding in the Philadelphia office and that I’m a part of that is a fantastic opportunity,” she said.

Greenberg Traurig has 47 lawyers in Philadelphia, which is one of its 38 offices across the globe. Curtis B. Toll, managing shareholder of the firm’s Philadelphia office, called Natali’s move to the firm “a game-changer.”

“This is not only because of Jessica’s wide-ranging litigation experience and deep knowledge of federal law, but also because of her longstanding and strong connections to this region,” Toll said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Philadelphia-based Cozen O’Connor also looked to a lawyer with years of federal government experience. The firm brought on Marcia Mulkey as of counsel to help build up its utility, environmental and energy practice.

Mulkey has taught environmental compliance and enforcement at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law for several years, and until 2015 she was a lawyer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where she worked for 35 years. That included 15 years as regional counsel for the mid-Atlantic region.

“With decades of experience across the EPA organization, she brings to our clients a keen understanding of how EPA and state environmental agencies work and uncommon insight into environmental decision-making,” Peter Fontaine, co-chair of the utility, environmental and energy practice, said of Mulkey in a statement.

Intellectual property has been a hot area for lateral hiring and acquisitions all year. Ballard Spahr added to that trend this month, hiring John Zurawski as a partner. Zurawski, an IP lawyer whose practice includes close work with startup companies, had been a partner at McCarter & English.

“We have been looking for the right person to add as a partner in our life sciences IP practice—someone with the outstanding technical skills and commitment to client service that are hallmarks of our IP department,” Ballard Spahr chairman Mark Stewart said.

Zurawski’s client base includes higher education institutions, large equipment and vehicle manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, the firm said. Those pharma clients include emerging businesses, such as companies looking for new treatments for Parkinson’s, psoriasis, cancer and viral infections.

Across the state in Pittsburgh, Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott brought on Christine Boronyak Bowers as a member in its tax and employee benefits and executive compensation practices. Bowers had been a lawyer at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney since 2011, and worked at Deloitte before that.

And in the Philadelphia suburbs, 113-lawyer Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby brought on Lawrence “Skip” Persick as a partner in the Norristown family law practice. Persick comes off nearly three decades at Lamb McErlane, where he was a partner from 1990 to now.

A couple of midsize firms made additions to their administrative functions as well. Harrisburg-based McNees Wallace & Nurick brought on Kristin Jones as its new director of accounting. And fellow central Pennsylvania firm Saxton & Stump hired David Garrett as controller.