Robert Graci, who retired as the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board’s chief counsel last August, has joined Lancaster-based Saxton & Stump as senior counsel in its Harrisburg office.
Graci’s practice will focus on appellate advocacy and internal investigations, as well as Title IX work on behalf of educational institutions. He will also provide alternative dispute resolution services through Saxton & Stump’s subsidiary, Optimal Dispute Resolutions.
Graci said he was introduced to the firm’s CEO, James Saxton, by retired U.S. District Chief Judge Lawrence Stengel of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, who joined Saxton & Stump last September.
LIkewise, Saxton said it was Stengel who first suggested bringing Graci on board.
“Judge Stengel brought the idea up and we very quickly rallied around it,” Saxton said.
According to Saxton, Stengel’s hire last year was a major step toward the firm strengthening its internal investigations capabilities and Graci’s addition is another significant building block for the practice.
Both Graci and Stengel “have just unbelievable experience, if you think about it, solving complex problems and looking at things differently,” Saxton said.
Graci noted that, in addition to his experience overseeing ethics probes at the JCB, he previously led grand jury investigations during his time with the state Attorney General’s Office and represented individuals before grand juries when he was in private practice at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott in Harrisburg. Graci also served as a Superior Court judge from 2002 until 2004, prior to joining Eckert Seamans.
And from a more personal perspective, Graci said, the firm offered everything he was looking for at this stage in his career.
He said he retired from the JCB last year to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren, but “it was never my intention to be completely divorced from the practice of law.”
“I was looking for a better balance between my professional life and private life,” he said, adding, “They made me a very attractive offer with the type of flexibility that will allow me to achieve that balance I was looking for.”
Graci said he had spoken with a few other firms about possibly joining them but was drawn to the strategic approach to growth and the culture of teamwork Saxton described during their initial meeting.
“When I met with him for the first time, he actually had a multi-slide PowerPoint,” Graci recalled. “The way he explained his vision and the way the firm operates on many different levels really impressed me.”
Saxton & Stump, which formed four years ago and currently has 37 lawyers, is undeniably in growth mode.
“Four years ago they were at 16 lawyers, now they’re between 35 and 40, and they expect to add another eight or nine before the end of the year,” Graci said, noting that the firm “is growing by bringing in real leaders in their fields.”
In April, the firm hired former Tucker Arensberg shareholder Anthony Foschi to establish a hospitality practice. In March, it brought on John Hogan from Stevens & Lee (where Saxton & Stump’s founders originally defected from) to chair of its corporate health care and life sciences group. Last June, the firm launched an intellectual property practice, hiring shareholder Bruce Wolstoncroft from McNees Wallace & Nurick to lead it.
Saxton said the firm is also in the process of building out its Harrisburg office to triple its size to accommodate future growth, including some more planned additions to the internal investigations and Title IX practice in the near future. The highly specialized nature of that practice requires a real commitment on the part of firms attempting to be major players in that space, he noted.
“There many good firms that have existing practices, but it is a niche practice that you have to, as a firm, be willing to invest in,” Saxton said. “You’ve got to get individuals like Judge Stengel, like Judge Graci, that have a depth of experience and you’ve got to be willing to support them …[internal investigations and Title IX matters] are extraordinarily complicated and serious and you’ve got to be ready to put the resources forward.”