Our listing of the top lateral moves of 2012 could not be more diverse when it comes to practice area and firm type. And for the first time, we have listed lateral attorneys who left the Pennsylvania market for other locations – their departures too significant on the local legal community for their mentions to be barred by our typical in-state focus.
This year’s list includes litigators and corporate partners moving to the world’s largest law firms, a plaintiffs lawyer switching shops, a former law firm head going in-house and a defense lawyer switching to the plaintiffs bar. Practice areas include public housing, products liability, labor, commercial litigation, health care, class actions, government relations and insurance defense, among others.
There were certainly a number of group moves that made our top 10 list this year, but not nearly as many as last year, when eight of the top 10 moves were large groups of attorneys. In 2012, the one-off or two-person team was the more likely thing to see in the Pennsylvania market, while area firms focused their larger growth outside of the state.
The following is our list of the top lateral hires of 2012, presented in alphabetical order:
Steven P. Berman, Penny S. Indictor, Stuart D. Poppel and Group
Steven P. Berman quietly led his team of public housing attorneys from Greenberg Traurig on July 1 to start their own firm, Berman Indictor & Poppel.
Berman left along with Greenberg Traurig shareholders Penny S. Indictor, Stuart D. Poppel and Jeanine Dankoff and associate Melissa Flanagan. Since starting the firm, Ballard Spahr partner Michael Taichman-Robins also joined the boutique.
Berman and his team are one of a few groups of lawyers in the city that have created a substantial practice around representing real estate developers who are investing in housing projects that have a public finance component such as a government subsidy or tax credit.
With the rest of the real estate market soft over the past few years, Berman and his team have kept busy in a countercyclical area of the real estate industry that is expected to stay busy for the next several years. Focusing almost solely on this specialized practice rather than getting into too much traditional commercial real estate work allows the group to charge higher rates.
Berman and some of his team were among The Legal‘s top lateral hires in 2006 for their move in 2005 from Ballard Spahr to Greenberg Traurig. Berman himself had a seven-figure practice at the time that those in the industry say has not diminished over time.
Carl M. Buchholz
Carl M. Buchholz’s move from Blank Rome to DLA Piper was just as intriguing because of the firm he left as it was for the firm he joined.
As the former managing partner of Blank Rome and a longtime member of the firm’s leadership, Buchholz’s departure from Blank Rome created significant buzz in the local legal community.
At DLA Piper, Buchholz has been focusing on litigation and has added the new element of government relations to the Philadelphia office. Buchholz’s longtime work in government relations dovetails well with DLA Piper’s government affairs practice that exists in locations such as Washington, D.C., Chicago and on the West Coast. He also focuses his practice on regulatory matters and some corporate work.
Buchholz spent several years with Blank Rome on either end of a stint with President George W. Bush’s administration. After leaving government, Buchholz returned to the firm to serve first as executive partner for three years and then as managing partner and chief executive officer from 2006 until 2011. He abruptly stepped down from that role in March 2011, just six months after being re-elected to a third three-year term. At the time, Buchholz said he was stepping down to return to full-time practice as well as to help the firm with business development.
Doreen S. Davis
Prominent labor lawyer Doreen S. Davis left Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in October to fulfill a dream of hers to practice in New York.
Davis joined the New York office of Jones Day. While at Morgan Lewis, she was the co-chairwoman of the firm’s traditional labor practice, a subset of the firm’s well-known labor and employment practice. She also ran the labor and employment practice within the firm’s Pennsylvania offices.
Davis focuses her practice on representing management on issues surrounding collective bargaining and union organizing.
At the time of her departure, Davis said Jones Day had been looking for a senior attorney who focused solely on traditional labor law. She said Jones Day provided her a larger platform than Morgan Lewis.
Morgan Lewis noted at the time of Davis’ departure that she was a very important contributor to the firm’s labor practice.
"If someone asked you to name the top labor and employment lawyers in Philadelphia, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t put her in the top three," one recruiter said at the time of Davis’ departure. "She has that kind of a reputation."
Greenberg Traurig didn’t have any Philadelphia lawyers who focused on emerging markets and venture capital work, and David Gitlin is well known locally for his practice in that area. So the firm jumped on the opportunity to hire Gitlin away from Blank Rome in May.
Greenberg had tried to hire Gitlin back in 2009 when his former firm, Wolf Block, was dissolving, but Gitlin had already committed to Blank Rome. A few years later, Greenberg Traurig opened a Tel Aviv office and Gitlin’s substantial work with Israeli clients and those doing work in Israel again seemed like the right fit for Greenberg Traurig. This time, Gitlin was interested in making the move.
While with Blank Rome, Gitlin was a leader within the firm’s Israel client services team, representing Israeli companies looking to do business across the globe and global companies looking to do business in Israel.
Gitlin said Greenberg was the first international law firm to open an office in Israel since the country opened its doors to foreign attorneys. He said Blank Rome had no plans to open an office in Israel.
Gitlin said clients in his M&A practice also increasingly look to hire a firm with a geographic footprint in all of the necessary locations to complete a deal as opposed to hiring multiple firms. Greenberg had been expanding internationally and within the United States in the last few years, he said. At Blank Rome, Gitlin said he felt like he was losing ground on his Israeli and international M&A practices because Blank Rome did not have enough of an international practice.
James C. Haggerty
James Haggerty’s move in April from Swartz Campbell to a small firm that reconstituted itself as Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith was eyebrow-raising not just because of the departure of a longtime firm leader from Swartz Campbell but because of the practice Haggerty planned to create.
The lifelong defense attorney and one of the best-known lawyers representing insurance companies in cases related to motor vehicle law was going to be a plaintiffs attorney.
Haggerty acknowledged to The Legal that his brother’s passing from brain cancer in 2007 changed his perspective, prompting him to think about spending "the last 10 years or more of my career representing plaintiffs."
"I thought it would be a good time to make a change," he had said.
Haggerty is well respected by his colleagues at other firms for his insight into insurance law in Pennsylvania.
"There was nobody that was anywhere close to Jim in understanding the complex issues in connection with automobile insurance law," one attorney had said about Haggerty.
S. Manoj Jegasothy and Group
S. Manoj Jegasothy led a team of himself and six other attorneys in March from the Pittsburgh office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney to create a new office for San Francisco-based Gordon & Rees.
Known for its insurance defense work, Gordon & Rees had been looking to open up on the East Coast, particularly in Philadelphia. But in the interim, the firm had heard Jegasothy and his group were possibly available to make a move and a new Pittsburgh office was the result.
The group’s departure represented a substantial defection of attorneys from an area firm and the arrival of an entirely new firm to the Pittsburgh marketplace.
Jegasothy and his group focus their practice on commercial litigation as well as products liability, toxic tort, employment, insurance coverage, antitrust, class action, construction and health care litigation.
Jegasothy, who was co-chair of the litigation group in Buchanan Ingersoll’s Pittsburgh office, is now the managing partner of Gordon & Rees’ Steel City location. Partners John Ebken, Marc Thirkell and Jeffrey Wilson made the move with Jegasothy along with attorneys David Morgan, William Blick and Joshua Marks.
The office has since grown from seven lawyers to 13 in less than a year.
Thomas More Marrone
Thomas More Marrone, the former head of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig’s complex litigation and class action department, left the firm in April to join the Philadelphia office of Pittsburgh-based Caroselli Beachler McTiernan & Conboy.
Marrone said that while he enjoyed his time at Feldman Shepherd, he decided to join Caroselli Beachler because it provided more support for his class action and complex litigation practice.
"I’ve had other cases — attorney malpractice, Dragonetti [Act] and other complex cases — that were the extraordinary cases at Feldman Shepherd and are really the types of cases these guys [at Caroselli Beachler] are handling regularly," Marrone said at the time of his departure.
Caroselli Beachler leadership told The Legal the firm was attracted to Marrone both because he "generates a significant amount of good-sized work on his own" and because the firm was involved in a number of complex litigation and class action matters across Pennsylvania.
Marrone’s addition furthered Caroselli Beachler’s goals of doing more than just traditional personal injury work in Philadelphia, but rather focusing on class action and insurance bad-faith matters.
Diane P. Sullivan
Diane Sullivan cut her teeth in products liability law on serving as local counsel in the early 1990s for Baxter Healthcare Corp. in a slew of cases alleging women developed cancer when their breast implants leaked.
Sullivan later rose to significant prominence representing Merck in the Vioxx litigation, working with a team of litigators and document review lawyers at Dechert not just on the massive settlement that was reached in the cases, but on trying to verdict and winning one of the suits.
Then, in 2012, Legal affiliate The American Lawyer named Sullivan a Litigator of the Year finalist based, in part, on two trial victories for major clients. In the first, she led a Dechert team that secured a complete defense verdict for Philip Morris in a lawsuit brought by the city of St. Louis and a group of hospitals seeking damages for treating tobacco-related illnesses. The second notable win came on behalf of AstraZeneca in its first Seroquel products liability case to go to trial.
So Sullivan made major waves in February when she said she was leaving Dechert for New York powerhouse firm Weil Gotshal & Manges. Dechert has made no secret of its de-emphasis on certain products liability work from the major practice area it once was at the firm and Sullivan said she wanted to focus her practice at Weil Gotshal on more general commercial litigation. Her new firm was looking for someone with trial experience. Soon after she joined, Weil Gotshal opened a Princeton, N.J., office, out of which Sullivan now practices. Dechert litigator Kathleen O’Connor joined Weil Gotshal with Sullivan.
One legal recruiter called the move "hugely significant" and said Sullivan is a "top-tier" litigator.
"I think it’s really big news because Diane Sullivan is a nationally prominent litigator, particularly with respect to high-stakes, mass tort products liability matters," another recruiter said.
Thomas M. Tammany
Thomas Tammany left his post as co-chairman of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s health care practice to join Reading, Pa.-based firm Stevens & Lee, another firm known for its work with the health care industry.
In a time when health care law is expected to boom over the next few years, particularly on the regulatory and transactional sides, Tammany’s practice was a big addition for Stevens & Lee’s already deep health care bench.
Tammany assists health care clients with transactional, regulatory and compliance matters. He regularly represents academic medical centers, hospitals and health systems, physician groups, medical device companies, institutional pharmacies and other health care providers in mergers and acquisitions, affiliations and contractual matters. He also works with hospitals and doctor groups on joint ventures and practice acquisitions.
Before he entered private practice, Tammany was chief counsel of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Associate Megan Mueller joined Stevens & Lee with Tammany. The pair is resident in the firm’s Valley Forge, Pa., office.
Thomas L. VanKirk
Thomas L. VanKirk spent his career at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, ultimately serving for years at the helm of the firm and leading it through significant expansion.
About three years after stepping down as chief executive officer of Buchanan Ingersoll, VanKirk made the surprise announcement in March that he was leaving the firm to serve as chief legal officer of one of the biggest employers in the region: health insurer Highmark Inc.
VanKirk spent 18 years as chief operating officer of Buchanan Ingersoll until 2003, when he became CEO of the firm. He stepped down as CEO in June 2009 and was replaced by John A. Barbour, who had joined the firm as part of Klett Rooney’s 2006 merger with Buchanan Ingersoll. Since then, VanKirk had served as chairman of the firm.
"I think Tom has been a tremendous contributor to the legal field and to Buchanan, in particular, for a long time," one recruiter said at the time of VanKirk’s departure. "His strength as an attorney, as well as his skills as a manager, will be a tremendous asset to Highmark. He leaves Buchanan, I’m sure, on a very positive note with very strong leadership in place. It’s a very positive move for the Pittsburgh legal community."