When Christie, Pabarue, Mortensen and Young board member Marc L. Bogutz was at an American Bar Association conference several years ago, one of the freebies was a trial-prep notebook emblazoned with the law firm name Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker.
With another law firm name on the cover, Bogutz tucked that one away. But it might come in handy now, he jokes.
After more than 20 years, Bogutz is leaving Christie Pabarue along with his father, Jerome E. Bogutz, and partner William F. McDevitt for the Philadelphia office of Wilson Elser.
Along with serving on the board of directors of Christie Pabarue since 2004, Marc Bogutz also ran that firm's professional liability defense group, working closely with McDevitt and the senior Bogutz in that practice.
The trio are lawyers' lawyers, spending the bulk of their time representing attorneys in malpractice actions. They also represent other professionals, such as architects, accountants and engineers, in professional liability matters. Bogutz is co-chairman of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's professional liability committee. Jerome Bogutz also has a long history with the state's bar associations, serving as chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 1980 and president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association from 1985 to 1986.
It was a bar association relationship that ultimately resulted in Marc Bogutz entertaining the idea of joining Wilson Elser. At a midyear meeting of the PBA earlier this year, current Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Kathleen Wilkinson, a Wilson Elser partner, suggested Bogutz's team meet with her firm. From there, Bogutz met with Wilson Elser's deputy regional managing partner of the Philadelphia office, Jonathan Dryer, and firm Chairman Daniel J. McMahon.
Bogutz said he expected to retire at Christie Pabarue and wasn't looking to make a move.
"One of the things that attracted me to Wilson Elser is the fact that they have quite a few attorneys in the Philadelphia office that are experienced in professional liability defense," Bogutz said.
Moving from a 40-lawyer firm to an 800-lawyer firm will provide his group with the chance to expand their practice nationally, Bogutz said. He said Wilson Elser has its roots in insurance defense but has broadened out to a full-service law firm with a national presence.
"It was a tough decision, but I was looking long-term," Bogutz said of his decision to switch firms.
Jerome Bogutz said the professional liability department at Christie Pabarue was "like an island that Marc has run," and all of the clients were supportive of their move to Wilson Elser. He said the three attorneys are moving "from a good firm to a good firm." He said he is still active in the bar associations and with pro bono efforts, which was something he said was supported by Christie Pabarue and will be supported by Wilson Elser.
Marc Bogutz and McDevitt joined Wilson Elser as partners June 18 and Jerome Bogutz joined as of counsel July 1. All three were shareholders at Christie Pabarue.
Marc Bogutz said the attorneys at Christie Pabarue were surprised he was leaving, but he said his team's departure was an amicable one.
"I leave there with very good feelings about the people I worked with over the years," he said.
Ralph J. Luongo, managing shareholder of Christie Pabarue, did not return a call for comment about the group's departure.
Wilkinson said she has known Marc and Jerome Bogutz for years through their bar association work. She has been with the Philadelphia office since a month after its launch in April 1984 and said she is always looking to facilitate the addition of talented attorneys when the opportunity arises. While bringing three attorneys into a 25-lawyer office is a significant one-time expansion, Wilkinson said it was a great opportunity to grow the office with a practice that fits in with the firm nationally.
Wilson Elser has been expansion-minded in recent years. In 2013, the firm acquired a Houston firm to expand its existing office in the city and opened a new office in Milwaukee. In 2011, Wilson Elser opened locations in Denver and West Palm Beach, Fla. The year before that it launched a location in Louisville, Ky.
"This team is joining a thriving national lawyers practice," Dryer said in a statement. "We are excited to have them join us, and look forward to their contributions both on the local level and across Wilson Elser offices nationwide. Their experience as leaders within their former firms and the legal community at-large will prove beneficial to our clients and the firm as a whole."
When Bogutz was looking at who to help build their Philadelphia-centric practice to a national level over the next 10 to 15 years, he said McDevitt was the natural choice. Bogutz said McDevitt is "young, very bright," "aggressive" and knows the practice area well.
Marc Bogutz spends about 75 percent of his time representing professionals in liability matters, with the bulk of that time spent representing lawyers. The other portion of his practice focuses on commercial litigation, general insurance defense, and representing insurance companies in coverage and bad-faith matters. He often counsels attorneys on malpractice avoidance and ethics issues. Bogutz had spent six years as a member of a hearing committee of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board.
McDevitt focuses his litigation practice on representing attorneys in professional negligence, breach of contract and wrongful use of civil proceedings lawsuits. He also handles asbestos liability defense, medical malpractice defense, construction litigation, residential liability and other professional liability matters.
While at Christie Pabarue, Jerome Bogutz divided his time between coordinating the firm's professional liability litigation and his service to nonprofit and charitable organizations.