In just over a week, Philadelphia-based Post & Schell has lost 14 attorneys, including six principals, from its casualty litigation and workers’ compensation departments and has started an environmental regulatory and transactional practice with two new hires.
Casualty litigation principals Joseph R. Fowler, Gregory S. Hirtzel, Joseph F. McNulty and Andrew J. Spaulding left Post & Schell last week to start a new litigation and insurance defense firm called Fowler Hirtzel McNulty & Spaulding, with offices in Philadelphia, Lancaster and Allentown, Pa.
They are joined at the new firm by former Post & Schell associates Christine G. Benedum, Marni S. Berger, Francis M. Flatch, Faye M. Hellman, Daniel E. Oberdick Jr., Francis J. O’Neill Jr., Michael F. Socha and Julie S. Mellett.
Fowler, who focuses his practice on defending trucking companies, public transportation companies and their insurers in commercial vehicle and construction accident cases, is the managing partner of the new firm’s Philadelphia office.
Spaulding is also based in the Philadelphia office.
Hirtzel, who defends complex personal injury cases, heads the Lancaster office and McNulty, who centers his practice on casualty defense, heads the Allentown location.
All of the associates are based in the Philadelphia office, except for Socha and Mellett, who are based in the Lancaster office.
Fowler said Tuesday that he and his partners decided to start their own firm because they’ve worked together for decades.
“We wanted to have a personalized platform with our clients and we wanted to continue to service these clients for a long time into the future,” Fowler said.
Post & Schell President and CEO Brian M. Peters declined to say whether the firm is beginning to move away from the type of work the Fowler group does, calling that “internal, proprietary business” information, but said the firm’s Philadelphia-based casualty insurance practice is now exclusively focused on a handful of “specialty product lines,” including toxic tort, products liability, construction injury and defect and catastrophic damages cases.
Peters said the firm will continue to do casualty insurance work out of its Lancaster and Allentown offices as well, but noted that the firm’s practice is always evolving.
“I’m constantly evaluating not only our product markets but our geographic markets,” Peters said.
The Fowler Hirtzel group’s move came just days before Post & Schell principals Peter M. Harrison and Stephen T. Potako left to join Philadelphia-based Weber Gallagher Simpson Stapleton Fires & Newby in its workers’ compensation defense practice.
Harrison defends health care systems, nursing homes, manufacturing companies and insurers in workers’ compensation cases.
Potako handles workers’ compensation matters for insurers, employers and third-party administrators.
Potako said that, while he and Harrison had a good experience at Post & Schell, the pair did feel the firm was de-emphasizing the type of work they focus their practices on.
“We perceived that Post & Schell was moving in a new direction,” Potako said. “Their business model was evolving and they were pursuing other practices, with less emphasis on casualty litigation and the workers’ compensation work that we do.”
Potako said he and Harrison decided to join Weber Gallagher because the firm devotes a lot of resources to its workers’ compensation practice.
“We looked for a firm that was stable, supportive of a workers’ compensation practice and interested in growing,” Potako said.
Weber Gallagher managing partner Paul M. Fires said about a third of the firm’s attorneys do workers’ compensation and that many of them have known Potako and Harrison for decades.
Fires said he thinks Weber Gallagher will allow Potako and Harrison’s practice to thrive nationally and will also provide their clients with other services they may need.
“We’ve always worked very well at cross-marketing with each other and I think they wanted to be a part of that,” Fires said.
While Potako said he felt Post & Schell was de-emphasizing workers’ compensation defense, Peters said the firm will continue to have a statewide workers’ compensation practice but is re-evaluating which offices that work will be done out of.
“We’re constantly assessing which product markets and which geographic markets we want to stay in, get into, build upon or get out of,” Peters said. “Any business worth its salt does the same.”
Still, it’s no secret Post & Schell has been branching out into new practice areas recently and particularly in the last year.
As evidence of this, Post & Schell announced Monday that it had hired two new principals, Stephen C. Jones and Paul R. McIntyre, both previously shareholders at Greenberg Traurig in Philadelphia, to co-chair its new environmental practice group.
Peters said the firm was particularly interested in Jones and McIntyre because they have a “niche practice,” about 80 to 85 percent of which is devoted to environmental insurance transactional, due diligence and regulatory work for venture capital and private equity firms.
The remainder of their practice, Peters said, focuses on regulatory compliance work for health care, energy and other heavily regulated industries—the type of work former Post & Schell principal Terry Bossert used to do for the firm before going in-house with Chief Oil & Gas in 2010.
“Since that time, we have not had a sophisticated environmental regulatory practice, which is something our energy, health law and commercial construction clients need,” Peters said.
Jones said he and McIntyre were interested in joining Post & Schell because they felt the firm offered them a better opportunity to control their rates as well as the scope of their practice.
“I think a lot of the problem that a lot of firms have is controlling rates and trying to focus the practice,” Jones said. “When you’ve got a lot of lawyers in many offices across the country, it’s hard to coordinate the efforts at a reasonable price.”
In an email, Greenberg Traurig co-regional operating shareholder Michael L. Lehr said Jones and McIntyre “are both first-rate environmental attorneys and we wish them success at their new firm.”