Top Laterals

There was no shortage of notable lateral moves in 2013 and, as usual, there were too many to put them all on the shortlist.

But, unlike last year, this year’s group of runners-up ranges beyond just the traditional move from one firm to another, including an attorney who left private practice to go in-house, an attorney who left a firm he founded to start a new shop and one lawyer who returned to the firm he once led after spending time in state government.

Debra S. Dunne

Debra S. Dunne, who previously chaired Philadelphia-based Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young’s life sciences regulatory and compliance practice group, left the firm in May to join the Philadelphia office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon as a partner.

Dunne focuses her practice on food and drug law, counseling drug, medical device, food, dietary supplement and cosmetics industry clients on Food and Drug Administration regulatory and compliance issues.

Dunne has also defended complex products liability cases and has served as science and coordinating counsel in mass torts litigation.

Sean P. Wajert, managing partner of Shook Hardy’s Philadelphia office, said in a press release that Dunne’s clients “have come to value her insight and guidance on complex regulatory questions.”

Wajert said Dunne’s knowledge of FDA regulations and the life sciences industry “fits well with our existing practice, including serving many leading pharmaceutical and food clients in the Delaware Valley and tristate area.”

Halmon L. Banks III

Halmon L. Banks III, who had been a partner at the workers’ compensation firm formerly known as Martin Banks until his acrimonious departure in May, opened Banks Law, his own three-lawyer firm, the following month.

The move came about three months after Banks, while still a partner at Martin Banks, filed a suit claiming the other partners at the firm had taken steps to drive him out of the firm, including steering big cases away from him, firing his paralegal without his consent and limiting his access to the firm’s case management software.

At the same time, Banks had also filed a motion for special and preliminary injunction and expedited discovery seeking to enjoin the firm from changing its name to Martin LLC, but Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Gary S. Glazer denied the motion, finding in a footnote that Banks failed to show how the name change would cause him irreparable harm.

The firm sent out a press release that same day announcing it had officially changed its name to Martin LLC.

Banks officially left the firm effective May 31, 2013.

Banks said that, like his former firm, Banks Law handles workers’ compensation matters, but noted that it would also include an expanded focus on Social Security, long-term and veterans’ disability benefits work.

Banks was joined at the new firm by associates Mary LeMieux-Fillery and Jody Joy.

Herman C. Fala

Herman C. Fala, the former chairman of Cozen O’Connor’s real estate department, announced in December that he was leaving the firm to serve as general counsel to client Liberty Property Trust.

Fala officially took over in the new role Jan. 1 of this year.

The real estate partner served as chairman of Cozen O’Connor’s real estate group since his team joined the firm in 2009 when his former firm, Wolf Block, dissolved. Fala had led Wolf Block’s real estate department for 10 years prior to that.

“Herman has represented Liberty on countless transactions over many years,” Liberty CEO Bill Hankowsky said in a statement. “We are very pleased to welcome Herman to Liberty and we are fortunate to have his expertise and insight.”

Fala replaced former Liberty GC James J. Bowes, who died from lung cancer at the age of 60. Bowes had joined the commercial real estate developer from Blank Rome in 1996.

Fala called the situation “surreal,” saying he worked with Bowes for 18 years and considered him a dear friend. Fala said he had anticipated finishing out his career at Cozen O’Connor, a firm that supported his group’s real estate practice when it joined in the depths of the recession in 2009 and helped it grow to be profitable again by 2011. Fala said he supposed he was a natural choice for the general counsel position, however, given he worked with the company since the late 1970s when it was under the name Rouse & Associates.

Church, Landy, Kasicky 
and Wiggins

Employee Retirement Income Security Act attorneys Sarah Lockwood Church, Joni Landy, Paul Kasicky and Kevin A. Wiggins left Pittsburgh-based Thorp Reed & Armstrong to join Saul Ewing’s Pittsburgh office in March.

The move came just ahead of Thorp Reed’s April merger with Detroit-based Clark Hill.

Church, who had been the head of Thorp Reed’s employee benefits group, joined Saul Ewing as special counsel, along with former Thorp Reed senior counsel Kasicky and Wiggins and former counsel Landy, all of whom joined as special counsel.

Along with ERISA work, the group’s practice focuses on assisting employers with adopting, amending and terminating employee benefits plans, as well as representing plan sponsors and administrators before the Internal Revenue Service, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The move nearly doubled the size of Saul Ewing’s Pittsburgh office, which opened in May 2012.

Stephen S. Aichele

Stephen S. Aichele, who served as Gov. Tom Corbett’s chief of staff until stepping down in July, returned in November to Philadelphia-based Saul Ewing, where he was previously chairman.

Aichele rejoined the firm as a partner in its real estate practice.

Aichele’s last day with the Corbett administration, in which he had been serving as senior adviser, was Oct. 18.

Saul Ewing managing partner David S. Antzis said the firm expressed interest in bringing Aichele back into the fold immediately upon the announcement of his stepping down as chief of staff.

“He had a number of opportunities and ultimately had to decide if he was going to come back,” Antzis said.

Aichele said that until the firm reached out to him, he had never assumed or even considered that Saul Ewing would want him to return if he ever left the government.

Once it became clear that he would be welcomed there, however, Aichele, 65, said he needed to first decide whether he wanted to continue working and, if so, whether he still wanted to go back to practicing law.

Aichele said that while he enjoyed his time in government, “in the end, I think of myself as a lawyer.”

Rick Grimaldi and Lori Armstrong Halber

Atlanta-based labor and employment boutique Fisher & Phillips expanded its Philadelphia office last February with the addition of partners Rick Grimaldi and Lori Armstrong Halber from the Philadelphia office of New York-based Jackson Lewis.

Grimaldi, who founded Jackson Lewis’ Philadelphia office in 2007 and served as its managing partner until 2012, said part of what brought him over to Fisher & Phillips was the firm’s willingness to launch a government relations practice.

Grimaldi, who served as deputy general counsel to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and was chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry before going in-house at Unisys Corp. and eventually entering private practice, said the move provided him with “an opportunity to broaden the scope of what I can offer clients.”

Christopher Stief, managing partner of Fisher & Phillips’ Philadelphia office, said Grimaldi is well known in the Philadelphia labor and employment community and has an impeccable reputation among attorneys.

Halber, meanwhile, said Fisher & Phillips offers her and Grimaldi bench strength similar to that of Jackson Lewis but will also provide them more opportunity to be “entrepreneurial.”

David A. Nasatir

David A. Nasatir rejoined Philadelphia-based Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel after nearly two years in the Philadelphia office of Thorp Reed, from which he brought with him a group of lawyers and staff.

Nasatir rejoined Obermayer Rebmann as chairman of its business and finance department, a group for which he served as vice chairman before leaving the firm. He brought with him Thorp Reed associates Karen M. Sanchez and Stephanie J. Sprenkle, marketing specialist Beth Dainoff and paralegal Annette Talerico.

Nasatir and partner Jonathan W. Hugg left Obermayer Rebmann in May 2011 to join Thorp Reed. Hugg, a litigator, is still with Thorp Reed. Prior to leaving the firm, Nasatir had been with Obermayer Rebmann for 14 years.

Nasatir said he was very happy at Thorp Reed, but when The Legal broke the story in January that the firm was in merger discussions with Detroit-based Clark Hill, Nasatir began getting calls.

One of those calls was from Obermayer Rebmann management committee member Thomas A. Leonard. Nasatir said Leonard was “relentless” for about three weeks in selling Nasatir on the opportunity to lead and grow the firm’s business and finance practice.

Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Marie Gomez

Pepper Hamilton bulked up its growing white-collar litigation practice in February of last year with the addition of Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie Marie Gomez from Ballard Spahr.

Smith, who spent a good chunk of her time at Ballard Spahr representing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in its review of allegations of sexual abuse by priests, and Gomez both joined Pepper Hamilton’s Philadelphia office.

The two former longtime prosecutors with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office became partners in Pepper Hamilton’s white-collar litigation and investigations practice group. While at Ballard Spahr, Smith and Gomez represented universities, private schools, religious organizations and nonprofit institutions in their response to sexual misconduct allegations. The pair also conducted internal investigations and developed compliance programs for those clients.

Zack Needles can be contacted at 215-557-2493 or Follow him on Twitter @ZNeedlesTLI. •