(Courtesy photo)

Cozen O’Connor is keeping up its raid on Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, with the departures cutting deeply into Buchanan Ingersoll’s labor and employment group.

As expected, the firm formally announced Monday that it brought on another 17 Buchanan Ingersoll attorneys, in addition to the three Pittsburgh partners who joined the first week of May. Sources said even more lawyers are likely to leave Buchanan Ingersoll for Cozen O’Connor in the near future, and that the total moving could be as high as 30.

Cozen O’Connor and Buchanan Ingersoll had briefly discussed the possibility of a merger within the past year, multiple sources said, but did not get far in their talks. Both firms declined to comment on whether merger discussions took place.

Nine Buchanan Ingersoll lawyers have joined Cozen O’Connor in Pittsburgh, and 11 labor and employment lawyers have joined in Philadelphia, the firm announced Monday. The Pittsburgh lawyers are partners Peter Ennis, Brian Balonick, Joseph Quinn and Matthew Smith, counsel Bobbi Britton Tucker and associate Seth Popick. They join partners Thomas Giotto, Gene Giotto and Jeremy Garvey, who became Cozen O’Connor’s first Pittsburgh lawyers last week.

In Philadelphia, Fred D’Angelo Jr., Robert Hawkins, David Hackett, Frances Rayer, Elizabeth Malloy, Michael Hanlon, James Sullivan, Lauren Fox, Joseph Sirbak II and Andrew Rolfes have joined Cozen O’Connor as partners, along with associate Anna Will Kentz.

Most of the 20 recent hires, including all 11 in Philadelphia, are from Buchanan Ingersoll’s labor and employment practice. Their clients include Philadelphia Media Network, Southeastern Transportation Authority of Pennsylvania, The School District of Philadelphia, Jefferson Health System, and Main Line Health System.

Buchanan Ingersoll confirmed last week that 17 lawyers were leaving the firm for Cozen O’Connor, and declined to comment on any additional moves.

In a statement, Buchanan Ingersoll CEO Joseph Dougherty said his firm anticipated the departures and was prepared for them. He said the firm’s labor and employment practice still has 50 lawyers, including “core shareholders.”

“Departures in the legal world happen. Players come and go but it’s the culture and values of a firm that endure,” Dougherty said. “We’re coming off of our best financial year in firm history and remain fully focused on continuing our momentum and growth.”

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Michael Heller.

Cozen O’Connor CEO Michael Heller said his firm saw the need for an enhanced labor and employment practice to serve its corporate clients. The firm had about 50 lawyers in labor and employment, spread throughout more than a dozen offices, before the Buchanan Ingersoll group joined.

“A lot of middle-market type firms have gotten out of the labor and employment world. That has created a void for firms like ours,” Heller said.

Joseph Tilson, Cozen O’Connor’s labor and employment co-chairman, said in a statement that the practice’s expanded footprint will help the firm better serve “coast-to-coast clients.”

Not all the Buchanan Ingersoll hires are employment lawyers. Smith and Gene Giotto are commercial litigators who focus on cases involving long-term care providers, and Giotto now leads Cozen O’Connor’s long-term care practice. Garvey brings a transactional practice to the Pittsburgh office, and associate Popick is set to join the corporate practice group.

Heller said his firm is aiming to have 15 lawyers in the Pittsburgh office by the end of 2017, and grow to between 25 and 50 lawyers there in the next few years.

“We want and expect it to grow in the short term,” he said.

Cozen O’Connor is currently subleasing a temporary space in Pittsburgh, which happens to be in the same building as Buchanan Ingersoll’s office. Heller said the firm is searching for a permanent location that will better match Cozen O’Connor’s other offices.