Eight lawyers from Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel have moved to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, rebuilding Buchanan’s labor and employment practice in Philadelphia.
Partners Joseph Centeno, Larry Besnoff, Jacqueline Gallagher and Min Suh made the move along with associates Teleicia Dambreville, Gregory Eck, Charlene Barker Gedeus and Michael Truncellito. Centeno will be a co-chair of Buchanan’s labor and employment section along with David Laurent.
Buchanan’s labor and employment section suffered a number of lateral defections in May, when a sizeable group departed for Cozen O’Connor. The departures included 11 employment lawyers from the Philadelphia office.
But Buchanan CEO Joseph Dougherty said he began to discuss a move with Centeno long before that. The two longtime friends had talked seriously about two years ago about Centeno joining Buchanan, but it wasn’t the right time, Dougherty said. Then in December, they began talking seriously again, he said.
“We are able to offer them a larger, broader platform and to try to work deeper with their clients,” Dougherty said. And from the firm’s standpoint, the new group reflects a strategy to broaden the labor and employment section, focusing more on employment counseling and defense.
Centeno said his clients have increasingly been seeking services in areas Buchanan could provide.
“The opportunity here is one that I couldn’t pass up, with the depth of services, the number of lawyers, the geographic scope,” he said.
The group serves clients of many sizes in multiple industries, Centeno said, including higher education, manufacturing, technology and retail.
Centeno, who started at Obermayer Rebmann as an associate in 1998, has represented clients such as Wal-Mart, Drexel University, Temple University Health System and Xerox Corp.
Besnoff’s clients have included AutoZone, MobilexUSA and the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging. He defends equal employment opportunity and wrongful discharge cases, and like Centeno he spent much of his career—25 years—at Obermayer Rebmann. Before entering private practice he prosecuted lawsuits on behalf of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Gallagher, who spent more than 16 years at Obermayer Rebmann, has represented insurance carriers and self-insured corporations, and has extensive trucking law knowledge. Her clients have included Intercommunity Action Inc. and WoodBine Senior Living.
Suh focuses on employment-related immigration law. She is general counsel for the International Association of Korean Lawyers, and has also represented employers including Wal-Mart. Before joining Obermayer Rebmann, she was a partner at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart for less than two years. She spent longer stints at Fox Rothschild and Reed Smith before that.
Labor and employment has been a major area of interest for law firms like Buchanan and Cozen O’Connor, Centeno said, in part because of strong activity in employment litigation, and because employment law is “a stabilizing practice.”
“When the economy is really good, there’s a lot of labor and employment issues. When the economy is really bad, there’s a lot of labor and employment issues,” he said.
According to Obermayer Rebmann’s website, 11 lawyers remain in the firm’s labor relations and employment practice. Managing partner Mathieu Shapiro said the firm is always open to lateral hires and will be keeping an eye out for labor and employment lawyers specifically.
“Our clients need it, and we want it to be back where it was,” he said.
Shapiro said he is always disappointed when good lawyers leave the firm, but he understands their reasoning and wishes them well.