Pennsylvania/New Jersey - Law Firms Pennsylvania - And The View Beyond

Friday, July 1, 2005 - 01:00

Editor: Could you give us a little of your professional background?

Reich: I am a trial lawyer who has been active in a number of bar associations at the local, state and national level. Ten years ago, I served as Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the nation's oldest metropolitan bar association. It was a labor of love and a great professional opportunity for me. I am a member of the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. A number of years ago, I was fortunate to be inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the most prestigious trial lawyer organizations in the country. All of these professional activities have helped give the firm a presence at many levels.

Editor: I understand you co-chair the firm with Phillip Griffin. Why have two chairs? How is this working?

Reich: Both Phil and I have been active, practicing lawyers. The notion that either one of us would give up our practices to chair the firm full-time would not have been in the firm's best interest, nor would it have been something that either one of us would have wanted. By sharing the responsibilities, we have been able to maintain our own practices. In addition, both Phil and I bring different skill sets to the table, and I think that blend gives us the best of both worlds.

Editor: Could you tell us about the growth of your firm?

Reich: When we began to do long-range planning more than 10 years ago, we decided that we wanted to be a strong regional firm. Our notion then of what that meant was that we'd be able to drive to every office within an hour. We felt that easy access to other offices would help us maintain the camaraderie that is important to the soul of the firm. Our first opportunity for an outpost was Princeton. Each time we investigated other opportunities, the definition of region began to expand. The one-hour-drive notion was obliterated when we were joined by the Pittsburgh health care boutique Kabala & Geesman. They were first-rate professionals and the kind of people we wanted to affiliate with. It made great business sense that we go to Pittsburgh, and we rationalized that you could fly to Pittsburgh in an hour. It has become a wonderful addition for us.

Our concept of "region" has broadened with opportunities that have presented themselves. Although we had been cautious about entering the expensive New York market, we saw a merger with Geron & Associates as an opportunity to get our foot in the door in New York with a high quality niche practice that could sustain itself and allow us to approach that marketplace in a fiscally conservative manner, which is our style. We are now looking for larger space in New York.

Another opportunity for merger with August, Kulunas, Dawson & Siegel in West Palm Beach, Florida arose out of a long standing relationship between Jerry August and our administrative partner, Mark Silow. This was another opportunity we couldn't pass up. Jerry August and his partners represent the highest level of skill in the tax and estates area. Jerry has a national reputation in that arena. And, like New York, we are now seeking additional space.

Our firm now has no main office; we have 10 regional offices that interact regularly with each other.

Editor: What practice areas do you cover in your Pennsylvania offices?

Reich: We have a strong litigation department with more than 100 lawyers. We also have a strong health care practice and real estate practice. In Pennsylvania, we regularly are involved in major transactions in those areas. We have one of the leading condemnation practices in the country, based in our Philadelphia office. It is a mixture of real estate and litigation, but it is referred to as the Condemnation Law Group. We are sought after by Fortune 500 companies and major public entities to get involved in their most sophisticated condemnation issues.

Editor: Do you see further growth prospects for business in Philadelphia?

Reich: Philadelphia has been a tough market to grow recently. Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, as a former Mayor of the city, is attuned to the need to provide business incentives in the city. Comcast is building new headquarters in the city that will hopefully have a positive economic impact. It has been given tax incentives to facilitate the move. I am confident that the vibrancy of the city, reflected in its night life, will encourage more residential development in the center of town, and in my view, will bring with it more opportunities for businesses.

Editor: Would Pennsylvania courts be considered business-friendly?

Reich: Yes. Many people have pointed to the business expertise of Delaware's courts. But in Philadelphia, the quality of legal talent is at the top of the game. Judges in our state system have grown with the sophistication of the business disputes. A number of years ago, Philadelphia's trial court established a "Commerce Court" where judges are dedicated to handling business disputes in a way that is responsive to business needs. Our federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is one of the finest federal courts in the country. Our judges are recognized nationally, at both the trial and appellate levels.