Day Pitney LLP: Merger Magic - Bringing A Valuable Resource To Corporate Counsel

Friday, December 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: Why does the combination of your respective firms to form "Day Pitney" create a valuable new resource for corporate counsel?

LaFiura: The merger occurred because clients of both firms have been telling us that they want us to extend our geographic reach and increase our capacity in a number of practice areas.

The merger also adds new practice areas our clients said they want and need. Significant areas where Day Pitney will grow by being able to offer clients greater capacity include government investigations and white collar crime; labor and employment; employee benefits; intellectual property, including trademark, copyright, and patent prosecution and litigation; and individual client work such as trust and estate administration, international estate planning, business succession planning and related tax advice. And, Day Berry adds to our lineup of services the extensive capabilities of its national energy practice - which offers Pitney clients an entirely new practice area.

The other thing that this merger does is bring together two firms that have traditionally been leaders in their markets. Day, Berry and Howard is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected firms in Connecticut with a hundred year history there that matches Pitney Hardin's equally long history in New Jersey. The lawyers in both firms share a deep commitment to their clients and dedication to hard work and teamwork to achieve quality results.

Sicilian: I agree with everything Dennis said. This merger is all about bringing better services to our clients in two ways - by offering greater geographic scope and by making available to them greater variety and depth in important practice areas. The merger with Pitney brings to Day Pitney capabilities Day Berry lacked in two key practice areas that were much in demand by Day Berry clients - namely patent prosecution and traditional union focused labor services. Although Day Berry has an extensive employment practice, including employment training, it had not had the labor capability that Pitney offers and our clients need.

Pitney brings to the merged firm a number of outstanding practices that will enhance the attractiveness of Day Pitney to Day Berry clients. These include their public company practice, their securities work and their corporate M&A work. These are all things that we do, but Pitney will bring tremendous depth to those areas where it is a real leader. In litigation, both Pitney and Day Berry share a history of very strong and broad-based practices. With the way litigation is going now with our clients being confronted by huge cases, the added depth and geographic scope of Day Pitney resulting from the combined strength of two powerhouse litigation teams will be welcomed.

Editor: You both have New York City offices. How will the merger affect Day Pitney's practice there?

LaFiura: Another advantage of the merger is to combine the strengths of both firms' New York offices. The combined offices will have about 50 lawyers. Day Pitney will operate out of the space that Pitney currently occupies at Seven Times Square. We see the primary opportunities in New York City as being in the government investigations area, intellectual property (including patent, trademark, and copyright litigation and prosecution), corporate work, and building on Day Berry's existing international wealth management and individual client practices.

Sicilian: New York City is also an ideal focus for Day Pitney's M&A practice. The greater capability in that practice that the merger provides will also contribute to the growth of that practice in the City.

Editor: Many legal departments have convergence programs in which they reduce the number of outside firms. What impact will this have on the merged firm?

LaFiura: Firms that have lawyers on the ground in multiple states have an advantage when a client is looking to work with a smaller number of preferred law firms, so this merger places us in a better position to compete. We will be a 400-lawyer firm with offices from Boston to Washington.

Editor: There is a growing acceptance by corporate counsel that it is important for their company's outside legal representatives to reflect the composition of the community. Therefore, in selecting outside counsel an increasing number of legal departments place emphasis on a law firm's dedication to diversity. How will Day Pitney stack up?

LaFiura: We at Pitney have been very impressed with the diversity program at Day Berry. Its status as a nationally recognized leader in diversity was one of the things that made Day Berry a very attractive merger partner.

Sicilian: When we articulated the core values of our firm a few years ago, diversity was among them. The reasons for our commitment to diversity include our desire to serve the entire community. That's a reason that transcends business needs. As you suggest, we also have a very good business reason for emphasizing diversity.

I see the merger as providing an even greater incentive for us to invest in greater diversity - and the merger will make the combined firm more attractive to diverse candidates that we would like it to recruit. Clients are very focused on the diversity issue.

Some years ago, several of our partners were involved in creating what was then known as the Connecticut Lawyers Group. This is a group of lawyers from law firms and corporate law departments that are dedicated to making their organizations attractive to minorities and recruiting minority lawyers. Day Berry provided the first office location for the executive director of that organization and provided her with administrative support. We also contribute to a variety of minority bar associations.

Day Berry has a number of special programs within the firm to assure that minority lawyers receive support and encouragement. Our minority mentoring program encourages every minority lawyer in the firm to have a member of our executive committee serve as his or her mentor. We also have regular meetings with minority lawyers that allow us to address a wide range of issues of concern and also serve to develop ideas and approaches to improve our recruiting and retention. These meetings also alert the firm to any special needs of minorities within the firm.

LaFiura: Like Pitney, Day Berry has demonstrated its commitment to the communities in which it practices. Day Berry is recognized throughout the state of Connecticut for their support for the communities in which they operate - and Day Pitney will continue that tradition.

Editor: As with diversity, many corporate counsel select law firms that reflect the image of concern for pro bono and community welfare that their corporate client wishes to project in the various contexts in which they act as the client's representative. Some feel that a lawyer who engages in pro bono is a more credible advocate. Tell us about the pro bono and community welfare activities of your firm.

Sicilian: Even though we're firmly grounded in the 21st century, we remain guided by the vision and principles of our founder, Edward M. Day. We continue in the spirit of Mr. Day's tireless contributions to the community, and his humanitarian works (including a 1907 report to the General Assembly which resulted in the enactment of the Workmen's Compensation Act), via our extensive pro bono commitments, our Women Working Together program, and the good works of the Day, Berry & Howard Foundation.

A recent example or our pro bono commitment arose in the unusual context of a death penalty case in which the defendant, Michael Ross, sought to waive his appellate rights and proceed to execution. There was a question raised as to whether he was competent and whether the waiver was voluntary. The court appointed Day Berry to serve as special counsel to the court to advocate the position that Mr. Ross was not competent and that the waiver was not voluntary. We were proud to have been selected by the court to protect its interests in a fair outcome. After an exhaustive investigation and five days of hearings in which the Day Berry team called nine witnesses, cross-examined two opposing expert witnesses, and mounted vigorous arguments, the Court found Mr. Ross competent. At the conclusion of the Day Berry team's work, which drew on the efforts of several lawyers in the Public Defender's Office who had worked on the Ross case for over two decades, the Chief Public Defender of Connecticut remarked that "the collaborative effort between public defenders and members of the private bar under such challenging circumstances was truly one of the Connecticut bar's finest moments." This is an example of the dozens and dozens of kinds of things that we do.

LaFiura: Pitney also invests its time, talent, energy, and enthusiasm in providing a broad range of services to groups and communities in need. Our involvement in pro bono publico projects is long-standing, and our lawyers and staff take pride in the broad range of people we help. Some of our larger pro bono projects include: the Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project; the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights Asylum Program; the Court-Appointed Special Advocate Program; and the New York Appellate Defender Program.

Our commitment to the Battered Women's Legal Advocacy Project is an example of our dedication to these projects. In 1992, two Pitney Hardin partners founded a joint program with the Morris County Bar Association and the New Jersey Battered Women's Service, Inc. Since the start, we have administered the program and have assigned volunteer attorneys, including many from Pitney Hardin, to represent over 1,400 victims in obtaining final restraining orders against their abusers.

We have for several years been actively involved in the Pro Bono Partnership, which enlists the services of law firms and corporate counsel to provide pro bono services to nonprofit community service organizations. We regularly take assignments which involve the skills of lawyers who are not litigators.

Please email the interviewees at dlafiura@daypitney.com or jsicilian@daypitney.com with questions about this interview.