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06/22/06

Major merger in Pittsburgh


The merger between two large Pittsburgh law firms, Buchanan Ingersoll PC and Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling PC, is considered the biggest transaction in Western Pennsylvania's legal market in recent years. Experts predict the ramifications of the merger will be far-reaching.

Members of the Pittsburgh legal community, who initially met the merger news with surprise, have since applauded the transaction with respect to its suitability and sensitivity. Buchanan and Klett rank fourth and eighth in size statewide.

Only four of the firms' lawyers are likely to opt out of the deal among a total of 550 lawyers. Raymond Kresge and Mark Foley, both stars in the Philadelphia office of Klett, along with younger partners George Voegele, Jr., and Andrew Rolfes, are reportedly set to join Cozen O'Connor . This group handles about a quarter of Klett's labor and employment practice in the city.

Competitive intelligence key to law firm success
Competitive intelligence is a hot topic amongst law firms today, according to an article in The Boston Globe. Sometimes referred to as corporate espionage, competitive intelligence basically refers to market information that can be useful in making business decisions.

This concept is not new to corporate America, where market intelligence has been used to assist in formulating strategies for years. Now law firms are waking up to the reality of such matters and operating their firms like a corporation.

For attorneys, competitive intelligence might mean knowing in advance when two law firms are going to merge, which practice areas are heating up, or what legislation could have an effect on the legal market. There are now more law firms bidding for clients' attention and business, and the legal market has become more crowded. Clients are becoming more budget conscious, and this check on resources is leading to a reduced number of law firms they hire for legal assignments. Those willing to invest in information will have an upper hand in this scenario.

Better family rights needed for New York State
The New York State Bar Association has called upon the State legislature to ratify the Family Health Care Decision Act before closing its legislative session for the year.

The Bar Association is actively involved with a group of 48 religious, legal, medical, and civic organizations that support a proposal to allow close friends or family to make mandatory medical decisions for a loved one physically unable to make a decision by him or herself.

Presently, about 35 states have statutes to cover such situations. This proposal would bring New York in line with the rest of the country.

In New York State, if a person has not filled a healthcare proxy form and becomes terminally ill, incapable of conducting their own affairs, relatives will not be able to make medical decisions on their behalf. Statistics reveal that more than 75% of people in New York do not have health care proxies. The legislation, therefore, will serve a dire need of many.

Employers seek safety in noncompete clause
2006 has seen a growing number of corporate officers making lateral moves and taking their clientele with them. Companies are increasingly relying on noncompetition agreements to prevent such actions. The most prominent example involves The Smith Barney Division of Citigroup Global Markets, wherein the company complained that its former broker Sypek had tried to establish contact with about 60 of his ex-firms clients after leaving for a rival firm, thereby violating their employment contract.

This trend has been more pronounced in view of the recovering economy. In the absence of solid statistics relating to such cases, it would be premature to say that they are in vogue. However, the fact remains that a number of such cases have reached the courts. Several judges have refused to hear the cases, passing them on to industry specific regulatory bodies for arbitration.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruling on the Estee Lauder case handled by Jenner & Block is also significantly relevant. It involved the protection of a company's trade secrets when a senior employee moved to a competitor. The court ruling in the matter underlined the fact that if required, compliance with noncompete agreements can be enforced with worldwide scope. Also, if salary is paid in the noncompetition period, it increases the enforcement of the agreement. Whether a California court will recognize the judgment and enforce the injunction, however, remains to be seen.

Pay hike for Massachusetts judges
Last week, Massachusetts granted a modest 2% pay hike for judges in the Commonwealth. The pay package for a Commonwealth judge now reaches $129,694 per year. This salary, however, still lags far behind what Massachusetts judges can earn in the private sector.

In addition to their large responsibilities and strong experience, the increase in pay is being offered to compensate for the repercussions judges often encounter for making unpopular decisions, including being threatened and subjected to character assassination through the media and, more recently, Internet blogs.

Klett Rooney Lieber & Schorling

    


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