|Source:||The Legal Intelligencer|
By Jeff Blumenthal
When veteran litigator Don Foster was shopping around for a new professional home three years ago, he wound up choosing Pepper Hamilton over Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg & Ellers. His theory was that Pepper would provide him with a larger platform to expand his practice.
That plan did not pan out as Foster, bogged down by unforeseen conflicts with many of Pepper's institutional clients, has decided to move to Klehr Harrison on June 2. Because he only joined Pepper in June 2000, Foster said, he debated the change internally for several months before deciding to make the move.
"That was the one factor that caused me not to pull the trigger sooner," Foster said. "The conflicts began squeezing me rather than my practice taking off like I thought it would.
"I had talked to Klehr when I was looking before. But I chose Pepper because I thought their larger platform would benefit my practice. I thought the real estate practice would feed my title insurance [litigation] practice. But the conflicts were just too much."
Foster joined Pepper Hamilton in 2000 rather than moving with most of his cohorts from Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson, which merged into Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis. Foster was one of three litigation partners that were conflicted out of the Schnader merger. Along with colleague Mary Ellen O'Laughlin, he decided to join Pepper Hamilton. O'Laughlin left last year for Klehr Harrison, which also happens to be the home of former Mesirov Gelman partners Carl Primavera and Jeff Greenfield.
"It's a bonus that Mary Ellen is there, but I don't know how much I will be working with her," Foster said. "Carl and I are friends, and we worked together at Mesirov because of his real estate practice and my title insurance work."
Klehr Harrison managing partner William Harvey said his litigation department had known Foster for years through litigating cases with and against him.
"Our litigation department is very entrepreneurial, so we think that Don will really fit in," Harvey said. "He had a lot of expertise in cases involving real estate and corporate matters, so he'll make a good addition."
Paul Nofer, co-chairman of Klehr Harrison's 40-member litigation department, said Foster's experience in handling business disputes and taking a wide variety of matters to the trial stage made him an attractive lateral candidate.
"We need people with a sophisticated knowledge of the business world because we handle all sorts of business disputes, and Don fits that mold," Nofer said. "And we also have a booming real estate practice. Don is very entrepreneurial and so are we, so I don't think he'll have the same problems with conflicts as he did [at Pepper]."
Pepper Hamilton executive partner Robert Heideck said Foster's dilemma with conflicts had become more acute in recent months so the lateral move is not a surprise.
"His client opportunities put him either directly or indirectly adverse to our corporate clients," Heideck said. "He's a good partner, a good person and a good lawyer, so we wish him well, but it won't really affect us much from a financial standpoint."
Foster's practice includes real-estate-related litigation, including title insurance claims and disputes involving developers, lenders and contractors. He also handles health care and franchise litigation and disputes between partners at professional service organizations such as law firms.
Upon graduating from law school in 1977, Foster began his legal career by clerking for two years for the founding judge of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, James Bowman. Born in France to a foreign service officer, Foster decided not to jump into practice after the clerkship and took a position with the International Energy Agency, where he handled research into alternative energy sources.
Two years later, he was lured into practicing by David Girard-diCarlo, who is now managing partner of Blank Rome but at the time was managing partner at Rubin Quinn & Moss. Foster stayed at Rubin Quinn until its dissolution in 1993 and joined Mesirov after a brief stint with a small firm.