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Move to Klehr Harrison Keeps O'Laughlin Busy

06.05.02

Source: The Legal Intelligencer

By Alyssa Litman

As part of its efforts to add depth to its expanding commercial litigation practice, Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg & Ellers has brought aboard Pepper Hamilton partner Mary Ellen O'Laughlin. Six weeks after joining Klehr Harrison, this veteran attorney is busier than ever -- between raising three school-age daughters and working for the firm's largest department.

"I've been very busy since I have been here," O'Laughlin said. "It's a great opportunity to grow in my practice. I am pleased with the move." For the past two years, O'Laughlin had been a partner at Pepper Hamilton, dealing mostly with commercial litigation, the firm's largest practice area. After spending nearly 20 years in the field at four different law firms, O'Laughlin said she has had the opportunity to watch her practice area grow and develop.

"It's interesting to look at it from different perspectives," O'Laughlin said. "The commercial litigation that I have been involved in has become more complex in terms of issues and dollar amounts. In the past five or six years, I've pretty much concentrated in commercial litigation, which wasn't true in the past."

In fact, Klehr Harrison had such a vast volume of commercial litigation cases that partner Carl Primavera, an old friend of O'Laughlin's from their days at Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson, mentioned to her in passing that the firm was extremely busy. Primavera, the immediate past chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association and Klehr Harrison's chairman of the zoning and land use practice group, asked if O'Laughlin would be interested in doing some work for the firm -- and the rest is history.

"The size of Klehr and their commercial litigation practice was a good fit for me," O'Laughlin said. "They have a lot of work and need to expand because of that."

Klehr Harrison managing partner William Harvey said O'Laughlin brings with her a vast amount of experience and skills to a constantly Mary Ellen O'Laughlin growing practice group.

"She is a very experienced litigator and has been in the area a very long time and has dealt with a broad range of commercial and real estate litigation matters," Harvey said. "She really adds depth to the department. We are always looking to increase the depth we can offer to our clients."

The O'Laughlin hiring comes on the heels of the April addition of former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Lawrence Baccini from Wolf Block Schorr & Solis-Cohen. Klehr Harrison, which does not hire entry-level associates and disbanded its summer program last year, has brought in 12 lateral associates since January -- four of which are commercial litigators.

Primavera said O'Laughlin's familiar face is a welcome addition. "She has jumped in with both feet, and I think she is enjoying it," Primavera said. "We have been blessed with a lot of work, but that's the nature of the business. We were fortunate to have someone with her level of experience jump in and make a contribution."

Although it was a smooth transition for O'Laughlin when she moved from Pepper Hamilton to Klehr Harrison, her colleagues at Pepper said her presence will be missed.

"We will miss her because she is a terrific person, and we'll miss her in a personal sense," Pepper Hamilton executive partner Jim Murray said. "In an economic sense, we have adequate resources to handle our cases, and I don't expect it to be a significant economic event."

Severing her longtime professional relationship with Pepper Hamilton partner and good friend Don Foster -- a relationship spanning three different firms -- was the hardest part of O'Laughlin's decision to leave the firm. Both worked at Rubin Quinn & Moss before it disolved in 1993, and they moved to Mesirov within one year of each other, finally ending up at Pepper Hamilton two summers ago.

"Klehr is the first law firm where we have not worked at together," O'Laughlin said. "In that way it is a big change, and we have practiced together for a long time, and it is comforting to have a friendly face at a firm. So from a personal point of view, it is a big change."

Before beginning her career as an attorney, O'Laughlin attended Temple Law School, which she graduated from in 1979. She then briefly worked at the Economic Opportunity Commission in Philadelphia. She clerked for Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Levy Anderson until 1982, at which point she joined Rubin Quinn as an associate.

After two decades, O'Laughlin and Foster will now be working at different law firms, and Foster has only the best wishes for his longtime colleague. "It is always a loss when you lose someone of her talent," Foster said. "Klehr Harrison is very lucky to have her and, quite frankly, she is lucky to have them. They are wonderful people, and they are great lawyers. She is a good person, a good friend and a good lawyer."