Law Firm Folds After 93 Years Partners At Labrum & Doak Voted To Close By August. They Failed To Agree On A Reorganization.

Posted: June 07, 1997

Partners at LaBrum & Doak voted yesterday to close the 93-year-old Center City law firm by August.

The decision to dissolve the firm came after they failed to agree on a reorganization strategy. The firm has 66 lawyers and 100 support staff members.

``The decision does not surprise me . . . unfortunately,'' said Robert Denney, president of Robert Denney Associates Inc., a law firm consulting company in Wayne. ``Some of the partners in the firm realized the need to focus on other areas of law [besides maritime and insurance defense]. . . . Efforts to agree on redirecting the practice were unsuccessful because they didn't have the full commitment of the partnership.''

In addition to maritime and insurance law, the firm has specialized in commercial litigation, environmental law and employment law.

Speculation about a dissolution had become rampant with the departure of some lawyers. In 1994, the firm had 120 lawyers; in 1995, there were 109. The Legal Intelligencer reported that 19 lawyers left the firm between January 1995 and June 1996. Since then, four have left the firm, said Jan Ritchie, chairman of its workers compensation department.

Included in the group of defectors was Scott Mustin, who is now with Fineman & Bach, a Philadelphia law firm. ``It was bad management,'' Mustin said. ``They could not build consensus, there was distrust among the departments . . ., and most importantly, there was an inability to communicate.''

LaBrum & Doak also will close offices in Bethlehem, Mount Laurel and New York City. Clients of the firm will remain with their attorneys after the dissolution, Ritchie said.

Since 1995, three other long-time Philadelphia law firms have closed: Cohen, Shapiro, Polisher, Shiekman & Cohen; Clark, Ladner, Fortenbaugh & Young; and Bolger Picker Henkin & Tannenbaum.

The closings appear to be part of a national trend, Denney said. ``Most of the time, it comes down to economics,'' he said. ``In some cases, the partners are unable to agree on the future direction of the firm.''

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