Releases and Announcements

Best of the Bar: Philadelphia's Top Lawyers

September 29, 2020

Photo of Attorney Sharon Caffrey

Sharon Caffrey

Photo of Attorney Oderah Nwaeze

Oderah Nwaeze

Photo of Attorney George Kroculick

George Kroculick

Photo of Attorney Brad Molotsky

Brad A. Molotsky

Photo of Attorney John Nixon

John Nixon

Five Duane Morris attorneys have been honored as “Best of the Bar: Philadelphia’s Top Lawyers” by Philadelphia Business Journal for their significant and recent achievements.

Below are excerpts of their profile.

Sharon L. Caffrey |  Business Litigation

The co-chair of Duane Morris’ trial practice group led the team that obtained a defense verdict in March on behalf of CSX Transportation and Conrail in a case brought by a former worker with a diagnosis of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia allegedly as the result of exposure to diesel exhaust while working for the railroads. The jury returned a verdict for the defense in about 15 minutes following a seven-day trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The trial had the attention of the highest levels at the client and was critical to the overall client strategy in defeating a variety of cancer claims against the railroads. [...]

What permanent changes to the legal profession will come as a direct result of the pandemic? Zoom depositions are here to stay and increased remote working flexibility will remain. However, a lot of the work of lawyers is made better by working in teams and collaborating with others so I expect people to return to their offices at least a good bit of the time. As a colleague recently said, there is something empowering about waking up, putting on your suit and going to the office to be surrounded by others who are also working hard as lawyers.

How would you assess the current state of Greater Philadelphia’s business climate? I am not sure I am the best person to answer this, as my practice is largely working for national clients, but when I have been in the office I see more businesses and restaurants opening their doors and the city has improved since the protests following George Floyd’s murder. With so many businesses encouraging remote work, it will take a while for business to feel like it is robust again.

What is the next step the legal industry must take when it comes to diversity initiatives? Duane Morris recently signed on for Mansfield certification and that is one key step firms and government offices can take to improve diversity. Implicit bias training is also critical — until we understand our own implicit biases we cannot empathize fully with others. Empathy is the key to really accepting others for who they are and where they are in their life journey. [...]

Oderah C. Nwaeze | Business Litigation

Nwaeze represented plaintiff SARN Energy in its lawsuit in the Delaware Superior Court against TATRA Defence Vehicle AS. SARN claimed TATRA breached a contract that required it to pay SARN approximately $1 million for geopolitical advice useful for obtaining a contract to sell a fleet of armored vehicles to a European government. TATRA secured the sale, but failed to pay SARN for its advice. The matter was resolved with a judgment in SARN’s favor for the fees requested. [...]

What permanent changes to the legal profession will come as a direct result of the pandemic? The role of “face time” as a proxy for hard work or commitment to the job. A lot of us are learning that “out of sight” does not mean “not working.”

How would you assess the current state of Greater Philadelphia’s business climate? Primed for great times. Every year, I have noticed great improvements in the city, all of which raise Philadelphia’s profile and attractiveness as a place to live and become successful. I do not expect that to stop any time soon.

What is the next step the legal industry must take when it comes to diversity initiatives? Access to education continues to be a problem in the United States. We must commit our time, money, energy, and resources to creating the pipeline necessary for our industry to reflect the populations that support our success. [...]

George J. Kroculick | Real Estate

For the past five years, Kroculick has represented Sunoco Pipeline and successor owner Energy Transfer Partners in land valuation litigation, land use litigation and appellate work for the ongoing Mariner East 2 pipeline project in Pennsylvania. The project will transport natural gas liquids from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields to markets in Pennsylvania and beyond. The legal team has consistently prevailed when the pipeline met persistent opposition with successful eminent domain, appellate proceedings, political agility and publicity control. This includes dispute resolution on 903 of the 1,800-plus properties located on the line in Pennsylvania.

What is the biggest misconception about lawyers? That all lawyers are uncaring and greedy. Last year, 100% of Duane Morris’ lawyers participated in pro bono work with many of those lawyers spending hundreds of hours on pro bono work in addition to their own personal involvement with charitable organizations.

What is the next step the legal industry must take when it comes to diversity initiatives? The Mansfield Certification. Duane Morris recently signed on for Mansfield Certification, the goal of which is to increase the representation of diverse lawyers in law firm leadership. At Duane Morris, we believe that diverse and inclusive teams offer more sophisticated and creative solutions for our clients. Hopefully, steps such as these will help the industry celebrate and value diversity. [...]

Brad A. Molotsky | Real Estate

Molotsky is representing ResinTech and ActionPak in the construction and operation of a 250,000-square-foot packaging and production space in a Camden manufacturing facility, utilizing Grow NJ credits and conventional construction and equipment financing in the amount of $123 million to build a state-of-the-art resin manufacturing and office facility and packaging distribution facility. Molotsky has had an active presence within the firm’s Covid-19 strategy team, advising clients on legal issues and implications of the pandemic. [...]

How would you assess the current state of Greater Philadelphia’s business climate? While many deals and businesses proceed apace and in fact are doing quite well, many small and medium businesses that rely on in-person traffic to drive numerics are concerned to very, very concerned. Consider hotel, restaurants and sports and the amount of people employed by these three sectors regionally. Intervention and relief for the employees and for the employers will be critical to reversing the furloughs and unemployment we have seen over the past six months-plus in these sectors.

What is the next step the legal industry must take when it comes to diversity initiatives? Making sure their diversity and inclusion heads are partners at the firm so that they have the necessary buy-in at senior management to drive real change. Having clients press for and demand a level of diversity and inclusion in their matters vs. trusting it to others to make this happen. Focused, continual action and review of actions – in hiring, matter deployment, associate development and continual open dialogue with the affected parties on what we can be doing better and constantly reassessing how things are going. Thrilled with the effort at Duane Morris to date in this regard but we are far from done and far from excellent, yet Joe West (a partner and our head of D/I) and his team are making real effort and real strides in this arena.

John A. Nixon | Tax/Employee Benefits

Nixon, the only three-time Best of the Bar winner, represented Air Products in the annuitization of $180 million in benefit liabilities under its salary pension plan and the hourly pension plan. As part of this, he advised the Air Products investment board on its fiduciary obligations under applicable U.S. Department of Labor guidance, and worked with their outside consultant to select an insurer. Nixon then negotiated contracts, including the group annuity contract, and assisted Air Products in its obligations with respect to current vendors and the transfer of liabilities from the respective plans. [...]

How would you assess the current state of Greater Philadelphia’s business climate? Difficult to say but given the difficulties of New York, I think Philadelphia stands to benefit. If physical location is less central to operations, then the cultural aspects of a city, combined with a lower cost of living, can make Philadelphia a logical base of operations.

What is the next step the legal industry must take when it comes to diversity initiatives? First, we have to assure that the pandemic does not result in the industry “losing ground” on the diversity front. In every economic downturn, lawyers of color got the short end of the stick, be it layoffs, cutbacks in hiring, etc. Firms, government employers and in-house legal departments have to be as committed to their diversity efforts as they were prior to Covid-19. The next step is striving for equity across the profession. It’s much better now, but diverse lawyers as still steered into certain practices and away from others (mine included). Just as there is an emphasis on getting Black college students to study STEM, at the law school level and early career there must be an emphasis to direct students of color to specializations in which we are underrepresented. [...]

For more information, visit the Philadelphia Business Journal website.