Alumni Profiles

Barbara Adams

Barbara AdamsBarbara Adams is the General Counsel of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As General Counsel, Barbara leads a staff of more than 500 lawyers in representing Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell and more than 30 executive and independent agencies and commissions in litigation, transactions, regulatory, legislative and criminal justice matters. She was appointed to the position in 2005. Barbara joined Duane Morris in 1977, and ultimately served as chair of the firm's Finance Practice Group. She focused her practice on taxable and tax-exempt public finance, affordable housing development, state and local government law, energy law and campaign finance law. In an interview with Spotlight, Barbara discussed how in her 27 years with Duane Morris, the former corporate partner developed her legal experience as well as management skills.

Q: How did Duane Morris help you to hone your legal skills?

A: I cannot overstate the business and management principles that I learned at Duane Morris over the years. That background has served me so well.

Morris Duane, a former chairman of Duane Morris, famously circulated a page-and-a-half memo called the "Completed Staff Work Memo" that described specifically what is expected of a young lawyer and how to manage and complete a matter. It basically said, you get the file, you don't ask questions about every step of the work and you figure out what to do by yourself, asking for advice only when necessary. You complete the task, collect the bill and organize the file. That's it.

That memo had a huge value for us. It has impacted what I request and require of the lawyers I work with now—I call it the "completed staff work memo approach." It's such a relevant teaching document.

Q: What has been a key accomplishment of the Office of General Counsel during the past five years?

A: We are facing a time of constrained resources. This job was created only 30 years ago, and it has grown organically. I retained a consultant to conduct a systematic management review of what is essentially a large law department and to assist us in developing productivity measures. I have emphasized the development of practice groups and have implemented a great deal of management and structure, based on what worked at Duane Morris.

I was given the opportunity when I left Duane Morris to appear before a Partners Meeting to say a few words. I was given some very nice gifts and testimonials at the time, and when I spoke to partners, I remember saying that one of the things that made me a success at Duane Morris was my ability to go around and ask my partners to help me with a myriad of client matters, such as labor and employment advice or real estate advice. People always went out of their way to be helpful. I said I thought I might be in a Duane Morris cocoon, and it may not be the case that wherever you go, people are going to be that helpful. My experience at the Office of General Counsel (OGC) suggests that Duane Morris wasn't a cocoon. Just as at Duane Morris, everyone at OGC is willing to be helpful. We identify the goal and take steps to get there and work the time necessary to achieve the project. Having left Duane Morris saying, "Gee I wonder if my experience here has been unique," I can now say there is at least one other place, OGC, with that same sense of collegiality and desire to get the job done well.

Q: What do you do when you're not working?

A: I practice yoga and like to swim in the summer. I do a lot of my reading outside. I have often joked that raising my daughters, now ages 19, 21 and 23, is my hobby.