Philadelphia law firm Blank Rome expands in Baltimore

Harry Hughes, 4 others leave Patton Boggs

Legal services

February 18, 1999|By Sean Somerville | Sean Somerville,SUN STAFF

Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley LLP, a large Philadelphia law firm, said yesterday that it has added five attorneys -- including former Gov. Harry R. Hughes -- to a one-lawyer practice in Baltimore.

The hiring of Hughes and four other lawyers from the Baltimore office of Patton Boggs LLP leaves that high-profile Washington firm without any lawyers in Baltimore.

"Baltimore is an important market for our expanding regional and national practice," said David F. Girard-diCarlo, Blank Rome's managing partner.

Girard-diCarlo said the firm's clients include First Union, PNC and Mellon banks, all of which have operations in Baltimore. Blank Rome has nine offices in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Washington and Florida, with more than 280 lawyers who practice in a variety of areas.

"We want to build a full-service practice in Baltimore," he said. "Our goal is to service the Amtrak corridor" from New York to Washington.

Blank Rome's Baltimore practice, started just over a year ago by Leslie J. Polt, will move into offices at 250 W. Pratt St. previously occupied by Patton Boggs, which set up shop in Baltimore a decade ago.

Stuart Pape, managing partner of that firm, said it would be premature to count Patton Boggs out of Baltimore.

"We remain very much intrigued by opportunities in Baltimore," Pape said, without providing details. "We have some very interesting opportunities that we're pursuing."

He said Patton Boggs had a substantial practice in Baltimore under John A. Moag Jr., the former head of the Maryland Stadium Authority who left the firm in May to lead an investment group catering to the sports industry for Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc.

Pape said the remaining lawyers faced uncertainty about the firm's future locally just as Blank Rome was gearing up. "They may have chosen to trade opportunity we may have had to take advantage of certainty," he said.

In addition to Hughes, the former Patton Boggs lawyers joining Blank Rome are James Deveney, who specializes in corporate, finance, commercial and real estate lending; Christopher Ohly, whose primary practice areas include commercial and civil litigation, criminal justice, tax litigation, international law and transportation issues; F. Gillis Green, who practices in real estate, leasing and corporate law; and Roberta K. Daghir, an associate.

Karen Williamson, president of Williamson, Neal & Amato, a legal search firm in Baltimore, said Patton Boggs' intense focus on lobbying made it an anomaly among the many large firms based elsewhere that have set up Baltimore offices in recent years.

"They opened in Baltimore around Harry Hughes and John Moag," she said. "I think there was a lot of synergy between John Moag's practice and their D.C. practice. And Harry Hughes had a lot of political connections. I think when John Moag left, it didn't make as much sense for them to be here."

She said Blank Rome is more typical of firms opening offices in cities such as Baltimore to build a regional presence.

Deveney, whose clients include First Mariner Bancorp, called Patton Boggs the premier firm in lobbying and international law. But he focuses on medium-sized and small businesses. "It was sort of an awkward fit," he said.

He said his transactional practice, which includes corporate acquisitions and merger financing, fits much better with Blank Rome. Deveney also said the office could have as many as nine lawyers by the end of next month and 20 to 25 by the end of the year.

"Baltimore has growth and expansion potential," Deveney said. "We believe we will very quickly expand this office. We're talking to a number of parties about other possible affiliations."

Pub Date: 2/18/99

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