Philadelphia firm to close as last-ditch rescue bid fails

PHILADELPHIA'S Cohen Shapiro Polisher Shiekman & Cohen will shut down later this month after eleventh-hour merger talks failed to secure its future.

The 66-lawyer firm, hit by a number of departures during the past 15 months, had hoped to link up with established international partnership Pepper Hamilton & Scheetz.

Pepper Hamilton, which has 270 lawyers and a London office, was unavailable for comment but it is known that the firm rejected a merger offer from 57-year-old Cohen Shapiro in September.

In a recent US press report, Pepper Hamilton's executive partner James Murray was quoted as saying that there were “several” reasons behind the rejection of Cohen Shapiro.

“We decided it was not something that was right for us at this time,” he said.

Cohen Shapiro's dissolution becomes effective on 11 November.

Cohen Shapiro managing partner Michael Kline, now at fellow Philadelphia firm Fox Rothschild O'Brien & Frankel, is working on a “wind-down team” with executive committee partner Dave Brooman and controller Tom Maguire. The firm is refusing to comment on the collapse.

“We don't want to make any comment at this point in time,” said Maguire. “It's a sad and unfortunate thing for the firm.”

It is thought that Cohen Shapiro started to experience problems in July 1994 when high-profile public finance lawyer Michael Gluck left the firm to found New Jersey practice DeCotlis, Fitzpatrick & Gluck.

At the time, Gluck was chair of Cohen Shapiro's corporate department and an executive committee member. He took 11 corporate and health care lawyers with him.

Shortly after the walkout other attorneys started to leave and, despite reasonable revenues and the offer of a strong environmental practice group, the Cohen Shapiro package appeared unsuitable for Pepper.