Philadelphia phone lawyers go on call

OPPENHEIMER Wolff & Donnelly has become only the fourth US firm to form an association with an Italian practice.

The 200-attorney firm has offices in Brussels and Paris and an association with a Dutch practice as well as offices all over the US.

It has now linked with four-partner Pisano De Vito Maiano & Catucci which has offices in Rome and Milan. Joseph Vicinanza, managing partner of the firm's New York office, said the link would not involve an exclusivity contract but there would be “mutual referrals in areas of expertise”.

Each firm would make its offices available to the other when needed and lawyers from Oppenheimers' New York and Brussels office were likely to be seconded to Milan or Rome in the future. The two firms would also regularly update each other on US, EU and Italian law, he added.

Vicinanza said the firms had been working jointly on some projects for the past two years, particularly from the Brussels office. “For Italy, Pisanos is a medium to large size practice,” he said.

Oppenheimers joins Baker & McKenzie, Graham & James and Loeb & Loeb as one of the few US firms with offices in the country. Just two UK firms, Clifford Chance and Simmons & Simmons, have a presence there.

The Philadelphia Bar Association has set up a telephone hot-line for people with legal problems.

Manning the phones are volunteer lawyers who, if they are not able to answer the query, will refer the caller to an appropriate practitioner.

A half hour of consultation could cost $20 but some advisers will be providing help on a pro bono basis.

Several safeguards are in place to ensure that the referred lawyers are up to scratch. Lawyers must have been in practice for more than one year, no disciplinary action must have been taken against them and if the caller decides to use their services, there must be a written fee agreement.

“For the average Joe it is a guiding light through the legal system,” said Trish McCoy, who is the administrator of the Lawyer Referral and Information Service.

The hot-line takes up to 350 calls per day and the Bar also provides other services such as a low fee plan for people below a certain income level.