The Legal Intelligencer, the legal profession’s leading periodical in South eastern Pennsylvania recently profiled Elliott Greenleaf’s re-opening of its Philadelphia office:
ELLIOTT GREENLEAF RETURNING TO CENTER CITY AFTER 17-YEAR ABSENCE
The Legal Intelligencer
By Zack Needles
March 14, 2008
Elliott Greenleaf is returning to Philadelphia. The 45-attorney general practice firm with offices in Blue Bell, Harrisburg, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as well as in Wilmington, Del., is planning to open a new office in Center City on April 1, just over 17 years after losing its original Philadelphia office in a devastating high-rise fire.
According to firm chairman and senior shareholder, John M. Elliott, the new office will be on the 37th floor of 1818 Market St. and will house about half a dozen full-time attorneys right away.
Elliott said the firm had received a number of requests from clients to reopen an office in the city after nearly two decades in the suburbs.
“You’ve got to go where the clients want you,” he said, explaining that the firm had originally planned to open the new office on March 1 but the current tenant was not able to move out at the time. The firm is now preparing for a tentative April 1 opening.
Elliott Greenleaf’s original headquarters were in One Meridian Plaza, but the firm was forced to move out after a fire destroyed the 38-story high-rise in February 1991.
Elliott said the firm’s initial plan at that time was to simply find a new home in the city until someone suggested moving out to the suburbs.
“In the aftermath of the fire everyone was offering us these gorgeous spaces for several million dollars a year and then somebody said, ‘Have you ever considered Blue Bell?’” he said.
He hadn’t, but once he and his partners realized the benefits of Blue Bell’s geographic proximity to both the Blue Route and the Northeast Extension, they were sold.
“It was a tremendous opportunity for us to be in a very attractive setting,” said John’s brother, Thomas J. Elliott, a senior shareholder in the firm.
The firm flourished in its new suburban surroundings, eventually spawning three more offices across the state and, recently, one in Delaware.
Still, it maintained a presence in the city, frequently handling cases in the federal commerce court systems and working with city-based clients.
Eventually, the firm realized how much its urban clientele would appreciate the convenience of a Center City office, said shareholder Frederick P. Santarelli, who will head up the Philadelphia office as managing shareholder.
“A lot of times you would hear [from clients], ‘I wish you were located across the street or around the corner so we could meet,’” he said.
Santarelli said he anticipates the new location will attract new clients while strengthening relationships with existing clients.
“I expect that we will develop more business in the city by having an office in the city,” he said. “Also, we have clients from out of state who, knowing that we’re closer to the [federal] courthouse now, may be more inclined to utilize our services even more.”
While the new office will certainly be an opportune location for many clients, it will also come in handy to attorneys from the suburban offices who are working on cases in the city, said Santarelli.
Although there will only be five or six attorneys working in the Philadelphia office full time, John Elliott said the firm fully expects its attorneys from other offices to utilize the facility whenever they’re in town.
“I think there are going to be a lot of them in and out [of the Center City office],” Elliott said, adding that one of the frequent visitors to the new office will most likely be Bruce L. Castor Jr., the former Montgomery County district attorney and current county Republican commissioner, who joined the firm as a shareholder in January.
As far as hiring new attorneys to fill out its Philadelphia practice, John Elliott said it’s likely to happen eventually but there are currently no plans set in stone.
“I’m going to play it by ear,” he said, but added that the firm is “always looking” for talent.
Frank D’Amore of Attorney Career Catalysts said that for a midsized firm like Elliott Greenleaf, opening a new office in the city with five or six attorneys while continuing to operate a main office in the suburbs is no small gesture.
“That’s a pretty significant way to open in the city,” he said, adding that it’s especially noteworthy because the firm’s roots in the Philadelphia legal community date back as far as the mid-1960s when John Elliott was the head of the litigation department at Dilworth Paxson, a firm that has produced a number of other Elliott Greenleaf attorneys over the years including Thomas Elliott, senior shareholder Henry F. Siedzikowski and shareholder Timothy T. Myers.
John Elliott said he feels retuning to the city could help the firm establish itself even further in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
“Philadelphia’s the economic heart of the region,” he said. “I think we’re going to be very well situated to have a meaningful regional presence.”