Drafting legislation, implementing laws, appealing wrongfully applied statutes, hearing and ruling on the legality of ordinances and policies – at each step of the political process, the legal profession and its practitioners play crucial roles. And as legal challenges to the electoral process continue apace, the role of attorneys and advocates only continues to gain importance. As the following profiles vividly demonstrate, there are few areas of Pennsylvanians’ lives that aren’t impacted on an elemental level by the law.
City & State’s 2023 Law Power 100 recognizes the most influential legal professionals in Pennsylvania, including elected officials, prosecutors, appointees, partners at prominent firms, defense attorneys, public defenders, legal scholars and others in the profession who advise or oversee governmental bodies at all levels, advocate for policy changes and are part of the court process.
This list was compiled and written by the City & State research team and Hilary Danailova.
Lifelong public servant and children’s advocate Michelle Henry is Pennsylvania’s newest attorney general. The longtime prosecutor previously put in more than two decades at the Bucks County District Attorney’s office, where she oversaw major crimes and child abuse before taking over the DA role in 2008. Henry, who also launched Bucks County’s children’s advocacy center, previously served as first deputy attorney general under then-AG Josh Shapiro.
One of few women to lead a major American law firm, Jami McKeon has more than doubled the size of Morgan Lewis to 2,000-plus lawyers in more than 30 offices worldwide. She also celebrated record revenue and profits last year for the firm, which — while tight-lipped about numbers — reportedly grossed $2.6 billion in 2021, putting it in the country’s top 10 firms by revenue. McKeon, whose term was just extended to 2026, previously led the firm’s signature litigation practice.
Twenty years after joining Jones Day as a litigator, Rebekah Kcehowski was named partner-in-charge of the firm’s Pittsburgh office, where she began her legal career as a summer associate. The class action expert also heads litigation, defending clients in consumer, tort and fraud cases, and securing seven-figure verdicts in insurance recovery cases. Kcehowski’s management of the Pittsburgh team, comprising a dozen practices, made her office a finalist for Law.com’s Law Firm of the Year. In addition, she co-chairs the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh.
Over 20 years in practice, Philadelphia-based Judy Leone has successfully litigated myriad class action cases concerning fraud, negligence, product liability and misrepresentation. Leone, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Dechert, is known for defending pharmaceutical companies – including major cases involving Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Bayer and AstraZeneca – and other nationally recognized clients, such as Philip Morris. She is a participant in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas’ Mass Tort Program.
Jason Hazlewood serves as managing partner of the Pittsburgh office of Reed Smith, a global law firm based in that city. Hazlewood, who is also a partner in the firm’s Global Commercial Disputes Group, concentrates his practice on complex commercial, financial services and securities litigation. He previously served as in-house counsel for a large financial institution and has advised Fortune 500 companies and multinational banks on regulation, dispute resolution and other matters.
Clients in risky businesses count on litigator Lauren McKenna, an authority on flood and other insurance areas and a regular speaker at the annual National Flood Determination Association conference. McKenna is the managing partner of Fox Rothschild’s Philadelphia office, where she co-chairs the firm’s title insurance group and serves as a key contact for its real estate litigation practice. She is known for her defense of title insurance entities, lenders and flood zone determination companies, and volunteers with the Philadelphia Bar Association’s pro bono program.
The Philadelphia Business Journal honored Duane Morris CEO Matthew Taylor with its 2022 Most Admired CEO Award last year. Since becoming CEO in 2018, Taylor has led the Philadelphia-based firm to record growth, with profits per equity partner that exceeded $1 million in 2019 and 2022 revenue of $631 million. The commercial litigator joined Duane Morris in 1997 and previously chaired its largest practice, the trial practice group.
Debra Todd made history this year as the 300-year-old Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s first female chief justice. Having served since her 2007 election, the Democrat is also now the court’s longest continuously serving justice. Todd has administrative oversight of the commonwealth’s 60 judicial districts, with 1,000 judges across 67 counties. She began her career as a litigation attorney with U.S. Steel and also served a decade on the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
With the electoral-year shuffle leaving a serious vacuum at the highest levels of city government, second-term District Attorney Larry Krasner is among Philadelphia’s most powerful officials. Fresh off an impeachment threat from the state legislature – where many Republicans take a dim view of his approach to criminal justice – the progressive DA has a downward-trending homicide rate to cheer. But Krasner’s style may clash with that of the woman likely to become Philadelphia’s next mayor, Cherelle Parker, who promises heavier policing to crack down on crime.
In his fourth term as CEO of Cozen O’Connor, Executive Chair Michael Heller has prioritized growth for the Philadelphia-based law firm. He recently announced a major expansion into Canada, adding to a global presence that includes offices in nearly two dozen cities worldwide and services including litigation, business law and government relations. Heller’s decade-long tenure has grown Cozen O’Connor’s revenue by more than 70% to nearly $600 million, placing it among the world’s top 100 law firms by gross earnings, according to Law.com.
Faegre Drinker Partner Dan Aiken defends employers facing their most difficult disputes with current and former employees, including defending against class action and individual lawsuits and pursuing former employees who have stolen trade secrets or violated restrictive covenant agreements. In addition to managing the global firm’s Philadelphia office, Aiken also carries on a decades-old Faegre Drinker tradition by serving as General Counsel for the ACLU-PA.
Regina Stango Kelbon and Alan Zeiger serve as Philadelphia co-chairs for Blank Rome, a 75-year-old full-service firm with offices nationwide. Kelbon, a partner recognized for her expertise in bankruptcy and restructuring law, is a fellow in the American College of Bankruptcy and a mediator for the bankruptcy court for Pennsylvania’s Eastern District. Partner Alan Zeiger focuses his practice on corporate law and mergers and acquisitions. He previously headed the firm’s business department, where he supervised a 325-attorney international team.
Mark Hornak, Juan A. Sánchez and Matthew Brann serve as the chief U.S. district judges for Pennsylvania’s Western, Eastern and Middle districts, respectively.
Hornak, a former Pittsburgh labor lawyer, assumed his current role in 2018. He is a founder of the Q. Todd Dickinson American Inn of Court, an entity devoted to intellectual property law, and serves as judge for several reentry programs.
In 2018, after 15 years on the court, Puerto Rico native Juan Sánchez was the first Latino to become the Eastern District’s chief U.S. district judge. He is known for a 2017 ruling compelling Google to turn over its data to the FBI and for emphasizing jury diversity.
Matthew Brann is a former longtime regional chair of the Republican Party and was appointed to the court by then-President Obama in 2012. He won plaudits in 2020 for handling former President Donald Trump’s legal challenge of the commonwealth’s election results.
Marcel Pratt was Philadelphia’s youngest-ever city solicitor by his early 30s, helping Mayor Jim Kenney successfully fend off court challenges around a groundbreaking soda tax while leading legal strategy around COVID-19 measures. Since 2020, Pratt has been a managing partner at Ballard Spahr, where he worked in the litigation and antitrust group earlier in his career. He currently leads the firm’s crisis management team and specializes in commercial litigation, business law and government relations.
Kelley Hodge’s star is on the rise again. The first African American woman ever to have led the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, Hodge was appointed last year by President Joe Biden as U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In the interim, Hodge, who began her career as a public defender in Richmond, was a partner in the labor and employment practice at Fox Rothschild’s Philadelphia office, where she also specialized in civil rights, higher education and criminal law.
CEO Joseph Dougherty has steered Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, one of the commonwealth’s largest firms, to annual earnings of nearly $300 million. Dougherty himself is a noted litigator, with a specialty in employment law; prior to assuming leadership in 2016, he chaired the firm’s trade secrets and restrictive covenants practice group and its advisory committee. He is currently a member of the CEO Council for Growth of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Higher-education clients turn to Amy Piccola for advice on matters ranging from compliance and liability to internal investigations and matters involving the U.S. Department of Education. Piccola is a Philadelphia co-office managing partner at Saul Ewing, where she chairs the diversity, equity and inclusion committee and, as a legal adviser for the growing campus esports field, co-chairs the firm’s video gaming and esports practice. Piccola also coordinates a variety of resources for her education clients, from staff trainings to draft handbooks.
After 40 years of advocacy on behalf of workers, labor attorney Deborah Willig was recognized with the 2023 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. Willig, who was the first female chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, is a managing partner at the Philadelphia employment law firm of Willig Williams Davidson. She is known as a fixture at collective bargaining time between Philadelphia’s government, school district and union employees.
Michael McAuliffe Miller oversees Eckert Seamans’ Harrisburg office and is member-in-charge of the board of the directors for the full-service national law firm, which specializes in business and litigation counsel. Miller’s own practice focuses on management-side employment and labor law. A frequent presence before state and federal courts, he has negotiated with major unions, served as a special counsel for school districts, and represented state and city agencies as well as corporations and national employers across a variety of industries.
Immigration is a hot topic, and Jennifer Hermansky knows all about it. At the Philadelphia office of Greenberg Traurig, where she is a shareholder, Hermansky concentrates on employment-based immigration, helping businesses organize employment and investor visa transactions and providing counsel on compliance in an evolving immigration landscape. Hermansky has been listed among The Best Lawyers in America for immigration law for the past five years and on EB5 Investor Magazine’s Top 25 EB-5 Attorneys, recognizing her immigration prowess, for the past decade.
Sherman Smith III, a transactional attorney, is a shareholder in the corporate practice at the Philadelphia office of Greenberg Traurig. Smith focuses his practice on commercial and residential real estate, real estate finance and commercial finance. He has represented some of America’s largest financial institutions, working on loan negotiating and restructuring, as well as the area’s major real estate developers. Smith is also a board member of the Philadelphia Opportunities Industrialization Center.
Catastrophic injury lawyers Thomas Kline and Shanin Specter head their eponymous Philadelphia firm known for record-setting, seven- and eight-figure verdicts and settlements. Ranked Super Lawyers’ No. 1 in Pennsylvania for 19 years, Thomas R. Kline is among the legal community’s most storied philanthropists. His name adorns the law schools of Drexel and Duquesne universities, to which he gifted a record-setting $50 million apiece. Shanin Specter, son of the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, made headlines in 2000 by winning a $50 million medical malpractice verdict, then the largest in Pennsylvania history. He has not only set numerous records since, but also resolved cases in ways that resulted in policy or regulatory change.
Named Attorney of the Year by Legal Intelligencer in 2019, litigator Mark Aronchick has often found himself at history’s crossroads. He was Philadelphia’s youngest city solicitor; led the team that legalized same-sex marriage by overturning Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act; and, more recently, argued against Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, in the latter’s attempt to block certification of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results. He is the Philadelphia-based founder and chair emeritus of Hangley Aronchick.
Attorney, civic leader and financier Ajay Raju chairs his eponymous Philadelphia-based legal outfit with a practice that includes real estate, immigration, life sciences and government relations. Raju is also a panelist on 6ABC’s “Inside Story” and hosts “Overheard,” interviewing Philly movers and shakers. As head of the Raju Foundation, he bankrolls civic initiatives that span media, public health and leadership training. Raju, a former CEO of Dilworth Paxson, also manages two venture funds and a management consulting firm.
Merger and acquisition expert Solomon Hunter Jr. was part of his own firm’s merger in 2020, when Pepper Hamilton – where he’d practiced for 15 years – merged with Troutman Sanders. Today, Hunter is a partner in Troutman Pepper, where he practices corporate and transactional law and specializes in health care, life sciences, and food and beverage cases. Hunter has won acclaim for his work representing high-profile companies in mergers, asset dispositions, investments and equity financing.
During Theodore Ruger’s eight-year tenure as dean of Penn Carey Law, the school ascended to sixth place in the U.S. News and World Report’s law school rankings, its highest-ever showing, while increasing student and faculty diversity. Ruger also secured two of the law school’s largest gifts ever, for $125 million and $50 million. Next month, Ruger – a constitutional law expert who is also Penn Carey’s Bernard Segal professor of law – will hand off leadership to Sophia Lee, the school’s first-ever female dean.
Temple University’s new law school dean, Rachel Rebouché, is a leading expert on one of law’s hottest topics: reproductive health. Rebouché, a faculty fellow at Temple’s Center for Public Health Law Research, is an author of “Governance Feminism: An Introduction,” and an editor and contributor to several authoritative volumes on family law, feminism and contract law. She previously served as associate dean for research and currently holds the title of James E. Beasley Professor of Law.
In addition to overseeing Villanova University’s Charles Widger School of Law, Dean Mark Alexander is currently president of the Association of American Law Schools. Alexander recently co-authored “Beyond Imagination: The January 6 Insurrection,” befitting a professor whose specialties include constitutional, election and criminal law and the First Amendment. He is also a fellow of the U.S.-Japan Leadership Program and was appointed by then-President Barack Obama to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, serving from 2010-14.
As dean of Penn State Dickinson Law since 2019, intellectual property expert and U.S. Army veteran Danielle Conway has prioritized diversity, equity and inclusion practices and launched Dickinson Law’s Antiracist Development Institute. Conway also established the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project, which garnered her the Association of American Law Schools’ inaugural Impact Award. Conway chairs Penn State’s law school reunification panel and co-chairs its Select Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias, and Community Safety.
Duquesne University’s entering law school classes are both larger and more accomplished under the leadership of Dean April Barton, who has headed the Thomas R. Kline School of Law since 2019. Barton implemented a cross-disciplinary program with Duquesne’s School of Business, as well as a Leadership Fellows Program. Last year, she welcomed Thomas Kline’s $50 million bequest, the 144-year-old university’s largest-ever single gift. Barton currently serves on the Association of American Law Schools’ executive committee and the board of the Pittsburgh Legal Diversity & Inclusion Coalition.
For nearly half of its 17-year history, Drexel’s Kline School of Law has been headed by criminal law scholar Daniel Filler, who was part of Kline’s inaugural faculty. Under Filler’s leadership, the school has broadened its offerings and seen its U.S. News & World Report ranking rise. Filler’s national reputation is underlined by his widely-read blog, The Faculty Lounge, and his frequent commentary for national media outlets. He serves on the Association of American Law Schools’ executive committee as well as the American Law Institute.
In addition to his role as chair of the law firm of Obermayer, David Nasatir recently served as co-counsel for Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team and chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee’s 2023 Judicial Screening Committee. At Obermayer, Nasatir leads both the firm’s business and finance department and its workout and lender liability group. His regional projects include bond financings for SEPTA and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, as well as the Butler Area Sewer Authority, for which he recently negotiated its $232 million sale.
Last year, Jacqueline Romero made history as the first woman and first member of the LGBTQ+ community to serve as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It’s territory she knows well: Romero spent 16 years as an assistant U.S. attorney, where she focused on civil litigation, and has served as the district’s civil rights coordinator at the U.S. Department of Justice in Philadelphia. In addition, Romero teaches in the Law Trial Advocacy Program at Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law.
Harvey Hurdle took over leadership of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 2018, bringing decades’ worth of executive experience with both nonprofit and for-profit entities. As executive director, Hurdle has overseen a rebranding for the Bar Association, spearheaded partnerships with Temple and Drexel universities’ law schools and celebrated a budget surplus, all while coordinating grantmaking to 40 community organizations. Hurdle previously founded and led Leap Strategy, a nonprofit consultancy, and was an executive at the health care consulting firm Sellers Dorsey and the Human Rights Campaign.
For a quarter-century, Steven Zappala Jr. has served as Allegheny County’s district attorney. But his grip on the office faces a challenge: After losing May’s Democratic primary to the county’s chief public defender, Matt Dugan, Zappala will run as the GOP’s write-in nominee in November. The longtime prosecutor – known for his politically connected family and collaborations with city officials – is hoping voters opt for his experience over Dugan’s promise of criminal justice reform.
At Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, the state’s largest public interest law firm, longtime chief Debby Freedman is a leading advocate for Philadelphia’s vulnerable residents. Under her leadership, CLS doubled its staff to provide legal assistance to 10,000 low-income Philadelphians; expanded its family law practice; appointed a chief equity and inclusion officer; and leads the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project, a seven-agency collaboration. In addition, Freedman is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Inspired by her background as a child of refugees fleeing the Cambodian genocide, Chi-Ser Tran helps immigrants and vulnerable populations navigate the legal system at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. As a supervising attorney, Tran leads advocacy for linguistically accessible legal services, courts and government agencies and helps clients secure government benefits. She also serves on the boards of SEAMAAC, an advocacy organization for the Southeast Asian community, and the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania, where she is the immediate past president.
Montgomery County Democrat Tim Briggs is currently majority chair of the state House Judiciary Committee, where he recently introduced legislation addressing gun violence and LGBTQ+ protections. In addition to being of counsel at Kilkenny Law in Norristown, Briggs also serves on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Joint State Government Commissions Decedents’ Estates Law Task Force, the Board of Governors for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and the Montgomery County Democratic Committee’s judicial screening committee.
State Senate Judiciary Committee Majority Chair Lisa Baker, a longtime advocate for veterans and crime victims, was reelected in November to a fifth term. The Luzerne County Republican recently championed legislation extending the sunset for Pennsylvania’s anti-crime wiretap law and co-sponsored a bill upgrading the state’s guardianship provisions to protect the rights of vulnerable residents. She has been involved with the state’s Juvenile Justice Task Force, the Advisory Committee on Probation and the Judicial Council of Pennsylvania.
As executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, the city’s civil rights agency, Kia Ghee convened this year’s People United to Stop Hate Symposium to address rising bias against Jews, people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. Ghee, who also leads the Fair Housing Commission, previously served as legal counsel for the City of Philadelphia, where she successfully fought a challenge to the Mayor’s Diversity Initiative. She is also the past president of the National Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Division.
Bob Mongeluzzi deals in catastrophes – and superlatives. These include Pennsylvania’s largest-ever personal injury verdict ($124 million), the nation’s largest railroad accident settlement ($265 million) and America’s largest-ever construction accident settlement (an eye-popping $1.2 billion). With numbers like these, it’s no wonder that Mongeluzzi, who founded and heads his eponymous Philadelphia personal-injury firm, is known as “the master of disasters,” among the world’s leading authorities on construction accidents. He is also a member of the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame.
Election lawyer Charles Gibbs is a frequent presence in the Philadelphia and Commonwealth courts, where he specializes in ballot access litigation. Gibbs, a Philadelphia-based member at McMonagle Perri, concentrates on family and criminal cases as well as political and municipal law. He was appointed by the Philadelphia Board of Judges to a lifetime term on the board of City Trusts and is also a past president of the Barristers’ Association, which awarded him the 2023 J. Austin Norris Award.
Bradley Krouse serves as the Philadelphia-based managing partner for Klehr Harrison, where he also helps guide the firm as a member of its executive committee. Krouse previously grew the firm’s real estate and finance department over nearly two decades as chair. He is known for representing prominent stakeholders in Philadelphia’s real estate landscape, from developers and owners to investors and private equity outfits. In addition, Krouse teaches transactional law at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
William Sasso retired as the longtime chair of Stradley Ronon in 2021, but the legendary attorney remains a figure of influence in Philadelphia and beyond. He recently chaired the board of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s transition team, while additionally serving as senior counsel. Currently treasurer of the PA Future Fund, Sasso is also an inaugural board member of the new Fund for Girard College, leading fundraising and partnership efforts and promoting the college’s Campus for the City community outreach initiative.
For a decade, John C. Conti has led the Pittsburgh-based firm of Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote, where he chairs the firm’s executive committee as well as its medical malpractice defense group. Conti, who also serves as managing attorney for the firm’s Los Angeles office, primarily represents hospitals and other health care providers in litigation involving professional negligence and related issues. A fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, Conti recently served as the organization’s Pennsylvania state chair.
Since assuming the top post at the Defender Association of Philadelphia in 2021, attorney and activist Keisha Hudson has worked to raise the profile of public defenders in maintaining and reforming our criminal justice system. She grew the agency’s budget, allowing the association to achieve pay parity for attorneys and staff and to implement data and policy initiatives. Hudson has also prioritized an inclusive culture, recruiting a diverse team and championing equity both within the organization and in its public role.
As Philadelphia’s solicitor, Diana Cortes serves as general counsel to Mayor Jim Kenney and his administration, City Council, the city’s independently elected officials, and myriad departments and agencies. Cortes also manages Philadelphia’s 300-strong Law Department, where she has championed diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruitment and retention and worked on affordable housing and accessible infrastructure projects. Cortes is currently collaborating with the city on police reform, as well as challenging what she has called unconstitutional firearm preemption laws.
Over the past year, Melissa Martinez celebrated two new positions – as senior counsel at AmerisourceBergen in Conshohocken, which she joined last fall, and as president of the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania, a role she’s held since March. Martinez previously spent a half-dozen years as a bankruptcy and restructuring attorney at Saul Ewing, garnering honors that included recognition for legal excellence by Chambers USA in 2022.
Michael McDonald, a founding partner in the Scranton personal injury firm of McDonald & MacGregor, assumed leadership of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in May. He was the association’s 2021-22 vice president and is currently a member of its finance, investment, minority bar and other committees, as well as its charitable foundation, where he established a scholarship program. McDonald previously headed the Lackawanna Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association’s Middle District of Pennsylvania Chapter and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers’ Association.
Self-proclaimed culture warrior Wally Zimolong has lately presided over politically charged Pennsylvania cases involving school curricula and mail-in ballots – often on behalf of America First Legal, the organization headed by ex-Trump adviser Stephen Miller. With his Villanova law firm, Zimolong is known for an undefeated jury trial record and cases involving real estate and development, as well as expertise in constitutional, election and public policy law. Zimolong, the 2008 Republican nominee for his Philadelphia congressional district, is also a political strategy consultant.
Victor Romero, a scholar at the intersection of law, culture and social policy, is currently interim dean at Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs. He is also the Maureen B. Cavanaugh Distinguished Faculty Scholar, teaching and writing on the impact of law for marginalized populations. Romero is a member of the American Law Institute, the author of several books and a past president of the local chapters of both the ACLU and the NAACP.
Since taking over leadership of the Public Interest Law Center in 2021, Brenda Marrero has led efforts to combat poverty and discrimination in areas including health care, housing, voting rights and public education. Marrero is the first Latina to lead PILC, a nonprofit partner of the Philadelphia Bar Foundation. She was named an Emerging Latino Lawyer Leader in 2018 by Al Día for her previous work at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, where she oversaw operations and was the organization’s first-ever chief diversity officer.
The day-to-day workings of Cohen Seglias are in the hands of new managing partner Steve Williams, who formerly served as administrative partner for the construction and corporate law firm. Based in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Williams is a commercial litigator who is frequently consulted for his expertise in real estate disputes, including cases involving condominiums, homeowners, landlords and tenants. He is a member of Cohen Seglias’ labor and employment, energy and utilities, and government law and regulatory affairs groups.
Deborah Gordon Klehr and the nonprofit she leads, the Education Law Center, won a major victory this year when a state court ruled Pennsylvania’s school funding system unconstitutional. The onetime elementary school teacher has long fought to ensure fair access and funding for public education across the commonwealth, having previously served on the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Klehr currently co-chairs the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Legislative Liaison and Education Law committees.
Numerous corporate executives, public officials and other high-profile clients – including at least one governor and several Pennsylvania General Assembly leaders – have counted on Daniel Brier for representation. Brier, a partner at Myers Brier Kelly, specializes in civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense. His fellow partner, Donna Walsh, is an employment and appeals lawyer who also specializes in white collar criminal defense. She was a key part of the firm’s team that successfully defended challenges to Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting during the 2020 election.
At Eckert Seamans, Anthony Cox Jr. concentrates his practice on complex commercial and business litigation matters, as well as professional liability and licensure defense. In addition to litigation before state and federal courts, Cox is known for defending professionals and entities before state and federal agencies, including Pennsylvania’s Department of State and Department of Health and the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. Cox is also a regular on The National Black Lawyers’ Top 40 Under 40 list.
Employment attorney Jennifer Craighead Carey was recently recognized as among Pennsylvania’s Super Lawyers by that publication, after having been named to Savoy Magazine’s list of most influential Black corporate directors in 2021. Craighead Carey is a partner at Barley Snyder, where she serves on the management committee and chairs the firm’s Crisis Management Service Team. With a practice focused on labor and employment law, she is a compliance expert who specializes in helping businesses as well as colleges and universities mitigate risk.
From vaccine mandates to tax matters and campus closures, Wendy White has shepherded Penn through the pandemic’s thorniest legal issues. White, a senior vice president at the University of Pennsylvania, serves as general counsel for Penn Medicine, overseeing protocols that support the university’s research enterprise and promote diversity while protecting against conflicts of interest and litigation risk. She was formerly a partner in the Washington, D.C. firm of Shea & Gardner and served as associate counsel to the president of the United States from 1996 to 1997.
Having steered the law firm of Dentons Cohen & Grigsby through a merger and national expansion, corporate law specialist Chris Carson is winding down his second term as president and CEO. It’s particularly fitting that Carson, whose tenure was distinguished by enhanced recruitment and diversity initiatives, makes way for the firm’s first-ever female leader, Christie Brown Tillapaugh. Carson will continue as a member of Dentons’ corporate group, where he specializes in mergers and acquisitions, as well as the Dentons Global Board.
In February, Troy Rivetti became the Western District of Pennsylvania’s acting U.S. attorney, leading a team of 120 employees that prosecutes cases throughout the commonwealth’s 25 western counties. Over a quarter-century in the Western District office, Rivetti has prosecuted numerous high-profile criminal cases, including large-scale drug trafficking and firearms crimes. Prior to his current role, he most recently served as first assistant U.S. attorney and, before that, as chief of the criminal division.
AmerisourceBergen Executive Vice President Elizabeth Campbell serves as chief legal officer for the wholesale pharmaceutical distributor, whose legal woes – concerning its role in the opioid epidemic – have lately garnered more attention than its products. Campbell, who is also executive vice president, joined the Conshohocken-based firm in 2010 and took over the top legal role in 2021, helping AmerisourceBergen navigate a thicket of suits and settlements. She previously worked for a decade at Troutman Pepper.
In 2023, Matt Holliday became the youngest executive director of the Pennsylvania Bar Association in the organization’s 128-year history. He leads a 22,000-member group and has expanded the scope of its philanthropic arm, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation. Previously, Holliday headed the Chester County Bar Association and was the elected prothonotary of Chester County. He is also president of the West Chester University Alumni Association, a trustee of the University Foundation and the Chester County Community Foundation, and a board member of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers.
Fred Cabell, a onetime state deputy attorney general, recently won the Republican primary for Newport magisterial district judge. Cabell, an attorney who began his career in the Reagan administration’s Department of Justice, currently serves as director of legislative affairs for the Pennsylvania Bar Association, representing the legal organization on policy and legislative issues in Harrisburg. He has also headed governmental affairs for the Pennsylvania Builders Association and lobbied for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference.
As executive vice president and general counsel for Comcast Cable, Lynn Charytan masterminds the division’s legal affairs. She also oversees its myriad business and consumer technologies and services in a market that includes 39 states and Washington, D.C. Charytan also serves as executive vice president and senior deputy general counsel for Comcast Corporation, the Philadelphia-based telecommunications giant, where she handles government investigations and regulatory matters. Previously, she spent nearly two decades at WilmerHale in Washington, chairing its communications, privacy and internet law practice.
Public interest attorney Jayme Cassidy recently assumed leadership of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, a statewide consortium of legal aid programs to assist the commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents with employment, health care, housing, custody and government benefits. Cassidy also guides the agency’s role in legal access advocacy, training and internship programs. She previously worked at Legal Services of Greater Miami and Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida and was chief assistant to the Broward County public defender.
Court operations flow smoothly across the commonwealth thanks to Geoff Moulton, who since 2019 has served as Pennsylvania’s court administrator. Moulton previously served as counsel to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where he was appointed as a judge by then-Gov. Tom Wolf. Moulton, a onetime federal prosecutor and a first assistant U.S. Attorney, also led the U.S. Treasury Department’s investigation of a federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s probe of Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky.
As chief federal defender for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lisa Evans Lewis leads a team of attorneys that helps clients from a nine-county area navigate the federal criminal justice system. The Philadelphia-based Lewis assumed the role in March and continues to teach at Drexel University’s Kline School of Law. She began her career as a trial attorney for the Defender Association of Philadelphia and worked for a quarter-century in the District of New Jersey federal public defender’s office, most recently in Camden.
As head of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association, Kevin Levy recently celebrated the landmark achievement of his colleague, member Rue Landau – who, following last month’s primary, is poised to make history as the City Council’s first LGBTQ member. Levy himself practices at Saul Ewing, focusing on property transactions, development projects, commercial real estate financing and real estate tax appeals. He has held a variety of positions at the LGBTQ Bar Association since graduating from Rutgers University Law School summa cum laude in 2019.
In 2018, after 24 years with McNees Wallace & Nurick, Brian Jackson was elected chair of a legal outfit whose history dates to 1935. His tenure has been distinguished by geographic and service expansion for the firm, with a 25% increase in staff, new offices across the mid-Atlantic and multiple complementary professional businesses. Jackson has also co-chaired the Team Pennsylvania Foundation alongside Govs. Tom Wolf and Josh Shapiro and serves on the board of the United Way of the Capital Region.
Litigator Kimberly Selemba is currently serving a year-long term as president of the Dauphin County Bar Association. She heads one of the state’s most active bar organizations, with a membership of nearly 1,500 Central Pennsylvania attorneys, a busy lawyer referral program and extensive pro bono services. Selemba, a Leadership Harrisburg graduate, is also senior counsel at Saxton & Stump in that city; she specializes in liquor licensing, alcohol law and hospitality as well as the real estate and senior care industries.
Culture wars ebb and flow – but since 1989, Michael Geer has championed conservative values as founding president of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Family Institute. Abortion and family structure are among the causes for which Geer lobbies in Harrisburg and promotes legal strategy through the institute’s Independence Law Center. The former television producer also serves on the board of CitizenLink, Focus on the Family’s public policy affiliate, as well as the executive committee of the REACH Alliance, a national school choice organization.
Joe Manko is a founding partner of Manko Gold, a Philadelphia-based environmental and energy law practice with five offices, including in New York and Honolulu. His four decades of experience encompass founding and chairing the environmental department at WolfBlock, serving as regional general counsel for the EPA, chairing the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, and teaching environmental law at the University of Pennsylvania. He was also a longtime fixture on the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners and is currently board vice president of the Fairmount Park Conservancy.
Real estate attorney Irv Firman is managing partner at Tucker Arensberg, where he currently co-chairs the real estate group. Firman has led the firm’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusivity, making Tucker Arensberg an inaugural member of the ALLY (Attorneys Learning as allies, Living as allies and Yielding results) initiative of the Allegheny County Bar Association. Firman currently serves as solicitor for Indiana Township, Medical Rescue Team South Authority, South Park Township, the Township of Upper St. Clair and Whitehall Borough.
Public interest attorney Rhodia Thomas directs MidPenn Legal Services, a Central Pennsylvania nonprofit that provides assistance to low-income people and domestic violence survivors. She also teaches at Penn State Dickinson Law School in Carlisle. As a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s minority bar committee, she has co-chaired its diversity summit; she also chairs the audit committee for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, where she is a board member.
Amal Bass and Susan Frietsche lead efforts to fight the erosion of reproductive rights as interim co-executive directors at the nonprofit Women’s Law Project. Bass is the Law Project’s policy and advocacy director; she is also a steering committee member of Organized Voices for Action, a group devoted to advancing measures to combat maternal mortality. Frietsche, a senior staff attorney, joined the Women’s Law Project in 1992 and is the founding director of its Western Pennsylvania office. She provides legal services for the commonwealth’s 17 freestanding abortion facilities and teaches reproductive law and policy at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
As executive director of the Philadelphia Bail Fund, Salih Israil serves as both savior and inspiration for those caught up in the criminal justice system. Despite spending two decades incarcerated, Israil became a software engineer, earned degrees in literature and urban ministry and built a career in social justice work. Having managed a $4.6 million bail relief program at New York’s Envision Freedom Fund, Israil last year took over leadership of the Philadelphia Bail Fund, a six-year-old outfit that has freed nearly 1,000 people.
As dean of Widener University’s Commonwealth Law School, Michael Hussey champions hands-on initiatives that engage students with current and future clients. Hussey, an associate professor and an expert in tax, estate and business law, founded the school’s business advising program and also serves as faculty director for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which pairs aspiring attorneys with lower-income taxpayers. He has been recognized as the law school’s teacher of the year.
Appointed by Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, Krysia Kubiak brings a wealth of public- and private-sector experience to her role as city solicitor, where she leads the law department. Befitting the chief legal officer in a city known for cutting-edge technology, Kubiak previously worked on policy around solar energy, electric vehicles and sustainability at Duquesne Light Company, where she was director of state regulatory strategy and government affairs. She is a former litigator who began her career as a deputy district attorney in Colorado.
Middle Eastern and Islamic law specialist Haider Ala Hamoudi is the interim dean at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Having previously served as vice dean, Hamoudi now oversees the law school’s curriculum, budget and strategic planning. He is also the editor-in-chief of Arab Law Quarterly, that field’s definitive publication, and a professor whose expertise in constitutionalism has been sought out for the Iraqi legislature’s Constitutional Review Committee, where he consulted at the behest of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Keith Herbster was appointed chief counsel to the governor’s office of administration in January, having previously served as acting chief counsel. He has worked in the Office of Chief Counsel for over two decades, providing guidance on labor and employment issues and serving in deputy and assistant roles at the commonwealth’s official law agency. Prior to that, Herbster was an assistant counsel with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board.
Trial attorney Thomas Smith has been a fixture at K&L Gates’ Pittsburgh office for nearly four decades – yet the biggest shift during his tenure came recently, with the landmark addition of a team of corporate and private equity attorneys from Dentons Cohen & Grigsby. As K&L Gates’ Pittsburgh managing partner and co-managing partner for its U.S. offices, Smith founded a practice group focused on digitally archived data and has secured numerous high-profile victories, including a $40 million U.S. jury verdict in a 2016 defamation case.
Executive Vice President Tom McGough heads legal strategy at UPMC, Pennsylvania’s largest non-governmental employer. Prior to shepherding the massive health care system through the legal challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the health system’s ongoing expansion, McGough was a partner at Reed Smith, where he served on the executive committee and chaired the litigation department. McGough has also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and, during the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, served as associate counsel to the U.S. Senate investigating committee.
Pennsylvania’s Superior Court is headed by Jack Panella, who joined in 2004 and was elected president judge in 2019. The onetime Northampton County solicitor and trial judge, who served on both the Pennsylvania Judicial Conduct Board and the Court of Judicial Discipline, is working on a book about boxing legends – including former world heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, whom he once represented.
After serving for more than 20 years on the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Renee Cohn Jubelirer was elected president in 2022. She previously served as vice chair of the Judicial Conduct Board and co-chaired the Supreme Court’s Commission on Judicial Independence. Jubelirer, who was editor of the law review at Northwestern University School of Law, is a master emeritus of the James S. Bowman American Inns of Court. Jubelirer will be a judicial force to be reckoned with for some time: Her term runs until 2032.
Since being named acting executive director of ACLU of Pennsylvania in January, Claire Landau has continued the storied organization’s struggle for civil rights and liberties with a state-level focus on decarceration, policing reform and voting rights. Prior to joining ACLU-PA, Landau spent seven years as the chief of staff to Philadelphia’s Board of Education. Her work combined administration and public policy roles; a highlight was leading the board’s transition from state- to city-controlled governance.
Based in Pittsburgh, Pete Fuscaldo serves as managing partner of Leech Tishman, a full-service national law firm where he also chairs the management committee. Fuscaldo is a member of both the firm’s tax group and its corporate practice group, where he co-leads the general counsel group. He assists clients with a variety of business issues, from strategic transactions, acquisitions and dispositions to venture capital funding and complex restructurings.
Lauren Harrington is senior vice president and general counsel for Aramark, the Philadelphia food service giant she joined as assistant general counsel in 2006. Assuming her current post four years ago, Harrington steered Aramark through the murky legal waters of COVID-19 protocols. Within the legal department, she created a new federal government affairs group to advocate for flexible policy around school meals during a period of largely remote learning.
As women collectively advance in the legal profession, their advocate in the Allegheny region is the Women’s Bar Association of Western Pennsylvania, headed by Melissa Ruggiero and Jacqueline E. Faulds. They lead an organization that champions women lawyers and holds courts accountable for equality.
Ruggiero is an attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services’ elder law program, where she challenges benefit denials for seniors and Social Security recipients. Previously, she represented indigent defendants at the Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel. Also in Pittsburgh, Jaclyn Faulds is Houston Harbaugh’s director of business law; she does pro bono work and is involved with numerous arts nonprofits.
Trial lawyer John Donovan serves as the Philadelphia-based regional managing partner at Wilson Elser, a national defense litigation firm, which was founded in 1944 and is headquartered in New York City. Donovan specializes in liability, toxic tort, transportation and construction law cases, arguing before courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He has also taught at several area law schools – including, currently, Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, where he created a program on trial and pretrial issues.
Few people know courts and cases like Max Mitchell, the Pennsylvania bureau chief for Law.com. Mitchell, an award-winning legal reporter, has covered topics from state appellate courts to Philadelphia’s personal injury landscape and the law firm business world. He currently oversees the daily publication and local engagement for Law.com’s Pennsylvania publications, including The Legal Intelligencer and the Pennsylvania Law Weekly. Along with an overhaul of The Legal’s Young Lawyer Editorial Board, Mitchell also recently worked on an election-ready Q&A database of Pennsylvania’s judicial candidates.
Political lawyer Adam Bonin oversees a boutique solo practice advising party entities, unions and Democratic candidates – including Gov. Josh Shapiro, for whom he has served as counsel for over a decade – on elections, campaign finance and lobbying. Most recently, Bonin helped the Pennsylvania House Democratic Campaign Committee secure its majority for Speaker Joanna McClinton. Bonin, a champion of voting rights impact litigation, volunteers widely, including as an advocate for civil legal aid with the Leaders Council of the Legal Services Corporation.
Criminology and sentencing expert Mark Bergstrom leads the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing – the agency of Pennsylvania’s General Assembly responsible for sentencing, parole and correctional practices. Bergstrom, who began his career as a probation officer, assumed his current role in 1998 and also serves on the State College Police Civil Service Commission. Bergstrom teaches corrections and sentencing at the Duquesne School of Law and at Villanova’s law school, where he is involved with the annual Villanova Sentencing Workshop.
Jahlee Hatchett focuses on civil rights and municipal liability at Marshall Dennehey, where he is an associate in the professional liability group. He is also the current president of the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia and serves on Philadelphia’s Citizen Police Oversight Commission. The Philadelphia native, who also holds a master’s in organizational development and leadership from Saint Joseph’s University, is an alumnus of Leadership Philadelphia and was named one of Philadelphia’s most influential African Americans by The Philadelphia Tribune.
Lisa Benzie directs the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, an organization advocating for the interests of trial lawyers and their clients. Under Benzie’s leadership, the association coordinates internships through its Diverse Mentoring Initiative and maintains specialty practice forums around such topics as civil rights, nursing home litigation, automobile law, employment, medical malpractice and diversity, equity and inclusion. Benzie, a civil litigator, is known for representing plaintiffs in workers compensation and medical malpractice cases.
The commonwealth’s defendants have a champion in Julia Burke, an attorney who currently serves as president of the Public Defenders Association of Pennsylvania. Burke, the first assistant public defender in Blair County, has held several leadership positions with the association, winning its president’s award in 2016. She handles a variety of criminal cases and mentors new attorneys at her Blair County office, where, as a mental health specialist, she developed a crisis intervention training curriculum for local law enforcement.
Elizabeth Chiappetta crusades for the less fortunate on multiple fronts. As president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, she heads a 55-year-old organization that champions the legal system’s role in seeking redress for victims. As the first female partner at Robert Peirce & Associates, a Pittsburgh personal injury firm, Chiappetta specializes in nursing home abuse and personal injury cases. She also coordinates the Long Term Care Clinic, the signature project of the Pittsburgh Pro Bono Partnership.
Since 2020, Rida Haq has overseen Philadelphia VIP, the pro bono legal services organization affiliated with the Philadelphia Bar Association. In this role, Haq connects the city’s top attorneys with their fellow Philadelphians in need of assistance on a range of issues, including small business assistance, family matters, employment and, particularly lately, real estate title disputes. Haq also coordinates partnerships with other legal entities and nonprofits and has broadened VIP’s attorney recruitment. Prior to her current post, she was the organization’s director of volunteer engagement.
At the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, executive director Su Ming Yeh leads efforts to protect the civil rights of incarcerated Pennsylvanians. During the pandemic, Yeh has led high-profile legal efforts to seek redress for substandard health care in commonwealth jails – including a case against the Philadelphia Department of Prisons. Yeh also serves on the boards of the Asian Pacific Bar Association of Pennsylvania and the Defender Association of Philadelphia.
As COO for the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association and Institute, Allison Hrestak oversees daily operations and administration and is also the association’s director of training and membership services. Hrestak’s long career in public service includes previous stints as press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Office of Communications and Press under the administrations of Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Republican Gov. Tom Ridge.
After a two-year hiatus, Celeste Trusty recently returned to FAMM as its Pennsylvania State Director. In the interim, Trusty spent a year as political director for John Fetterman’s successful Senate campaign. She also served as secretary of the state Board of Pardons, where Trusty oversaw implementation of the PA Marijuana Pardon Project, expediting pardons for past marijuana-related convictions. She was previously appointed by then-Gov. Tom Wolf to serve on the Judicial Conduct Board of Pennsylvania.
NEXT STORY: The 2023 Pride Power 100