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Top Lawyers 2009

The area’s best in 12 specialties.

By Shannon Hallamyer

Referrals speak volumes. After hundreds of attorneys from Bala Cynwyd to Downingtown offered their opinions on who’s the best among their peers, a select 12 garnered the most votes. So here they are—along with an inside look at how each made it to the top of their game.

For a full list of this year's Top Lawyers nominations, click here.
 

Photo by Shane McCauleyReal Estate Law:
Scott R. Reidenbach

Reidenbach & Associates, LLC, Radnor Financial Center, 150 N. Radnor-Chester Road, Suite F-200, Radnor, (610) 977-2025, reidenbachlaw.com

Years in practice: 11

Education: J.D., Widener University School of Law (1997)

Worth knowing: When Scott Reidenbach was growing up in Lancaster, he thought he’d become a writer, a newscaster or a teacher like his dad. “But when everyone is telling you, ‘You’d be a great lawyer,’ you start to listen,” he says.

Today, Reidenbach relishes the success of his 2-year-old firm. It likely has something to do with his respect for deadlines and the firm’s sophisticated dealings with leaders in various industries, from banking to retail. Or it could be something more basic. “At heart, I’m a country boy,” says Reidenbach. “I’m cognizant of how small the big old world is, and that what comes around goes around. I prefer to work with people instead of working against them.”
 

Photo by Shane McCauleyLabor Law (Employees):
Julie A. Uebler

Rubin, Fortunato & Harbison, PC,
10 S. Leopard Road, Paoli, (610) 408-2000, rubinfortunato.com


Years in practice: 15

Education: J.D., Georgetown University Law Center (1993)

Worth knowing: After 10 years of representing employers, Julie Uebler switched sides in 2003. Three years later, she took on a racial harassment case no one else would touch, negotiating a significant settlement for her client. “I thought it had merit, and the harassment egregious,” she says. “In employment law, the work we do is financially riskier than defense work (because it’s done on a contingency-fee basis). But if you take the risk, you can get good results.”

Uebler prides herself on her practical approach to employment disputes, presenting realistic options, plus the costs and benefits of those options. Her reward: referrals, referrals, referrals.
 

Photo by Shane McCauleyCriminal Defense:
Vincent P. DiFabio

Platt, DiGiorgio & DiFabio, 1800 E. Lancaster Ave., Second Floor, Paoli, (610) 647-7500, pddlaw.net

Years in practice: 31

Education: J.D., Villanova University School of Law (1978)

Worth knowing: In the early 1990s, Dale Brison’s future hinged on Vincent DiFabio’s handling of what would become a landmark case. Charged with rape, the indigent Brison couldn’t afford DNA testing to prove his innocence. The result: a conviction at trial.


In an appeal, DiFabio argued that no one should be denied testing because they can’t afford it—and that the state should pay the tab. The court agreed. Brison was tested, and in 1993, he was exonerated. “It was a hard-fought case,” says DiFabio. “The issue was novel, and it set a precedent in the state for indigent individuals. I still get calls on that case from around the country.”
 

Photo by Shane McCauleyFamily Law: Gregory P. LaMonaca

The Law Office of Gregory P. LaMonaca, PC, 755 N. Monroe St., Media, (610) 892-3877, lamonacalaw.com

Years in practice: 15

Education: J.D., Widener University School of Law (1994)

Worth knowing:
In 2005, Gregory LaMonaca was in his physical prime, practicing martial arts and bodybuilding regularly. Then one of the many unexplained benign tumors he’d developed as a teenager upset his spine, causing paralysis. The next five months comprised a tumultuous—but successful—recovery for LaMonaca, inspiring a chapter of The Brutally Honest Life Management Journal, co-written by his partner, James Grim, and due out this year. The book broadens the reach of a three-step soul-searching, journal-writing process LaMonaca has used with his clients for years. “We put a proactive, goal-oriented plan in effect for them to address all their fears and concerns,” he says. “That’s our goal—to take them to a point of empowerment, so they can feel good about themselves and move forward.”
 

Photo by Shane McCauleyDivorce Law: Kate Vetrano

Vetrano & Vetrano, 455 S. Gulph Road, Suite 410, King of Prussia; (610) 265-4441, vetranolaw.com

Years in practice: 29

Education: J.D., Widener University School of Law (1980)

Worth knowing: Every Christmas, Kate Vetrano’s office is flooded with cards from the families who’ve found post-divorce happiness thanks to her good work. “I believe in finding solutions that meet the needs of all the family members,” she says. “The mother and father will always be the mother and father, and the family will always be a family, if the parents divorce. I like to help people see their way to the other side.”

To Vetrano, an amicable divorce means resolving all issues out of court, keeping animosity and costs in check. “A good family lawyer is one who doesn’t fuel the fire or the rage of the divorce,” she says. “I love it when parents tell me they were both at the soccer game after the divorce watching their child.”
 

Personal Injury Litigation:
Timothy F. Rayne

MacElree Harvey, Ltd., 211 E. State St., Kennett Square, (610) 840-0124, macelree.com

Years in practice: 14

Education: J.D., Widener University School of Law (1995); LL.M., Temple University Beasley School of Law (2008)

Worth knowing: When a motorcyclist was thrown from his bike after a collision with a pickup truck, Timothy Rayne wasn’t there to catch him. But when the victim needed representation, Rayne had his back. Both parties were insured, but it wasn’t enough for his client, who fractured both legs and a wrist. “Most attorneys would’ve been satisfied with securing the insurance payment, but my goal is to obtain full and fair compensation,” says Rayne. “I felt a payment from the driver’s personal assets was warranted.”
 

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Photo by Shane McCauleyMedical Malpractice (Patients): Leonard A. Sloane

Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, PC,
344 W. Front St., Media, (610) 565-3700, eckellsparks.com


Years in practice: 34

Education: J.D., Villanova University School of Law (1975)

Worth knowing: The case Leonard Sloane is most proud of has nothing to do with his specialty, but everything to do with his remarkable persistence. After 19-year-old Jenny Ann Parton was killed in a car accident, the insurance company for the opposing party in the lawsuit claimed that, because she had reading and learning disabilities, she would’ve never had a notable career or high-paying job. As it turns out, she was a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership ambassador, and a member of the student government, the National Honor Society and Students Against Drunk Driving. “With this ammunition, I was successful in making a full recovery for the family,” Sloane says.

The Partons even set up a scholarship program for learning-disabled students at the three schools their daughter had attended.
 

Trusts and Estates: William “Chip” Mackrides

Mackrides Associates, 755 N. Monroe St., Media, (610) 565-6688, mackrideslaw.com

Years in practice: 30

Education: J.D., Loyola University of Law (1979)

Worth knowing: Three 11-year-olds are throwing fists, two on one. Eight-year-old Chip Mackrides dives in with some “well-placed” kicks, then lays out the cons of continuing and the pros of shaking hands and going home. Amazingly, he wins. “I’ve always had an even disposition and a penchant for protecting people,” says Mackrides. “Now I actually get paid for it.”

More recently, when a cemetery demanded a fee to locate the remains of an indigent family’s long-deceased mother, Mackrides suggested they threaten to file for “theft of a corpse.” He won again.
  

Workers’ Compensation Law:
David R. Cherry

Cherry, Fieger & Marciano, LLP,
11 E. Second St., Media, (888) 684-2374, cherryfieger.com


Years in practice: 14

Education: J.D., Widener University School of Law (1995); LL.M., Temple University Beasley School of Law (1999)

Worth knowing: Back in 2000, a mishap on the job led to a nightmare scenario for a private-school janitor after a locker fell on his foot. Diabetes complicated what should’ve been a minor injury, resulting in the amputation of his left leg below the knee and toes on both feet. The janitor’s employer tried to pin his problems on the “natural progression of his pre-existing diabetic condition.”

The judge disagreed—thanks, in large part, to some brilliant work by David Cherry. “I was able to negotiate a significant settlement for him, which included the loss of his left leg,” he says.
 

Personal Bankruptcy:
Robert E. O’Connor

Law Offices of Robert E. O’Connor,
755 N. Monroe St., Media, (610) 566-1110, oconnorlawoffices.com


Years in practice:
13

Education: M.B.A., J.D., Widener University (1996)

Worth knowing: “Unfortunately, a lot of what I do is not always happy stuff,” says Robert O’Connor. “People in my area don’t usually come to me because they won the lottery and need an attorney to help them safeguard [their money].”

In his efforts to get as much unsecured consumer debt as possible discharged, O’Connor does what he can to reduce the emotional toll on clients anxious to move forward with their lives. “What might legally seem like a good outcome might not always seem like that to the client,” he says. “I try to put myself in their shoes.”
 

Photo by Shane McCauleyEnvironmental Law: Joe Manko

Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP,
401 City Ave., Suite 500, Bala Cynwyd,
(484) 430-2310, mgkflaw.com


Years in practice: 45

Education: J.D., Harvard Law School (1964)

Worth knowing: In September 1989, Joe Manko put his name to a firm that’s grown to include 28 lawyers and two engineers. Before that, he served as the Mid-Atlantic region’s general council for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the ’70s. These days, Manko is Gov. Ed Rendell’s designee to chair the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority. He’s worked with Liberty Property Trust and other developers to green numerous developments, and he’s turned hundreds of contaminated sites into usable areas since 1995.

“I’m used to getting things done,” Manko says. “What’s made the difference is figuring out how to solve a problem that others haven’t.”
 

Tax Law: Ernest D. Palmarella

Palmarella, Curry & Kelly, PC,
1255 Drummers Lane, Suite 105, Wayne,
(610) 687-1100, palmarellacurry.com


Years in practice: 26

Education: J.D., Widener University School of Law (1978); LL.M., Temple University Beasley School of Law (1982)

Worth knowing: Eighteen years ago, Ernest Palmarella started a tax, estate and corporate specialty firm to address the “type of work that was handled primarily by the large Center City firms,” he says. “It reflects my philosophy of providing quality, cost-effective and timely services to our clients.”

As a result, Palmarella has developed long-term relationships with a client base that includes mostly business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs.


For a full list of this year's Top Lawyers nominations, click here.