whos_next

Who’s Next in the Law: 18 young leaders making a difference in Philly’s legal community

Who’s Next in the Law

The laws, court decisions and politics that shape this city every day are in many ways thanks to young attorneys and legal professionals. There’s people like Deborah Gordon Klehr, a vehement advocate for public education policy who runs an organization that fights in court for funding and access for all children.

And then there are those like Kevin Harden, a young attorney and former prosecutor who was on the team that implemented policies in South Philly that were contributing factors in huge decreases in homicide rates. There’s Jesse Krohn, who represents and advises teenage parents in the city and Erin Lamb, who helps mobilize millennials toward social justice in their communities.

Billy Penn is recognizing these people and some of their peers as outstanding young leaders in the Philadelphia legal community as this month’s version of Who’s Next. They’re the movers and shakers in the law, and the people who were nominated as the next generation of legal professionals in this city.

We plan to continue featuring some of the city’s best young leaders. We have some ideas, but your feedback is essential — please reach out to contact@billypenn.com with “Who’s Next” in the subject line to suggest other topics or nominations you’d like us to consider.

Here’s Who’s Next in shaping Philadelphia’s legal community:

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1. Steve Auerbach

Age: 30

Job: Founder of The Law Office of Steven Auerbach

Who’s Next Because: In addition to founding his own law firm, Steve is at the forefront of the marijuana legalization process and the legal implications for businesses that could come. He regularly advises state and local officials about what medical or recreational legalization could mean, including Sen. Daylin Leach and Sen. Mike Folmer, who drafted SB3 — the current medical marijuana legalization bill that passed the Senate and is sitting in the House. Steve’s firm became one of the first in Pennsylvania devoted to serving regulated-substances clients, and has represented a number of people across the state who are interested in opening dispensaries, should it become legal. He drafted the suggested ethics opinion to the Pennsylvania Bar Association that would expressly allow members to freely practice this area or law, and he also serves as the executive director of the Cannabis Growers Association of Pennsylvania.

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2. Meghan Claiborne

Age: 28

Job: Associate at Duane Morris LLP

Who’s Next Because: Currently practicing in the area of litigation at Duane Morris, Claiborne is an active participant in her firm’s pro bono efforts, including volunteering for the Support Center for Child Advocates and participating in her firm’s Prisoner Civil Rights program. Those who know Meghan described her as in-tune and concerned about what’s happening in the city. A Georgia native, Meghan is an honors graduate of both the University of Georgia, where she received dual degrees in History and Economics, and the Emory University School of Law. While in school, she was co-founder of the Emory Corporate Governance and Accountability Review. 

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3. Jennifer Segal Coatsworth

Age: 37

Job: Associate at Margolis Edelstein

Who’s Next Because: Jennifer has litigated hundreds of motor vehicle, dealer fraud and lemon law cases and also focuses on defense of professionals, including real estate agents, home inspectors, accountants and physicians. She’s mentored dozens of other attorneys as part of the Brandeis Law Society, and is currently serving as Parliamentarian for the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Board of Governors following a three-year elected term. Before that, Jennifer was active in the Association’s Young Lawyer’s Division, serving as secretary and vice chair. She’s a member of the Executive Councils of both the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel and the Brandeis Law Society, and is also active with the Pennsylvania Bar Association where she serves in the House of Delegates. 

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4. Ian A. Doherty

Age: 36

Job: Associate at White and Williams LLP

Who’s Next Because: Ian focuses on general corporate, transactional and securities law matters and advises his clients on mergers, debt financing and a variety of issues related to corporate and commercial matters. A client described Ian as someone who shows “genuine concern” for clients and a dedication to working through issues in an expedient way. The client added: “In a world of ‘hired gun’ attorneys, Ian has stood out among a number of attorneys we have worked with at top firms as being a problem solver and champion for his clients.” He graduated in 2006 from Duke University, where he was a member of the Duke Journal of General Law and Policy.

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5. Jim Engler

Age: 30

Job: Policy Director at Kenney 2015

Who’s Next Because: Jim, a 2013 graduate of Temple, began working in then-Councilman Jim Kenney’s office as director of legislation shortly after graduation. In two years there, Jim crafted legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, reform and restructure demolition and construction safety regulations after the building collapse at 22nd and Market and help protect Philadelphia’s undocumented immigrant population by ending the city’s cooperation with ICE holds. While on the senior staff at Kenney’s campaign for mayor, Jim produced seven major policy papers with more than 80 pages of policy proposals and ideas. His work helped lead Kenney to win the May 19 mayoral primary. Find him on Twitter at @jimrengler.

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6. Matthew Fontana

Age: 30

Job: Labor and employment lawyer at Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney

Who’s Next Because: Matthew specializes in representing employers involved in labor disputes, collective bargaining and employment litigation, including employment discrimination. In addition to working in state and federal court, Matthew has represented employers before agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. He’s also active in the pro-bono community, handling matters for Philadelphia VIP and the SeniorLAW Center. Outside his legal practice, Matthew co-founded millennial-focused political action committee Philly Set Go. He’s also a board member of Children’s Village, a premier early education provider, and the Delaware Valley Chapter of the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association. Find him on Twitter at @PhillyMatthew.

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7. Kevin Harden

Age: 29

Job: Attorney with Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC.

Who’s Next Because: A former prosecutor, Kevin now practices in the White Collar Defense and Internal Investigations practice group at his firm. Before joining Eckert Seamans, Kevin directed investigations on an organized crime task force created by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. It implemented the “Focused Deterrence” program in South Philadelphia, which was credited as a contributing factor to Philadelphia’s 47-year-low homicide tally in 2014. Outside his law practice, Kevin holds leadership positions with a number of organizations including the Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males. He also volunteers as a reading mentor with the Philadelphia Reads program and as a self-defense instructor for domestic violence victims and teenage girls in his role as a co-captain of the Philadelphia National Karate Team.

deborah klehr
8. Deborah Gordon Klehr

Age: 37

Job: Executive Director of the Education Law Center

Who’s Next Because: Recently named the executive director of the state’s Education Law Center, Deborah has nearly a decade of experience in education law and policy issues, including fairness in school discipline, equal access to education for at-risk students, and fair funding for public education. The ELC is the only statewide legal advocacy group working to make sure all Pennsylvania’s children have access to quality public schools, and is most known as being one of the parties suing the state for what they deem inadequate funding of PA’s public schools. A graduate of both Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Deborah now oversees attorneys and staff members fighting for fair education funding and working to ensure equal access for vulnerable students. The ELC also works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline through individual advocacy, litigation, and coalition-building. Follow her on Twitter at @DGKlehr.

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9. Jesse Krohn

Age: 31

Job: Staff attorney in the Family Law Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance

Who’s Next Because: Jesse, who was nominated for her extensive work with teenage parents in Philadelphia, is a staff attorney in the Family Law Unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance. There, she works with low-income parents’ child custody, support and domestic violence cases. A former high school teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, Jesse is responsible for the Family Law Unit’s services to teen parents, and was previously awarded a Skadden Fellowship for her work in the area. Jesse is a graduate of Penn Law, holds a Masters Degree from Penn’s Graduate School of Education, and is a Harvard graduate.

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10. Erin Lamb

Age: 31

Job: Associate in the catastrophic loss group at Rawle & Henderson

Who’s Next Because: Erin’s practice involves the defense of complex actions with high exposure for injuries including death, traumatic brain injury, quadriplegia, paraplegia, loss of limb and property loss. She cut her teeth as clerk for the Honorable Annette M. Rizzo (Ret.) and worked closely with the judge and the courts in the Residential Mortgage Foreclosure Division program. She is chair-elect of the Young Lawyers’ Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association, the Bar’s largest division with over 2,900 young attorneys. Erin served this year as chair of Law Week, a week of Bar Association civics events pairing the legal community and Philadelphia schoolchildren ages 8 and up. She formally takes over the YLD chair position in January 2016 and plans an agenda centered around social justice, civics, and connecting young lawyers with the greater Philadelphia community. She also serves on the board of directors of SeniorLAW Center, a legal services organization dedicated to Philadelphia seniors, one in five of whom live in poverty and who make up almost 20 percent of the city’s population.

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11. Michael Scott Leonard

Age: 32

Job: Senior legal correspondent and senior attorney editor for Westlaw Journals

Who’s Next Because: A Northwestern-trained lawyer who’s passed the New York bar, Mike now lives in Philadelphia and work as a legal journalist for Westlaw Journals, a Thomson Reuters legal-news outlet that publishes straight to Westlaw, the country’s largest legal-resources site. He covers health law, pharmaceuticals and class actions, with a special focus on litigation involving Obamacare, Medicare/Medicaid, abortion rights and medical marijuana. (Click here for an example.) Mike graduated in 2012 from Northwestern University School of Law, where he was an associate editor for the Law Review. Before that, he received a Master’s from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and was a desk editor and features writer for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.

hadji moulemlian
12. Hadji Alexander Maloumian

Age: 31

Job: Legislative Aide to Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown

Who’s Next Because: Hadji has helped craft legislation including Philadelphia’s hate crimes ordinance and bills establishing energy benchmarking standards. Prior to joining Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown’s staff, Hadji served as Legislative Counsel to City Councilman Bill Green before his appointment to the School Reform Commission. While there, Hadji drafted gift rules to prevent undue influence on City Council members and staff. Hadji is a 2010 graduate of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law, and when he’s not working on Council’s agenda, Hadji volunteers with Big Brother’s Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania and is a member of the East Falls Community Council. Find him on Twitter at @hamaloumian.

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13. Lisa Margulies

Age: 32

Job: Assistant Public Defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia

Who’s Next Because: An assistant public defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia since 2013, Lisa represents low-income clients facing criminal charges in state court proceedings. After graduating from Columbia, Lisa taught math in New York City Public Schools as a New York City Teaching Fellow and then worked in human rights in Cambodia. She moved to Philadelphia to attend Penn Law as a Toll Public Interest Scholar. During law school, Lisa worked for the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic at Philadelphia Legal Assistance and founded the Women’s Re-entry Legal Services project to provide services to women with criminal convictions — she now serves there as a supervising attorney. Lisa was most recently recognized by the Brandeis Law Society, which awarded her the Young Lawyer Public Service Award earlier this year.

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14. Amber Racine

Age: 33

Job: Attorney at Raynes McCarty

Who’s Next Because: At personal injury firm Raynes McCarty, Amber represents catastrophically injured plaintiffs in product liability, premises liability and general negligence actions. In addition to her work within the firm, Amber served last year as president of The Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia, where she formed “pipeline partnerships” with several local non-profits in order to encourage students to further their education and pursue careers in the law. This year, she was appointed co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Women in the Profession Committee, which is aimed at addressing issues related to the careers and advancement of women in the practice of law in the Philadelphia area. Find her on Twitter at @ambermracine.

©Allure West Studios.

©Allure West Studios.

 15. Gregory L. Seltzer

Age: 38

Job: Partner in the Business and Finance Department of Ballard Spahr LLP

Who’s Next Because: Gregory specializes in public and private merger and acquisition transactions, as well as venture capital and private equity financing transactions. He represents large public corporations in complex transactions, but also represents several of the most high profile start-up and middle-market businesses in Philadelphia. He was nominated by colleagues largely for his role as the lead attorney advising and negotiating for the mayor’s office as it navigated a potential deal to sell Philadelphia Gas Works for nearly $2 billion. Greg was the only lawyer from Philadelphia selected as a national 40 Under 40 winner by M&A Advisor in 2014, and prior to becoming a lawyer, Gregory was a Certified Public Accountant and obtained an MBA. Outside his work as an attorney, he serves on the board of the Mann Music Center.

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16. Steve Silver

Age: 28

Job: Litigation associate at McBreen & Kopko

Who’s Next Because: A former reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, Steve is now a litigation associate at McBreen & Kopko where, in addition to premises liability cases, he also practices sports and gaming law and run a sports law blog called The Legal Blitz. His writing on sports and gaming law has been featured by the Huffington Post, Deadspin, Above the Law, the Philadelphia Business Journal, the Legal Intelligencer and the World Sports Law Report. This past year, he was successful in overturning a decision by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association barring a world-renowned Jamaican track star from competing in the Penn Relays, and he testified in front of the South Carolina Senate Higher Education Subcommittee in support of a bill to create post-graduate trust funds for NCAA student-athletes. Find him on Twitter at @TheLegalBlitz.

billy smith
17. Billy J. Smith

Age: 40

Job: Special Counsel, Office of General Counsel, SEPTA

Who’s Next Because: In conjunction with the General and Deputy General Counsel, Billy provides legal representation to SEPTA, the sixth-largest metropolitan mass transit agency in the country. As special counsel, he ensures and monitor the integrity of legal budgets, advises and collaborates with outside counsel, and develops case management, litigation and trial theories. He advises and represents SEPTA in matters involving contracts, human resources, property, government relations, collective bargaining and equal employment opportunity issues. In the past, Billy served as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and narrowly lost a run for the state House of Representatives last year in Delaware County. A political insider who nominated Billy speculated he would one day be Pennsylvania’s first black U.S. senator. He’s currently raising two sons in Lansdowne, where he formerly served as a Borough Councilperson, and presently serve as a Member of the fundraising arm of the Lansdowne Economic Development Committee. Find him on Twitter at @thatbillysmith.

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18. Jillian Thornton Flax

Age: 32

Job: Member in Cozen O’Connor’s commercial litigation department

Who’s Next Because: An experienced litigator, Jillian focuses her practice on products liability defense and general commercial litigation. She acts as national coordinating and trial counsel for a global consumer products manufacturer in products liability cases and, in representing this company in a multi-million dollar wrongful death jury trial this year, Jillian secured a complete defense victory for her client. She also represents private and public companies and individuals in complex commercial litigation cases involving breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and shareholder and partnership disputes. She was chosen by Cozen O’Connor to serve as a prosecutor with the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office from 2012 to 2013. Jillian graduated from Harvard Law School in 2008 and went to University of Pittsburgh for her undergraduate degree. Find her on Twitter at @JThorntonEsq.

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