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Tad LeVan, '95 Opens LeVan Law Group


Peter H. "Tad" LeVan, Jr.

LeVan Law Group Takes Boutique Approach In Making the Billable Hour Obsolete

(Philadelphia, PA) – A new Philadelphia law firm has opened based on an innovative industry model that eschews the billable hour in favor of flat fee and contingency arrangements: LeVan Law Group LLC is located on the 27th floor of One Logan Square at 18th & Cherry Streets, and can be reached at (215) 561-1500.

“The billable hour has long been the industry standard for high-stakes litigation matters,” noted founder Peter H. “Tad” LeVan, Jr.  “But the billable hour model is broken. It rewards delay and inefficiency, rather than the contrary, and it causes massive financial unpredictability for the client.

More troublingly, it places the economic interests of the attorney above the client, which is detrimental to creating a relationship that works best as a partnership.”

LeVan has launched the firm that bears his name on the premise that clients are entitled to high-quality litigation and appellate services provided under predictable fee arrangements.The firm offers flat-fees and other alternative fee structures (including partial and full contingency fees, collared arrangements, and other non-traditional fees).

A trial and appellate attorney well known in the area of high-stakes litigation, LeVan was formerly a partner with Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check in Radnor, Pennsylvania, where he acted as lead counsel for the firm’s "class of plans" securities lending litigation cases, representing some of the largest pension and retirement plans in the country against J.P. Morgan Chase and the Bank of New York Mellon. LeVan also acted as lead counsel in dozens of ERISA class actions brought against such Fortune 500 corporations as Ford, Merck, Schering-Plough, Bear Stearns, Lincoln Financial and Fifth-Third Bancorp, and was lead counsel for a class of upstate New York Taft-Hartley pension plans that suffered losses in connection with the Bernard Madoff fraud.  

In 2012, LeVan settled a handful of novel ERISA matters for nearly $700 million, including: Board of Trustees of the AFTRA Retirement Fund, et al. v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. (S.D.N.Y.) -- $150 million settlement (court-appointed lead counsel); CompSource Oklahoma, et al. v. BNY Mellon, N.A., et al. (W.D. Ok.) -- $280 million settlement (court-appointed co-lead counsel); and In re Beacon Associates Litigation (S.D.N.Y.) -- $219 million settlement (court-appointed ERISA lead counsel). In addition to trial work, LeVan acted as lead appellate counsel for the firm's highest-profile ERISA matters, arguing important cases before the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third and Sixth Circuits.

Prior to his work with Kessler Topaz, LeVan spent more than 10 years with Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin, where he was a shareholder and an elected member of the firm’s Board of Directors. While at Hangley, he first-chaired numerous jury and non-jury complex commercial litigation matters involving alleged breach of contract, patent infringement, non-compete agreements, theft of trade secrets, and breach of fiduciary duty, among others. He also represented then-Governor Rendell, Pennsylvania executive agencies, and the City of Philadelphia in several high-profile litigation matters involving alleged First Amendment retaliation, separation of power, constitutional authority, and agency rule-making. 

LeVan has been recognized as a Pennsylvania Super Lawyer, is an Academy of Advocacy Fellow, and is a recipient of the Equal Justice Award given by Community Legal Services of Philadelphia in recognition of his commitment to public interest law. LeVan is a former federal law clerk and holds a J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

LeVan is admitted to the bars of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York; the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Sixth and Federal Circuits; U.S. District Courts throughout the country and the Supreme Court of the United States. 

For more information, visit www.levanlawgroup.com.

 

Celebrating the Legacy of UC Law Graduate and Former Dean Samuel S. Wilson


The City of Cincinnati and the College of Law community lost a legend on June 25, 2014, when Dean Emeritus Samuel S. Wilson passed away at the age of 89. 

A native Cincinnatian, Dean Wilson received his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1947.  He returned to Cincinnati to work as a reporter for the Cincinnati Times-Star newspaper, and went on to serve as its Washington correspondent and associate editor of the editorial page.  When the Times-Star was acquired by the Cincinnati Post in 1958, Dean Wilson enrolled in the University of Cincinnati College of Law and served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review.  Graduating in 1961, he worked in private practice before returning to the law school as a member of the faculty in 1965.

Dean Wilson twice served as acting dean before serving a full term as dean (1974-1978).  Among his accomplishments were the securing of the funding for the major renovation and expansion of the College’s building and the development of clinical programs that provided practical experience for students while assisting people in need in the Cincinnati community.  After his deanship, he returned to teaching and studying law until his retirement in 1993.

Dean Wilson was very active in a number of Cincinnati civic organizations, including serving on the board of the Legal Aid Society of Cincinnati.  He and his wife Anne have been long-time supporters of the College of Law and particularly dedicated to its Law Review and the Domestic Violence Clinic.  In recognition of his accomplishments at the law school and in the community, Dean Wilson received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1994.

For many alumni of the College of Law, Dean Wilson is remembered as the personification of the lawyer, the professor, the professional, the law school – and even the law itself.  Many also affectionately remember him as “Judge Paul Trevor” on WCPO’s “Juvenile Court” – a television show that ran from 1975 to 1983 .  While Dean Wilson had no prior acting experience, the program quickly established itself as the top-rated show in its time slot for nearly five years.  Due to concerns over lawyer advertising, Dean Wilson’s name never appeared in the credits and most fans thought he was a real judge. 

The memorial service will be held on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. For more information about the service, as well as memorials, please review the obituary.

 

From the Courtroom to the Classroom Janet Moore Focuses on Policy Reform


Originally from Midland, Michigan, Professor Janet Moore had no expectation of attending law school and later teaching law.  “People had told me that I should go to law school, but I thought it would be boring,” said Moore.  But as she contemplated career paths she followed the Bork hearings.  Robert Bork was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1987, but his nomination was ultimately shot down in the Senate.  The fierceness of the debates opened Moore’s eyes to the immense importance of the U.S. legal system.  She attended law school at Duke University, graduating with not only a JD, but also a MA in Philosophy.  There she was the editor-in- chief of the Law and Contemporary Problems law review, the nation’s first interdisciplinary law journal. 

Professor Moore first became interested in criminal law during her criminal procedure course.  “I was astonished at how easy it was, and is, for the government to get its teeth in people’s hides, and not let go,” she shared.  During this time, she saw a friend’s husband go through the horrifying experience of being wrongly accused of child abuse.  “It was a strange time,” she said.  There was a hysteria that gripped the country around that time where such accusations were abundant.  Professor  Moore did not discount the seriousness of the crime of child abuse, but seeing a friend go through the experience of being wrongfully accused left a big impression on her as she was in the midst of her legal studies. 

After graduating she clerked with Judge James Dickson Phillips, Jr. on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.  During her clerkship, she saw a case come through the court on a man’s second habeas petition (essentially his last chance to get his conviction reviewed).  It was a case where there were some serious concerns about his competence to stand trial, his confession, and—ultimately—his guilt.  Moore emotionally recalled the moment where she found out the court would not vote for the petitioner, and she shared that it was at this point that she knew she did not want to be involved with the side of the system sentencing people to death.

Taking a Hiatus from Legal Work

Following her clerkship, Moore and her family spent a few years in France, near Paris.  This period was a hiatus from any legal work, during which she immersed herself in the taking care of her children as well as the French culture.  During this same period, the habeas petitioner mentioned above was exonerated and freed from prison. The example set by lawyers in that case and other death penalty cases led to Moore’s involvement with capital litigation. When Moore and her family returned to the US, she passed the bar and began looking for work, which she found at the Office of the Appellate Defender in Durham and Asheville, North Carolina.  She was immediately assigned defense appeals in death penalty cases.  As Moore began winning the cases, it turned into a career.  The experience she had with various cases she worked on while in North Carolina is something Moore is able to utilize in the classroom in her courses, including Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and Evidence.

After seven years working in North Carolina, Professor Moore and her family moved to Ohio, where she began working with the Ohio Justice and Policy Center concentrating on evidence-based criminal justice policy reform.  Her work focused on diverting the school-to-prison pipeline and other strategies to prevent criminal justice involvement at the front end rather than on appeals or post-conviction.  She also worked on matters regarding prison condition issues, including a class-action lawsuit focused on juvenile detention systems.  During this time she continued her own appellate and post-conviction defense practice.  After five years in Ohio, Professor Moore found herself at UC College of Law, first by helping to found the Indigent Defense Clinic, and later by becoming a professor at the College.

Empirical Research is the Foundation

Professor Moore is currently involved in numerous research projects.  One project involves co-chairing a task force on national discovery reform and drafting a model bill.  Additionally, she  is working to expanding the empirical research that she did with the assistance of some criminal justice researchers at Washington State University, using the Indigent Defense Clinic as a way to further that research.  “Every client that comes into the clinic is handed this ‘client’s bill of rights’,” explained Moore.  The “client’s bill of rights” explains what the clients can and should expect from their attorneys. 

Complementary research uses a client feedback survey, which was initially tested in Hamilton County, and may be expanded for use in Ohio, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington.   In addition to her research, Professor Moore works closely with her students and is involved with the Criminal Law Society, a student organization at the College of Law for students interested in criminal law practice.

Professor Kenneth Hirsh Recognized as a Top 50 Innovator in Law


Professor Ken Hirsh profile picture

Kenneth Hirsh, Director, Law Library and Information Technology and Professor of Practice, has been named a “2013 Fastcase 50” award recipient by legal publisher Fastcase. This award recognizes the top 50 innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law, as determined and chosen by Fastcase.  Noted Phil Rosenthal, president of Fastcase, in the announcement, “This is a notable moment for legal tech and the impact of these individuals are making on the shifting legal landscape...Along with the record number of nominees this year, we’re witnessing a rise in the boundary-pushers for big data, open government, and legal information.”

In addition to receiving this award, Hirsh was elected to the executive board of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). His three-year term commenced July 2013.

A prominent leader in two of the foremost organizations in his field—the AALL and the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), Professor Hirsh has a reputation as an innovator, using his legal education, practice background, and technical expertise to bring new technologies to students and faculty. He has been honored by both organizations for his outstanding service and contribution.

Professor Hirsh is a graduate of the University of Miami and received his JD from the University of Florida. After practicing law in Florida for several years, he returned to school to obtain his MS in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University. He then joined the Law Library at Duke University School of Law, serving in numerous positions. He also has served as a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke, teaching courses in legal research and technology.

Youth Court Diversion Program Successfully Launches; Law Students Gain Experience


troubled teenager

Cincinnati’s Youth Court – a diversion program for teens arrested for minor misdemeanors and who have already admitted guilt – successfully launched its pilot program on May 14, 2014. The program is a collaboration between CALL (Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers), a program sponsored by the Cincinnati Bar Association and Judge John John Williams of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court.

Rather than be heard before a judge in Juvenile Court, cases are presented to a jury of peers in Youth Court.   Youth Court pursues multiple goals at the same time.  First, it holds young people accountable for their actions by requiring them to accept responsibility and pay back the community.  Youth Court sanctions emphasize restoration, encouraging respondents to make amends through such actions as performing community service and writing letters of apology.  Second, Youth Court provides participants with experiential learning that is designed to complement classroom lessons about government.  Youth Court members learn first-hand how courts work, stepping into the role of jurors.

The program utilizes local attorneys and law student volunteers serving as “judges”, “prosecutors” and “defense counsel”.  The program debuted last week and is far exceeding expectations. Amanda Bleiler ’15, Simar Khera’15 and Melissa Schuett’14 helped launch the program by working with and advocating for the teens. Bleiler said, “I'm really excited that CALL is supporting the Youth Court program.  In my opinion the more specialty dockets Cincinnati has the better.  This is an especially important program because not only does it allow us law students to get involved and gain courtroom experience, it helps make these teenager’s first (and hopefully last) encounter with the criminal justice system a positive one that they can learn from.”  Additional College of Law students are slated to participate in upcoming hearings.

Youth Court is expected to last eight (8) sessions through August at the Youth Center, with the intent to continue as a formal program with fall, spring, and summer sessions thereafter.  For more information about the program or how to get involved, contact Katherine Miltner.

What Are You Doing Now?


Did You Know…according to the After the JD, an empirical study that gathered detailed data about the career outcomes for a national cohort of 5,000 Class of 2000 graduates, more than half changed jobs within five years of graduation.  Further:

* By 2012, 27.7% moved into the business sector compared to just 8.4% in 2003.

* By 2012, 24.1% were no longer practicing compared to 14.7% in 2003.

The College wants to know how our graduates compare to this national benchmark. Accordingly, if you are a 2011 or 2009 graduate please let the College know the positions you have held since graduation.  Please submit your response to updates@law.uc.edu by June 30, 2014.  Thanks for your help!

A View from the Other Side: Hilly McGahan’12 Talks About Working With Victims


Hilly McGahan

An often-overlooked side of criminal law is that of the victims.  The defendant hires or is appointed counsel, and the prosecution represents the state throughout the process, but the victims of crimes can find themselves left to their own devices on how to seek redress for the wrongs done to them.  Hilly McGahan ’12 is working to bolster the voice of victims in her work with victims of domestic violence.

McGahan  grew up in Arlee, a small, picturesque town in western Montana on the Flathead Indian Reservation.  Growing up, her parents were in the beekeeping business, and McGahan lived a rural, farming-style childhood.  During the summers she and her family worked on the farm, but when the long, cold winters came they travelled south – not just to Arizona or California, but to Mexico, and sometimes further south into South America.

Inspired by her travels, McGahan studied political science and Spanish in her undergraduate years at the University of Montana.  After graduating she spent a year working in northern Guatemala.  There she worked to support persons who had witnessed the military massacres that took place there, as they were to soon testify against the government.  McGahan’s experiences in her travels sparked her interest in human rights law.  As she looked at law schools, Cincinnati stood out because of the Urban Morgan Institute.

Having grown up in a rural lifestyle, Cincinnati was quite a change when she moved here for law school.  “I really grew to love Cincinnati,” she explained, though she admitted it took a while to adjust.   Findlay Market was one of her favorite Queen City destinations, and she said that she and her (then) boyfriend (now husband) took advantage of the “Enjoy the Arts” program that included numerous shows and cultural events that take place around the City.

Today, McGahan works at SAFE Harbor back home in Montana.  Formerly called DOVES, SAFE Harbor has a grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (part of the Department of Justice) to provide holistic legal services to victims of domestic violence on the Flathead Reservation and Lake County, Montana.  “The grant allows us to provide legal services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,” she explained.  Her work takes her to both state court and tribal court, and deals with tribal law, family law, and immigration law, as well as international law in some situations.  While she is the only staff attorney, SAFE Harbor contracts with a supervising attorney, and the organization also has a domestic violence shelter and a “Men’s Accountability Program” which provides court ordered services to men convicted of domestic violence related offences.

McGahan’s background and experiences travelling inspired her to do the work she’s doing today, but she also received inspiration from her time at the College of Law. She largely came to Cincinnati for the Urban Morgan Institute, and she was impressed with the program while she was there.  “I really enjoyed the group of people I worked with on Human Rights Quarterly,” she said.  Further, she was impressed with the speakers that the Urban Morgan Institute brought in, noting that she was particularly impacted by Professor Michelle Alexander’s (OSU’s Moritz law school) lecture on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  McGahan also valued her experience with UC Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic, which allowed her to represent clients in civil protection order hearings and to gain practical experience that prepared her for her current position.

When asked if she had any advice for students who may want to do similar work, she shared the following:  “Get lots of practical experience in law school (as much as you can), working with clients, dealing with people from different backgrounds – these experiences are really invaluable.  I think that focusing on what you are passionate about and on what sorts of communities you are interested in working with is important.  Ultimately passion will take you where you want to go, and employers can see that when they interview you.”

Giving Voice to the Voiceless: Carrie Wood Shares why she is a Public Defender


Carrie Wood

Formerly an Assistant Academic Director at the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) here with UC College of Law, Carrie Wood ’95 now works with the Ohio Public Defender in Columbus, Ohio.

Originally from Cincinnati, Wood studied engineering at Cornell University.  Before coming to UC for her legal studies, she spent three years as a professional equestrian, training horses, teaching students, and helping to run a 60 horse farm.  She had an interest in law school, however, and decided to return to Cincinnati to pursue her JD. Before starting school, though, she worked at Graydon Head for a year, giving her a birds-eye view of the profession she was about to enter.

Wood worked on several of the primary wrongful conviction cases in her three years at OIP.  Some of the issues involved were mistaken eyewitness identification, “un-validated” or improper forensic science, and informants.  “Although post-conviction DNA testing played a role in all of these cases, the causes of wrongful conviction do not go away if the case does not have evidence where DNA testing can help shed light on the identity of the perpetrator,” she explained while noting that the demonstration of innocence without DNA can be more difficult.  She said that the law students involved at OIP often work even harder in such cases, sharing that “it was a great experience for [her] as their supervisor to see the energy, drive, passion, and compassion the law students bring to their work on these cases.”

Now working with the Ohio Public Defender, Wood is returning to the type work she did before joining the OIP.  (She has prior experience as a public defender from her time working in the Bronx doing trial work.)  She learned a lot from OIP regarding DNA, false confessions, “junk science,” and some of the major flaws in the criminal justice system.  “It has always been important to me to work to correct flaws in our criminal justice system,” explained Wood, “and I saw the position at the Ohio Public Defender as an opportunity to continue and expand upon that work.”

“In order to work as a public defender, you have to have a passion for it,” she reflected, noting that the money is not much of an incentive.  She explained that, the way she sees it, criminal defense attorneys and public defenders are not quite one in the same.  “Some people do both – and do them well.  However, my primary purpose in going to law school was to work on behalf of people who didn’t have a voice or access to legal counsel.”  And this is what Carrie is able to do as a public defender.  “It can be difficult and draining work, but it was always helpful for me to have supporters and mentors to turn to when I had a difficult case or a difficult week in court.” 

In her spare time, Wood still rides horses, and also hopes to run a marathon this year.  Further, she has always had a passion for music, and admits she will miss the local music scene.  “Cincinnati’s larger music festivals are doing a great job of putting the city on the national music map; I will definitely be back in September to see the Afghan Whigs at Mid-point!”

Donnie Warner is Committed to Social Justice and Community Building


Graduate, community worker, and marathoner Donnie Warner has a strong commitment to social justice and community and personal transformation. With experiences that range from living on a Navajo reservation to training non-profit leaders through Public Allies Cincinnati to externing with the Indigent Defense Clinic, he will bring a distinctive viewpoint to the law.

Originally from Plymouth, Michigan, Donnie Warner is a member of the Class of 2014.   He attended DePaul University in Chicago for his undergraduate studies, graduating with a degree in English.  There he ran on the cross-country and track teams, captaining them both his senior year.

Following undergrad, Warner moved to Gallup, New Mexico to teach elementary school as a Teach For America Corps member.  There he would meet his wife, Kayla; they then lived on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico for two years.  When Warner learned that he had secured funding to pursue a master's degree, he moved to Cincinnati to study for a master's degree in creative writing (while teaching freshman English classes at the university).  He then spent two years with Public Allies Cincinnati, a leadership development program committed to developing diverse leaders for leadership positions in nonprofits and communities.  Warner explained his role there:  “As a program manager with Public Allies Cincinnati, I provided one-on-one coaching to individuals in the program and developed tracking tools to chart our impact throughout the Cincinnati community.”  By the time he decided to pursue a law degree, he had become committed to his work and the community. Thus, UC was a logical choice for the school to attend.

“As someone who is committed to social justice work and community-building, what I like about Cincinnati is that it is the ideal size for developing new ideas and models for transformation,” Warner explained about his affinity for the Queen City.  He continued,  “At the same time, the city is large enough to bring unique perspectives together to develop ideas.” He added that he also has an appreciation for Skyline, Graeter’s, the Reds, and other such things that are uniquely Cincinnati.

At the College of Law, Warner has been involved in several student organizations and programs, most notably the Freedom Center Journal (which he worked on for the past two years) and the Indigent Defense Clinic.  “Through the Indigent Defense Clinic, I received fantastic training through the office of the Hamilton County Public Defender,” said Warner of his experience.  With the clinic, his work affirmed his desire to focus on legal work that ultimately helps low income people achieve their desired outcomes.  “I came to learn these outcomes are not restricted to a single case, but extend to many areas of people’s lives,” he said in reflection. 

Warner plans to stay in Cincinnati after graduation.  He commented on his legal studies and experiences:  “You have to stay humble.  There is so much to learn, and I believe that new lawyers should spend a lot of time taking it all in, and then working incredibly hard to answer any questions that remain.  Additionally, regarding criminal law, I am struck by what an honor it is to give a voice to a client who would otherwise be voiceless.  With such an honor you must have a commitment to work as hard as you possibly can.”

Warner shared that he has kept up with his running hobby, recently focusing on marathons.  In fact, he finished second overall in the 2014 Flying Pig Marathon. And, he and his wife have created a blog called Run52, which tells their story of running through each of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.

Law Student Places 2nd in Cincinnati's Flying Pig Marathon

Jenna Washatka ’12 and Professor Jim O’Reilly Combine Efforts to Support Creation of Land Bank


For many people July 13, 2011 was a historic day in Hamilton County with the front-page Cincinnati Enquirer coverage of the official creation of the first public land bank in southern Ohio. UC Law student Jenna Washatka ’12 and Professor Jim O’Reilly had an important had in its development.

Blighted properties that are virtually abandoned and out of the commercial market can be acquired by the new county entity and "banked" until redevelopment possibilities allow the property to be redeveloped or the house to be resold. During the interim the land bank preserves the value of the property, if any, and supervises the removal of weeds and junk.

Rising 3L Washatka took on this independent research project, interviewed the leaders and lawyers behind the concept, and prepared a lengthy analysis for the First Suburbs Consortium. Her paper was distributed to the appropriate county officials and the county treasurer as the legal basis for adopting the pioneering concept. Professor O’Reilly testified at the county hearing in support and offered Washatka's findings to county officials. This month’s adoption is the culmination of the work of public officials, nongovernmental organizations, and Washatka's outstanding efforts.



Congratulations to all!