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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.

 

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!

 

Alicia Miller Turned an Interest in Social Justice into a Career as a Public Defender


Having grown up near Cincinnati in West Chester, Ohio, Alicia Miller ’14 is a home grown Bearcat in this year’s graduating class.  A graduate of Lakota West High School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The Ohio State University.  After her undergraduate years, she spent some time handling broken automobile glass insurance claims with Safelite Solutions.  It was during this time that she prepared for the LSAT and law school applications.

“I decided to come to UC Law to work with the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice,” said Miller, adding that UC’s great value and proximity to friends and family were also factors contributing to her decision.  Upon arriving, she found she made the right choice, noting the outstanding dedication of the faculty and staff at the college and the support, guidance, and mentoring she has benefitted from.

Miller has been tremendously involved in her three years of law school. She externed with the Ohio Justice & Policy Center where she researched the “school-to-prison pipeline” and worked with Cincinnati residents, helping them expunge and seal criminal records.  She conducted research on the issue of food deserts in Cincinnati in another externship with the Center for Closing the Health Gap.  Then, she has the opportunity to  represent indigent clients while she externed with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.  Finally, Miller has been involved with numerous student organizations, including Advocates for Children, the Black Law Student Association, the Freedom Center Journal, and the Law Democrats.

Upon graduation, Miller will be working with the Marion County Public Defender Agency in Indianapolis – first as a post-graduate intern. She will transition to working on misdemeanor cases when she receives her positive bar results.  “I hope to expand into juvenile criminal defense, as well as adult felonies,” she shared. “After getting experience in those areas I hope to direct a public defender’s office someday and positively shape the way that indigent criminal defense is administered in my jurisdiction.”

In reflection on her law school experience and chosen career path, she shared the following:  “My advice to those who may be interested in criminal defense is to trust that things will work out and not to let financial constraints keep you from pursuing your dreams. Find mentors within the criminal defense realm who will ensure that you get every opportunity to become a better advocate for clients.”  Miller has found that UC Law has provided her with these mentors, and has propelled her towards her dreams.  “I feel incredibly blessed to have found what I hope to spend the rest of my career doing.”

UC to Present Honorary Degree to Alumnus and Top Trial Lawyer Billy Martin


UC alumnus and nationally renowned trial lawyer Billy Martin will receive an honorary doctorate at the University of Cincinnati April Commencement ceremony.

 

Date: 3/31/2014 

By: M.B. Reilly

Phone: (513) 556-1824

Photos By: Provided

 

The University of Cincinnati will bestow its highest award, an honorary doctorate, on nationally renowned trial lawyer and UC College of Law alumnus William R. “Billy” Martin during spring Commencement ceremonies. Martin will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the ceremony set for 9 a.m., Saturday, April 26, in Fifth Third Arena.

 

 

 

Consistently named one of the top trial lawyers in Washington, D.C. and throughout the United States, Martin, who is majority owner and founder of Martin & Gitner, PLLC, has tried more than 150 jury trials, many involving large corporations and leading figures in politics, sports and entertainment.

 

While Martin has made a name nationally through his representation in numerous high-profile cases, he has a diverse practice that also focuses on complex civil and white collar litigation before state and federal courts and in administrative hearings.

 

Martin also has substantial experience with internal investigations, serving extensively as an Integrity and Ethics Monitor on behalf of government agencies and courts in a variety of industries. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Directors of The American Arbitration Association and has experience both representing parties in arbitration, as well as serving as an arbitrator in private disputes. Most recently, he served as outside counsel to the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ethics in connection with its investigation of a Member of Congress. He is a frequent speaker on corporate responsibility and ethics.

 

After receiving his law degree from UC in 1976, Martin served as a city and federal prosecutor from 1976 until 1980 in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1980 he was appointed to serve as a Special Attorney in the Organized Crime Strike Force in San Francisco, a position he held for four years. He then moved from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., where he served as an Assistant United States Attorney for four years before being promoted to the Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, a position he held until he left the office to begin private practice.

 

Martin is a member of the D.C. Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and he is president of the Washington Bar Association. He has been listed in the National Law Journal’s “50 Most Influential Minority Attorneys,” and has ranked fourth in The Washingtonian’s list of “Top Lawyers. He has received numerous other distinctions.

 

Martin graduated from Howard University in 1973, where he pursued studies in business administration and political science, and is a recipient of Howard's Distinguished Alumni Award. In addition, he received the UC College of Law Distinguished Alumni Award in 2002.

George Jonson '83 received the 2014 Eugene R. Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism


George Jonson, a managing partner at the law office of Montgomery, Rennie & Jonson, received the 2014 Eugene R. Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism from the Ohio State Bar Association.

The Weir Award recognizes exceptional professional responsibility among Ohio lawyers and was presented to Jonson during the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) Annual Convention in Columbus.

The OSBA Board of Governors established the Weir Award in 1998 to honor the memory of Eugene R. Weir, a former member of the board. Weir championed improvements in lawyer regulation and strongly advocated for the promotion of professionalism and legal ethics. Each year this award is given to one lawyer who has worked to promote and uphold legal professionalism and ethics.

Jonson's practice focuses on the defense of legal malpractice claims, as well as commercial litigation. He provides ethics advice to attorneys and judges and represents attorneys, judges and other professionals in disciplinary actions. He has represented clients in state and federal court for more than 30 years.

Jonson earned his undergraduate degree from Miami University at Oxford in 1979 and his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1983. He is admitted to practice in Ohio and Kentucky state courts as well as a number of federal trial and appellate courts.

George Jonson '83 received the 2014 Eugene R. Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism


George Jonson, a managing partner at the law office of Montgomery, Rennie & Jonson, received the 2014 Eugene R. Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism from the Ohio State Bar Association.

The Weir Award recognizes exceptional professional responsibility among Ohio lawyers and was presented to Jonson during the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) Annual Convention in Columbus.

The OSBA Board of Governors established the Weir Award in 1998 to honor the memory of Eugene R. Weir, a former member of the board. Weir championed improvements in lawyer regulation and strongly advocated for the promotion of professionalism and legal ethics. Each year this award is given to one lawyer who has worked to promote and uphold legal professionalism and ethics.

Jonson's practice focuses on the defense of legal malpractice claims, as well as commercial litigation. He provides ethics advice to attorneys and judges and represents attorneys, judges and other professionals in disciplinary actions. He has represented clients in state and federal court for more than 30 years.

Jonson earned his undergraduate degree from Miami University at Oxford in 1979 and his law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1983. He is admitted to practice in Ohio and Kentucky state courts as well as a number of federal trial and appellate courts.