Five partners and two other attorneys are leaving Saperston & Day in a shake-up at one of the city's largest law firms.
All seven attorneys will be replaced, and the personnel changes should not be taken as a sign that the downtown firm is in trouble, Frank T. Gaglione, the managing partner, said Thursday.
Although the law firm was publicly criticized last month for its actions in a nationally publicized Minnesota court case involving Apple Computer, the Apple case had "nothing to do" with the shake-up, Gaglione said.
He said the shake-up also has nothing to do with the fact that five top attorneys left Saperston & Day last November to form their own, competing law firm.
The real problem is that Buffalo has more lawyers than it needs, and Saperston & Day is changing the emphasis of its legal work to attract more clients, Gaglione said.
"There are too many lawyers, in general," Gaglione said. "Law schools keep turning them out and the job market is not the best. I get 200 to 300 job applications a year from law school grads. Last year, we hired two . . . This is happening all over the country."
It was decided this week that the following attorneys will be leaving the firm over the next few months: Robert E. Scott, Neil J. Katz, Roger B. Simon, Robert W. Michalek, Brian N. Lewandowski, Timothy L. Kane and Jeffrey Reed. All but Kane and Reed were partners, and Scott was among the firm's most well established attorneys.
Were they fired?
"I do not want to use the term 'let go,' " Gaglione said. "I would say it came through discussion and mutual agreement . . . Nobody's getting pink slips. There will be an orderly transition over the next six months."
One partner contacted refused to confirm Gaglione's characterization.
Gaglione said the following attorneys are being elevated to partnerships in the firm: Roger F. Cominsky, Thomas F. Knab, Richard T. Saraf, Charles E. Telford, Harry E. Werner and Robert Shaddock.
Established in 1983, Saperston & Day was ranked as tied for third place among the city's 25 biggest law firms in a list published earlier this year by Business First of Buffalo. At that time, the firm listed 65 attorneys in Buffalo, and 24 worked in other Saperston & Day offices throughout the country.
Gaglione said the firm will remain "at about that strength, maybe a little higher" this year. He said the firm is planning to pursue more cases in the area of environmental law, product liability and tax credits.
"We're retooling and retrenching to meet that need," he said.
The firm was the subject of some critical national news reports last month relating to a massive series of personal injury lawsuits against the makers of Apple computers.
After settling a negligence lawsuit in Minnesota, Apple officials blamed Saperston & Day for making errors in the case. The company paid an undisclosed amount of money to a woman who claimed she got repetitive strain injury after using Apple's keyboard.
Apple officials announced on Feb. 27 that Saperston & Day was paying the settlement because the firm's lawyers had mistakenly missed deadlines for providing court-ordered documents in the case.
Gaglione said that incident, and the publicity surrounding it, had nothing to do with this week's personnel changes.