WILMINGTON – The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have continued to push law firms to seek greater presence in Delaware’s courts, especially its bankruptcy court that has seen 25% more cases than last year as companies nationwide seek to recoup losses and restructure debt. Newest among those firms is New Jersey-basedPorzio, Bromberg & Newman.
[caption id="attachment_203063" align="alignright" width="300"] Porzio opened its office at 300 Delaware Ave. in Wilmington. | PHOTO COURTESY OF LOOPNET[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_203064" align="alignleft" width="200"] Cheryl Santaniello[/caption]
The firm announced in late August that it was opening a Wilmington office, located at 300 Delaware Ave., and hiring experienced bankruptcy and commercial real estate lawyer Cheryl Santaniello from Cohen Seglias’ Wilmington office. It’s the firm’s eighth office, with most of its presence in New Jersey and New York.Porzio joins a growing number of firms to open Wilmington offices amid the pandemic, with Lewis Brisbois and Block & Leviton also opening offices in recent weeks.Vito A. Gagliardi, Jr., managing principal of Porzio and president of the firm's three subsidiaries, Porzio Life Sciences, Porzio Governmental Affairs, and Porzio Compliance Services, noted that opening a Wilmington office was a goal the firm identified back in its 2009 strategic plan. He said they looked into doing so at that time but couldn’t find a local associate who would be a good fit.“That was literally on the back burner for about a decade until we were introduced to Cheryl and her practice,” Gagliardi said. “A decade sounds like a long time, but I think it was worth the wait because I’m so confident that this is a good match.”The negotiations to bring Santaniello on board didn’t begin until after the COVID-19 pandemic closed down large swaths of the nation’s economy and sent many workers and lawyers home to work remotely.Santaniello quickly clicked with Porzio though, having started her career as a bankruptcy attorney in New Jersey. She is well versed in Wilmington’s law scene, having spent a decade at Young Conaway in its commercial real estate and lending group.“It just seemed like an amazing opportunity and the culture of Porzio was a great fit, so I jumped at the opportunity to do this,” she said, noting that she’s already been receiving calls about clients after word began to spread that she had returned to bankruptcy practice in Delaware.
[caption id="attachment_203066" align="alignright" width="300"] Vito Gagliardi Jr.[/caption]
Santaniello is not alone in the firm’s growth, however, as Gagliardi said his firm has increased its headcount about 10% to 15% since March.“We have been growing in the midst of this pandemic,” he said. “While being very careful and very conservative with our investments, we still need to make investments if we expect to have a successful firm in 2021 and beyond.”Gagliardi said that he expects to grow the firm’s practice in Wilmington, noting that they leased a suite of offices. Santaniello said that she has already been having conversations with colleagues in the bankruptcy sector, but also real estate, lending, and regulatory matters.“I'll be disappointed if Cheryl doesn't have a colleague down there the next few months because this is a commitment we're making for growth and for long term success,” Gagliardi said.By Jacob Owensjowens@delawarebusinesstimes.com