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A fierce competitor in the legal arena

Rochester Business Journal
July 29, 2011

See correction below.

Edward Hourihan Jr. loves his work.
 
A commercial litigator and managing member of the Syracuse-based Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC's local office, Hourihan, with a complete lack of irony, describes his firm-management chores as "a joy." He is equally upbeat about his work as a lawyer.
 
"Trial work," he says, "is some of the most exciting stuff you can do."
 
Hourihan, 46, was one of five Harris Beach PLLC lawyers who left the firm as a group to start the Rochester-area branch of Bond, Schoeneck in 2008. Their departure was a coup for the Syracuse firm, which had long sought entry to the Rochester market.
 
The office here was managed for a time by a Syracuse partner with Hourihan serving under him as a deputy. In January, Bond, Schoeneck made Hourihan the local office's managing member and named one of the original five former Harris Beach lawyers, Timothy Fitzgerald, as Hourihan's deputy.
 
A firm with more than 200 attorneys, Bond, Schoeneck has offices in Albany, Buffalo, New York City, Ithaca, Utica and Long Island as well as out-of-state offices in Overland Park, Kan., and Naples, Fla.
 
"We'd been looking to get into Rochester for I don't know how long," says Richard Hole, Bond, Schoeneck managing partner. "I've been on the management committee for 10 years and it goes back before that. I know we're only an hour and half away, but there's no substitute for being right there in the city where the clients are. We'd had opportunities before. This was the first one that seemed right."
 
That Hourihan and the other departing Harris Beach partners were well-established in the Rochester community and would bring clients with them was certainly a big factor in the calculations of Hole and the Bond, Schoeneck management committee.
 
Two of the departing lawyers, Fitzgerald and Peter Lutz, were co-leaders of Harris Beach's commercial real estate group. The others were litigators with well-established practices covering a range of business and commercial law.
 
The local Bond, Schoeneck branch has grown rapidly, expanding to its current complement of 18 attorneys, up by three in the past year. Sixteen are based in Rochester. Two travel here a few times a week from Syracuse to work with Rochester clients. 
 
Further expansion is in the works, Hourihan says. The firm now occupies a 15,000-square-foot space at its Linden Oaks office. It has an option on another 15,000 square feet, which Hourihan expects to expand into next year to accommodate new lawyers and support staff.
 
"We are expecting the Rochester office to grow. We're pretty happy with the way things have turned out," Hole says.
 
Adds Hourihan: "We talk to people all the time. I'm talking to a couple of interested individuals right now."
 
Most of the locally based lawyers in the firm's local office left established careers at large Rochester firms to join Bond, Schoeneck. The biggest contingents, including the original five, came from Harris Beach and Nixon Peabody LLP, respectively the region's third- and second-largest law firms. Four attorneys came from Nixon Peabody.
 
Hourihan credits Bond, Schoeneck's culture for drawing recruits from other firms.
 
"It's about shared values and promoting advancement as a team. It's not about money," Hourihan says. "I realize that's what everybody says. But Bond, Schoeneck means it. It's not just an empty phrase." 
 
When people ask why he and his partners jumped from Harris Beach to Bond, Schoeneck or why the four ex-Nixon Peabody attorneys made the move, Fitzgerald says, "They always assume it was about the money. It really wasn't, but I've given up trying to correct anyone."
 
As Hourihan and Fitzgerald explain it, the motivation is money-but not in the sense of a firm offering big jumps in compensation to prospects in hopes of luring rainmakers away from rivals.
 
In most law firms, Hourihan says, compensation models are based on a principle lawyers call "eat what you kill." It means that the rainmakers-lawyers with loyal followings of lucrative corporate clients-get paid in proportion to the billable hours they log.
 
There are two things wrong with eat-what-you-kill models, Fitzgerald says. First, they promote unproductive, internecine competition among partners. And second, less-senior partners, associates and others end up doing much of the legal work on jobs brought in by rainmakers, but they often are less well-paid and feel slighted and exploited.
 
Hole and Hourihan decline to detail Bond, Schoeneck's compensation formula. They maintain, however, that it is fairer than common pay schemes, rewarding all for the work they do whether they initially brought in the client or not.
 
Eat-what-you-kill compensation models "in my view unnecessarily intrude upon and dominate law firm dynamics," Hourihan says.
 
"I make a very nice living," he adds. "I don't really need to worry about how much more I could be pulling in."
 
That said, Hourihan and Fitzgerald stop short of specifically linking their distaste for standard compensation schemes to their former firm or to any other Bond, Schoeneck attorney's former firm.
 
"Our relations with our previous firms are civil," Hourihan says. "We all have friends at our old firms who we continue to practice with."
 
He and the four lawyers who left Harris Beach with him had long discussed such an eventuality before the Bond, Schoeneck deal came up, Hourihan concedes.
 
Still, he adds, "we owe them a debt of gratitude. We all got good training at Harris Beach."

A passion for litigation
The joy Hourihan might feel in handling management chores-from drafting an office budget and overseeing leasing arrangements to keeping an eye on the office's strategic direction-clearly is overshadowed by the delight he takes in litigation.
 
Commercial litigators often prefer to arrange out-of-court settlements or, failing that, to try for wins on summary judgment motions that are typically argued in written pleadings, with court appearances confined to hearings in front of a judge.
 
Hourihan likes going to trial.
 
"There are people who call themselves litigators and there are people who are litigators," Fitzgerald says. "Ed is a litigator."
 
Litigation, Fitzgerald adds, is a form of combat. It requires much the same kind of strategic thinking and ability to psychoanalyze an opponent as boxing. In litigation, however, the physicality is stripped away, leaving only the strategy and the will to win.
 
A 1998 study bolsters Fitzgerald's point.

It found litigators to have higher-than-average testosterone levels-a finding that was as true of female attorneys as male.   
 
Hourihan, he says, "comes off as a friendly guy and open guy, and he is. He lays his cards on the table. People may not realize what a fierce competitor he is, but he is. Whether it's old-guy hoops in the driveway or a trial, he wants to win."
 
That Hourihan takes cases to trial more often than most commercial litigators "is something I admire about Ed," says James Moore, a recently retired Harter, Secrest & Emery LLP senior partner.
 
Moore is a longtime friend of the family of Hourihan's wife, Bridget Dee. He helped Hourihan land a job at Harris Beach when Hourihan first moved to Rochester, suggesting to then Harris Beach partner Lawrence Andolina that "you ought to take a look at this guy."
 
A partial list of local cases Hourihan is involved in currently includes contract litigation for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, litigation involving the Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority's new downtown bus terminal and the town of Prattsburgh's wind-farm dispute with EcoGen LLC.
 
In addition, he represents Max Farash heir Lynn Farash, who is in a dispute with the multimillion-dollar foundation her father endowed with most of his real estate firm's considerable assets. The foundation, says Hourihan, is also trying to claim the share left to her.
 
Among out-of-town cases Hourihan has on his plate is an $8 million claim in a New York City federal court for Carrier Corp. related to Goldman Sachs' $2.1 billion lower Manhattan headquarters building.
 
Asked to name a case he rates among his most memorable, Hourihan names not a business dispute but the Vernard "Vandy" Davis case, a 2004 wrongful-death claim he took on contingency as a Harris Beach lawyer on behalf of Davis' estate.
 
Davis had been caught in a 2001 police raid on a Rochester drug house. He had not threatened anyone or been holding a weapon. He ended up dead, however, when an officer holding a shotgun tripped and accidentally discharged the weapon, which had been pointed directly at Davis.
 
In 2001, a state court jury faulted Rochester Police Department procedures but found no negligence on the part of the police officer who shot Davis. The jury found the officer had acted in conformity with department policy.
 
A separate jury was to consider damages.
 
Hourihan was asked to step into the case by Davis family attorney John Bernacki after several other lawyers had declined to take it on.
 
While Davis had done nothing to deserve being killed, because of the drug-house connections "he was not exactly a sympathetic figure," Hourihan says.
 
"I think Ed took the case because he thought it was the right thing to do," Fitzgerald says.
 
The dispute ended up in mediation with Moore as the mediator.
 
Hourihan put on the stand then Rochester Police chief Robert Duffy, who Hourihan recalls as "a very careful witness."
 
Arguing that a flashlight mounted on the shotgun had forced the officer to aim the weapon, which had a hair trigger, at Davis in the dimly lit drug house, Hourihan won a $500,000 award for Davis' heirs, three young children.
 
"Ed did a very good job," Moore says. "It was not a very popular cause."

Inspired to practice law
Hourihan was born in Messina but reared in eastern Connecticut, where his father, now a retired insurance company executive, moved the family.
 
Asked if his mother was a stay-at-home mom, he points out that "her job was raising eight children." Hourihan is the family's third and youngest son. His younger siblings are all girls.
 
An English major at Sienna College in Loudenville, Hourihan graduated with a B.A. in 1987. He had begun college with little clear idea of what he might do but was inspired by a political science professor and pre-law adviser, Leonard Cutler.
 
Before Cutler sparked his interest in law, Hourihan says, "I had no idea what I would do with a liberal arts degree."
 
Cutler, he notes, is a master of the Socratic method. He leads students to conclusions by asking an artfully arranged series of questions rather than merely lecturing.
 
Hourihan earned a J.D. from Western New England University School of Law in Springfield, Mass., in 1990. His first job as a lawyer was with a Connecticut police union that kept a dozen lawyers on staff. He handled a variety of cases for the union, Hourihan says, and was happiest with those that had him going to court.
 
"I liked getting into the fray," he says. "I still do."
 
Because his wife's family is in Rochester, they visited frequently. He fell in love with the region, and after a couple of years with the police union decided to move to Rochester without lining up a job first. After landing a position with Harris Beach, he stayed, moving from associate to partner, until going to Bond, Schoeneck.
 
A confirmed city dweller, Hourihan and his wife live in the Browncroft neighborhood. They moved there after they outgrew their previous home on Rockingham Street, where they lived near then Rochester mayor William Johnson Jr.  
 
Hourihan and Dee have a daughter, 15, and sons ages 13 and nine. Dee teaches English as a second language at Monroe Community College.
 
"I loved Rockingham," Hourihan says. "I'd really like to move back some day."
 
A basketball player, Hourihan keeps a regulation-size ball on a shelf in his office and an undersized, office novelty net on the door. Until it broke up, he used to play in a lawyers league, where he says a number of prominent local attorneys and judges often had heated and sometimes superheated disputes. He still plays pickup games when he can.
 
Hourihan has been to Haiti twice since the 2010 earthquake. He went not as a lawyer but as a medical assistant. His father has been on the board of the Haitian Health Foundation, an organization founded by Jeremiah Lowrey, a Connecticut orthodontist who started organizing missions in 1982 to provide dental care to poor Haitians.
 
The organization, which initially worked around Port-au-Prince with Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity order, for some years has centered its efforts in Jeremie, an impoverished region where Mother Theresa personally asked Lowrey to set up health care facilities. The foundation now runs a public health facility in Jeremie.
 
"I was essentially standing there handing things to people," says Hourihan, who also sits on the boards of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, the Norman Howard School and Literacy Volunteers of Rochester.
 
He convinced a longtime friend and client-Eric Wangler, president of Jaccard Corp., a kitchen supplies firm based in Orchard Park-to accompany him on an eight-day Haitian excursion last year.
 
"I could see why they made Ed managing member of the office," Wangler says. "He's a great idea guy. He inspires people."
 
Hourihan and Wangler, who lives in Mendon, met through their children, who attended the same Brighton elementary school, Seton Catholic Academy. The two friends co-run the Mary Grace Ryan Memorial basketball tournament at Mercy High School. Wangler largely credits Hourihan for the fast-break tournament's growth from 18 to 43 teams.
 
When Hourihan tapped him to go to Haiti, Wangler readily agreed. They served as assistants to medical teams and were set to work turning plastic containers into diesel-fuel storage tanks for the Jeremie clinic.    
 
Wangler and Hourihan found Jeremie to be relatively untouched by the earthquake, though it is a roughly 45-minute plane ride from the quake's epicenter slightly west of Port-au-Prince. But for relatively well-off U.S. residents, the poverty and generally low standard of living in the mountain villages was eye-opening.
 
"It was an overwhelming feeling," Wangler says. "These people need so much and yet they still gladly took in maybe 150,000 people who had nowhere to go after the earthquake."
 
The Haitian excursions were humbling for him as well, Hourihan says, making it hard to see his own circumstances as anything but fortunate and underscoring his determination not to let money become a ruling factor in his legal career.
 
Still, as managing member of the firm's Rochester office, Hourihan is mindful of the need to attend to business development.
 
Looking ahead to the next year or so, he muses: "We could easily put 35 lawyers in this building."


Edward Hourihan Jr.
Title: Managing member, Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC's Rochester office
Age: 46
Education: B.A., English, Sienna College, Loudenville, N.Y., 1987; J.D., Western New England University School of Law, Springfield, Mass., 1990
Family: Wife, Bridget Dee; daughter, Maeve, 15; sons, Matthew, 13, and William, 9
Home: Rochester
Activities: Coaching children's sports; pick-up basketball; board member of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, the Norman Howard School and Literacy Volunteers of Rochester; twice traveled to Haiti as a volunteer aid worker. 
Quote: "I liked getting into the fray. I still do."

7/29/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.

CORRECTIONS AND AMPLIFICATIONS
  A July 29 profile of Edward Hourihan Jr., Rochester managing member of Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC, misidentified the plaintiff in a lawsuit targeting Max Farash heir Lynn Farash. She is being sued by Farash Corp. and Canandaigua National Bank and Trust Co. as trustee of the Max and Marian Farash estate. The article also misidentified Siena College in Loudonville, near Albany.


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