We are pleased to announce that shareholder Erica L. Laughlin takes over as President of the Allegheny County Bar Association effective July 1, 2022 – 2023.

Read the press release from the Allegheny County Bar Association below.

Pittsburgh-area litigator Erica L. Laughlin will officially become the 114th President of the Allegheny County Bar Association – and the 9th woman to hold the position – on Friday, July 1. Her one-year term will end on June 30, 2023.

I have been an active member of the Pittsburgh Legal Community throughout my career, so I am keenly aware of how important the Allegheny County Bar Association is to Pittsburgh-area lawyers, judges and the community overall,” Laughlin said. “The ACBA has helped to shape my career and the careers of so many others. To now be in a position to lead the ACBA as its President is an honor and a privilege that I will not take lightly.”

Laughlin is a shareholder at Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, a downtown Pittsburgh-based law firm. She was elected President-Elect of the more than 5,000-member ACBA in 2021 and served in that capacity for the past year. Laughlin will replace Joseph R. Williams, who completes his term on June 30.

“The ACBA and the community at large should expect big things from Erica’s presidency,” Williams said. “She has been supremely involved in many of the association’s functions during her career and is known for being a committed and innovative leader. I am proud to have Erica as my successor and will be proud to call her my President for the next year.”

Laughlin said that restoring the community’s faith in the legal system is among her top goals as President.

“One of the ways to do this is through community engagement, outreach and education,” she said. “We plan to form a Community Service Committee that will be dedicated to developing and increasing community service opportunities for our members. Specifically, we will create ways Pittsburgh lawyers can make a genuine, positive impact in the community.”

Another of Laughlin’s primary goals is to bring members together for in-person networking and professional development as the ACBA and society continue to navigate the pandemic and post-pandemic landscapes.

“Engaging and re-engaging with one another is vital to our success as an organization,” she said.

Additionally, Laughlin hopes to further the association’s mission of increasing diversity within the legal profession, and she aims to begin implementing the ACBA’s recently-adopted strategic plan that includes increasing membership, enhancing members’ experiences and developing marketing and branding initiatives.

About Erica L. Laughlin

Laughlin is a native of North Huntingdon, Pa., and is currently a resident of Pine Twp. in northern Allegheny County.

She graduated from Norwin High School and Duquesne University, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and psychology in 2001. She then attended the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, earning her juris doctorate in 2004. While at Pitt Law, she earned the John P. Gismondi Civil Litigation Certificate and the Institute for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction Award for achieving the highest possible grade in trial advocacy.

After Law School, Laughlin joined Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky in 2004, became a Director in 2012 and advanced to her current role of Shareholder in 2017. Her practice focusses primarily on civil litigation in both state and federal courts. She represents individuals and businesses in employment, personal injury, premises liability, professional malpractice, insurance defense, civil rights defense, construction and municipal matters. Laughlin also is the Co-Chair of the firm’s Business Development and Marketing Committee.

Laughlin has been involved in numerous facets of the ACBA throughout her legal career, including the ACBA Board of Governors, council for the Civil Litigation Section, Finance Committee, Gender Equality Committee and Nominating Committee. She also has served on council and as Chair of the Women in the Law Division, and she has chaired the ACBA Bench-Bar Conference, among other roles with the association.

She’s also a member of the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Westmoreland County Bar Association. Laughlin was listed as “Rising Star” in the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers publication every year from 2013 to 2019, and she was identified as a “Lawyer on the Fast Track” by the Legal Intelligencer in 2016. She’s also been named a “Super Lawyer” in 2022 and maintains an Avvo “Preeminent Rating.”

Outside of the legal profession, Laughlin is a member of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Corporate Circles Board, the Steel City Impact Board and the Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Advisory Council. An avid runner, Laughlin has completed over 20 half-marathons, and she’s also passionate about the arts and loves to travel. She most enjoys spending time with her husband, Nick, and their young daughters, Ella and Tessa.

Additional New Officers: In addition to Laughlin serving as President, the Allegheny County Bar Association also announced the following officers for 2022-23: Marla Presley will serve as President-Elect; Regina Wilson will serve as Secretary; and Keri Ebeck will serve as Treasurer.

Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky is pleased to announce that 12 attorneys have been selected to the 2022 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Super Lawyers Rising Stars list.

Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Pennsylvania as selected through peer nomination and independent research. The patented selection process rates outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

The following attorneys have been selected to the 2022 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers list:

The following attorneys have been selected to the 2022 Pennsylvania Rising Stars list:

Additionally, David Strassburger was named to the “Top 50: 2022 Pittsburgh Super Lawyers List.”

On Friday, April 29, 2022, Gretchen Moore will speak on the PDI Lunchtime Webinar, “The State of Affairs of the Pennsylvania Fair Share Act Post Spencer v. Johnson.”

PDI Civil Practice & Procedure Committee Co-Chairs, Denise M. Montgomery, Esquire, Sweeney & Sheehan, and Lisa R. Whisler, Esquire, Dinsmore & Shohl, together with Gretchen E. Moore, Esquire, Strassburg, McKenna, Gutnick & Gefski, will present “The State of Affairs of the Pennsylvania Fair Share Act post Spencer v. Johnson”. This is a very important topic considering how court interpretation of the Act may have blunted or eliminated the benefits of the Fair Share Act in some cases. This is a very current and important topic.. Do not miss this excellent and informative presentation.

Learn more and register here.

Kathleen Mannard and Alexis Wheeler will present at the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) 2022 Annual Educational Conference and Exhibit Show. in Hershey, PA.

The PSATS Annual Conference offers a training and networking opportunity for township officials and employees and the biggest municipal exhibit show of its kind in Pennsylvania.

During the conference, Kathleen and Alexis will present the “MPC Review: Developing the Record and Drafting a Decision” session on Monday, April 25 at 2:45 pm.

Program description:

When drafting a decision pursuant to the Municipalities Planning Code, a municipality usually must provide findings and conclusions to support its determination. Historically, municipal decisions have been given an almost insurmountable deference by reviewing courts. Lately, though, the Commonwealth Court has signaled frustration with insufficient written decisions. This workshop will educate amunicipalities on how to develop a strong record and draft decisions to earn deference.

To learn more and to register, visit the PSATS website.

Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky is pleased to welcome Anthony J. Judice to the firm.

Anthony has years of experience advising businesses in the Greater Pittsburgh area and across the state of Pennsylvania on matters of labor and employment law, real estate, and general corporate law. He advises corporate and municipal clients on routine and novel employment matters, including discrimination, harassment, retaliation, FMLA, ADA, ADEA, Title VII, and wage and hour issues. He is a trusted advisor to, and zealous advocate, for employers whether in negotiations, litigation, or arbitration, and before state and federal courts and agencies. 

“Anthony is a tremendous addition to the firm, and we are looking forward to bringing his skills and experience to our clients,” said David Strassburger, Managing Partner of SMGG.

A graduate of Dickinson College and Duquesne University School of Law, Anthony is actively involved with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest, once as an honoree, and now as a mentor. He is proud to have raised over $400,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation together with his 2015 honoree class.

On Monday, April 25, 2022, Jean Novak spoke at the National Business Institute virtual CLE seminar “Advising New Businesses in Pennsylvania: Succession Planning, Entity Selection, Operations, and Select Employment Issues.

Program description below.

Succession Planning, Entity Selection, Operations, and Select Employment Issues

Join our distinguished faculty as they analyze key legal issues that arise when advising new businesses, from preliminary planning and entity selection, to employment law basics and succession planning. Get strategic advice and practical tips for setting your business clients up for success. Register today!

To learn more and to purchase the on-demand recording, visit the NBI website.

Shareholder Jean Novak has been named to the Pennsylvania Bar Association House of Delegates. Jean will serve a three-year term as the delegate for Zone 12.

The House of Delegates, created in 1966, is the body charged with setting the policy of PBA. All voting rights of PBA members are exercised through the House, including the right to vote on matters affecting the substance and administration of PBA policy, on amendments to the Articles of Incorporation or the Bylaws. The House also has the authority to judge the election and qualifications of its own members, controls all membership dues and approves increases.

Learn more about the House of Delegates on the PA Bar Association website.

We are pleased to announce that shareholder Danielle L. Dietrich is the 2022 recipient of the Honorable Carol Los Mansmann Helping Hand Award from the Women in the Law Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

The Award is presented to individuals who embody Judge Carol Los Mansmann’s values and dedication to advancing and improving women lawyers’ roles in the legal profession. Before she passed away, the Honorable Judge Mansmann was a prosecutor, district judge, and court of appeals judge. She was a leader in the bar, in the community, and on the bench.

“Danielle is a champion for the advancement of women in business,” says firm President David Strassburger. “Her recognition with this award speaks volumes about her character and her commitment to making the legal industry better for women.”

“I am so honored to receive this award and be recognized in the same category of the previous recipients, many of whom are my personal heroes,” said Danielle. 

Danielle serves as the firm’s Chief Diversity Officer.  She is a past Chair of the Women in the Law Division of the Allegheny County Bar Association and serves on numerous committees of the bar association, including: the Gender Equality Committee, Diversity and Gender Equality ad hoc Committee, the Board of Governors Gender Equality ad hoc Committee and the ALLY Program ad hoc Committee. She serves on the Board of Directors of the South Hills Interfaith Movement (SHIM). In her practice, Danielle assists women and diverse-owned businesses with obtaining and maintaining diversity certifications, such as Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) through the U.S. Department of Transportation, Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), and Women Business Enterprise (WBE).

The Award will be presented at the Women in the Law Division annual meeting on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, at 5:30 pm at the Rivers Club in Downtown Pittsburgh.  Online registration will be open shortly on the Allegheny County Bar Association’s website: www.acba.org.

On Monday, March 14, 2022, Alexis Wheeler will present on a Sunshine Act Webinar presented by the Office of Open Records of Pennsylvania.

Learn the how, when, where and why of public government meetings. This panel of speakers will discuss a number of topics including the impact of COVID-19 on public meetings, new agenda requirements, public and live presence at meetings, case updates on Sunshine Act issues, and a practitioner’s view on the Sunshine Act-related issues facing specifically local governments and schools.
Speakers will be:

Register on the OOR website here.

On March 3, 2022, Jean Novak spoke on a CLE webinar “Mentoring, Training and Advancement of New and Junior Women Attorneys in Law Firms.” The webinar was presented by the Allegheny County Bar Association.

View an excerpt from the Lawyer’s Journal for an article about the webinar by Ron Cichowicz.

It has been reported that women lawyers are leaving their jobs in record numbers. This assertion is even more perplexing when statistics indicate that women now make up more than 50 percent of law school graduates and have gained equal access to the legal profession at the ground level. 

Yet perhaps the answer may be found in the fact that women attorneys have failed so far to gain equal status with their male counterparts when it comes to upward movement into leadership roles. 

To help explore this trend and in hopes of reversing it, the ACBA Women in the Law Division is offering a live CLE webinar, “Improving, mentoring, training and advancement of New and Junior Women Attorneys in Law Firms.” 

This program will provide a summary of the many obstacles women face in the development of their law firm careers. The session also will explore concrete ways that law firms can maximize young women lawyers’ opportunities to build skills, professional demeanor and self-confidence in the workplace and have the same successes in the firm as male attorneys. 

The program, a distance-learning CLE, has been approved for one hour of substantive credit in Pennsylvania and also qualifies for one hour of credit under the West Virginia Rules for Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. It will be held from noon to 1 p.m., Thursday, March 3. The program costs $35 for ACBA members. It is free to ACBA Law School Members and $10 for Non-ACBA Law Students. It is $60 for all others. There also is a $15 West Virginia CLE credit add-on. 

Moderated by Terese Connerton of the Law Offices of Terese M. Connerton, the event will feature presenters Jean Novak of Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky; Ena Lebel of the Pittsburgh Legal Diversity & Inclusion Coalition; Asra Hashmi of Jackson Lewis; and Taylor Gillan of Ogletree Deakins. 

Referencing the 2013-released book by Sharon Sandberg, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” Novak said that, while the idea of mentoring is not a new one, it has drawn more attention in recent years. Novak cochairs her firm’s Employee Relations Practice. 

“I do think when Sandberg’s book came out, more people became aware of these issues,” said Novak. 

Novak said that some of the seeming imbalance can be explained by family obligations, which are assumed more often by women than men. 

“A number of factors keep women out of the corner office,” she said. “Some women leave to have families, which can adversely affect a move to the corner office. Men remain in the workforce and stay visible to those making promotion decisions. Women, meanwhile, often lose their momentum. By the way, this isn’t specific to the legal profession.” 

Regardless of the reasons that may stifle women’s paths to professional promotion, Novak said it is in the best interest of both women attorneys and their organizations to improve this situation. 

“I would suggest to firms that they assign mentors or sponsors to help groom leadership among their female attorneys,” Novak said. “I also recommend that a woman find a mentor outside the firm. That gives her perspective. And one great place to find such mentors is through the bar association.” 

Novak explained that there is a difference between mentors and sponsors, with each offering value to an attorney seeking career advancement. 

“A mentor gives guidance and can be a good sounding board,” she said. “A sponsor recognizes what an asset you are to the organization and will help you plot a course, help determine what skills you need and how to get the assignments that will move your career in the right direction and lead to a promotion.” 

Novak stressed organizations will benefit from instituting such programs. 

“Leadership in firms and organizations need to find a path to leadership for women to follow,” she said. “This has value to the organization. It is expensive if someone joins an organization, then leaves. So it’s a good investment to have somebody who takes an interest in new people, take them to lunch and talk about their career paths.” 

According to Novak, the webinar should appeal not just to female attorneys but also to men. 

“I would also encourage anyone who might be acting as a mentor or sponsor to attend the webinar,” she said. “Sometimes they need to hear the message that their input is appreciated and needed for the next generation of attorneys.”