After nearly 20 years as a law professor specializing in federal courts and evidence at the esteemed University of Pennsylvania Law School, Frank Droganon could no longer resist the lure of the private sector. So when Castill, Drake & Poole, a 60-person appellate litigation boutique in Philadelphia, was the latest law firm to roll out the red carpet, he packed up his office and walked right down it.
On paper, it looked ideal: Castill was looking to beef up its roster of recognized legal professionals, and Droganon was tiring of sitting on the sidelines. But now, eight months after the high-profile hire, sources inside the firm say the marriage is on the rocks. At fault? Droganon’s no-computer policy.
“We were all really excited when we heard Frank was going to be a partner here. I mean, the guy is a legend,” said one associate who asked to remain anonymous. “We got a team in place for him and everything. Then, on his first day, he walks in and tells his whole staff that he doesn’t allow computers. By noon, most of his associates had asked to be transferred.”
Sources say Droganon circulated an introductory memo saying the policy, which he had originally developed for first-year students in his Evidence class at University of Pennsylvania Law, was to keep associates “focused” on the material and prevent “tempting distractions.” Droganon informed his associates that they would work with pen and lined paper, and would have the option of typing the material into a word processing program on their computers after hours, if they so choose.
Productivity plummeted immediately, sources say. Although Droganon claimed that his personal ability to work was helped immensely by eliminating the loud clicking of keystrokes within the office, those working underneath him said the time to draft memos and briefs increased by threefold. Two major clients were enraged at the increased legal bills and decreased output and dropped the firm within two weeks, one source revealed.
“It was very strange,” said a paralegal who also asked not to be named. “We had a general counsel travel into the office and start using his laptop. Frank was trying to talk with him, and then stopped the whole conversation to complain that there wasn’t enough eye contact when the guy was looking at his computer. That was because all the notes that were relevant to the case were pulled up on the guy’s screen, but Frank didn’t seem to care.”
The no-computer policy led to clashes with the firm’s managing partner, Joseph Krickman. Krickman attempted to address the concerns by making all subordinate associates sign an oath not to surf the Internet while using computers at work, but Droganon would not accept a deal unless the attorneys also promised not to use e-mail. In the end, Droganon got his way, and communication at the firm was in total disarray. One former partner, who left the firm because of the Droganon policies, said that it became nearly impossible to collaborate in a timely fashion within the firm or with clients.
Those in the Philadelphia legal scene say that Castill’s entire future now hangs in the balance as attorneys refuse to work under Droganon’s demands and clients balk at the decreased productivity. Were Droganon to be let go, it would be a hugely embarrassing misfire for Castill, once one of the fastest-growing firms in the city. As for Droganon, being fired for managerial incompetence would surely affect his ability to obtain another prestigious professorship.
Laws For Attorneys attempted to reach Droganon for comment on this story, but he did not respond to e-mails.