How a 24-lawyer firm put 7 judges on the bench
Since its inception in 1904, Gawthrop Greenwood, founder of West Chester, has provided seven judges to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas. The most recent lawyer in that line, partner Anthony T. Verwey, is expected to take office in January 2022 after winning the seat in last week’s election.
Verwey said the firm’s 117-year history is partly responsible for the number of judges it has produced over the years, but the firm’s focus on community involvement has created a culture of service in outside the office which extends beyond the courts. Gawthrop, who currently employs 24 attorneys, has trained attorneys who have also served as assistant attorneys, county attorneys, presidents of bar associations (11, according to the firm’s website), and chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
The firm’s first lawyer to approach the Chester County Court of Common Pleas was founding partner Robert S. Gawthrop. He then served on the Pennsylvania Superior Court. In 1991, Gawthrop’s attorney, Paula Francisco Ott, became the first woman to serve as a judge in Chester County, where she served as a presiding judge before being elected to the Superior Court.
The long line of public officials drawn from the firm may be in part due to Gawthrop actively promoting community engagement among its lawyers and staff, says Patrick McKenna, who earlier this year became chairman of the committee. management of Gawthrop. The firm particularly encourages its employees to sit on the boards of directors of non-profit organizations.
Verwey’s board service includes work with the Western Chester County Chamber of Commerce and Southeastern Pennsylvania Legal Aid, according to his professional biography.
This community engagement, McKenna said, meant Verwey and his fellow lawyers had an existing network to tap into during the campaign.
According to Verwey, the support of his colleagues was a critical factor in his successful race. “They really helped me get through this,” he said. The firm not only helped Verwey connect with and support his clients as he focused on the election, but they also helped with fundraising and volunteered to work at the polls.
Verwey decided to run after 37 years of practicing law, the last four of which were at Gawthrop, and he said the partners at the firm have all expressed support for the decision.
“We were all in it, we wanted to support it in any way we could,” McKenna said.
Verwey ran as a Democrat. He is a member of the firm’s government law department and focuses on real estate development.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to reflect Anthony Verwey’s years of practice and that Robert S. Gawthrop Sr. was the first cabinet member to serve as a federal judge.