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March 12, 2010 10:56 AM

Small Firm, Big Stars: Dreier Refugees Carve Out National Sports Practice

Posted by Brian Baxter

Jay Reisinger and Thomas Farrell's four-lawyer Pittsburgh litigation boutique may not look like much on paper. But with such high-profile clients as New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, the founding partners of Farrell & Reisinger are establishing themselves as go-to lawyers for sports stars seeking legal counsel.


Farrell and Reisinger are currently advising Rodriguez on his discussions with federal prosecutors in Buffalo who are probing Canadian doctor Anthony Galea. Authorities are investigating Galea for allegedly smuggling human growth hormone into the U.S. According to news reports, Rodriguez is one of some 25 baseball players that authorities want to talk to about their dealings with Galea, a former team doctor for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.

Reisinger says his firm's relationship with Rodriguez began about a year ago on a referral from the future Hall of Famer's Washington, D.C., attorney James Sharp, who gained notoriety advising former President George W. Bush during the Valerie Plame investigation. By the time they first met with A-Rod, Reisinger and Farrell has already established a reputation for defending players linked to performance-enhancing drugs. (Rodriguez admitted to steroid use last year.)

"Tom Farrell and I have had a small practice here in Pittsburgh for about eight years," Reisinger says. "We do some outside work for a number of sports agents, which is how we originally got into representing Sammy Sosa before Congress, and we have a good reputation in both sports law and white-collar criminal work."

Farrell is a former assistant U.S. attorney who handles about 70 percent of the firm's white-collar and civil litigation work, Reisinger says, adding that almost 90 percent of his practice is dedicated to baseball-related matters--such as representing players in salary arbitrations. (Reisinger even maintains his own sports blog.)

As a result of his work with Major League Baseball players, Reisinger is a certified agent, although he doesn't act as one. He says that agents frequently refer their clients to Farrell & Reisinger because the crossover between litigation and sports law issues makes for a successful combination at the firm.

"These high-profile athletes are faced with not only possible criminal jeopardy, but also repercussions with [their respective leagues]," Reiseinger says. "We've represented athletes in every one of the four major sports [in the U.S.], but our primary responsibility is in baseball."

In addition to Rodriguez and Sosa, Reisinger and Farrell advised Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte when the player served as a government witness during a perjury investigation of Pettite's former teammate Roger Clemens. Reisinger says the firm also represented several lesser-known former major leaguers--including Tim Laker, Hal Morris, and Glenallen Hill--during the MLB internal performance-enhancing drug investigation conducted by former DLA Piper chairman George Mitchell.

In January 2008 Farrell and Reisinger became part of Dreier LLP. Founded by the now-infamous Marc Dreier, the firm launched a sports marketing and consulting practice in May 2008. But Dreier LLP's sports group was more style than substance--see the Michael Strahan-Dreier LLP Charity Golf Tournament--as the firm's namesake enjoyed hanging out with athletes more than doing their legal work.

"I was [Dreier LLP's] sports group," Reisinger says. "Dreier approached me at the end of 2007, and then Tom and I joined the firm the following January and were there for a whopping nine months."

When Dreier was arrested in December 2008 for impersonating an in-house lawyer at a Canadian pension fund, Dreier LLP quickly dissolved. Reisinger and Farrell resigned the same evening they heard about Dreier's arrest, deciding to go back out on their own. Dreier LLP's unique organizational structure with one equity partner and many affiliated entities helped both lawyers land on their feet.

"We were a standalone entity from the Dreier firm, and our practice, clients, and phone numbers never changed," Reisinger says. "We never had to answer to anybody in New York, so we just continued going about our business."

Reisinger says that since he and Farrell left Dreier--another ex-Dreier partner who joined them, former prosecutor Stephen Stallings, is no longer with the firm--they've received several offers to join larger firms. But Reisinger, a Pittsburgh native, says he and Farrell enjoy their autonomy too much. (The New York native Farrell began his legal career in Pittsburgh; his father, Richard, is a professor at Brooklyn Law School.)

Farrell & Reisinger will continue to stay small and keep its headquarters in the Steel City, Reisinger says. While the firm recently hired a former federal prosecutor, he says that any future growth will be "controlled."

As for the firm's star client, Rodriguez, Reisinger declined to comment on the Galea investigation. Galea claims to have treated Rodriguez during the ballplayer's recovery from hip surgery last year, and has denied prescribing performance-enhancing drugs to clients.

Galea is being represented by Brian Greenspan, a name partner with Toronto's Greenspan Humphrey Lavine, and brother of well-known Canadian lawyer Edward Greenspan. In an ironic twist, it was Ed Greenspan who initially defended Marc Dreier when the Dreier LLP founder was arrested in Toronto in December 2008 as his schemes began to unravel. Dreier was sentenced to 20 years in prison last July.

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