Q&A With Fox Rothschild’s Sharon Oras Morgan

March 18, 2013 – In The News
Law360

Sharon Oras Morgan is a partner and co-chairwoman of the environmental law practice at Fox Rothschild LLP. Her practice is focused on environmental, construction, real estate, housing, toxic tort and commercial litigation matters. She counsels clients in the public, private and nonprofit sectors with issues arising under various local, state and federal laws and regulations.

Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?

A: I have been involved in several complex, document-intensive environmental cases that, over the course of several years, involved a myriad of challenges and in-depth legal analysis. However, probably one of the most challenging cases involved helping two individuals who were facing significant potential liability and transaction costs. I represented a young couple who didn’t really understand the potential problems with the property they owned. That couple came to me after being named in a lawsuit that they didn’t have the financial resources to litigate or otherwise resolve.

It was a quite a challenge at the outset to point them in a cost-effective direction. Ultimately, I was able to obtain insurance coverage for them. This case was rewarding to me on a very personal level because I was able to be helpful and successful in a cost-effective way for two very nice individuals.

Q: What aspects of your practice area are in need of reform and why?

A: I believe the ASTM protocol for phase I environmental site assessments is in need of reform. In the past couple of years, I’ve encountered more issues related to this than at any time in recent memory. In my experience, the lack of clarity regarding the definition of a “recognized environmental condition” in the protocol creates problems counterproductive to the site assessment process and productive use of the subject property. I am hopeful that in the coming year, a revised definition will be published that will put this issue to rest.

Q: What is an important issue or case relevant to your practice area and why?

A: Stormwater management is one of the issues I seem to be addressing on a recurring basis. The development and change of use of facilities, drainage infrastructures aging, incidence of heavy rains saturating the region and other factors have all created challenges that require innovative solutions to avoid flooding and other problems that would otherwise interfere with clients’ ongoing operations.

I have found the best way to help my clients is to understand their facility and business, understand area conditions, including background levels of stormwater constituents, and keep up to date with what has worked, and not worked, with other properties nearby and throughout the region.

Q: Outside your own firm, name an attorney in your field who has impressed you and explain why.

A: I have had the pleasure of working with many talented practitioners throughout my career. When I read this question, one of the first people who came to mind is Maggie Witherup [of Gordon Feinblatt LLC], whom I met through the American Bar Association Section of Women Environmental Litigators.

Maggie has not only done a great job leading the section, [but also,] she is a wonderful resource in the Baltimore region when I need assistance from a local practitioner. Maggie continually impresses me with her “get-it-done” attitude and her consummate professionalism. I’m delighted to say that she and I have been able to establish a great working relationship.

Q: What is a mistake you made early in your career and what did you learn from it?

A: I’ve learned that I should trust — and follow — my own instincts. Early on in my career, I spent too much time getting caught up in listening to people who exuded the confidence of someone who knew what they were talking about but were making statements or expressing opinions that just didn’t sound right.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

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