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Tough on Issues, Easy on People

by Bradley K. Moss

Winter 2000, Vol. 63, No. 4

Who is Carl Primavera? He is a soft-spoken, straight-talking attorney whose varied experiences will provide him with the tools to be an excellent Chancellor of our Philadelphia Bar Association.

Carl did not meet John F. Kennedy as a boy, and he does not come from a family of lawyers. Actually, it was more likely that Carl would grow up to be a classical musician than an attorney. His father, Joseph, is a former Philadelphia Orchestra violist and the present conductor and musical director of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra.

As a boy, Carl took music lessons from his father's friends in the Philadelphia Orchestra. After several years of lessons, Carl finally got the nerve to tell his parents that he did not want to take any more lessons. He convinced them to let him stop taking lessons even though Carl's mother, Marie, was sure he had the talent to be a member someday of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Although he swears that he won awards for his penmanship as a boy, Carl's handwriting today looks more like that of a doctor than of an award winner. He was a good and hardworking student who graduated from Penn State with highest honors and a Phi Beta Kappa key.

After college it was off to the Temple University School of Law, from which he graduated in 1978. Prior to joining Mesirov Gelman Jaffe Cramer & Jamieson, Carl worked as a law clerk for then-Judge G. Fred DiBona, worked as an attorney with G. Fred DiBona Jr., now president and CEO of Blue Cross, and Louis J. Presenza, now President Judge of the Philadelphia Municipal Court, and worked in the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. In these positions, Carl learned how the city works from the bottom up instead of from the top down. He's also developed lifelong friendships along the way.

Please do not think, however, that Carl was a saint. He and his brother Joe were at Penn State together for several years and apparently learned why it is called Happy Valley. There are also unconfirmed stories about raucous Christmas parties at the Redevelopment Authority that Carl has never completely explained and of which his compatriots, Judge John Younge and John DeGeorgio, now have only general recollections. The story of how Carl met his wife, Christina, is one that could have come out of a movie. The two of them were working as tour guides at Independence Hall during the Bicentennial when their romance began. The founding fathers would have been proud. Everyone who knows Carl and Christina sees how devoted they are to each other, to their son, Andrew, and to their families.

At Mesirov, Carl's practice evolved from a commercial litigation practice to one that focused on zoning and land use. Although his courtroom time declined as his practice evolved, Carl continued to be a trial attorney.

He also played a major role in Mesirov's resurgence in the 1990s. During that time, Carl was a member of the firm's executive and allocation committees and was the chair of the litigation department. Carl always leads by example. He encourages young lawyers to be involved outside of the firm, and those young lawyers are able to see that Carl's encouragement is not merely hollow words. In addition to the Philadelphia Bar Association, he is involved in other charitable and civic organizations as well. Carl is especially proud of his work with the Justinian Society and of having served as its chancellor. What is most impressive about Carl Primavera is his ability to retain his composure under any circumstance and to have such a positive view about people. In the fourteen years that I have known Carl, I have yet to hear him yell or to say a bad word about anybody. He always has a nice comment about even those who have not had nice comments about him.

Carl left the Mesirov firm in 1999 to pursue an opportunity with Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Branzburg & Ellers. He enjoys the people with whom he works and the opportunities that he has had at Klehr. Lenny Klehr is ecstatically enthusiastic when he talks about his recent partner, Carl. So it seems that the Philadelphia Orchestra's loss is the Philadelphia Bar Association's gain. Carl will be a thoughtful leader whose varied legal experiences will permit him to appreciate the views of all members of the Philadelphia Bar Association and to forge a consensus on difficult issues that may divide the members of the Association.