Roberta Pichini is universally regarded as one of Pennsylvania's leading trial lawyers, with an impressive courtroom record in complex, high-stakes cases over many years. An exacting practitioner with a reputation for persistence and doggedness, Pichini - Bobbie to nearly everyone - is a senior partner today at the 19-lawyer Feldman Shepherd firm in Center City. Across the US there are still only a handful of high-profile woman trial lawyers; Pichini, after several decades of practice, stands out even among them. Recognized as a Super Lawyer every year since the inception of that award, she also was the first woman to be elected president of the prestigious International Academy of Trial Lawyers, an invitation-only organization with limited membership, Moreover, she achieved her status independently, on her own terms, and after fighting through the biases typical of the 1960s and 1970s.
Growing up in Branford, Connecticut, Pichini rebelled against a conservative father who opposed higher education for women and, in particular, for her. "In his own way, he was trying to protect us," she says. With remarkable defiance, and while in eighth grade, she undertook the college preparatory course against her parents' wishes and without their knowledge. After high school and with the need to finance her education entirely on her own, she entered a nursing preparatory program at the University of Pennsylvania with the intention of using her future income as a nurse to obtain a Bachelor's Degree and continue her education further. She spent nearly a decade as a nurse, much of that time doing public-health work in the City of Chester while pursuing a degree in English Literature at Neumann University.
At age 30, she went on to law school. "I took the LSATs and, to my surprise, did quite well," she recalls, "so I applied! It was hardly a grand plan." She ultimately was drawn to trial work "in part because I thought I might be good at it. I had strong opinions and I believed I could stand up for them."
She graduated with honors from Villanova Law School and was an editor on the law review. She was offered a place at a large Philadelphia law firm and completed a two-year federal clerkship. However, one day during her clerkship, she had the opportunity to sit in on a product liability civil trial featuring the renowned plaintiffs' lawyer, Jerry Litvin. "His mastery of the courtroom and compassion for injured victims convinced me to change direction." She joined the Litvin firm, a plaintiffs' personal-injury practice, as an associate. Soon a partner, she handled all types of plaintiffs' work for catastrophically injured victims - including accident claims, malpractice claims and product liability claims - over the next two decades. She gained a reputation as a formidable trial lawyer, always prepared and especially able to connect with juries, with the ability to articulate to juries the losses and injuries of a victim and that victim's entire family. In 2004, with the closing of the Litvin firm, Alan Feldman lured Pichini to the Feldman Shepherd firm as a partner, raising Pichini's profile further.
Peers say Pichini is relentlessly exacting in preparing cases, double and triple checking her facts and comprehensively researching the medicine and science of each case. Pichini continues her courtroom presence today, but "as you get more experienced and demonstrate more expertise, more cases are settled before trial." Today she lives a short walk from the firm's Rittenhouse Square office. She is an inveterate traveler.