Blank Rome Moves Chicago Office to 444 West Lake

Blank Rome LLP is pleased to announce that on September 3, the Chicago office relocated to a new and permanent location at 444 West Lake Street. The Firm occupies 12,000 square feet of space on the 16th floor that can accommodate 30 or more attorneys and professional staff. Known as River Point, 444 West Lake is a 52-story, 1,050,000-square-foot, world-class office tower that just opened in 2017. It is conveniently located in Chicago’s West Loop on the corner of Lake and Canal Street and is steps away from the Chicago River, public transportation, and the highway.

To meet the current and future needs of clients who are based in or do business in Chicago, Blank Rome entered the market in June 2019 with the addition of Partners Kenneth J. Ottaviano, who also serves as Office Chair, Karin H. Berg, William J. Dorsey, and Paige Barr Tinkham.

“Our Chicago colleagues have been off to a great start,” said Grant S. Palmer, Blank Rome’s Managing Partner and CEO. “When considering locations for our Chicago office, we were committed to finding a location that was modern, efficient, and well equipped to help us best serve our clients. We are thrilled to call 444 West Lake our new Chicago home, and look forward to continued growth in such a vibrant and successful market.”

“We are excited to settle into our new space,” said Mr. Ottaviano. “Karin, Will, Paige, and I are confident that 444 West Lake will provide us with the perfect setting to grow and thrive. This location underscores Blank Rome’s commitment to Chicago as well as to our clients and the Firm’s ongoing national expansion efforts. We are eager to welcome our clients and colleagues from across the country to our new office and great city.”


Karin H. Berg
Partner, Finance
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William J. Dorsey
Partner, Business Litigation
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Kenneth J. Ottaviano
Chair, Chicago Office Partner, Finance
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Paige Barr Tinkham
Partner, Finance
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Blank Rome LLP Chicago
444 West Lake Street | Suite 1650 | Chicago, IL 60606 | 312.776.2600

Introducing Seriously Driven

Candid conversations, unfiltered insights, and a dose of hard-earned wisdom from influential women, committed to helping other women succeed and lead.

Have you ever met a fabulous, accomplished woman and wondered how she got to where she is today? Not only that, but where is she going from here and who is she taking with her? In Seriously Driven, host Marilyn Chinitz, a partner in the Matrimonial & Family Law practice at Blank Rome LLP, talks to successful women about their careers, roadblocks they’ve overcome, what or who they credit for their achievements, the other influential women in their lives, what it takes and means to become a leader, and how they mentor future leaders.

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 TEASER EPISODE: Introducing Seriously Driven

In this teaser episode, host Marilyn Chinitz talks about how she has thrived both professionally and personally and how her podcast guests have, too. Here you can listen to a preview of episodes 1 and 2, which feature Wendy Federman, the Tony-award winning Broadway producer, and Dr. Erika Schwartz, a pioneer in the field of health and wellness and author of the book Dont Let Your Doctor Kill You: How to Beat Physician Arrogance, Corporate Greed and a Broken System.

For more information, please visit Seriously Driven Podcast: Introducing Seriously Driven.

Utilizing the Changing Landscape of Personal Jurisdiction

David J. Oberly

For years, the scope of personal jurisdiction over corporate defendants has expanded significantly through the reliance on tenuous corporate contacts or business conducted by a defendant in a particular forum. Recently, however, that all changed when the United States Supreme Court issued its decisions in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 564 U.S. 915 (2014), BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549 (2017), and Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court of California, 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017), which significantly strengthened the requirements for exercising personal jurisdiction over corporate defendants. Combined, these three decisions are critical for corporate entities that find themselves embroiled in maritime litigation, as these cases have significantly limited where plaintiffs can bring claims and, in turn, have substantially curtailed the practice of litigation tourism and forum shopping as a result of the limitations that have been placed on a forum state’s exercise of personal jurisdiction.

The Big Three: Daimler, Tyrrell, and Bristol-Myers Squibb

There are two types of personal jurisdiction. The first, known as specific jurisdiction, encompasses cases in which the suit arises out of or relates to the defendant’s contacts with the forum. For specific jurisdiction to exist, a plaintiff’s action must arise out of a defendant’s forum-related activities. The second, general jurisdiction, is exercisable when a foreign corporation’s “continuous corporate operations within a state [are] so substantial and of such a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action arising from dealings entirely distinct from those activities.”

For years, courts and litigants have operated under the general rule that a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a corporate defendant in any state where the company maintains “continuous and systematic” business contacts. As a result, businesses have been long subjected to being sued in any state across the country, regardless of strength of the business’s connection to the forum. The expansive scope of personal jurisdiction resulted in significant, egregious litigation tourism and forum shopping by plaintiffs’ attorneys in maritime actions, as plaintiffs took advantage of the significant leeway they had in filing large numbers of lawsuits in a select few extremely plaintiff-friendly courts, many of which are commonly known as some of the worst “judicial hellholes” for litigating these types of complex lawsuits. Continue reading “Utilizing the Changing Landscape of Personal Jurisdiction”

Perspectives: Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in Practice

Welcome to the October 2019 edition of Perspectives, Blank Rome’s diversity and inclusion newsletter that keeps you informed on our latest diversity and inclusion news and provides insight on current diversity and inclusion issues in the legal industry and beyond.

Featured in this edition:

  • Insightful conversation with Human Rights Campaign President and former Blank Rome Attorney Alphonso David
  • Update on Mansfield Rule 2.0 and Mansfield Rule 3.0 participation
  • Inside look at Blank Rome’s inaugural series of Women’s Forum Bootcamps
  • Celebratory highlights from Heritage History Months
  • Initiatives aimed at advancing women in law and promoting LGBTQ+ equality
  • Overview of recent diversity and inclusion headlines, accolades, and events

Download Perspectives

To learn more about Blank Rome’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, please visit

Autonomous Vessels: Legal, Regulatory, and Insurance Issues


Alan M. Weigel and Thomas H. Belknap Jr.

The maritime industry is currently experiencing a technological sea change resulting from the development of advanced automation on unmanned surface vessels. Once thought to be decades away from incorporation into the maritime transportation network, advanced automation is already emerging as a viable alternative for some segments of the industry as a way to reduce operational costs, improve safety, and increase efficiency. This new and disruptive technology, however, brings with it unique legal, regulatory, and insurance questions—the answers to which have been elusive.

The Legal Landscape

Over the past five years, many jurisdictions in the United States have implemented regulations governing the use of unmanned aircraft and drones. As a result, there have been more than 50 cases in the United States involving unmanned aircraft operations. During the same period, however, except for cases involving unmanned barges, there have been no cases in the United States referring to unmanned surface/subsurface ships or vehicles.

Because U.S. regulators and the courts have not considered issues involving unmanned and autonomous surface or subsurface vehicles, there is no clear legal guidance for their operation. The cases involving manned vessels and even unmanned barges provide imperfect analogies. Thus, clear operating regulations and legal guidelines remain to be developed.

What Are Unmanned Autonomous Vessels?

One of the challenges in addressing new operating regulations for automated or unmanned vessels is nomenclature. There is no universally accepted name for unmanned maritime systems. Various designations have been proposed, such as Unmanned Surface Vessels, Maritime Autonomous Surface Ships, Autonomous Surface Vehicles, and Unmanned Maritime Vehicles. Such systems also have become commonly referred to as maritime “drones” or even “smart ships.”

The level of autonomy utilized in the vessel’s operating systems is one useful classification method. Lloyd’s Register, for example, has set out guidance for marine autonomous operations. The guidance describes autonomy levels ranging from “AL 1,” which uses autonomous systems to assist on board crew with decision support, through to “AL 6,” which denotes a fully autonomous ship with no access and no on-board supervision required during a mission. What is clear, however, is that in many cases, autonomous does not always equal unmanned. Continue reading “Autonomous Vessels: Legal, Regulatory, and Insurance Issues”

Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team

Blank Rome’s Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Team (“SWERT”) helps those impacted by natural disasters like recent powerful hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico, and by wildfires and mudslides in California and Colorado. We are an interdisciplinary group with decades of experience helping companies and individuals recover from severe weather events. Our team includes insurance recovery, labor and employment, government contracts, environmental, and energy attorneys, as well as government relations professionals with extensive experience in disaster recovery.

Learn more:

Risk Management Tools for Maritime Companies


Blank Rome Maritime has developed a flexible, fixed-fee Compliance Audit Program to help maritime companies mitigate the escalating risks in the maritime regulatory environment. The program provides concrete, practical guidance tailored to your operations to strengthen your regulatory compliance systems and minimize the risk of your company becoming an enforcement statistic. To learn how the Compliance Audit Program can help your company, please visit


Blank Rome provides a comprehensive solution for protecting your company’s property and reputation from the unprecedented cybersecurity challenges present in today’s global digital economy. Our multidisciplinary team of leading cybersecurity and data privacy professionals advises clients on the potential consequences of cybersecurity threats and how to implement comprehensive measures for mitigating cyber risks, prepare customized strategy and action plans, and provide ongoing support and maintenance to promote cybersecurity and cyber risk management awareness. Blank Rome’s maritime cyber risk management team has the capability to address cybersecurity issues associated with both land-based systems and systems onboard ships, including the implementation of the Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships and the IMO Guidelines on Maritime Cyber Risk Management in Safety Management Systems. To learn how Blank Rome’s Maritime Cyber Risk Management Program can help your company, please visit


Blank Rome’s Trade Sanctions and Export Compliance Review Program ensures that companies in the maritime, transportation, offshore, and commodities fields do not fall afoul of U.S. trade law requirements. U.S. requirements for trading with Iran, Cuba, Russia, Syria, and other hotspots change rapidly, and U.S. limits on banking and financial services, and restrictions on exports of U.S. goods, software, and technology, impact our shipping and energy clients daily. Our team will review and update our clients’ internal policies and procedures for complying with these rules on a fixed-fee basis. When needed, our trade team brings extensive experience in compliance audits and planning, investigations and enforcement matters, and government relations, tailored to provide practical and businesslike solutions for shipping, trading, and energy clients worldwide. To learn how the Trade Sanctions and Export Compliance Review Program can help your company, please visit or contact Matthew J. Thomas (, 202.772.5971).

Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team

Our maritime industry team is composed of practice-focused subcommittees from across many of our Firm’s offices, with attorneys who have extensive capabilities and experience in the maritime industry and beyond, effectively complementing Blank Rome Maritime’s client cases and transactions.

Maritime Emergency Response Team (“MERT”)
We are on call 24 / 7 / 365
In the event of an incident, please contact any of our MERT members listed in red below.

William R. Bennett III – NYC

Jeanne M. Grasso – WAS

Keith B. Letourneau – HOU

Thomas H. Belknap, Jr. – NYC

Jeremy A. Herschaft – HOU

Matthew J. Thomas – WAS
CO-CHAIR, MARITIME INDUSTRY TEAM Continue reading “Blank Rome’s Maritime Industry Team”