A Neumann grad with four decades of legal experience is serving his second term as the Philadelphia Bar Association’s treasurer.
Joseph A. Prim Jr. was often invited to dinner at Rick Furia’s home at Broad and Tasker streets. The two were good friends, growing up in South Philly, and from their days attending Annunciation B.V.M., 1150 Wharton St., all the way up to their University of Pennsylvania days.
“His father was a judge and I’d have dinner at the family table and Judge [Edward W.] Furia — we’d have spirited conversations,” Prim said of the former U.S. District official. “He said to me, ‘You know, you’d make a good lawyer’ and I said, ‘Really? I never thought about it.’”
The endorsement sealed the deal for Prim, who resided at Broad and Moore streets with sisters Suzanne and Helene in the home their grandfather, Thomas Armstrong, bought in 1919. The son of Joseph and Leila wrapped up his senior year at Penn where he majored in English literature in ’67 and promptly enrolled at Boston University School of Law, where he earned his juris doctorate three years later.
Now a partner at the Center City-based Duca & Prim, where he mainly deals with workers’ compensation cases, the ’62 Bishop Neumann High School alum also is serving his second year as the treasurer for the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Prim became involved with the group in the early ’80s, when he began attending meetings for the association’s Workers’ Compensation Committee that expanded into a section in ’95.
“In ’94, I was asked to chair that committee and I enjoyed it very much,” the 65-year-old said. “After that, I was treasurer of Workers’ Compensation Committee until last year and, as I became more active in other areas of the bar association, I thought that it would be nice because of my experience to get in a more visible leadership position.”
He served as co-chairman of the bar related groups Solo and Small Firm Committee, along with the Law Practice Management Division, and was elected to the Board of Governors in 2005.
“When my term expired on the board, I still enjoyed what I was doing, so I ran for assistant treasurer [in ’08] and when the treasurer resigned because he was running for judge in Montgomery County, I ran for treasurer,” he said.
Last year, he beat out three other candidates vying for the position that includes reviewing the financial condition and the audit of the association; he ran unopposed for the seat for this year.
Since those dinners with Furia, the attorney has continued to absorb various aspects of the field — which continued when Prim became Furia’s law clerk.
“The entire thing is a learning process,” he said. “I began to learn about the law and our system of law around the table in college and I learned more in law school, saw how it’s applied in clerkship and, when I started working, learned how to apply it myself. I’m still learning.”
He began practicing at O’Halloran, Stack & Smith, a former Center City law firm, before opening his own practice in ’73 where he took on various cases including criminal defense, personal injury and contracts. During two of his years as a solo practitioner, he worked on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Rules Committee.
“It involved doing research for the committee into different jurisdictions and how they solve problems in rule-making to see if the Supreme Court rules could be adjusted to work better,” he said.
In ’80, while opposing Steven Sheller on a domestic relations case, Prim’s career took an unexpected turn.
“He said, ‘You know you should be working over here with me.’ I was like, ‘All right. Make me an offer.’”
And Sheller did.
He joined Steven Sheller and Associates, which represented labor unions and developed a small workers compensations division, which he became actively involved in. Prior to this job, he had worked in various areas of the law before finding his niche.
“I took the experience I had developed in personal injury work and applied it to their small workers’ compensation practice and developed it,” he said. “I decided I really enjoyed the work. It was very satisfying both intellectually and rewarding in seeing successful outcomes that benefited people.”
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