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In-House Counsel Profile:
Ray Angelini Inc.’s James Merkins

 James J. Merkins, Jr., general counsel of Ray Angelini, Inc.

James J. Merkins, Jr., general counsel of Ray Angelini, Inc.

COMPANY PROFILE

Ray Angelini Inc. (RAI) is a privately held electrical contracting company and solar energy provider based in Sewell, New Jersey. Its clients include data centers, hospitals and utility substations.

Among its projects, the company built and installed a solar- and wind-power system for the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. It provides LED lighting design and retrofits; wireless infrastructure services such as distributed antenna systems and cell tower construction and modifications; and power systems testing and commissioning.

LEGAL TEAM

General counsel James Merkins is the company’s sole attorney, although he presides over administrative staff, project coordinators and the human-resources department.

His work day breaks down into a mix of contract review and negotiation, management of outside counsel and overseeing the company’s insurance program. He is a member of the senior leadership team.

He estimates that he handles about 70 percent of the work in-house, farming out mostly litigation.

OUTSIDE COUNSEL

Merkins has engaged Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young (general corporate and succession planning) and Cohen Seglias Pallas Greenhall & Furman (construction litigation and employment law services.) When looking for outside counsel, Merkins seeks “excellent service at reasonable rates.” He’s also used alternative billing to set price caps on projects.

DAILY DUTIES

Merkins typically arrives at the office by 8 a.m. and does his best to return home by 7 p.m., sometimes with laptop in tow to finish emails or other projects. “Most of my time is spent on contracts and the contract-review process,” he said. “When I joined RAI, I instituted a formal contract review process to streamline activities for better speed, accuracy, and reduction of risk.”

He travels on business less than 10 percent of the time, usually involving dispute resolution, new business presentation or biannual meetings. He reports to founder and president Ray Angelini. He enjoys advising management and negotiating contracts. “I take an active role in all of the company’s litigation.”

ROUTE TO THE TOP

Merkins wanted to be a lawyer since the fourth grade, when a teacher complimented him on his efforts to stay out of trouble. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University and earned his J.D. at Widener University School of Law in 2002. While in law school, Merkins interned at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and after graduation clerked for then Delaware Chief Justice Myron Steele.

He joined Blank Rome, practicing corporate and commercial law, and in 2008 moved to Bouchard Margules & Friedlander in Wilming¬≠ton, Delaware. He joined RAI in 2010 as general counsel. “I had a lunch meeting with Ray Angelini, pitching him for litigation work,” Merkins said, “and it turned into a job offer.”

PERSONAL

The Aston, Pennsylvania, native’s hobbies include jogging, Penn State football and time with the family. He and wife Suzy are parents to Annie (11) and Jimmy (10).

LAST BOOK AND MOVIE

“Paterno Legacy: Enduring Lessons from the Life and Death of My Father,” by Jay Paterno. The last movie he caught was “Home.”

By Richard Acello, The National Law Journal. August 17, 2015

 

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