December 11, 2002
Chirls Elected; Will Serve as First Openly Gay Bar ChancellorAndrew A. Chirls, a litigation partner with the Philadelphia law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP, was elected Vice Chancellor of the 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association yesterday by the Association's membership, which means that, in 2005, he will become the first openly gay attorney to serve as Chancellor of America's oldest chartered metropolitan bar association. The Philadelphia Bar Association is the first bar association of a state or major city to elect an openly gay leader in a contested election. Chirls, 46, will serve as Vice Chancellor of the Association in 2003, as Chancellor-Elect in 2004, and automatically move up to the Chancellor's post the following year.
"It is an honor to be elected to this post at such a challenging time. Leaders of the legal profession will have to articulate our concern for an open justice system and individual rights while we fight terrorism," said Chirls. "On a more local basis, we want to grow as a profession along with our city's economy, and our Bar Association has to help shape policies that will make people want to live and work here."
A native of Maplewood, NJ, Chirls served as Chair of the Association's Board of Governors in 2000 and is currently Co-Chair of the Special Committee on Strategic Planning for the Bar Association. He served as the first Co-Chair of the Association's Committee on the Legal Rights of Lesbians and Gay Men when that Committee was created in 1997. He has also been active in Philadelphia civic affairs outside the Bar Association, having been chair of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and active on the board of the Prince Music Theater when it built its facility on Chestnut Street. Chirls successfully tried the first jury trial in Pennsylvania based on HIV/AIDS discrimination. He was also active in the Association's work with its insurance plan aimed at making domestic partners' benefits available to Philadelphia's legal workers, and led the Bar Association's endorsement of Pennsylvania's recently enacted Hate Crimes law.
"My colleagues' selection of me as their leader says a lot about the collegiality of our legal community. I hope it helps to attract the best, brightest and most diverse new law school graduates to Philadelphia. It says that our business community is adopting modern ways," said Chirls.
Chirls practices in Wolf Block's Business Litigation Practice Group, and has more than 20 years experience in complex and major litigation matters, including products liability, mass torts, eminent domain and land valuation. He represents the trust that is administering several billion dollars of benefits to people who took the diet drug combination Fen Phen. As a real estate litigator, he has been involved in public projects, including the Vine Street Expressway, the Pennsylvania Convention Center and acquisition of lands for new sports arenas in South Philadelphia.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (B.S., 1977) and the University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law (J.D., 1981), Chirls has also been active on the boards of various community organizations including the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program, and Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (founding member). He has also been active with the American Civil Liberties Union, Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's Committee on Gender Fairness and Racial Bias in the Court.
Chirls has shared his life for 24 years with Larry Frankel, who is also a Philadelphia lawyer. Frankel, 47, is legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. They reside in center city.
The following candidates for Bar offices ran unopposed and will begin serving in their positions on Jan. 1: Secretary, Sayde J. Ladov; Treasurer, Mary F. Platt; Assistant Secretary, John E. Savoth; Assistant Treasurer, Scott F. Cooper; and five members of the Board of Governors: Alexander B. Giacobetti, Gregory H. Mathews, Molly Peckman, Mark W. Tanner and Patrice A. Toland.