Best of Both Worlds
The Erb Law Firm offers clients personalized attention and the sophisticated legal knowledge of a much larger firm
by Matt Cosentino

It sounds like a story straight out of Hollywood: Boy and girl—who are complete opposites—fall in love as law school students in Europe, then come home to start their promising legal careers. But their high-paying jobs at big-city firms prove to be unfulfilling, so she convinces him to start their own practice, which is much smaller but ends up being more gratifying. They live happily ever after, in their professional lives, as well as their personal lives.

This is not the latest romantic comedy to hit theaters, however. It’s the true story of Kelly Phillips Erb and J. Christopher Erb, the couple who founded The Erb Law Firm PC in 2000, the same year they were married.

Almost 15 years, three kids and many satisfied clients later, they couldn’t be more pleased with the decision.

“We weren’t particularly happy at the bigger firms, because it didn’t really suit our style,” Phillips Erb says. “You don’t get to have a lot of client contact early on, especially when you’re a young associate. So it was a lot of grind work with none of the payoff. We never had that moment where we got to tell the client the good news. It was always the partners getting to do that.”

Erb was an associate at Dechert LLP in Philadelphia, working in domestic and international litigation matters, and then Reed Smith Shaw & McClay, before starting his practice with his wife. Phillips Erb also worked for several firms, including Eizen Fineburg & McCarthy in Philadelphia, where she was part of the estates department.

“At some point, I realized that big firms were great for big clients, but we had some medium-sized and smaller clients that the big firms didn’t handle nearly as well,” Erb says. “Since I was doing the work anyway—and Kelly had the same feeling on her side—we decided we could do it for them for a lot less money, and have a good time doing it.”

The Erb Law Firm’s practice areas include corporate, business immigration, international law, internet law, taxation, trusts and estates. They focus on providing the sophisticated legal knowledge of a big firm with the personal client attention of a small firm.

In addition to the couple, the firm has four full-time associates, including Erica Intzekostas and Garrett Spangler. The firm also employs a paralegal, and plans to add at least one “Of Counsel” associate in the coming year. They won’t be expanding much beyond that, however, because neither of the Erbs want the firm to lose its personal touch.

“I recently had a meeting with a client, and he was new to Philly,” he says. “I took him down to the bar and we had a couple of beers and talked in general. I like the flexibility of being able to do that. It’s a nice way to start a business relationship, and I think we can do that because we have a small footprint.”

Many of the firm’s clients are international, particularly from Germany and other European nations. This has special meaning to the Erbs, as both studied abroad during law school—she in Rome, he in Prague—and it was during visits with each other that their friendship blossomed into a romance.

“It was fun and very surreal,” Phillips Erb says. “We went to the Prague Castle, and I remember having a mimosa and watching the changing of the guard. I always told Chris’ mom, ‘How can you not fall in love while having a mimosa at the Prague Castle?’”

Erb also spent five years living and working in Munich and speaks fluent German, which is why the firm often works with German clients. He can help small and mid-sized companies, as well as subsidiaries of large corporations, to meet their goals when establishing themselves in the United States.

“We’ve had clients from all sorts of different countries, but the majority [of them] have some kind of German connection,” he says. “Most of it is inbound, so they’re setting up a company in this area or they have some kind of legal issue in this area that they need to deal with.”

Phillips Erb, meanwhile, grew to love tax law. She even interned at the Internal Revenue Service and went on to earn her LL.M. degree in taxation. She can offer executives from those international companies her expertise in tax compliance, tax planning and estate planning.

She has also been working with more and more local clients on the same issues. Much of this is due to the emergence of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which targets tax noncompliance by U.S. taxpayers with foreign accounts.

“I think most people think you have to be crazy rich or travel a lot to have foreign tax issues, but that’s not true at all,” she says. “It’s not all wealthy people or middle class. I do a lot of tax compliance and planning work for a lot of different people in really interesting circumstances, which is why I love tax law.”

The services of an expert such as Phillips Erb can be especially important for the upcoming tax season, considering IRS will be dealing with FATCA and the Affordable Care Act. The IRS has estimated that it will be able to answer only 53 percent of the calls it receives for tax questions, and only after an average 34-minute wait.

“One of the other things that the IRS has mandated—and I got this straight from the commissioner’s mouth—is that they are not allowed to answer complicated tax questions on the phone anymore because of the call times,” Phillips Erb says. “Which means if you have a complicated question, where do you go? Increasingly, I think that’s going to be tax professionals, whether it’s your CPA or your tax attorney. We help answer those questions that you thought the IRS was going to answer.”

Phillips Erb also writes the popular “Taxgirl” blog on, which explains tax concepts in a fun and educational way. She takes the same informative, easy-to-understand approach with her clients.

“People come in to see me with a tax problem, but a lot of times they don’t know why they have it,” she says. “They know they have a bill from the IRS or they know they’ve been audited, but they don’t understand why. It’s really important to understand it and not just fix it, not just get on a payment plan, because you don’t want the same thing to happen next year.”

It’s that personal touch—not just in tax law but in all facets of the company—that makes The Erb Law Firm unique.

“I think there’s a stereotype, which is an unfair one, that a small firm is less sophisticated in what they can do,” Phillips Erb says. “People assume that all the good lawyers are at the big firms, and that’s not true. There are a lot of quality folks who are in smaller firms.

“And we’re cheaper, quite frankly,” she continues. “Not only do you get personal attention, but it’s not overwhelming or scary to come into our office. We have a friendly space, and our overhead being less allows us to pass savings on to our clients.”

The Erb Law Firm PC
20 S. Valley Road, Suite 100
Paoli, PA
610-993-2690 |

Photograph by Jody Robinson