Do No Harm
Julianna Burdo of Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith P.C. fights for clients’ rights to recover in medical malpractice cases
by Pete Croatto

Attorney Julianna Burdo, a proud resident of Bucks County, chairs the medical malpractice department at Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith P.C., which she began building from scratch in early 2012.

“I love what I do every day and the people with whom I work,” Burdo says of the medical malpractice department, which includes a fellow Bucks county native, attorney Matthew Colavita, as well as a team of paralegals, a recently hired registered nurse and the welcome addition of Robin Schleifer-Weiss, Esq. “We have a fully equipped team who expends 100 percent of their time on medical errors that have harmed our clients.”

Given how challenging trying medical malpractice cases is on behalf of an injured patient, this is an accomplishment. Cases can take years to conclude, exacting an emotional toll that contends with the pain and significant losses of a permanently disrupted life. Burdo feels the weight of those responsibilities: “I take very seriously the responsibility of seeking justice and fighting for my clients’ right to recover, most of whom have been catastrophically injured.”

Burdo, who has worked for as long as she can recall, has this kind of pursuit and tenacity hard-wired into her DNA. As a young girl—not a teenager with an internship—she helped with the bookkeeping at her father’s corrugated box and fine paper company. She recalls it as an initial building block, along with her years of riding pony hunters at a nationally competitive level. This set the stage for Burdo’s constant grind. “I’m one of those people who do not do well with downtime,” says Burdo, formerly with the Holland office of Terry D. Goldberg & Associates, who officially merged with HGSK in January 2013. “Terry and I were a great team, and proudly and actively served in our roles as Bucks County lawyers. Our merger with HGSK allowed us to remain in Bucks County, but to expand our services throughout southeastern Pennsylvania.”  

HGSK Law—which focuses on cases in areas including plaintiffs’ personal injury, insurance and bad-faith claims, workers’ compensation claims and Social Security disability—has 10 offices throughout southeastern Pennsylvania. Burdo is one of the firm’s partners but handles all of the firm’s medical malpractice cases from its Bucks County office. She has generated results for her clients, including not only seven-figure financial compensation but also prompting hospitals and other facilities to implement new safety policies. She works tirelessly to gain her clients’ trust, and more so, to maintain that trust during difficult times in complex cases that often take years to achieve finality.

A History of Hard Work
Burdo achieved a B.A. in real estate and finance at Temple University in 1989 that, unfortunately, coincided with the real estate market crash. Burdo attended paralegal school, hoping that would translate into work in real estate law.

Instead, she was hired in 1990 as a litigation paralegal in the plaintiffs’ personal injury department at the prestigious law firm of Fox, Rothschild, O’Brien and Frankel (now Fox Rothschild), and found her calling when a group of accomplished attorneys saw something worthy of cultivation in the then-23-year-old.

Burdo’s mentors at Fox Rothschild took the time to impart lessons, both big and small. John Rothschild stressed preparation. The late Joseph Smukler preached conviction. Managing partner Louis Fryman was a paragon of presence. “The three of them and many others inspired me,” Burdo says. “Together with my parents, that produced a confident and committed individual.” As a paralegal, the firm entrusted Burdo to second-chair roughly 40 cases to verdict.

Wanting more, Burdo then attended Widener University School of Law while working full-time at Fox Rothschild. “It was always a full-court press,” Burdo admits. “The more I have on my plate, the more I seem to function on a higher level.” In 1999, Fox Rothschild hired its former paralegal as a lawyer, a first since the firm’s founding in 1907.  

A Passion for Clients’ Rights
Fox Rothschild is also where Burdo discovered her passion for medical malpractice.  She was always fascinated by the medial aspects in injury cases; when she saw that cases could start with a medical act, lightning struck. Early on, her cases involved a lot of obstetrical and orthopedic surgical errors. As time passed, her exposure to cases involving a waterfront of medical disciplines grew in strides. “Handling medical malpractice cases allows me to think as though I am a doctor, but to do so while being a lawyer,” she jokes. Her medical knowledge extends into areas including pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, orthopedic, vascular and neurosurgery, cardiology, general surgery, emergency medicine, elderly care, mental health care, ENT and dental treatment, cancer diagnoses, ophthalmologic procedures, pharmacologic errors and much more.

Following nearly two decades at Fox Rothschild, Burdo joined Kline & Specter, one of the nation’s leaders in the area of plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic injury cases. The experience of working with Thomas R. Kline, Esq., and Shanin Specter, Esq., added to Burdo’s treasure chest of mentors. “Selecting a jury with Tom Kline is like getting to play 18-holes at the Masters with Tiger Woods,” she recalls fondly. “Kline & Specter was a gigantic stepping stone to where I am today.”

Medical malpractice work carries unique emotional rewards. Patients place a tremendous amount of trust and faith in their health care providers. Once that trust is broken, those patients feel personally betrayed. “My practice is bittersweet,” she says. “I can never take back the harm, and I think every client that I have represented would trade the day before the events for whatever [financial] outcome the case yields. So balancing something meaningful against what has occurred in their life is important to me.”

There are glimpses of silver linings that spawn from medical errors such as initiating change in a wrongdoer’s practice, protocol or clinical approach, whether it was a doctor, a medical facility or a business/restaurant. “I think it is important to bring medical errors to the attention of health care providers and health care facilities,” she adds. “Of course, medical complications can occur without error, but when the medical standard of care is breached and causes permanent harm to an individual, those wrongdoers should be held accountable.”

This pursuit is not done lightly. The majority of Burdo’s clients have been permanently injured in the course of receiving substandard medical treatment. Their lives have been irrevocably damaged. In reality, the medical malpractice system in place in this country places an extreme financial burden on lawyers and law firms who handle medical malpractice cases to expend tens, sometimes hundreds, of thousands of dollars on expert costs. The system seeks to protect medical providers while still making available an avenue of compensation for catastrophically injured patients. There’s a good reason why one of Burdo’s adages to her prospective clients is, “May you have a good life and a small case.” Big cases, she says, mean a big impact on a person’s life.

Burdo realizes both sides of the equation. “I take very seriously the notion of criticizing doctors,” she adds. “I go out of my way to retain very credentialed experts to teach me the medicine but also to assure me I’m placing criticism in the right direction. I probably turn down 90 percent of the cases I’m asked to review, [because] they either don’t have expert support or they don’t fit into my model of things I’ve been successful with, or the extent of the damages is significant to an individual but in the legal system would not produce a meaningful result.”

Those who require Burdo’s expertise can expect unflagging preparation. “I’m constantly obsessing and reevaluating and anticipating what the arguments are going to be,” she says. “I am someone who believes that a true fighter never runs out of steam. The biggest privilege is to represent my clients. Whenever somebody thanks me for meeting with them or speaking to them, I never say ‘my pleasure’ because my clients are living in misery, and their lives have been altered forever. I truly look at it as a privilege. And I look at chairing the firm’s department as a privilege.”

That is the kind of unwavering commitment upon which a client can rely and place their faith.

For more information about Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith P.C. office locations throughout the state, call 800-614-8929 or visit To discuss a potential medical malpractice claim, contact Julianna Burdo directly at 215-354-9100 or

Photograph by Allure West Studios