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But the influence of Adrian Bonnelly’s guidance in young Frank’s career cannot be overstated. While in high school Frank worked as an office assistant in Bonnelly’s firm. After law school he served his preceptorship there as well. Another gentleman who mentored him in his career was The Honorable Eugene V. Alessandroni who sat on the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia. “He was one of the greatest judges we ever had on that bench,” Carano recalls. “He was brilliant.”
At Penn Law School, where only 50% of his entering class graduated, Frank Carano befriended Milton H. Kunken, the classmate who sat beside him. Upon graduation in 1933 and after completing their preceptorship, the two were unable to find jobs so they hung out a shingle in an office on the 7th floor of the former National Bank Building on Market and 14th Streets.
Laughing today, Mr. Carano recalls that “we had nothing to show for ourselves but a few legal principles.” They took on a lot of pro bono clients who remained their clients once the economic Depression lifted. The firm took hold and the two Class of 1933 graduates practiced together for nearly 60 years until Mr. Kunken died. During that time, Mr. Carano practiced as a trial lawyer taking on cases from immigration to matters involving international law. Until the system was abolished, he conjectures that about 75 Philadelphia lawyers were preceptees in the office of Carano & Kunken. Among them, three later went on to become judges – Tullio Leomporra, Leonard Ivanoski, and Michael Wallace.
“We had the League of Nations in our office,” Mr. Carano remembers. This is not a toss-off remark. The firm, and Mr. Carano especially, worked vigorously to change the immigration laws which at the time were “unfair,” he recalls with gravity. The laws stated specific quotas for immigration, favoring the Nordic countries and putting Mediterranean countries at a disadvantage. “The laws were discriminatory,” he comments. When asked why that was so, he pauses before answering, “Can you justify discrimination?”
After two years of service in the U.S. Army in the early 1940s, Frank Carano returned to Philadelphia and made a home in the Germantown area. When other lawyers couldn’t speak the language of prospective clients they sent them to Carano & Kunken where Mr. Carano stood a better chance of understanding them and making their case. He knew the Italian language from his upbringing, and as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania he was required to learn Latin and Greek. In addition, he studied Italian more formally at Penn with Professor Vittorini, mastered Spanish, and picked up French. His reputation spread among immigrant and international communities in Philadelphia and beyond.
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