Imagine the reaction in the board room of a blue-blood law firm when a new partner tells anecdotes from his celebrated cases:

* A low-level mob associate wants to scare a Florida woman into paying her gambling debt, so he prepares a little surprise in her refrigerator: the head of her poodle.

* Or the saga of the mobster who uses an electric drill to drill into a victim's hand.

* Or the one about a multi-million dollar waste disposal dispute, where a mobster suggests an adversary stand by a trash truck so he could be bumped inside and the trash compactor could do the rest.

"You know what they call that in New York, don't you?" asked a mobster on a FBI wiretape. "Oops."

That's the position the highly decorated, longtime federal mob prosecutor, Barry Gross, 56, is in with his new employer, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, 18th and Cherry streets, where he's been named a partner.

Gross, who left the U.S. attorney's office on Jan. 31 in an "early out" program that included a pension enhancement, said, "I'm proud and always will be proud of this U.S. attorney's office. It has a national reputation."

"I loved every minute of my 24 years. It was extremely difficult to leave," he added. "We defeated the mob, and it's time to move on, whereas 25 years ago, we thought we'd never be able to move on.

"There's a number of excellent lawyers who will always be close friends from the U.S. attorney's office," he said. "But I think I found a similar work environment, with very bright, dedicated lawyers here.

"He's a good guy," said Gross' former boss, Robert E. Courtney III, chief of the Organized Crime Strike Force Division of the U.S. attorney's office. "We'll miss him."

Alfred W. Putnam Jr., chairman of Drinker Biddle & Reath, called Gross a "formidable litigator who has dedicated his career to rooting out and defeating fraud, corruption and racketeering in business and government."

Putnam believes Gross' "exceptional strategic counsel" and trial expertise will help the firm's clients.

As assistant U.S. attorney, Gross spent nearly 24 years of his 30-year legal career putting mobsters and corrupt bureaucrats behind bars. He also served nearly seven years as an assistant district attorney in Delaware County.

His lineup of underworld luminaries includes mob bosses Joseph "Skinny Joey" Merlino, Ralph Natale and John Stanfa, and their underlings, as well as 12 officials and seven contractors at the Philadelphia Housing Authority convicted in a public corruption probe, among others.

At Drinker Biddle, he is specializing in long-term special investigations, much as he did in the U.S. attorney's office.

"Only there's no violence, drugs or extortions," he said. "And no mob clients, obviously. [My new clients] actually pay legal fees while the mob guys want you to do it for free."

Gross is specializing in white-collar defense, internal corporate investigations, corporate compliance and health-care fraud as part of the firm's expanded white collar crime, corporate and health care practice.

For example, he said, "if a company has a government contract and discovers fraud, they may want to investigate first before reporting it to the government."

Gross was one of a number of legal stars hired as a result of Drinker Biddle's merger last month with Chicago-based Gardner Carton & Douglas, which has a large health-care practice. Drinker Biddle now has 625 attorneys in 12 offices nationally.

Others hired include Deborah T. Poritz, former New Jersey chief justice ; Charles S. Leeper, a former assistant U.S. attorney from the District of Columbia; and Paul G. Nottoly, a former prosecutor in Essex County, N.J.

Gross may be calling on retired federal agents and prosecutors to help in investigations.

He has received numerous awards from Department of Justice, including the director's award for superior performance in the Stanfa case, and two special achievement awards.

A graduate of Villanova Law School, Gross is an adjunct professor at Temple and Widener law schools.

He also served as an instructor for the Department of State and for the Department of Justice for a conference on "Combating Organized Crime and Corruption," presented to Serbian judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials last July in Babe, Serbia. *