Message From The Executive Committee
As our clients know, the law of business is very competitive. At Marshall, Dennehey we understand that we may not be the least expensive option that our clients have, at least in terms of hourly billing. However, if one looks at our rates, the quality of the service that we provide, the depth of our expertise, and our litigation experience, I would like to think that we can be the best option that our clients have.
In that vein, in my role as President and CEO, I am constantly looking for ways that we can improve our product for our clients. One of the procedures that we have adopted in the last two years is the "roundtabling" of large cases.
Each practice group has set an exposure threshold for its lawyers. When a lawyer believes that a case that he or she is handling has an exposure greater than that threshold, it is incumbent upon that lawyer to call for a "roundtable."
When a roundtable is called for, the case will be reviewed by the attorney responsible for the case and at least two other senior shareholders. In an effort for these roundtables to be as beneficial as possible, we will often have a junior shareholder or a senior associate sit in on the roundtable.
Prior to the roundtable, the attorney responsible for the case will provide the other attorneys participating in the roundtable with documents from the case, which may include a case evaluation report, an initial case assessment, a pre-trial report, or expert reports depending upon the stage of the litigation at the time that the roundtable is called for.
The purpose of the roundtable is to make certain in these large cases that the case be looked at by more than one senior shareholder and that a fresh set of eyes be applied to the case to see if additional viewpoints would be helpful in fully flushing out the assessment of the plaintiff's case or the preparation of the defense. The roundtable also provides an opportunity for attorneys not fully invested in the case to challenge the conclusions that had been reached by the handling attorney. Vetting the case in this fashion may result in no changes to case strategy. However, if changes are necessary, the roundtable should ensure that those changes are implemented at a time when additional discovery is permissible.
In addition, in larger cases with exposures well into the seven figures, we know from experience that the case evaluation and the preparation of the defense may be challenged by the insured, perhaps by the primary carrier responsible for the case, or by excess carriers. Roundtabling a case gives the handling attorney that much greater assurance that he or she has fully vetted all of the issues that may arise and that he or she will be in a position to answer all of the questions that may be raised.
Our clients get the benefit of multiple viewpoints on the case from some of the best lawyers in the firm. In addition, by and large, the attorney handling the case will bill for the roundtable, but the other attorneys participating in it will not. Thus, our clients receive an extraordinary financial benefit from the roundtable in terms of the full "vetting" of the case at no additional expense to them. The firm incurs some greater expense from fully roundtabling these cases. However, we believe this is a cost that the firm can incur since these high-profile cases are the cases that our clients will most worry about and will most seriously showcase the quality of the work that we do. The firm also benefits by having a junior shareholder or senior associate participate in the process as those attorneys can observe on a first-hand basis how complicated cases are assembled, how experts are utilized, and how evidence is gathered and presented.
At this time, over 150 cases have been roundtabled by the firm. This process has been adopted in our Casualty Department, in our Health Care Department, in our Employment Practice Department, and in our Professional Liability Department. It does not lend itself so much to our Workers' Compensation Department because by and large the exposures warranting the roundtable generally do not exist.
Over 50 lawyers have participated in these roundtables, and there are several senior lawyers who participated in a significant number of them.
Ed McGinn, an attorney in our King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, office, who has been the presenting attorney in roundtables and who has participated in other attorneys' roundtables, has this assessment of the program:
The roundtable case reviews create a discrete opportunity for the handling attorney to take a step back and reconfirm that the case plan that was formulated at the commencement of the case in partnership with our principals and clients has lead the case to the point where the most optimal result can be achieved. The ability to share strategies with senior attorneys and to receive their valuable input gives the handling attorney validation that their case plan is on target or challenges the attorney to modify the case plan. The client, the principal, the attorney, and the firm all benefit from this important evaluation procedure.
Over the last five years, the firm has adopted a number of protocols designed to verify that the quality of the service that we are providing to our clients is as solid as it can be. Roundtabling large-exposure cases is one of them.
* Tom works in our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, office and can be reached at (215) 575-2748 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Defense Digest, Vol. 15, No. 3, September 2009