A Message From the Executive Committee

by Thomas A. Brophy, Esq., President & CEO

In 2012, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin celebrated its 50th anniversary as a legal and business enterprise. While this was a moment to celebrate, it was also a moment to take stock of ourselves, to assess where we have been and to determine where we want to go.

In the last issue of Defense Digest, Chris Dougherty talked about the retirement of Philip Toran, the architect of the firm's Professional Liability Department. Phil's health necessitated that he retire at the age of 55. His retirement was not anticipated, and this was and remains a significant loss to the firm. Chris's discussion of the Professional Liability Department, Phil's departure from it and Chris's ascension to director of that department prompts me to focus my comments on the issue of transition.

Marshall Dennehey has already gone through several transitions. Bob Coleman was the firm's managing partner, chairman, president and chief executive officer for over 20 years before stepping down in December 2004. When Bob had become managing partner, the firm had eight lawyers. At the time of his resignation, the firm had 358 lawyers and 840 employees. Bob had been grooming Pete Miller, Phil Toran and me to succeed him for several years prior to December 2004. When he stepped down, the three of us replaced him. Pete Miller became the firm's chairman and chief operating officer. Phil Toran became chairman of the firm's Executive Committee. I became the firm's president and chief executive officer. This three-person Executive Committee managed the firm from January 1, 2005, through February 2012, when Phil had to step down. At the time of Phil's resignation, the firm had 460 attorneys and 1,047 employees.

Fortunately, Chris Dougherty stood ready to step in for Phil. Chris had been groomed for a senior leadership position. It was not anticipated that he would step in to succeed Phil. However, he had worked as the assistant director of the Professional Liability Department for 12 years and knew the client base and attorney population of that department. I am pleased to report that Chris's transition to director of the Professional Liability Department has been seamless. Notwithstanding the strength of Phil's management and his relationship to the professional liability clients, since Phil's departure, the firm has retained all of its professional liability clients, and only one shareholder in the Professional Liability Department has left the firm, and that attorney left to work for a client of the firm. In fact, the one thing that has been most impressive about Chris's transition to director of the Professional Liability Department has been the manner in which all other senior members of the department have embraced his leadership.

However, I would like to point out that one other practice department management transition had already taken place prior to the changes in the Professional Liability Department. Kate McGrath had been the director of the Health Care Department since January 1, 2004. Prior to that, she had been the assistant director of that department. Marshall Dennehey had a strong Health Care Department in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware. However, under Kate's direction, the firm expanded its Health Care Department to include offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, North Jersey and Florida. Under Kate's guidance, the firm's Health Care Department was recognized in 2012 by American Law Media as the strongest in Pennsylvania. Marshall Dennehey now has 83 lawyers specializing in the defense of health care liability matters throughout the firm.

In addition, under her leadership, Kate also established a Health Law practice group, assisting clients in addressing confidentiality matters, data breach matters, fraud and abuse matters, credentialing issues and other regulatory matters.

On December 31, 2011, Kate McGrath stepped down as director of the Health Care Department, and Kevin FitzPatrick took over as director of that department. This was an anticipated change, and Kevin had been groomed by Kate to be her successor. William Banton stepped up to become the assistant director of that department.

Marshall Dennehey is managed by practice department. It is organized into four distinct practice departments: Casualty, Professional Liability, Health Care and Workers' Compensation. The firm's senior management successfully transitioned from Bob Coleman to Phil Toran, Pete Miller and Tom Brophy. Two of its practice groups (Health Care and Professional Liability) have now transitioned to new leadership. In addition to becoming director of the Professional Liability Department, Chris also has become a member of the firm's Executive Committee. With Chris becoming a member of the Executive Committee, it can now be said that the firm has embarked on its transition to a third generation of senior firm leadership.

No one involved in the legal profession can dispute the fact that significant change is taking place in our profession. If Marshall Dennehey is to maintain its strength and viability as a firm, it is important that we recognize the change that is occurring externally and internally, and that we manage that change so that we move in a direction that is satisfying to our shareholders, our clients and our employees.

It has been said that the only constant in life is change – (François de La Rochefoucauld). We take our responsibility to manage change at Marshall Dennehey very seriously. Proper transitions take time and require the continual grooming of successors for those in management so that each change will be as seamless as possible. As we continue to work our way through the transitional issues that we confront, we commit to our clients and to our employees that we will manage those changes in such a way as to maintain the best of what is Marshall Dennehey; that we will continue to look for ways to enhance ourselves as a law firm; and that we will continue to look for ways to provide our employees with a pleasant, challenging and rewarding place to work.

*Tom can be reached at 215.575.2748 or tabrophy@mdwcg.com.

Defense Digest, Vol. 19, No. 3, September 2013

Defense Digest is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent legal developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2013 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.