A Message From the Executive Committee

By Thomas A. Brophy, Esquire, President and CEO

In the most recent issue of the Defense Digest, Pete Miller announced that he will be retiring from Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin on June 30, 2014. Pete also discussed some of the changes that took place at Marshall Dennehey on January 1, 2014, and that will be taking place on July 1, 2014. Pete then spent most of his column expressing his appreciation to those people who had mentored, supported and assisted him during his 36 years at Marshall Dennehey.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Peter for his friendship, support and assistance during my time at Marshall Dennehey. When I came to Marshall Dennehey, Pete was senior to me and one of the people to whom I looked for guidance. That has never stopped, and I have been blessed to work with him for 35 years. To say that he is “a very decent human being” is to compliment him but also to understate his many virtues. I am sorry to see him go since we have worked together for so long. However, I am pleased to see him leave on his own terms and in good health so that he can spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

One of the things that is most striking about Pete’s departure is the fact that he will essentially be replaced by five people. Christopher Dougherty, who had replaced Phil Toran on the Executive Committee in 2013, was elected as Chairman of the firm on January 1, 2014, replacing Pete. Peter continues to function as the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, as Director of the Workers’ Compensation Department, as a member of the Executive Committee and as the manager of the Philadelphia office. Once he departs, he will be replaced on the Executive Committee by Mark Thompson, who currently oversees the firm’s four Florida offices. Pete will be replaced by Liz Brown as the firm’s Chief Operating Officer. Liz is currently our Director of Information Technology. Liz will be the first non-lawyer to serve as the firm’s Chief Operating Officer. Niki Ingram, who has been Pete’s Assistant Director of the Workers’ Compensation Department, will take over for Pete as the Director of that department. Finally, Butler Buchanan will become the Managing Attorney for the Philadelphia office.

One might wonder why Pete has to be replaced by five people. Was he really that good in performing those jobs that it will take that many people to replace him? The answer is “Yes.” On January 1, 2005, Pete stepped into all of those positions and defined the responsibilities for each of those roles over the next 10 years. Looking back at 2004, one might ask whether it took three people to replace Bob Coleman. The answer at that time was yes.

The firm had changed much since Bob initially became its President and Chief Executive Officer. Again, the firm has changed significantly since Pete undertook his responsibilities. The industry has also changed.

Our firm is much larger now than it was when Bob Coleman managed it, and it is much larger than it was when Pete Miller, Phil Toran and I took over for Bob Coleman. There has been significant consolidation of clients, Marshall Dennehey has opened up additional offices (we will have 20 offices on July 1, 2014), and the firm has expanded into additional areas of litigation: including aviation, maritime, fair debt, health law and technology.

We’ve never wanted to dabble in a particular practice area or location. So we have hired additional talent to deepen our talent pool in certain niche practices, and we have deepened the talent pool in our newer offices.

The industry has changed with much greater consolidation among our clients, many of whom are looking to work with larger law firms with greater practice diversity and a larger geographic footprint. Those changes, the diversification of our firm and the growth of our firm require that more attention be paid to management. Those changes are fueled, in part, by changes in technology, and they are also facilitated by changes in technology. In other words, the practice of law is very different than it was 25 years ago, and the business of practicing law is very different than it was 25 years ago.

Marshall Dennehey has enjoyed great success over the last 20 years because of changes it has made to the way it conducts its business and because of changes in the way the industry conducts business. We have made a conscious decision to maintain the size of our Board of Directors (nine) and the size of our Executive Committee (three). However, in order to address the changes in our firm and the industry described above, we have made a commitment to expand, strengthen and empower our management team. Chris Dougherty will continue to manage the Professional Liability Department while replacing Peter as Chairman of the firm. Mark Thompson will become a member of the Executive Committee and will be responsible for overseeing the management of the firm’s regional offices. Chris’s and Mark’s positions will keep them busy on a full-time basis. Liz Brown, because she will not be chairman of the firm or overseeing the Workers’ Compensation Department or managing the Philadelphia office, will be able to devote her time to the operations of the firm, which continue to grow as the firm grows and the industry changes. Pete was not a practicing workers’ compensation attorney; Niki Ingram is. I would like to think that Niki, by being a practicing workers’ compensation attorney and being able to direct more of her time to that practice group, will only make it stronger. Niki also serves on the firm’s Board of Directors and will continue to look for ways that the firm can strengthen its hiring and retention of women and minority lawyers. Finally, Buck Buchanan has served as the firm’s hiring partner and diversity director. He was looking for an additional challenge, and managing the Philadelphia office will provide that challenge.

Pete could handle all of his various responsibilities because he had grown with Marshall Dennehey. I’d like to think that by dividing those duties among five people, we can expect each of those people to dedicate more time to their individual responsibilities and to address the additional challenges posed by the firm’s growth, by the continuing changes in the legal profession and by changes brought about by increased use of technology.

            Pete served in senior management for over 10 years. His character, work ethic and talent have had a significant impact on Marshall Dennehey as a law firm and workplace. We are committed to maintaining the quality of what we do and looking for ways to strengthen it. One way to look at it is to say that Pete Miller has been replaced by five people. Another way to look at it is that Marshall Dennehey is committed to being an even better law firm and workplace and we have committed five talented people to continue to make sure that that happens.


Defense Digest, Vol. 20, No. 2, June 2014

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 © 2014 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.