Message from the Executive Committee
Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2017
By G. Mark Thompson, Esq., Member of the Executive Committee
Changes in latitude
Changes in attitude
Nothing remains quite the same
- Jimmy Buffett
It is a Sunday in mid-summer as I begin writing this message. My wife is in Florida for the week visiting old friends and checking on our two sons in college. After church this morning, I decided if there was work to be done (and there always is) I’d work aboard my boat while anchored off the coast of Ocean City, New Jersey.
Boating reminds me of home. I spent 52 years in Florida before defying conventional wisdom and moving north in my later years. It is amazing how our life has changed, but Stacey and I have come to embrace Philadelphia and fallen in love with the Jersey shore.
Today the shore is loving me back. The sun is bright and warm. The seas are calm, and as I unwrap a sandwich from Wawa, it’s impossible not to smile as I think of the person most responsible for my change in latitude.
That person is Tom Brophy, and this January I’ll undertake the enormous task of succeeding him as President and CEO of Marshall Dennehey.
As I watch a boat rigged for parasailing pull a laughing family high into the air, it strikes me as the perfect metaphor to describe the way Tom lives his life. He helps people rise.
He chose at a young age to become a teacher and never abandoned the calling. Tom simply moved his classroom from schoolhouse to law firm. Within the annals of Marshall Dennehey are hundreds of current and former attorneys, paralegals, support staff and administrators who credit their professional ascent, economic security and job satisfaction to the opportunities, encouragement and coaching they received from Tom.
Count me among them.
When I first joined the firm in 2001,Tom was the only person I knew. I had met him through a network of outside counsel Anheuser-Busch would bring together for Best Practices meetings. I approached him at one of those meetings in San Diego concerning rumors his firm was looking to move into Florida. Tom, being himself, invited me for a drink, and during the course of that evening, the Orlando office of Marshall Dennehey was conceived over a couple of Budweisers.
For the next 13 years, Tom presided over a group of wonderful mentors who invested in me and guided my career. I was a lateral hire, working out of an office a thousand miles from headquarters, but never disadvantaged.
Marshall Dennehey provided me access to outstanding clients and all the resources with which to defend those clients in high-profile, interesting and complex litigation. I went from managing a single regional office to providing regional management to all four of our Florida offices. I began working with each of the firm’s practice groups, all its administrative departments and on firmwide initiatives, like developing our lateral integration program and determining associate compensation. I got to know lawyers and staff, and in 2008, my fellow shareholders elected me to serve on the firm’s nine-member Board of Directors. As a Board member, surrounded by wise counsel, I spent years studying the issues facing the firm and played a role in addressing many of them.
You might think, given all that experience, I was qualified to take the helm. I wasn’t even close.
In 2014, I ascended to the three-person Executive Committee, responsible for the day-to-day management and business strategy of our 500-lawyer firm. The experience was not unlike passing through the inlet this morning into the open sea. The scope of responsibility and breadth of issues I now confronted were vast.
It was Tom, more than anyone else, who showed me the ropes. He put me out front as we acquired a 30-lawyer firm and doubled our size in New York. He handed over to me his former role as relationship partner for one of our largest clients. He placed in me responsibility for the management of our 19 regional offices and entrusted in me the task of restructuring, negotiating and each year procuring the firm’s health plan. Tom taught me how to represent the firm at audits, develop alternative fee agreements and work with clients on an institutional level to reduce exceptions to our bills. He allowed me to reorganize components of our billing, accounting and finance departments, and time and again, he helped me navigate the multi-dimensional challenges that confront a firm our size.
This past year, with the transition growing closer, Tom intensified what was already rigorous training. Our meetings became more frequent. He stretched me, challenged me, rebuked me and at times annoyed the heck out of me. I say that with a smile because he’s the greatest coach anyone could ask for. I love the guy, cherish his friendship and can never repay all he has done for me.
I expect almost everyone at Marshall Dennehey and a number of our clients feel the same.
None of us are eager for Tom to step aside, and no one is forcing it. His determination to do so after 12 years as President and CEO—like the zeal with which he’s trained his successor—is a reflection of his character. Tom believes fervently in stewardship and has only ever done what he’s convinced is best for the firm. On this point, in particular, he has earned our trust and with this decision, our respect.
Tom’s role for more than a decade has been demanding, time consuming and impossible to perform without the support and sacrifice of his family. On behalf of a grateful firm, I thank Anne and their five daughters for sharing him with us.
The good news is Tom is not walking out the door. In the last act of a great CEO, he has agreed to remain at the firm at least a couple of years as President Emeritus, available to share his hard won insight with those of us who follow.
And there are many of us. One of the firm’s greatest strengths is that its never been about just one person. I’ll serve as President and CEO alongside Chris Dougherty, our Chairman of the Board, and Howard Dwoskin, who’ll become the third member of the Executive Committee. The three of us will be backed by a Board of Directors, over 10% of our attorneys who serve in some form of middle management, and a superb team of administrative directors and managers.
This well-equipped crew is ready. And as I weigh anchor and put the boat in gear I’m certain, because of Tom, I am too.
*Mark can be contacted at 215.575.3570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Defense Digest, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 2017. 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. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING pursuant to New York RPC 7.1. © 2017 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm. For reprints, contact email@example.com.