Message from the Executive Committee

Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 2019

By Christopher E. Dougherty, Esq.
Chairman, Executive Committee

“Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done.”

Having crossed over the New Year threshold, and similar to what individuals do with New Year’s resolutions, the Executive Committee recently met for four days to map out objectives and priorities and seek opportunities to build on our 2018 accomplishments.

Looking back on 2018, I am proud to recognize our newly elected shareholders—two of whom moved from special counsel status—Tim Jaeger (Roseland) and Patrick Delong (Fort Lauderdale).

Thirteen associates were promoted, too: Sarah Argo (Scranton); Mohamed Bakry (Philadelphia); Nicholas Bowers (Philadelphia); Sarah Cole (Wilmington); Andrea Diederich (Orlando); Raphael Duran (Philadelphia); Jason Ferrante (Cleveland); Ryan Gannon (Roseland); Allison Krupp (Harrisburg); Sang Lee (Philadelphia); Chanel Mosley (Orlando); Ashley Toth (Mt. Laurel); and Daniel Tran (Philadelphia).

These attorneys were elected at our December annual shareholders’ meeting. At the dinner afterward, it was wonderful to see so many of our retired shareholders and directors return to enjoy an evening of genuine camaraderie with our current shareholders and senior counsel.

Some of our 2018 accomplishments deserve mention:

  • In a period of decreased national and regional filings, we are privileged to note that our case counts increased in each of our four practice departments. We have more cases in our inventory than any time in our firm’s history. That speaks volumes about the trust that our clients have in our defense capabilities.
  • Our fortune widens because we have not only taken on new clients—Uber, Coca Cola and American Express—but our presence on insurance panels in the face of convergence initiatives has not only remained constant, it also has expanded into additional lines of businesses that we defend for insurers.
  • Our file portfolio is diverse. No individual client represents more than 7% of our firm’s annual revenue. For a defense firm, that is a very healthy vital sign.
  • Our profile in the London market increases. Our membership in Insurance Law Global (ILG) has expanded our visibility internationally with our law firm partners in the UK, Canada, Netherlands and Spain.


As we shift focus to 2019—and as our retreat recently informed us—we cannot be content with the status quo. We keenly understand that, even though our firm enjoys a uniquely competitive position among our peers, that competitive advantage can only be maintained by an introspective mindset—individual and organizational—fully committed to adaptation and incremental improvement.

At our annual shareholders’ meeting mentioned above, we discussed the global best-selling book, “Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life.” Author James Kerr spent a year with the New Zealand national All Blacks rugby team—arguably, the most successful sports team ever. . . anywhere.

Kerr describes why this team maintains its dominance. The answer is counter-intuitive because, more than anything else, humility is the organization’s most valued trait. Humility allows trust to grow, unselfishness emulated, accountability embraced, and authenticity fostered.

Our firm has grown—thrived actually—because some of those same traits are integral to who we are. Our culture statement specifically says: “Our culture is one which promotes diversity . . . hires employees with the hope and expectation they will finish their careers at the firm . . . encourages and rewards loyalty, humility and teamwork . . . where humor is the great equalizer.”

We want these values prepetuated at Marshall Dennehey. That is precisely why I recently gave each of our new shareholders a copy of Legacy.

Why are these values important to our new shareholders and to our law firm?

They orient every employee in our firm toward our clients in everything we do. They help us solve our clients’ problems. They enable us to pilot our clients through difficult times.

A recent article in The American Lawyer caught my eye. It discussed a “revolutionary” concept, noting that more firms are considering changes to their origination credit compensation schemes—viz., migrating away from origination credits is central to year-end compensation.

The article noted that the firms which have abandoned these types of financial incentives “tend to be the happiest, most successful, most team-oriented firms around.” Freed from worries about who gets the credits at year-end, “attorneys can put their clients first and ensure that the most appropriate lawyer gets assigned the case.”

Imagine that novel thinking!

For over 56 years, we have never tracked a single origination credit. No attorney can claim a client at Marshall Dennehey. Every client is a firm client. Every Marshall Dennehey attorney has always embraced the concept that we want our clients represented by our best attorney in every case.

For us to continue to enjoy the favor of our clients, of course we re-commit to be 100% in sync with the objectives of the insurance industry—e.g., reducing legal spend; shortening file shelf life; being creative in resolving our clients’ cases; and leveraging our skill, expertise and experience to reduce our clients’ indemnity spend.

More than that, however, we fundamentally recognize that our clients have a wide array of defense firm options. When assigned a case, we will re-commit this year in demonstrating why our defense is different from—and a better value than—that which is offered by our competition.

How do we display that differentiation? We reinforce our culture hallmarks—humility and unselfish teamwork. These values exponentially multiply our experience, defense industry loyalty, regional presence, quality service and second-to-none work ethic.

The quote at the beginning of this article is taken from Legacy, after the author quizzically observed two of the world’s best rugby players sweeping the locker room (shed) of bloody gauze, athletic tape and dirt clumps after a competition.

He asked the two players what they were doing.

They responded: “Never be too big to do the small things that need to be done.” They went further and said, “Do it properly . . . so no one else has to.”

As we progress further into 2019 and pledge to furnish superior service to our clients, let’s ponder James Kerr’s question: “Whether excellence—true excellence—begins with humility, a humble willingness to sweep the sheds?”

*Chris works in our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office and can be reached at 215.575.2733 or



Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 1, March 2019. 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. © 2019 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