Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 2019

Message From the Executive Committee


For Everything, There Is a Season


I am very proud to be a Marine and to have served in our Armed Services for nearly 30 years. One fabulous benefit of military service is that it provides opportunities to travel and experience life in different places and cultures.

Through my Navy and Marine Corps career, I visited nations in the Mediterranean, Africa, Scandinavia, and the Far East. I lived in Okinawa, Japan for a year. In the States, I lived for extended periods in California, Florida, both Carolinas, and Maryland.

While those experiences were eye-opening and meaningful, they also gave me a deeper appreciation for where I was born and raised—Pennsylvania—Penn's Woods! It is not just the beautiful scenery and topography in Pennsylvania that I have grown to love, but the changes in seasons really make a difference.

As I enter into my 29th year with Marshall Dennehey, I have grown to appreciate that Marshall Dennehey is dynamic, organic, and evolving. In a sense, Marshall Dennehey lives through “seasons“ of its own.

For example, in our early years, we handled plaintiff's litigation—and in some years, our firm derived substantial revenue from successful verdicts. We principally now commit our efforts to civil defense litigation. We on the Executive Committee intentionally strive every day to improve every facet of our law firm. Maintaining the status quo is simply unacceptable.

Our firm experiences seasons when we lose attorneys who have been with us for extended durations. Terry Lefco, Bruce Morrison, Bob Faller, Dana Argeris and others immediately come to recent memory. During this past year alone, Sam Casolari and Bill Foster unexpectedly passed, and we indeed miss them.

When we lose attorneys of the caliber, experience, and character as those mentioned above, we must steadfastly push forward with our “next person up” mentality. While every personnel circumstance cannot be precisely anticipated nor hedged, we in senior management systematically create and cultivate succession plans. We continually and purposefully identify and encourage our firm’s new growth.

In fact, we have been keenly studying our attorney workforce—its age, experience, capabilities, and expected longevities—for the past two decades. This intentional forethought applies to senior management, middle-management, individual attorneys, and it includes client relationship succession.

Perhaps more important than this dedicated planning is recognizing and cultivating that certain force which exists in our firm—our own seasonal Marshall Dennehey DNA—which propels our employees (attorneys and staff alike) to grow, blossom, and seize the many opportunities our firm continues to provide.

We all know that our firm is unrivaled when it comes to the number of AV rated attorneys we have and how many attorneys are recognized by national trial organizations (ABOTA, American College of Trial Lawyers, Litigation Counsel of America, International Academy of Trial Lawyers, etc.).

Yet, we have so many emerging younger attorneys significantly contributing to not only our firm, but also to the defense industry. Everyone should feel as optimistic about our future as I do when we stop and appreciate their prominence.

Let me identify just a few (there isn't enough space to name them all!):

  • Jason Banonis, the managing attorney of our Allentown office, is the current president of the Pennsylvania Defense Institute.
  • Jeff Rapattoni is a national thought leader on fraud prevention and detection. Jeff guides insurers in developing complex litigation strategies to curtail insurance fraud in medical provider, PIP, and homeowner insurance areas. Jeff recently spoke at an international fraud conference in Amsterdam on how insurers can best use data analysis.
  • Elizabeth Ferguson is the current president of the Jacksonville Bar Association. Elizabeth is also the only attorney member on the Florida Board of Professional Engineers.
  • Matt Keris serves on the Defense Research Institute's (DRI) Board of Directors as the Atlantic Region Director and he was recently appointed to the Steering Committee of the DRI’s Annual Insurance Roundtable, where insurance executives and defense attorneys discuss common issues, problems and goals.
  • Melanie Foreman is the 2019 recipient of the Craig M. Perry Service Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association. Among other activities, Melanie is an executive committee member of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division. She is also the youngest member of the board of directors of Philadelphia Community Legal Services—a nationally recognized legal assistance organization which has furnished free legal services to more than one million low-income Philadelphians.
  • Andrea Rock is the chair of the Workers’ Compensation section in the Philadelphia Bar Association.
  • Jeremy Zacharias and Kyle Heisner completed an arduous course of study to become Registered Professional Liability Underwriters (RPLU). Jeremy also had the distinction of being chosen for the first class of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society’s (PLUS) Diversity and Leadership Mentoring Program (LAMP) program. Of note, Jeremy was the only attorney in the United States so selected.
  • Brooks Foland is the current president of the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Bar Association.
  • Ashley Myers is the president elect of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Bar Association.
  • Sang Lee is an executive committee member of the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel.

I am similarly enthused about the varied and distinctive expertise that our emerging attorneys are developing. Again, let me highlight just a few examples—which I challenge our competitors to match—that will provide Marshall Dennehey with future stability, strength, and sustainability.

  • Andrew Marchese is Florida Board Certified in Condominium and Planned Development.
  • Elizabeth Ferguson is Florida Board Certified in Construction Law.
  • Jim Hanratty, Brad Goewart, and Michael Bradford are Florida Supreme Court Board Certified civil trial attorneys. Matt Schorr and Tim Jaeger are Board Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as civil trial attorneys.
  • Leslie Jenny is a certified professional in Healthcare Risk Management.
  • Stacey Starcher is Board Certified in Trial Advocacy and Civil Procedure by the National Board of Trial Advocates.
  • Maureen Fitzgerald, a former Price Waterhouse accountant, is a Certified Public Accountant.
  • Heather Carbone is Board Certified in Florida Workers’ Compensation.
  • Chris Boyle, a former 16-year Philadelphia police lieutenant, is a nationally recognized law enforcement expert and is a state certified instructor in police pursuits, racial profiling, hiring practices, and fourth amendment law.

Our firm has weathered disruptive forces and industry change for over six decades—business and client downturns, tort reform, technology changes, and personnel succession. Through it all, we have learned to embrace tightly the attributes which make us distinctive and strong—our collaborative culture, our commitment to first rate, quality, personalized service, and value pricing.

At the same time, to continue to thrive, we must adapt, evolve, and grow under new industry conditions. As the Byrds sang in Turn, Turn, Turn: “There is a season . . . and a time to every purpose . . . A time to build up.”

We are building up for our future with the newly created Advisory Council to the Executive Committee. That body will serve as a direct conduit for beneficial suggestions on how to improve our firm. These ten attorneys also will be exposed to management issues facing our firm, will learn how to solve them, and ideally will learn from those experiences to better serve our firm in the future.

We are building up for the future by creating a paralegal boot camp to raise the talent level of our para-professionals; by applying advanced process and staffing management to our volume portfolios of work; by disgorging unprofitable lines of business; and by devising a remote work policy.

We continue to build up for our future by infusing new ideas and methodologies brought from the outside by Karen Swift, our new IT Director, and Karen Williams, our new HR Director. We have revamped our organization to create our first ever Chief Financial Officer, Frank Stransky. We plan to devote significant capital each year to technology so all attorneys possess state-of-the-art capabilities to service their clients 24/7 and wherever they are located.

We build up for our future by constantly reviewing and updating our real estate portfolio to give our attorneys a sense of pride and motivation in where they work and, at the same time, vigorously implementing cost containment measures.

We build up for our future by creating a fresh new logo and website. Both are designed to give Marshall Dennehey a sparkling professional image consistent with who we are. We are confident that the website will afford our clients and insurers with an enhanced user experience as they navigate our attorney bios and our legal capabilities.

We are building up for the future by embracing what our clients measure in attorney performance and reformulating the nature of our internal audits. They now mirror what our clients are measuring: file shelf life, accuracy in budgeting, precision in predicting indemnity and verdict values, and staffing.

As we approach the end of the year to enjoy seasonal holidays, it's appropriate to pause, reflect, and give thanks for our seasons while clinging to our valuable intangibles.

Our firm is perennially recognized as a "Great Place to Work" because it IS a great place to work. Like many of us here at Marshall Dennehey, it's likely that you have been touched at the right time (and when you especially needed it) by a note, a hug, prayers, an understanding conversation, presence at a funeral, an unexpected gift, a bridal or baby shower, or other simple expressions of kindness and care. Let’s acknowledge and be grateful for our unique DNA, which flows continuously through our firm as we progress and evolve.

I believe I speak for Mark and Howard when I say thank you from the bottom of my heart to every client and to every Marshall Dennehey employee.   To the former:  thank you for entrusting your matters to us and for the confidence you extend by allowing us to partner with you.  We will never take your favor for granted.

To the latter:  thank you you for your day-to-day efforts and your extraordinary commitment to our firm and to our clients.   We are grateful for all the many subtle little things you do for each other which collectively make our firm such a special place to work today. . . and for many days to come.

Warmest holiday wishes to every one reading this note and to your families!   May your holidays bring you welcome rest and special time with those you love.

Best wishes for a safe and Happy New Year!

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



Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 2019 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