Message From the Executive Committee
For over 33 years, I have been an attorney at Marshall Dennehey. Since January 1987, I have left my house before sunrise and commuted to the office to go to work. This was no different than what my father did every day during his career. The concept of working from home was something done on the weekend (unless I went into the office again) or the rare snow storm when I was, literally, hunkered down in my house and unable to get out for a day or two.
With advancements in technology and a new generation of lawyers joining Marshall Dennehey, the firm recognized that working from home, on a periodic basis, held advantages for some people. Just not me. I continued to be one of the “old school” lawyers. I left my house before dawn and did not get home until after dark.
Shortly after I joined Mark Thompson and Chris Dougherty on Marshall Dennehey’s Executive Committee, we developed the firm’s first official work from home policy. It was progressive, advantageous, attractive, fair, and popular among the lawyers. With some limited restrictions, a lawyer could work remotely one to two days per week by either logging onto Citrix or using the Virtual Personal Network (VPN). In a matter of minutes, the lawyer’s home office was virtually the same as the lawyer’s office building set up. Many of our lawyers took advantage of this policy and worked remotely while fully handling cases and successfully representing clients. Just not me.
It was fortuitous that Marshall Dennehey had the foresight and vision to recognize the trend toward working remotely, because nobody saw COVID-19 coming. Nobody saw that, in March 2020, all non-essential businesses would be required to vacate their office buildings suddenly, without any advance warning, and switch completely to remote work for all employees. Nobody saw the almost complete shutdown of the business world and life as we knew it at the drop of a hat. There was no time for a business to ramp up its technological infrastructure. Either a business had modern advanced and functional IT capabilities—or it didn’t.
Fortunately, Marshall Dennehey has been investing in its IT infrastructure for many years and was as prepared as any business could be for this sudden change. Within five days of the first announced building shutdown, all of the firm’s lawyers and paralegals and the vast majority of our support staff were up and running, and fully operational on either VPN or Citrix. Indeed, approximately 1,100 of our 1,150 employees were fully working remotely. The first few days were hectic, with our IT Department fielding many calls on the Help Desk, especially from support staff who had never been asked to work remotely before. However, all of our employees adapted and overcame the challenge quickly. Our firm transitioned to a fully operational remote work environment where cases entrusted to us continue to be handled professionally, zealously, and to our clients’ satisfaction.
Our firm’s continuous and systematic investment in IT and our contingency planning (we have a remote command center and servers) is the result of purposeful planning and strategic investment precisely for situations like this. We have exercised long-range business judgment to ensure that the investment in our technology infrastructure is in step with our clients so that we can and will be available and “at the ready” when we are needed.
So, where do we go from here? As I write this message, I am at home, typing away on my laptop with VPN. Schools have been cancelled for the rest of the school year. There are no dates announced to restart the NBA or NHL seasons, and major league baseball is considering having its entire 2020 season played in Arizona. However, this will end, and there will be some semblance of “back to normal.” But, we can also foresee some changes emerging in the aftermath of the pandemic. It may be a while before people get comfortable traveling again. Some may be hesitant to shake hands or enter a crowded subway car. Claims and litigation will change too. It is likely that there will be surges in liability claims impacting different sectors of the law. Our COVID-19 Task Force is monitoring the legal climate to stay on top of these issues. We will remain flexible and take things one day at a time, and figure things out together.
As for me, I have learned the “art” of working from home. And while I will still be “old school” and come to the office every day, I know that I can also be productive working from home from time to time. I also take great comfort in knowing that should something like COVID-19 ever occur again, Marshall Dennehey is well equipped to mobilize its entire work force to work from home without any disruption in client service. The distancing associated with this crisis has actually brought our firm together. We will emerge from this disaster stronger than ever, proudly working with each other, while providing clients with uninterrupted and unparalleled excellence in legal representation.
*Howard is a member of the Executive Committee and Director of the Casualty Department. He works in our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania office and can be reached at 215.575.2664 or email@example.com.
Defense Digest, Vol. 26, No. 1, Spring 2020 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. © 2020 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.