Defense Digest, Vol. 26, No. 3, October 2020

Message from the Executive Committee

How Janus Looks at the Pandemic

I love reading classical mythology. One of the more intriguing figures is the Roman god Janus. Janus was the God of Time – beginnings, transitions, passages, and endings. He was typically depicted with a head with two faces – one looking to the past; the other looking to the future.

Now that we are seven months into coping with the coronavirus pandemic, I am pleased to view a transition to normalcy.

All 20 of our offices are open and fully operational – albeit, with flexible and staggered schedules to ensure appropriate spacing. Yet, it is so heartwarming to be with our attorneys and staff again.

As I look over the past seven months, I see so many incredible examples of determination, resilience, innovation, and esprit typical of Marshall Dennehey. These embedded traits enabled us to deliver our first-in-class legal services unabated while we worked from home.

Our initial and continued reaction to the pandemic was not to lay off or furlough employees. Rather, we sought every available means to redefine workflows and job descriptions to keep every employee on the payroll. . . . which we have done. Instead of reducing compensation, we maintained compensation levels, and we have tried to reduce expenses by other means.

We are proud of our family culture at Marshall Dennehey. When confronted with the pandemic, loyalty up and down the ranks has been quite evident. Our being selected by the Philadelphia Business Journal as a “Best Place to Work” in the Philadelphia area for the 8th straight year is Exhibit “A” to that point.

During the pandemic, we strove to maintain normalcy wherever possible.

As an example, we have always enjoyed a fierce commitment to the training and mentoring of our professional staff. That commitment persisted during the pandemic. We have maintained virtual CLE programs. Our attorney teams have been consistently collaborating to maintain the professional development and competence of our newly hired attorneys and paralegals. 

Last year, we formed a five-person Executive Committee Advisory Council (ECAC). This group consists of younger shareholders who embody competence, initiative, vision, and other positive traits predictive of leadership capabilities. We have been consulting with our ECAC this year, and as planned, we expanded it to ten attorneys to continue our leadership capstone program.

As we transition toward normalcy, we beam with pride that Marshall Dennehey attorneys recently defended the first two jury trials in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Both attorneys obtained defense verdicts for their respective clients. Matt Keris of our Health Care Department tried a case to a jury defense verdict in late July. Scott Gemberling obtained a defense verdict for his client in a dram shop case in late August 2020. Coincidentally, both jury trials were conducted in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Both attorneys obtained unique lessons as to how to conduct a jury trial in the midst of pandemic restrictions.

In response to the pandemic, our firm stood up four new Health Care Practice Groups: Electronic Medical Record and Audit Trail Litigation; Behavioral Health Risk and Liability; Emergency Medical Services; and Telehealth & Telemedicine Practice Group.

We are one of the few law firms in the country that maintained its Summer Clerkship Program. We were fortunate to have a talented and motivated group of law students assist us this summer. As we typically do, we intend to make select hires from this cadre.

We hired quite a few new paralegals throughout calendar year 2020. We held our Annual Paralegal Training “Boot Camp” in early September 2020 to orient them on how our firm handles litigation in a first class but cost-effective manner.

If we gaze out of the eyes on the other side of Janus’ head, and look to the future, I am confident we will emerge as a stronger firm than we were before the pandemic struck.

Because our attorneys and staff became so adept at performing litigation functions virtually, we are poised to remain leaders in the industry and help redefine how cases should be defended. We will do this by leveraging our newly-acquired skills and technology for cost savings to clients and insurers.

Although we were unable to meet with our clients personally, so many of our attorneys conducted virtual CE and CLE seminars to our clients, both domestically and abroad. That will continue.

While we are very proud to be ranked #3 on The American Lawyer 2020 A-List, Female Equity Partner Scorecard for our high percentage of female shareholders, in the future, we will strive to improve on that figure and our commitment to improving our diversity across the board.

We will continue to enlarge our footprint within the London market--by our own efforts and those in conjunction with our partners in Insurance Law Global (ILG—UK, Spain, Canada, and Netherlands). With our international partners, we have already formed several subgroups focusing on areas including Cyber, Sports, Recreation & Amusement Liability, and Property Litigation. These groups will counsel our clients on risk management issues and defend liability cases with skill and expertise. Also, we formed an ILG Casualty Group that will highlight our expertise in the London market in new and emerging risk areas such as rideshare liability and autonomous vehicles.

As our clients adapt more readily to working remotely, we will continue to provide counselling guidance to them in all lines of business with respect to ever-increasing cyber security risks, policies and procedures.

As schools move ahead with a view to live attendance, we will enhance the guidance that we have been providing to our School District clients with respect to COVID-19-related safety information for students, teachers, and employees.

Because of our commitment to data and technology, we overcame challenges imposed by mandatory remote working requirements and we accelerated a change of internal processes toward truly digital and paper-light formats. We will continue the digital transformation to ensure our clients receive high-quality service for a valued price – always the trademark of Marshall Dennehey.

On the hardware front, we made a remarkable commitment to purchase personal IT equipment to maximize the effectiveness of digital working – laptops, dual/larger screens, cameras, and headsets. Our foresight years ago to invest heavily in IT and disaster preparedness served us and our clients well this year. We will double down on our technology commitment to expand the electronic interface with our clients, and our internal communications and collaborations among our 20 offices and our agile workers.

Despite the lingering persistence of the pandemic, Marshall Dennehey consistently finds a way to bind together -- even though we could not personally be together. Adversity truly brought out the best in Marshall Dennehey and our employees. Yet, we acutely recognize that our firm excels when we are personally meeting, collaborating, strategizing, and problem-solving.

Now that attorneys, paralegals, and staff are beginning to reunify and collaborate again in-person, I see us on the road back to our optimal performance state. When we reach that point over the next several months, we will emerge post-COVID-19 with an enhanced position in our marketplace.

I’d like to make one added point in my last address as Marshall Dennehey’s Chairman.

What we accomplished this year as a firm while facing a pandemic was one thing. To perform as well as we have in the midst of such societal unrest, division, hurt, and pain – amplified further by a contentious election year – was yet another. Our accomplishments required a great deal of focus and compartmentalization by everyone in our firm.

Our firm is a great place to work because of the astonishing good character of everyone employed here. Humanity, decency, respect, and care are beautifully shared among us every day. Just as we joined hands to advance our firm this year, let’s extend that spirit – and who we are – to our communities and be channels of respect, healing, understanding, and unity there also.

While we won’t be able to solve all of our country’s problems, by doing so, each of us can make a positive difference every day by spreading more widely the values we hold dear within our firm.



Defense Digest, Vol. 26, No. 3, October 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