Message From the Executive Committee
Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin has grown steadily over the last fifteen years. The firm now comprises 440 lawyers in 20 offices in 6 states. I am routinely asked if the firm will continue to grow and, if so, will the growth be geographic. Uniquely, law firms face a challenge that other professional services firms do not, at least as frequently or definitively, and that is conflicts of interest. At the end of the day, I believe that the firm's geographic growth, given our standing as a litigation firm, will be constrained in its geographic expansion by conflicts of interest.
However, over the last five years, the firm has seen growth in all of its practice groups and regional offices but has experienced the largest and most rapid growth in practice areas where it has not traditionally done business, i.e. aviation, maritime, health law, commercial litigation and technology. I foresee that clients will recognize that the firm has niche expertise that they want to call upon in states other than those in which the firm has a physical presence. I also see the firm developing additional expertise needed in states in which it does not have offices. As the skill sets of lawyers in these niche practices become increasingly nuanced and/or more familiar to our clients, or as case exposures increase, our lawyers will be called upon by clients who are looking for that particular skill set and believe that our attorney's expertise is more valuable than a physical presence in that state.
Interestingly, for many years, lawyers at Marshall Dennehey have been asked to handle cases in states other than those in which the firm has a physical location. The firm's Securities and Investment Professional Liability practice group has handled cases in Illinois, Washington, Texas, California, Oklahoma, Maryland, South Carolina, Iowa, Minnesota, Louisiana, West Virginia and Kansas.
Additionally, lawyers at Marshall Dennehey have been defending corporations in asbestos litigation since its onset in the late 1970s and, in this regard, have handled cases in Texas, Maryland, Rhode Island, North Dakota, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, Alabama, Delaware, New York and Ohio. That litigation has seen a decrease in the number of cases being filed and an increase in the acuity of these cases. As this trend continues, we anticipate clients will ask lawyers at Marshall Dennehey to travel to more and more jurisdictions to try cases on their behalf. As a group, Marshall Dennehey's asbestos attorneys have tried a substantial number of cases on behalf of a variety of defendants whose exposure was based on very different products, thereby giving rise to different types of defenses. This makes them attractive to clients whose financial exposure in their litigated asbestos cases increases as the number of viable defendants decreases.
In the technology arena, lawyers at Marshall Dennehey have handled cases in Massachusetts, Indiana, Illinois, Washington, California, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada and Tennessee. One of the hottest new areas of litigation is that involving data breach occurrences. It seems that Ted Kobus at Marshall Dennehey is called as frequently as every ten days to handle a data breach matter somewhere in the United States.
Lawyers in Marshall Dennehey's Maritime practice group have tried cases in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Interestingly, substantial shipping takes place within the continental United States rather than just along the east and west coasts. The pool of attorneys who handle these types of matters is limited, therefore, attorneys doing this type of work have traditionally handled these cases in states other than those in which the lawyers were located.
Aviation is another area in which lawyers at Marshall Dennehey are called upon to travel to states in which the firm does not have a physical presence. In fact, it seems more typical than not that the firms defending aviation claims will travel outside their home states to do so. This is often because a flight has originated in one state and the accident has occurred in another. Also, as referenced earlier, aviation lawyers have a particularly nuanced skill set, and clients have concluded that their experience and talent is more important in defending a lawsuit than is a particular physical location.
In addition to actually trying cases in various states, lawyers at Marshall Dennehey are often asked to serve as regional or national counsel. Currently Scott Gemberling serves as national counsel for an insurance carrier with a national program insuring providers of alcoholic beverages. In the last three years alone, Scott Gemberling has traveled to more than fifteen states to handle liquor liability cases on behalf of that client.
Lary Zucker, in our Cherry Hill office, is regarded as one of the nation's leading authorities in defending lawsuits against amusement parks and bowling alleys. Lary is admitted to the bars in Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey but has also been called upon to defend cases in Ohio, Arizona, Texas and Michigan.
Consequently, when I am asked about the firm's growth these days, I tell clients that I anticipate the firm will be a defense litigation firm with a substantial presence in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states and will have a number of specialty practices which will be either regional or national in scope. It is an exciting time to be at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin as more clients recognize the specialized expertise that certain lawyers at the firm have and call upon those lawyers to handle matters or to assist in matters that have been filed outside the states in which the firm has an office location.
Defense Digest, Vol. 17, No. 2, June 2011