On the Pulse…Culturally Speaking

Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 2, June 2019

by Christopher E. Dougherty, Esq.

We in senior management frequently talk about—and are very proud of—the culture of our firm. That culture is generated and sustained by teamwork, unselfishness, trust, honesty, humility, hard work, humor and more.

While Marshall Dennehey’s culture propelled us to be recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal for the fifth year in a row as a “Best Place to Work” in the Delaware Valley, other tangible benefits are realized:

  • Our culture leads to longevity. People like working here. They remain here for a long time. That longevity translates into experience and expertise in civil defense litigation, and that expertise at all organization levels helps to distinguish our service from our competitions’.
  • Our trust in one another simplifies our business discourse. We can reach the heart of the matter instantly and without any need for “watching your politics,” “currying favor,” or “guarding your six.” There is a business concept called “The Speed of Trust,” and our firm is a proving ground for that maxim.
  • Our teamwork is amplified by our compensation system. We do not reward file originations—i.e., no fixed formula for compensation tied to the billables on work brought into the firm by an attorney. Our compensation system is built on trust. It is built on the concept that a client will be defended by the most qualified attorney for that case type and in that particular venue.


I thought it would be more meaningful to share observations and reflections of our firm and its culture from a few of our attorneys who worked at—and in some cases managed in—other law firms. Their perspective is insightful. Below is another installment in an ongoing series regularly appearing in this publication.


Common Purpose and Joined Efforts

By Harold L. Moroknek, Esq.*

When my previous law firm disbanded, the future abruptly shifted from comfortable to unsettled and unknown. After leaving the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in 1992 to join private practice, I had seemingly found solid footing at a law firm where I had hoped to spend my career. However, the firm broke up in 2007. I was quickly faced with an uncertain future and a young family relying on me. Several attorneys and I sought to reestablish ourselves and somehow support our families with no office to go to, no clients of our own and no steady stream of revenue coming in the door.

Although that time was difficult, and at times scary, it was also exciting. Our new firm was founded with my name on the door. We embarked on a quest to build our brand in the New York metropolitan area. After several months of hard work, and far too many without any revenue, we were able to establish roots and a client base. Being part of a firm that was built from the ground up gave me the opportunity to develop my practice style and the hands-on, personal service my clients expect today. While we enjoyed many successes, our platform remained limited to the local New York area at a time when national and multi-national transportation brands were directing their litigation to firms that could provide legal services both within and outside of New York. Unfortunately, our firm’s marketing plan and long-term vision was not sufficient to satisfy my clients or to allow for meaningful growth.

During this time, I had occasion to attend a CLM conference in Texas. By chance and good fortune, I met Jacqueline Canter of our Philadelphia office. Jacqui and I were seated next to each other at dinner and, fortuitously, had a client in common, which provided the spark for a conversation that would change my professional life. Having practiced within the New York metropolitan area, I had not heard of Marshall Dennehey until Jacqui and I began discussing the firm. I was immediately impressed that she had been at Marshall Dennehey for over 20 years–essentially her entire professional career. She described the firm’s platform for excellence in client service, growing the business model and obtaining new clients. Most importantly, she told me about the atmosphere within the firm that causes so many attorneys, including herself, to spend their entire careers with the company. We discussed the model for the firm, both in terms of lifestyle and from a professional perspective. She invited me to meet a gentleman by the name of Howard Dwoskin to discuss the possibility of joining the firm and developing a marketing strategy that could expand the work for my existing transportation client beyond the New York City/Long Island/Westchester region.

Needless to say, this opportunity intrigued and excited me. Within the next few weeks, Howard and I discussed how we could facilitate bringing my work into the firm and how we could develop a marketing plan to expand the work for the transportation client. To say we have succeeded would be an understatement. Eighteen months after joining Marshall Dennehey in January of 2015, I became counsel for my national transportation client’s risk management litigation, not only in New York, but in Connecticut, Delaware and Ohio. With the help of Patrick Carey, Charles Gura, Joseph Rava, Douglas Walsh, Timothy Schenkel, David Fagnilli and numerous attorneys spread throughout a half dozen other Marshall Dennehey offices, our development of this client and practice area has been a tremendous success.

That is not to say that all of this success came without adjustments. Anyone who has operated their own firm will attest to the challenges one must face when transitioning from a small or midsize firm to a large, multi-faceted organization, such as Marshall Dennehey. One goes from controlling nearly every aspect of a company’s operations to joining forces with scores of professionals charged with working together to sustain a business model that employs well over 1,000 people. What I have come to learn and greatly appreciate, though, is that with common purpose and joined effort comes a feeling of support that is, in comparison, virtually unobtainable in a small firm. In a small firm, one knows that it all comes down to you and your client, and any issue, large or small, could have significant consequences. While the stakes are no less with a larger firm, we know that the support of the entire organization exists and we do not hesitate to seek assistance if it means better serving our clients or growing our business.

Marshall Dennehey recently had the opportunity to co-host the 2019 Legal Panel Summit for our national transportation group client, its risk management team, TPA-dedicated resolution unit and panel counsel from all over the country. The summit was an unmitigated success. It provided us the opportunity to show off the resources and benefits that Marshall Dennehey can offer to the client, not only in our legal work, but in our ability to leverage our resources to assist fellow counsel nationwide to provide better representation for the company as a whole.

Working at a firm that makes client service a priority and that provides the platform, resources, and marketing strategy necessary for growth allows us to look to the future with optimism. If the last four years are any indication, I strongly believe we’re headed in the right direction.

*Harold, a shareholder, works in our Rye Brook, New York office. He can be reached at 914.977.7316 or hlmoroknek@mdwcg.com.


Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 2, June 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 tamontemuro@mdwcg.com.