Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 3, September 2019

On the Pulse…Culturally Speaking

By Christopher E. Dougherty, Esq., Chairman of the Board of Directors

This is the fifth piece in a series discussing the positive culture of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin. As I have previously noted, I try to share observations and reflections about our firm from attorneys who have practiced in other firms. Because of those prior experiences, their perceptions about our firm are worth highlighting.

Here, I append remarks by Christopher Block. Chris joined us in August 2012. Chris has been admitted to practice since 1996 and among other responsibilities in both our Casualty and Professional Liability Departments, Chris is currently the director of membership development for the Professional Liability Defense Federation.

I commend to you Chris’ experience at Marshall Dennehey.


The Marshall Dennehey Experience

By Christopher B. Block, Esq.*

In what seems like a brief 21 years of practicing law in New Jersey and New York, I have had a broad experience. I have worked at law firms that range in size from three lawyers to one that is larger than Marshall Dennehey. What I have learned over the course of my career is simple—it’s not the size of the law firm, but the quality of the people who work inside it. I have also learned that the placement of safeguards, layers of management and new attorney training play crucial roles in the development of lawyers, the growth of a law firm and the development of deep client relationships. Marshall Dennehey has taught me these lessons, and these “lessons learned” keep me at the firm.

Warm Welcome.

As any lawyer transitioning from one law firm to another, and trying to integrate clients into the new law firm, knows, the process can be stressful and tricky. Nonetheless, when I arrived at Marshall Dennehey, I was warmly welcomed by the staff, the other lawyers and our office manager. In fact, on my first day at the firm, our office manager, Margaret Wolfe, took me to meet every single person in our office—over 70 people! She introduced every person by name, and I received a warm welcome and a kind word from each. It certainly set the right tone.

In addition, I received tremendous support from our local management team. Whether it was a kind word of support from our managing shareholder or what quickly developed into a strong, comfortable, trusting relationship with our practice group leader, Matt Schorr, I received what I needed. Also, I was surprised and pleased to have direct access to our firmwide practice director, who always returns phone calls and emails promptly and continues to provide regular, direct advice and guidance. These relationships, while seemingly commonplace here at Marshall Dennehey, are unusual at larger firms across the country.

Prior to joining Marshall Dennehey, I worked at a 550+ person law firm that had a nationwide reach. It would often take weeks for fellow shareholders and managers to return calls, at which point, the issue would often be moot and the opportunity lost. Having easy access to management allows for quick decisions and direction that supports trust, goodwill, speedy resolution of conflict issues and client growth.

Client Development.

At the law firm I worked for prior to Marshall Dennehey, the philosophy was, “Eat what you kill.” This means that when a lawyer brings in a new client, that client belongs to that lawyer, and attorneys receive remuneration from the firm based on how many clients they bring in. While this process would seemingly benefit the aggressive, salesperson-type lawyer, the downside is that this system easily creates mistrust among lawyers at the firm, a disincentive to share clients, and a dangerous tendency for lawyers to branch out into areas of practice in which they are not comfortable, because they would rather keep the case than give it to another partner who might be better qualified to handle the assignment. I saw it firsthand at my old firm when a lawyer from St. Louis tried to defend a real estate malpractice case in central New Jersey. It took a year and a half for the lawyer to realize she was in over her head and transfer the case to the New Jersey office.

This type of situation would not occur here at Marshall Dennehey. Far from an “eat what you kill” system, Marshall Dennehey encourages and rewards sharing clients and cases. Here, hoarding clients, relationships and cases is frowned upon. My ability to share clients, client relationships, and cases with highly-respected, seasoned litigators in other jurisdictions where I don’t practice makes my life easier and benefits clients. In fact, clients often reach out to me at the close of cases that I refer to colleagues and compliment me on their work ethic and demeanor.

New Attorney Development.

Marshall Dennehey also stands out in new attorney development. What I have seen in our Roseland office are the opportunities for young lawyers to have direct client relationships, provide crucial input, and obtain hands-on discovery, deposition and even trial experience early in their professional development. At other firms I’ve worked at, a lawyer could practice for five years before he or she had an opportunity to conduct something as simple as a deposition. In our busy practice group here in Roseland, this simply would not be possible. Instead, we have an inclusive, collaborative approach where we discuss complicated cases together, even outside of the typical roundtable situation, and we often invite the youngest and newest attorneys to provide their input, understanding that, while it is first a learning opportunity, it is also a chance for our seasoned attorneys to hear different perspectives, ones that can provide fresh and insightful ideas.

Overall, the opportunities and support I have received here at Marshall Dennehey, as well as the people I work with, not only make this firm a tremendous platform to grow client relationships, but a great place to work.

*Chris works in our Roseland, New Jersey office. He can be reached at 973.618.4176 or



Defense Digest, Vol. 25, No. 3, September 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