When the law firm of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin entered the Florida market in 2001, it had one office in Orlando with two attorneys and just a few clients. A lot has changed since then. Today, the civil defense litigation firm has offices in Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Jacksonville with nearly 50 lawyers.
“We have accomplished our initial goal of building depth so that each office has experienced local attorneys in all of our practice groups. This provides our clients with qualified local attorneys who know the judges, the lawyers and the communities where the cases are venued,” says Craig Hudson, managing attorney of the Fort Lauderdale office and supervisor of the firm’s Florida professional liability practice. “Our local presence is one of the reasons our clients choose us. The added benefit to our clients is that we hold down costs by not having attorneys traveling from one office to another.”
Florida has embraced the Philadelphia based firm’s philosophy to encourage diversity. That philosophy has helped Marshall Dennehey’s Fort Lauderdale office achieve a significant level of diversity. About 30 percent of its attorneys are women and 17 percent are African-American. And the firm’s focus on diversity is reflected in its other Florida offices, as well. For example, in the firm’s Orlando office, more than half of the attorneys are female and the managing partner is a woman.
Marshall Dennehey is an AmLaw 200 firm with nearly 500 attorneys in six states on the East Coast. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012 and enjoys a reputation as a go-to defense firm for complex cases.
“We have quality people. Everyone who works at this law firm works hard while treating each other with respect and dignity,” Hudson says. “Our firm has been built on the idea that people should have the opportunity to be successful professionally. We develop our young attorneys, with a focus on mentorship, professional development and client contact.”
“The firm’s support and opportunities for its attorneys have resulted in very few of them leaving,” Hudson says. “We don’t have a high turnover rate. A number of our attorneys and staffhave been here since the office opened.”
That stability benefits clients because they know they will be dealing with the same people year in and year out. In addition to long-standing client relationships, it has also helped the firm attract new clients
In 2001, the Fort Lauderdale office was primarily defending professional and general liability claims. Today, the office has a thriving defense practice that has expanded to include insurance coverage, bad faith, all sorts of employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims, wage and hour disputes, PIP/SIU, nonprofit and profit D&O, and fair debt and commercial litigation. Currently, the Fort Lauderdale office has six shareholders, one special counsel and 10 associates.
“When we first started our Florida operations we relied primarily on firm clients who were also just entering the Florida market. Today, it’s a different story. We have several Florida-based insurers that didn’t know who we were back when we first arrived in the state,” Hudson says. “Our Florida offices have gone through several convergence processes and have been selected to be part of the reduced panel law firms. This attests to our ability to successfully serve our clients while becoming a well established Florida law firm.”
When Hudson moved from Philadelphia in 2007 to head the Fort Lauderdale office, the office had six attorneys. Together with Rick Ravine, Andrew Marchese, Jonathan Kanov and the later addition of Michael Packer, who has built the Florida offices’ fast growing insurance coverage and bad faith practice, the office has nearly tripled in size. Such growth precipitated the office’s move to new office space in 2012.
Marshall Dennehey plans continued growth in the Sunshine State. “We want to have measured growth in all of our Florida offices through expansion or lateral hires,” Hudson says. “Looking forward, I expect us to continue to expand at the same pace.”