Marshall Dennehey Acquires Bulk of NY-Based Jones Hirsch

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Thomas A. Brophy and James P. Connors
Thomas A. Brophy and James P. Connors

Philadelphia-based Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin will acquire New York City-based Jones Hirsch Connors Miller & Bull's approximately 30 lawyers by July 1, the firm said Friday.

Both firms focus heavily on insurance defense.

Marshall Dennehey President and CEO Thomas A. Brophy said the move is expected to be completed by July 1 but could be done sooner if office fit-outs and file transfers happen sooner. He noted the deal is not a merger but rather an acquisition by Marshall Dennehey of the Jones Hirsch lawyers.

Jones Hirsch's attorneys will join Marshall Dennehey's existing Manhattan office, a soon-to-be-relocated Long Island, N.Y., location and the firm's New Jersey offices. As per the suggestion of Jones Hirsch managing partner James P. Connors, the firm will also open an office in Westchester County, N.Y. Connors will head up that location, Brophy said. Jones Hirsch also has an outpost in Connecticut that Connors said would probably grow when the combined firm moves into Westchester.

"This gives us a footprint in New York now that is more representative of what we've done in Pittsburgh, South Jersey ... where we have a meaningful competitive presence," Brophy said.

Connors and Brophy met about a year ago at a Defense Research Institute annual meeting. Talks have been ongoing since that time. Brophy said the longer the talks went on, the more the firms realized their practices, client lists and cultures were similar.

Jones Hirsch has focused its practice on general casualty litigation, construction litigation, insurance coverage work and medical malpractice defense work, Brophy said. Connors, Brophy noted, was the lead defense attorney for the airport security firms in the 9/11 litigation. Connors said his firm has been fortunate enough for a smaller shop to handle some big cases, including the representation of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s estate after he died in a 1999 plane crash.

Brophy said Marshall Dennehey currently has about 25 lawyers in New York, which started with the firm's acquisition of maritime boutique McDermott & Radzik in 2010. While that acquisition has resulted in maritime work for several of Marshall Dennehey's offices, Brophy said the firm doesn't like to "dabble" in a location and feels 25 lawyers isn't enough for the type of presence the firm wants in each of its markets.

"It makes us a meaningful player in the defense business in New York now and it allows us to do health care, general casualty, professional liability [and] coverage work," Brophy said of the Jones Hirsch acquisition. "We try to handle all the disciplines we are in when we open an office."

From Jones Hirsch's perspective, joining a larger firm is more practical in light of current client demands, Brophy said.

Jones Hirsch is "a 30-lawyer defense firm and it's become more difficult over time for small defense firms to do business because most of the larger insurance firms" have more technology demands and want to use larger firms on a statewide or regional arrangement, Brophy said.

Connors said his firm has found that to be a trend even with its larger self-insured clients. Jones Hirsch represents a number of security companies and manufacturers. He said these clients want to share their contracts with only a few firms that can implement them around the country rather than sharing with a number of local counsel across the United States.

Connors, whose firm has been in existence since 1978, said he has been approached several times over the years about merging. He said none of those discussions felt as right as this one did from both a business and cultural standpoint.

"They were a big us," Connors said of Marshall Dennehey.

Connors said discussions are still ongoing but he would expect most if not all of the firm's more than 30 lawyers to make the transition.

While he wouldn't put a dollar figure on the deal, Brophy said the firms share similar rate structures, with Jones Hirsch lawyers charging slightly more given they are New York-based. He said the two firms share similar clients and got the blessing of two of the larger mutual clients before deciding to merge.

Brophy said the firms selected a July 1 completion date for the acquisition, but it could happen sooner. Jones Hirsch has some leases that are expiring soon. Marshall Dennehey is currently renovating the Manhattan office to be able to house more attorneys. The firm's existing location on Long Island in Hauppauge is relocating to Melville. Brophy said that would take about 60 days and then the firms have to work on file transfers and technology issues.

Zack Needles contributed to this report.

Gina Passarella can be contacted at 215-557-2494 or at gpassarella@alm.com. Follow her on Twitter @GPassarellaTLI.

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