Connell Foley’s 25-attorney insurance group had a strong slate of client engagements in 2017 that included coverage disputes and defense, among other matters. It obtained a no-cause verdict for Sterling Airways in a four-week trial over a fatal plane crash, and represented Arch Specialty Insurance Co. in coverage disputes, including a bench trial ending with a $1.34 million judgment in Arch’s favor.
** The responses were provided by partners Philip F. McGovern Jr. and Jonathan P. McHenry. **
What were some of the department’s most satisfying successes of 2017, and why?
We are extremely proud of the successes that Connell Foley achieved for our insurance carrier clients in 2017. Our wins ranged from achieving dispositive omnibus summary judgment rulings in a hotly contested coverage dispute involving over $400 million in alleged damages at a contaminated New Jersey environmental site (the oldest pending civil action in the state of New Jersey), to prevailing at trial and in dispositive motions in a number of insurance coverage matters in the state and federal courts of New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Although we are certainly proud of any “win” that our team has, these successes were particularly satisfying as they underscored the skill of our attorneys in complex, high-exposure matters and brought to resolution hard-fought cases that were of extreme importance to our clients.
Being a Litigation Department of the Year means more than providing good counsel. How does your group go a step further for clients?
Connell Foley has long prided itself on the deep relationships we have formed with our clients. In fact, we have represented some of our insurer clients literally for generations. This type of long-term partnership only exists by understanding your clients’ business needs and by delivering results. This is especially true in our insurance practice where we recognize the multiple challenges that our clients can face. Given the broad scope of the firm’s practice, we are able to enlist the services of our attorneys with expertise in very specific industries and areas of law to address the wide variety of business issues with which our carriers are involved. Our routine involvement in cutting-edge insurance matters enables us to continuously shape the changing legal landscape as we continue to achieve favorable results for the insurance industry.
In an era of increasing law practice portability, what does it mean to be an effective litigator in New Jersey?
Connell Foley’s clients are sophisticated purchasers of legal services who understand the importance of using experienced and specialized litigation counsel that delivers exceptional value. We are intimately familiar with the New Jersey court system and the numerous insurance laws and corollary regulations impacting businesses operating (or partnering) in the state. With a dozen Certified Civil Trial Attorneys among our ranks, we are well-known and routinely litigate matters of all sizes and complexity in every New Jersey vicinage. In this era of ever-growing, multi-jurisdictional practice, our deep New Jersey roots offer an invaluable service to our institutional clients. We take pride in being able to provide clients with unmatched experience in New Jersey courts while knowing that, as a firm with a national practice, we are likewise skilled in litigating matters in jurisdictions across the country.
Is it true that clients now more than ever wish to avoid litigation, and if so, how do law firms manage the business of operating a litigation department in the new marketplace?
We are in the business of efficient dispute resolution, and we counsel our insurer clients in every step of that process. In fact, many of our best results are achieved early on in the claims-handling phase, prior to any ADR or formal litigation. With 80 years of experience litigating cases, we are very adept at predicting the costs and likely results of potential litigation, which often enables early and efficient resolutions. We also provide extensive arbitration and mediation services as an alternative to more protracted disputes. We continue to find, however, that formal litigation is sometimes unavoidable, and we are proud to be a “go-to” firm for our insurer clients in a wide variety of litigated matters.
Litigators are extraordinarily busy people. What does the firm do to ensure that they remain engaged with pro bono work, their communities and their families?
With a true focus on family and community, Connell Foley recognizes the importance of making sure everyone at the firm—attorneys and business professionals alike—is able to find the work/life balance that is important to them. From firm-sponsored support of community activities, to pro bono opportunities, to making sure people are able to attend family and school functions, the firm provides the support and time needed for members to be involved how and where they choose. This is important for all levels of the firm—not just litigators—as it speaks to the fabric and overall morale of the firm, which ultimately make for a happier and more efficient workplace.
Technology and other factors have changed work capabilities and habits. How do you offer flexibility while also effectively managing attorneys and others professionals?
In today’s workplace, there is no shortage of ways to stay connected, technologically speaking. In keeping with a “family friendly” work environment as described above, we recognize and honor the need for flexibility. We are a firm of professionals, though, and it is understood that with flexibility comes responsibility. Whether in the office, working from home or conducting business over a mobile device, our professionals understand what is needed to ensure our clients remain a priority and their work is done thoroughly, effectively and on time.