Two recently installed presidents of defense bar organizations—the Pennsylvania Defense Institute and the Philadelphia Association of Defense Counsel—said they will devote their terms to mentoring and recruiting younger members to their ranks.
Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin attorney Matthew Keris recently took the helm of PDI, and James Scott of Bodell Bove has been named president of PADC and will assume his duties in September.
Keris, whose practice at Marshall Dennehey’s Lackawanna County office focuses on medical malpractice defense, said PDI must make itself adaptable to shifting age demographics.
“This is a period of transition for all organizations,” Keris said. “We face a situation where we have a lot of boomers retiring within the next five years. The baby boomers represent the biggest part of most organizations’ memberships.”
Because those members aged 60 and up might become less active in the organization, Keris said the time is right to start fostering interest in PDI in the next generation of lawyers.
“We’re trying to bring in members of Generation Y. Those two groups,” Generation Y and the boomers, Keris said, “represent the biggest part of the work population, but what drives each group is completely different.”
Getting younger lawyers involved will be a challenge, Keris said. One way to tackle that challenge is to open up positions that have traditionally been held by senior members and to give short-time members more involvement with the board of directors.
Keris also said he wants to infuse the organization’s publication, Counterpoint, which had the same editor since its inception, with fresh members.
“[Editor] Ralph Kates is going to be retiring shortly. One of the things I would like to do is get a younger, bright editorial board to keep Counterpoint relevant,” Keris said.
In addition to attracting younger membership, Keris said he wants the organization to encourage its members to become more technologically literate, as well as more involved in charitable activities.
PDI’s greatest accomplishment thus far, according to Keris, has been to foster better relations between defense lawyers and the insurance industry.
“It’s nice to be a part of an organization that sorts through these differences and tries to compromise and reach each other’s goals,” Keris said.
He added that his experience in insurance claims and as a private attorney gives him a unique perspective that will be beneficial to him as president and in keeping up good relations between lawyers and insurance professionals.
Keris has been a member of PDI for 10 years.
“I’m honored that I’ve been chosen to be in this position,” Keris said. “We have great executive leadership, including two people in the insurance industry. We have a good mix.”
Scott, who handles construction defect litigation, also said he would be focusing on building the participation of younger attorneys in PADC through mentoring.
Regarding PADC, “The thing I’m most proud of is the role it plays in providing a vehicle in mentoring other attorneys,” Scott said.
Because there are “hardly any cases tried anymore,” Scott said there are fewer opportunities for young lawyers to learn litigation skills.
PADC “provides socializing between lawyers, CLEs, a way for people to learn from the deans of the defense bar,” Scott said.
Scott said he wants PADC to focus more on teaching lawyers “the nuts-and-bolts skills of being a defense lawyer,” such as handling depositions, hiring experts and dealing with claims representatives.
Scott, who also sits as an arbitrator in Philadelphia, described his leadership style as “collaborative.”
He added that he learns from everyone, young and old, and likes to include all points of view in the decision-making process.
“It wouldn’t be my style to say, ‘Look, this is how things are going to go,’” Scott said.
In beginning his new role—after serving terms as PADC’s president-elect, vice president and secretary—Scott said he looks forward to keeping the organization moving forward in its mission and learning from others in the organization.