A Life of Service

Thursday, November 10, 2022
David C. Dziengowski

Partner David C. Dziengowski has spent 14 years serving in the US Navy. First on active duty from 2009–2014 and now in the US Navy Reserve. He’s represented sailors, soldiers, and members of the Coast Guard and US Marines in court martial proceedings and administrative hearings. In 2011, he deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, worked closely with Afghan judges, prosecutors, and investigators, and assisted in the development of the rule of law. As a Morgan Lewis partner, he now serves veterans through pro bono work and on the Community Council of Hope for the Warriors. David shares a bit more about his commitment to his country as he was honored with the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Veterans of Influence award.

Why did you join the Navy?

Tradition, adventure, and duty inspired my decision to join the Armed Forces. Much of my family has served in the Armed Forces. I wanted to keep that tradition going and am proud to have done so. I feel so incredibly fortunate to live in the United States and felt obliged to serve in exchange for the great benefits it has afforded me.

How did the Navy prepare you for your current role at Morgan Lewis?

As a young lawyer, the Navy offered me great opportunities to see the world, do good things, and log time on my feet in the courtroom. I also learned how to present the BLUF, or “Bottom Line Up Front,” which has been invaluable in the business world. Presenting the answer up front —whether it is good news or bad news—has served me well and demonstrates to the client that I am mindful of their time.

I was quickly attracted to Morgan Lewis because of its uniquely collaborative work environment, dedication to exceptional client service, and strong roots in Philadelphia (where my wife and I wanted to establish roots). The firm’s tight-knit, collaborative nature offers the closest parallel to the Navy wardroom that I have found. Six years later, I remain energized by the practice of law at Morgan Lewis and relish the daily opportunities to work alongside the best lawyers and staff in our profession.

In addition to your reservist duty, how do you support the military community?

Morgan Lewis has a strong history of doing work for the public good through our pro bono practice, which is really steered by the issues that matter to our individual lawyers. I dedicate a significant portion of my pro bono practice to serving veterans and recently collaborated with the Homeless Advocacy Project (HAP) in the representation of a homeless veteran that resulted in a significant back-pay and disability benefits award to our client. He used the settlement to purchase his first home and is no longer homeless.

But I’m also able to give back to the military community outside of the law. For example, when Afghan refugees arrived at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst last fall, I worked with a great team in our Philadelphia office to organize a collection drive, sponsored by Morgan Lewis, to assist the refugees with clothing, food, toys, and other supplies to ease the relocation process. I collaborated with local veterans to locate appropriate donation sites, packed up the collected items, and drove them to Joint Base MDL to help deliver them. I also serve on the Community Council of Hope for the Warriors, a non-profit organization that provides post 9/11 veterans and their families comprehensive support to assist with transition, health, and wellness and connection to community resources.

How can others help support our veterans?

I’ve seen so many examples of our communities supporting veterans, and I am sincerely appreciative of that. Others can help support our veterans in the employment context, particularly during the application phase when the veteran’s case for a job might not be so clear. Lending a keen ear to listen to veterans as they translate how their unique skills and talents apply to the civilian workplace is important. In the Navy, we are often called to relocate and learn a new job every three to four years. While on the job, we are expected to become experts quickly and to take total ownership of our immediate task or portfolio of work. That kind of experience is incredibly valuable to business and the civilian workplace but often not readily identifiable on resumes or a cover letter. Of course, it also is incumbent on the veteran to take the time to communicate these skills clearly.

Are there any other key takeaways from your military service?

Yes. Proper hydration solves 80% of all life’s problems.

David C. Dziengowski