DANVILLE — Lawyers E. Robert Marks and F. Porter Wagner practiced law for 15 years before setting up their own law firm.
It was 1970. They bought a building on West Market Street in Danville to use as their office.
The partnership lasted nine years until Wagner died of a heart attack during a bank board meeting, recalled Marks’ son, attorney Robert L. Marks. The law firm, however, continued.
Today, Robert L. Marks, in his 50th year in practice, is a senior partner at Marks, McLaughlin, Dennehy & Piontek, Danville’s oldest law firm. He joined the firm in the summer of 1972 after earning his law degree from the College of William & Mary Law School.
“My father continued to practice until 1987, when he died,” his son said.
Wagner’s nephew, George O. Wagner IV, worked for the company for about two years in the early 1970s before he was elected to the state legislature four times. He was later elected and served three four-year terms as Montour County District Attorney.
In the years since, the 52-year-old law firm has grown to five attorneys and seven full-time and one part-time support staff. They practice in the same West Market Street building that the company’s founders bought in the 1970s.
Marks said the support staff, all paralegals, know all facets of the law. The firm’s attorneys practice law ranging from personal injury and real estate to estate planning and criminal law.
Besides Robert Marks, the other attorneys are John L. McLaughlin, Michael P. Dennehy, both law graduates of the Dickinson School of Law, and Cory D. Piontek and Marks’ son, attorney Robert L. Marks Jr. , who received their law degree from Regent University School of Law.
McLaughlin, Montour County’s chief probation officer before attending law school, joined the firm in 1983, Dennehy in 1985.
“Bob’s dad made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Dennehy said.
Robert L. Marks Jr. joined the firm in 1998, Piontek about a year later.
Piontek, who went to Regent Law School with Robert Jr., had previously practiced in Virginia and Wisconsin before returning to practice in Pennsylvania and at the Danville law firm. Dennehy said Piontek must pass the bar exam in all three states to be admitted to the bar in each.
Dennehy said most states require five years of good standing as a lawyer in another state to be admitted to the bar without having to take the exam. Because Piontek had not practiced long enough in the other states, he had to pass the bar exam three times to practice law in each of the states.
Excellent support staffRobert Marks Sr. said the firm has excellent paralegals and office staff. He recalled Eleanor Gardner, who began working as a secretary for her father in 1959, when he was with attorney Arthur M. Peters. Gardner continued with the Marks company until his retirement in 2020.
“She was told she wouldn’t last two weeks with my dad,” Marks said with a smile. “Then they told him that about me when I came back.”
Marks said he had been a public defender for 20 years. He was the first when Montour County formed the position, Dennehy said.
Now Robert Jr. and Piontek handle most of the public defender’s work.
“State law says other attorneys in the same firm can do this,” Dennehy said.
The firm’s primary practice areas are wills and estates, real estate, Medicare and Medicaid pre-planning, and attorney work for county, municipalities, and the Geisinger Authority.
“We do a lot of general civil litigation,” Dennehy added.
He said, however, the firm does not handle custody, divorce and alimony cases in Montour and Columbia counties, where he and McLaughlin have been family court hearing officers since. 1990.
Marks said he hopes to practice for another seven years before retiring.
This led Dennehy to point out that “Bob would have to work 11 more years to match Eleanor.”