Dan Ryan is one of greater Philadelphia’s most accomplished trial-defense attorneys, in the courtroom as well as in building one of the most successful civil-litigation practices in the region. Thoughtful, poised and youthful (at 51 he could still pass for 10 years younger), Ryan has built a career working with, and defending, physicians, medical institutions, other professionals and the insurance carriers that assume risks on their behalf. It has been a remarkable run: In less than two decades, the firm founded by Ryan and John F. O’Brien today has more than 30 attorneys and a support staff of 50.
Ryan, the son of an engineer, credits David T. Horn, Jr., an English teacher at his alma mater, Bishop McDevitt High School, for encouraging him to actively debate. “When I thought about becoming a lawyer I was thinking about the courtroom.” Somewhat instinctively, he joined the Philadelphia DA’s office, working under Ed Rendell. Ryan was soon trying key homicide cases. He then joined the Dilworth Paxson firm and found “I had more litigation experience than a lot of the folks who were litigation partners.” That clearly boosted confidence, because at 32 he teamed up with O’Brien. Still, “I was holding my breath” on the launch of the firm, a bold move by any measure. “I had not taken any business classes at Georgetown.” But the firm’s growth has been steady, largely a result of the two founders’ leadership, clients say.
Ryan and his partner understood early the importance of lecturing and communicating constantly with clients and all their constituencies. Ryan’s career-long record of instruction – to hospital staffs, to law students – reflects a comfort with and commitment to the law that few attorneys achieve. The firm’s client list includes Thomas Jefferson University and Drexel University, for starters, with a focus on commercial litigation and professional liability defense. Ryan has served as liaison council to physician groups regionally and nationally facing mass-tort claims from silicon breast implants and orthopedic bone screw, among others. Much of Ryan’s success stems from building what he calls “a consensus of confidence – among the insurance carrier, the health-care institution and the physician – on a case.”
Away from his Plymouth Meeting office Ryan says he plays golf “not often and not well", and for years has been a weekend referee of an amateur men’s soccer league, “so I get yelled at in a lot of foreign languages.” He and his wife Betsy (“She’s the center of my universe”) live in Erdenheim, Pa. They have four children.