Dennis Donnelly's 20-year path to the top of New Jersey Trial Law is hardly typical: Back in 1977, and in his 20s, the Bergen County native was completing his PhD studies in English literature and teaching at St. Peters College, one of his alma maters. Based on one part ambition and one part practicality ("My wife reminded me of the limits of a professor's salary"), Donnelly shifted gears, to Rutgers Law School, where he excelled and attracted the attention of a Blume, Goldfaden attorney. Donnelly was recruited on the spot. The Chatham-based firm "is the only place I've ever worked," says Donnelly. Indeed, Donnelly has built a reputation as a productive, progressive and energetic force in the trial bar - and more remarkably, in perhaps the most harshly contentious field of the law, the cheerful and unpretentious Donnelly is well liked, including even by those he challenges in court. "I'm a more half-full than half-empty kind of guy," he says. Today Donnelly is one of eight partners in the 15-attorney Blume Goldfaden; he focuses primarily on medical malpractice and general personal-injury litigation; further, Donnelly is one of the early users of technology in the law - not only the use of the Internet in research (see affiliations), but also in teleconferencing and in-court Power Point presentations. "Litigation technology is effective - it provides visual cues," he says. "The truth is I didn't know a megabyte from a mosquito bite - I was interested in it only because it worked." Donnelly and his family live in Englewood, N.J.