Super Egos – Do Lawyer Designations Really Generate Referrals?

As a small firm, we are always looking for the most cost effective marketing strategy that will generate new business for our firm.  Print.  Electronic.  Social Media.  We do them all with the hope of achieving a cohesive strategy that communicates and matches our firm’s skill set to potential clients.  I was recently reading an article on this topic that struck a cord with me.

The article (or blog post) entitled “Those Stupid Superlative Lawyer Lists” was written by Ross Fishman and featured on the excellent “Attorney @ Work” website examines the rationale behind continuing to spend marketing dollars (lots of them) on what the author refers to as “superlative lists”.  You know the lists.  You probably get solicitations for them a few times each day.  The “Super, Awesome, Leading, AV, Premier, Elite, Best, Top or Who’s Who” lawyer lists.  The author’s premise is that these lists – which are intended to make you stand out amongst your competitors (sorry, peers) are rendered meaningless when it seems that everyone is on the list.

The author questions the point of spending marketing dollars to stand out amongst your competitors (sorry, peers), when they are all doing the same thing.  I mean, you would think that it’d make more sense to go in a different direction with your marketing dollars.  Yet, firms (including my own) continue to spend money to belong to an “exclusive” club that is not quite as “exclusive” as it used to be.  It is a point definitely worth considering.

I’ll end my post with where the author beings his article:  Do these attorney designations as “best”, “super”, or “top” actually help attorney to generate referrals or are the service providers merely “selling ego” to lawyers too stupid to know any better?

Tyrone Matthews — Matthews Law Group PC,  San Diego, CA

A Word About Diversity

Now that we are all settled back in our routines after the Annual Meeting let’s take some time to reflect on what we learned.  Hopefully, you were able to attend the Diversity Committee’s program on Cultural Competence for Lawyers.  As defined by the National Center for Cultural Competence, cultural competence is a “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency or among professionals and enable that system, agency or those professions to work effectively in cross-cultural situations”.

In a nutshell to be culturally competent an organization must have the ability to function effectively despite many intra-cultural differences.

Cultural Competence is important to us because it impacts the way we practice, how we interact with clients and in our workplace.  Specifically it (1) affects our professional judgment, (2) affects our approach to problem solving and conflict management, (3) affects our ability to competently represent clients as intended under the ABA rules of professional conduct, (4) affects the way we deliver services in cross-cultural arenas, (5) could broaden financial opportunities for business transactions, (6) affects client and workplace relationships, (7) affects fairness in legal proceedings and (6) talent acquisition (and management) of new or experienced attorneys.

To become more culturally competent the National Center for Cultural Competences maintains that an organization must:

  • Value diversity
  • Have the capacity for cultural self-assessment
  • Be conscious of the dynamics inherent when cultures interact
  • Have institutionalized culture knowledge and
  • Have developed adaptations to service delivery reflecting an understanding of cultural diversity

If you are considering whether your organzation is culturally competent or ways to improve your cultural competence please feel free to contact members of the Diveristy Committee or join us June 9-11, 2016, in Chicago for our Diversity Seminar.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Rosevelie Marquez Morales — Harris Beach PLLC, New York, NY

DRI: A Treasure Trove For The Small Firm Practitioner

If you call a small firm “home” like I do, I suspect that you spend your day juggling administrative and client priorities – discussing cases and delegating tasks to associates, reviewing options for new office equipment, taking a client call, answering questions from building management, conducting discovery conferral calls with opposing counsel, evaluating insurance renewal rates, revising article submissions, coordinating the production of documents, and finishing a brief… And while you’re at it, you can’t forget to create a steady flow of new business and enjoy the practice of law!

The point is that the practice of law in a small firm can include every aspect of business management and operations under the sun.  You find yourself addressing far more issues than those you learned about in law school.  When faced everyday with all of these responsibilities, you may start to question membership in a national organization like DRI.  Your marketing and professional development budgets may be stretched, and you need to leverage all of your resources of time and money.  Do you really want to be involved in a group with more than 21,000 members?

I’m writing this piece to answer that question with a resounding, YES!  A substantial portion of DRI’s members practice in small firms – enough that DRI has the resources and commitment to help you succeed.  In fact, the options to maximize your DRI membership now have never been better.

The Small Firm VRC

DRI will soon be rolling out a new Small Firm Virtual Resource Center on DRI’s new social media platform, The Community Pages.  The website for the VRC pages will include a treasure trove of information for the small firm practitioner.  You will find forms, articles, technology, and research regarding such things as:  economic and billing practices; marketing ideas; client and case management forms and checklists; metric tracking measurements; recommendations and reports on hardware, software, and mobile devices; cloud computing; best practices for cyber security; links to additional resources; and more.  The VRC content will also include blogs, videos, event information, and useful posts to communicate with other small firm practitioners.

The first set of topics to populate our new site will fall into three distinct areas:  Law Practice Management (starting a small firm, alternative fee arrangements, succession planning, marketing, tracking metrics); Technology (cloud computing, paperless office practices, cybersecurity, and software for case management, billing, and document production); and Emerging Issues.

We will regularly be adding information to the VRC.  Be certain to periodically check back for additional materials.  This new platform will be tremendously beneficial to DRI members.

On-line Content from Substantive Law Committees

In addition to the legal practice resources, DRI’s substantive law committees have enormous amounts of content available on their dedicated DRI home pages.  Did you know that DRI has 29 substantive law committees?  The content developed by those committees helps me to access the information that I need to answer pressing questions for my practice.  The committee structure also allows easy access to people who specialize in 29 substantive law areas.  Our names and contact information are listed – give one of us a call!

The depth of DRI’s resources also includes newsletters, trial documents, articles, and expert witness databases.  One member referred to DRI as “having a partnership with the largest law firm in the world.”

Local Educational Opportunities and Networking

Every once in a while, we all need to get out of our offices.  The beautiful vistas, fascinating CLE, and exciting networking opportunities at DRI’s seminars provide a refuge from the everyday routine.  For those in a small firm, time and money can be particularly precious and travel to a seminar is reserved for specific substantive law programs.  That is one reason why DRI has developed a wide range of educational opportunities.

Within DRI’s resources, you will find webinars and webcasts to accommodate both tight schedules and tight budgets.  The online offerings include both substantive topics and information and training necessary to run a law firm business.  Teleconferences also have become increasingly popular within DRI.  Such a platform permits a large group to gather, to hear from a notable speaker on substantive or management topics, and to participate in question-and-answer discussions.  One recent lunchtime webinar brought a notable speaker to DRI members to discuss business development strategies.  The teleconference drew a huge audience – and it was free!  I heard from several firms that they developed an event around the presentation and engaged in follow-up discussions, all while eating lunch.  Those offerings and resources make DRI truly valuable.

You also may be interested in meeting fellow lawyers with nearby travel, and DRI is increasing its regional programming and local networking opportunities.  A few months ago, I developed a “small” local networking event for DRI members and a crowd of over 80 people joined in.  Such a response demonstrates clearly the interest that we all have – firms both big and small – to connect and learn from colleagues in our neighborhoods and regions.  Look for a program in your area, or work with colleagues to develop one.

Whether you take advantage of the substantive law seminars, webinars, webcasts, teleconferences, local programing, or networking opportunities, DRI has an array of activities to obtain CLE and increase your firm’s visibility.  The newly formed Virtual Resource Center will be a powerhouse of advice and support on law firm management issues designed specifically for small firm practitioners like you and me.  I encourage you to take advantage of all the varied opportunities that DRI offers to enhance your practice.

Marie E. Chafe – Cornell & Gollub, Boston, MA

Top 8 Things at DRI’s Annual Meeting

Here at DRI Headquarters in Chicago, the office is buzzing with excitement as we make final preparations for our 2015 Annual Meeting next week (Wednesday October 7th – Sunday October 11th) in Washington, D.C.!  I have included some tips and highlights below of how to get the most out of your Annual Meeting experience.

  1. Get inspired – the 64th and 65th Secretaries of State of the U.S., General Colin Powell and Madeline Albright, will be together on the same stage at 9:00 AM on Thursday.
  2. Get motivated – you’re out of the office, maximize your time at the event with an impressive lineup of keynote speakers, including:  former U.S. Attorney General and Legal Counsel to President George W. Bush, Judge Alberto Gonzales; Legal Counsel to President Barack Obama, Kathryn Ruemmler; leading public opinion experts Peter Hart and Bill McInturff; award-winning author and historian Michael Beschloss; leadership expert and Tier-One Navy SEAL Rob O’Neill; award-winning legal affairs correspondent for NPR Nina Totenberg; and Paralympic gold-medalist swimmer Mallory Weggemann.
  3. Get connected – with real people, not emails at the Welcome Reception from 6:30-8:00 PM on Wednesday.
  4. Get noticed – the First-Time Attendees Orientation followed by a reception for new members is designed to help you learn how to maximize your DRI membership, discover programs of interest to you and leadership opportunities, and mingle with fellow new members.
  5. Get involved – Network with other members substantive law committees at practice area CLE sessions, committee dine-arounds, and business meetings occurring through the conference. If you are not currently a member of a committee, signing up is easy and free at:
  6. Get smarter – Earn up to 13 hours of CLE across a wide variety of sessions and topics featuring industry-leading speakers and moderators.
  7. Get business – the Annual Meeting offers unique networking programs to help you meet new colleagues including the Diversity Networking Reception, the Women’s Networking Luncheon, and the DRI Veterans Network Luncheon.
  8. Get happy– Thursday night, enjoy a Casino Night at the beautiful and historic Mellon Auditorium. Saturday night’s President’s Gala features cocktails, live auction, elegant dining, and a performance by Capitol Steps.

To further keep up with the Annual Meeting, make sure you look through the event brochure ( and follow @DRI2015AM on Twitter.  We will see you there!

Mark Jacobson — DRI Senior Coordinator, Membership Strategy


DRI is the defense lawyers’ “partner in the profession.”  The CLE, networking, and professional development opportunities DRI provides are the keys to a successful defense litigation career.

DRI is not alone in this role, however.  It has a powerful symbiotic partnership with each of the state and local defense organizations (“SLDOs”) throughout the United States and Canada, each of which provides “boots on the ground” support to DRI members in their SLDO’s respective area.

The SLDOs provide a road map for defense lawyers to advance their legal careers in conjunction with DRI, and a pathway to national leadership roles in DRI’s broader network.  The reason this relationship works so well is that the defense lawyer, SLDO, and DRI are interdependent, rather than independent.

Prudent defense attorneys belong to both their SLDO and DRI to get the combined and coordinated benefits of each.  This dual membership provides the maximum synergy that fuels success.

Christopher A. Kenney – Kenney & Sams, P.C., Boston, MA

Use DRI To Help Law Firm Profitability

Today’s legal marketplace provides a unique set of challenges to a seeming constantly challenged industry, but profitability remains a common and constant goal.   As an industry, particularly at the large firm level, there has been reluctance to adapt to, and to embrace, different ways of conducting business to achieve profitability.  As our clients increasingly utilize all aspects of an Uber led shared economy, law firms still tend to prefer what they know best – billable hours, billable rates, dollars in the door. Yet slowly firms are coming to realize the need to adapt, to identify different models to achieve and measure profitability, and to recognize for example, that while senior partners may have had their first mobile devices in their 30s or 40s, the next generation of lawyers has had them since grade school.  Things are simply different and are not likely to revert back. Though others abound, this post focuses on three law firm metrics and how DRI can help improve them, namely, retention, leverage, and the evolving staff attorney model.  Each of these is interrelated, but merits at least a brief separate discussion.

First, retention.  It’s expensive to hire and train lawyers and still more expensive to lose that investment because of a failure to retain.  Handwringing studies have been conducted to assess how to enhance retention.  Suggestions?  Early and frequent new hire and lateral engagement.  Consistent feedback.  Fundamentally, it boils down to relationships — inside and outside the firm.  Early engagement with the deep and committed professional and personal network DRI provides can and should be a cornerstone to consider.  Meeting other lawyers faced with the same demands and challenges, developing a support system of sorts and a meaningful referral network can be a vital tool as firms seek to improve their retention numbers.

Next, leverage.  Too complicated to fully digest in a few sentences here, but a consistent law firm metric.  Over the years, leverage was measured by a basic associate to partner ratio.  Simple enough.  But as partner ranks swelled, associate ranks shrunk, and the pool of available legal work diminished, achieving these historically higher leverage ratios became and remains more challenging.  How can DRI help?  Get new hires involved early in committees, like Young Lawyers.  Relationships develop.  Referrals come.  Associates develop a sense of pride and belonging.  They want to help each other succeed, really.  Happy lawyers tend to stay put and tend to attract other lawyers to their practice and thus maintain or improve leverage.  Seem too simple?  Perhaps, but certainly worth noting that DRI and national law firm leaders alike have found common origins in the Young Lawyers committee.

Last, the evolving staff attorney model – really an offshoot of leverage, another way to measure it and improve the ratio, but at the potential risk of diverting hours from the more traditional associate / partnership track model.  Given the reality that associate development in the early years may simply not be profitable, firms are looking to temporary, contract, or staff attorneys who can provide a more flexible, cost-efficient model of leverage. DRI’s role here?  Talent, shared experience.  Whether the Law Practice Management Committee itself, or any one of the other 28 substantive law committees, DRI’s  20,000+ membership provides a fertile ground for making the adaptations necessary to survive and thrive in today’s rapidly changing legal world.  Bottom line?  DRI can help law firm profitability.

Patrick J. Paul — Snell & Wilmer L.L.P., Phoenix, AZ

DRI Friendships

As the Beatles said so well, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  For me, DRI is my go-to resource for getting the help I need from my friends. It should be yours, too.

It may sound trite, but DRI is so much more than just an organization that provides us with CLE and an excuse to visit new places.  I should know – before I went to law school, I used to plan these kinds of meetings for a competing organization!  As a very young lawyer, it was challenging trying to figure out how to bill and record my time, how to actually practice law, and how to juggle multiple deadlines from multiple partners.  I did not think I could possibly find time to become involved in my community and build a practice, too.  DRI has helped me do all of those things.  I was encouraged to check out DRI by my colleague and friend, Jack Laffey, a member of DRI’s Law Institute.  He told me years ago –that part of the secret was to just keep showing up.  As much as it pains me to admit it, of course he was right.

At my first Young Lawyers’ conference in Las Vegas, I had the pleasure of meeting one of my nearest and dearest DRI friends – just because we stood next to each other in the registration line.  With a simple, “Hi,” we became fast friends and I became an adopted member of her entire DRI family.  Now, when I see her (and the rest of her family) at conferences and Annual Meetings each year, we share our struggles, celebrate our victories, and of course, eat great meals!

On a personal level, my DRI friends have also been an incredible asset and helped me most when I had to temporarily relocate to Minneapolis for my husband’s lung transplant in 2012.  When I learned from my husband’s physicians that my family would need to quickly relocate to Minneapolis on short notice for three months, it was my DRI friends from the Twin Cities that provided recommendations for hotels, temporary housing, childcare/nanny recommendations, even kid-friendly restaurants, activities and more.  I will never forget the generosity of those who truly went above and beyond what I could ever expect from a relationship that was borne out of a shared hope for future business referrals.

After several years of showing up and connecting with fellow Young Lawyers all over the country, I have gained speaking opportunities, leadership opportunities, referrals and clients. I have also found locations for depositions out of state, built local counsel relationships, and sought research and mentoring advice. I also have returned the favor – when I or a colleague at my firm needs a referral or assistance out of state, the first place I check is the DRI YLD Steering Committee roster.  I know that the referrals I make from that list are to colleagues I trust and who will treat my clients the same way I would treat them.

While it’s never too late to join DRI, starting out as a young lawyer in DRI is the best way to grow relationships over time.  That colleague who bought drinks last night at the hotel bar may one day be the general counsel of a Fortune 500 company.  When he or she needs a lawyer, you will definitely be on the short list.

Even though it may be trite, it’s true: we all need a little help from our friends in this business. DRI friendships provide great value at a relatively low cost.  Let DRI help you and you will reap the rewards for years to come.

Sarah Thomas Pagels — Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, S.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A Vote for Enfranchisement

This month I was asked to write something for the blog regarding an issue affecting African Americans and how DRI does or may play a role.  I am sure there are many issues warranting coverage and attention but I have chosen to focus on the issue of voting rights, which has been the subject of much political discussion in recent times.  This issue has once again come to the forefront not just for African Americans, but all who believe that the right to electoral access for all Americans is fundamental.

Some have said that recent changes to election laws in many parts of the nation (and from the bench of the Supreme Court) has left African Americans and other minorities with less voting rights today than they had in 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was originally passed.  It is ironic that this would be a sentiment shared by some at a time when we have an African American president about to complete his second term in office.  But then, what is happening today in the news and around the country does bear some resemblance to events that took place in the 1960s, and causes one to wonder whether some of the gains made in that era have somehow been lost.

Instead of retreating to a bygone era and repeating past mistakes, I would urge members of DRI to continue to strive to ensure that the right of all Americans to have the access and opportunity to vote is preserved.  Those who have not followed the current voting rights dialogue are encouraged to take some time to look into the issue to understand what is taking place and not merely sit as bystanders uninvolved in a discussion that could have far reaching implications for our nation and its citizens.  As an organization of and for defense lawyers, it is DRI’s responsibility to keep its members closely advised of all developments in this arena, as well as to champion a fair outcome in what looks like an dialogue that will continue to dominate legal and political landscape for years to come.

Tanya Lawson, Senior Litigation Counsel – Law Department – Florida Power & Light Company – Miami, FL

Superstars of DRI

DRI It’s Personal because it’s DRI For Life

As other organizations suffer from member apathy, Superstars John Trimble and James Holland are continuing to dedicate their free time to helping defense lawyers and SLDO’s across the country find the same value in DRI that they have found. If you haven’t met either of these two outstanding individuals, you’re missing out. Let me tell you a little about them.

John Trimble’s practice is dominated by catastrophic, complex and class action litigation across the country. As Past President of the Indiana Bar Association and Past Indiana Defense Lawyer of the Year, he is one of its most sought after defense lawyers in the state. Moreover, through the years he has also been admitted Pro Hac Vice in more than 20 jurisdictions from New York to California. Nevertheless, John not only finds time to be involved in DRI, he wholeheartedly believes in its value. One might think that after serving on the Board of Directors of DRI, taking on numerous leadership roles in committees and task forces, receiving one of DRI’s highest honors (the Fred H. Sievert Award for National Outstanding Defense Bar Leader of the Year in 1999), chairing the prestigious DRI national Judicial Task Force, and ultimately, reaping the benefits of all of his involvement in DRI to help him grow his impressive and flourishing practice, John would slow down.  But not John. Fifteen years after he was recognized for his outstanding defense bar leadership, John still believes in the benefits of DRI throughout a defense lawyer’s career and is still committed to helping others benefit from DRI as well.

James Holland’s resume and past DRI accomplishments are no less impressive. James has practiced over 34 years in the defense of commercial, personal injury, product liability and premises litigation. He has tried over 100 jury trials and is sought after by national clients. In addition to his various leadership positions in his home state of Mississippi (including serving as President of the Mississippi Defense Lawyers Association), James is also a former DRI Board Member. In addition, James served on various committees and/or task forces including acting as Chair of the SLDO Relationship Committee and DRI’s Long Range Planning Committee. James is also a recipient of one of DRI’s most prestigious awards, The Distinguished Service Award, which James received (twice) in 2007 and 2012. Eight years after first receiving this award, James is still travelling across the country with John to spread the message that DRI is personal and can help each and every defense lawyer and SLDO improve and achieve success.

John and James took on a new challenge this year. Going way beyond the call of duty to spread their enthusiasm for the benefits of partnering with DRI for success, they are acting as DRI Ambassadors meeting with defense leaders across the country. Most recently, this superstar DRI Ambassadorial team spent two days of fellowship and planning with defense bar leaders from South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana at Eaton Ranch in Wolf, Wyoming. Thank you John and James for demonstrating through your commitment, dedication and mentorship that the benefits of DRI are Personal, and that DRI is For Life.

Emily G. Coughlin, Esq. – Coughlin Betke LLP

A Word About Diversity

What Does Your DRI Membership Mean To You?  DRI provides many opportunities for professional development and networking opportunities.  More importantly it provides us with the opportunity to collaborate on important issues in our profession on a personal level.  As active members we should embrace all opportunities to collaborate, including those which may take us out of our comfort zone.  The Diversity Committee invites all of you to take some time to join us at the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on Friday, October 9, 2015 for a discussion on cultural competence. There is one quality a successful attorney can’t afford to under develop—cultural competence. An attorney’s credibility and reputation develops through passion for his or her work, years of experience, formal education, win/loss rates, client satisfaction, and much more. Though they are likely to go hand-in hand, understanding differences and being culturally competent are two different things. Cultural competence helps us uncover our values, norms, biases, communication styles, and behaviors, and recognize how they shape our perspectives. At the Annual Meeting, participants will explore cultural competence and situations that may affect their success with clients, prospects, juries, and colleagues.

It’s never too late to learn something new about yourself and your colleagues.  I look forward to seeing you in Washington, D.C. October 7-11, 2015.

Rosevelie Marquez Morales – Harris Beach PLLC, New York, NY