Membership Retention Tips – Let’s Keep Who We Have

It is great to receive new members and the effort DRI’s leadership puts forth in making this happen is greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, members come and go for various reasons and while we would like to keep all our members, we understand attrition is unavoidable.  Below are tips to keep the members we have and ways to ask lapsed member to come back.

  • Engage, engage, engage!  Ask new members to join a committee but also ask them to get involved by placing them in contact with a committee chair or vice chair.  Provide a lapsed member with a list of all DRI Substantive Law Committees and let them know that involvement in committees puts them in touch with others in their practice areas.
  • Tell new members about DRI online resources and the Expert Witness Database.  Ask a lapsed member if they utilized all of DRI resources.
  • Ask members to complete their member profile, searchable by other attorneys.
  • Let new members know they receive seminar discount rates and guide them to DRI’s website so they can view all the programs DRI has to offer.  Young lawyers (admitted to the bar 5 years or less) receive a certificate to attend any DRI seminar for free.  Ask a lapsed member if they ever attended a seminar, tell them about your experience.
  • Inform new and lapsed members about DRI’s searchable archive of articles, committee newsletters, Defense Library Series and course materials.

As always, we appreciate your time and effort in all you do!

Cheryl L. Palombizio – DRI Director of SLDO Relations

DRI’s Commitment to Diversity, Professional Growth and Personal Satisfaction

As an Asian American lawyer, I have found that DRI provides the resources to aid diverse lawyers to become successful in their practice.  My DRI membership has been a source of personal satisfaction and continues to contribute toward my professional growth.  And, as I look around, I find the same has happened to other Asian American lawyers who chose to make the most of their membership.  One such shining example is Melissa Lin who is a partner at Righi Fitch Law Group in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her practice includes the representation of individuals, contractors, businesses, and municipalities in tort and contract litigation, primarily in the areas of general liability, construction defect litigation, complex litigation, personal injury, and product liability.  Melissa was honored as a 2012 through 2015 Southwest Super Lawyers Rising Star.   She was named to Lawyers of Color’s 2013 Inaugural Hot List for the Western Region, and was also named as one of the top valley attorneys by North Valley magazine in 2013

Melissa has been a DRI member since 2007 and has been actively involved in various DRI committees, including Women in the Law, Diversity, and Construction Law.  She currently serves as the Membership Chair of the DRI Construction Law Committee and the 2015 Diversity Seminar Vice-Chair and Expo Chair.  When I asked Melissa about her experience with DRI, she told me, “DRI is one of the most rewarding legal organizations to belong to and get involved with. In addition to providing writing, leadership, and speaking opportunities to a national audience, DRI provides diverse attorneys like myself an opportunity to meet and interview with corporate counsel through the DRI Diversity Expo.  I have also made great connections and friendships with other attorneys from around the country who I can call with questions at any time.”  Examples of some of the great opportunities Melissa had through DRI include speaking engagements at the 2014 Construction Law Seminar and the 2013 and 2014 Diversity Seminars.  In addition, she has published articles for the DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar newsletter.  Melissa is definitely a rising star within DRI.  Melissa has also served in leadership roles with the Construction Law Section of the Maricopa County Bar Association, the Arizona Asian American Bar Association, the Women’s Metropolitan Arts Council of the Phoenix Art Museum, and the Young Lawyers Division of the Arizona State Bar and Arizona Association of Defense Counsel.  Melissa believes that DRI has been one of the most instrumental and helpful organizations to her career.

Melissa is the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants.  She grew up in Tucson, Arizona where her parents have owned and operated a small business for over thirty-six years.  Although her father was initially opposed to the idea of law school for Melissa because they had no connections in the legal community and didn’t know any lawyers, Melissa followed her dream of becoming a lawyer.  Through her hard work, enthusiasm, and commitment to her clients, Melissa has shown that success can come to those who seize the opportunities presented to them.  It is my hope that other Asian American lawyers can draw inspiration from Melissa’s success story and leverage all that a DRI membership offers.

Alka Srivastava - Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog LLP, Raleigh, NC

Partnering With Your SLDO To Make A Positive Difference For Women Lawyers

We have all seen the statistics: only 17% of equity partners in the nation’s largest 200 firms are women, only 2% of equity partners in the largest 100 firms are female minorities, and women make up the largest percentage of staff attorneys.[1] These trends prevail even though women have continued to enter the practice of law for the past three decades at a rate of at least 40% of law school graduates every year. The recent “2015 Glass Ceiling Report” published by Law360 just last month acknowledged that “Women continue to be dramatically underrepresented at every attorney level in the U.S. legal industry, and firms made negligible progress toward gender equality in 2014.”[2]

Where does one begin to make a lasting, positive difference for women lawyers?  That is the question Beth Fitch and I answered when we co-founded the “Ladder Down” program in Arizona with the help of the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel.

In January 2013, we launched a powerful year-long pilot program for women lawyers built on three pillars: leadership, business development, and mentoring. Beth and I wanted to give women practical, tangible tools for succeeding in the legal profession that they can begin implementing in their practice right away. We were driven to empower women through a new type of training that marries instruction with accountability.  After all, one cannot have sustained change unless the actions become a habit, and habits take time to develop. For more information about our program, check out our website at The program is now in its third year and has proven to be pivotal in changing the professional lives of its 80 participants for the better. The Ladder Down program has been so impactful that it is now being used as a model across the country, with similar programs underway in Seattle and New York. The reason for the interest in Ladder Down is simple: our structure works. The evidence of the empowerment is overwhelming.

After completing the one-year course, our Ladder Down graduates report measurable improvements: promotions to partnership, new clients, expanded business networks, robust referrals, substantial raises, firm transitions, and a universal increase in community involvement. Participants negotiated their salaries (some for the first time), developed formal business plans, and gained speaking and publishing opportunities. They landed positions on boards, obtained origination credit, and learned to state their accomplishments. In addition to these “external” changes, they saw internal changes: increased confidence at networking events, a new ability to resolve conflict, a commitment to prioritizing business development, and a better understanding of their own strengths. Every one of them benefitted from taking risks they would not otherwise have taken.

When Beth and I first launched Ladder Down we had several conversations about which organization would make the best partner. Beth had served as President of the Arizona Association of Defense Counsel several years earlier, as had my father Doug Christian, and I am still an active member of the AADC Board of Directors. We both had such wonderful experiences and built lasting relationships through the AADC that our natural inclination was to start there. I pitched the Ladder Down idea to the AADC Board during our 2012 fall retreat and was met with an incredibly warm reception. The Board was excited about this new endeavor, which was unlike anything that the AADC – or any other SLDO to our knowledge – had ever undertaken.

As with any program, the first questions surrounded expenses. What would the pilot program cost and how did Beth and I intend to pay for it? We approached our faculty (by far our largest expense) and were able to negotiate “pilot program” rates for the inaugural 2013 Ladder Down program. Once we had their rates confirmed, we were able to set a target goal for fundraising. We explained to the AADC that our goal was to find law firms interested in sponsoring at the $1,000 level; in exchange for that $1,000 the firm would be guaranteed a space for a participant of its choice in the 2013 program. We asked the AADC to match our $1,000 sponsorships (up to a certain cap) until we reached our target amount. The AADC agreed with that strategy and we were approved to start fundraising in the fall of 2012. Several Board members even committed their firms to the $1,000 sponsorship right there on the spot. When I called Beth after that meeting, the first words out of my mouth were “It’s alive!”

The relationship between Ladder Down and the AADC was mutually beneficial from the start. The AADC was instrumental in helping Beth and I spread the word about our new program. They helped advertise the launch to the AADC members, and the firms represented on the Board were eager to sponsor our pilot program and send their attorneys to Ladder Down. We also had a home for Ladder Down rooted in Arizona’s defense community and could run the financial component of the program without having to start our own 501(c)(6). Because participation in the first and second year classes was restricted to AADC members, AADC membership increased. In fact, each year we saw several women lawyers join the AADC specifically to participate in Ladder Down. And in 2013, during the pilot program’s first year, DRI recognized the AADC with the DRI Diversity Award. This award is given to the SLDO that demonstrates a commitment to diversity and it was an incredible honor for the AADC. It is not hard to see how this relationship between an SLDO and Ladder Down can be win-win!

Our mission going forward to is to bring Ladder Down to other SLDOs interested in making a positive difference for their women lawyers. The staggering statistics that we continue to see reported are not going to shift unless there is a more intentional effort to bring about change. The good news is that the leg work for “Ladder Down” has already been done. We have the structure and agenda for the year-long program in place; we have faculty with demonstrated results; we have brochures, applications, evaluations, and CLE certificates already created; and we have leaders from the Arizona program who are able to share their experiences. The next steps are to find champions in other cities who can partner with their SLDOs to launch this fantastic program. I encourage you to reach out to me about how you can start a Ladder Down program in your area.

Alison R. Christian, Shareholder at Christian Dichter & Sluga, P.C.

[1] See National Association of Women Lawyers and The NAWL Foundation’s 2013 Annual Survey on the Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms.

[2] See “The Glass Ceiling Report” by Jake Simpson for Law360, April 19, 2015


Become Involved and Build Personal Relationships

I first joined DRI after one of my partners and another associate at my firm attended the Women in the Law Seminar a couple of years ago. When they returned to the office, they could not say enough good things about the incredible experiences they had and the amazing women they met at the Seminar. Each of them quickly became involved in the Women in the Law Committee, and seeing the awesome opportunities afforded to them so quickly, I knew DRI was an organization I needed to be a part of. I joined DRI shortly thereafter and signed up to be a member of several Committees, including the Women in the Law Committee, the Young Lawyers Committee, and the Workers’ Compensation Committee.

As a workers’ compensation attorney, I knew right away that I wanted to become more involved in the Workers’ Compensation Committee so that I could not only continue to learn about the practice, but also network with other attorneys. I was immediately welcomed into the Committee and was soon given the incredible opportunity to serve as the Committee’s Membership Chair. Through that position, I have met and have been able to work closely with so many great workers’ compensation attorneys across the country.  I only continue to expand my network and build relationships with each conference call and project. I also find our Committee’s Online Community Page to be incredibly useful. It is not only a good networking tool, but a great resource for those difficult questions you just can’t find an answer to.

Moreover, thanks to DRI, I have traveled to San Francisco for the 2014 Annual Meeting, Chicago for a Membership Committee fly-in meeting and sunny Fort Lauderdale for the 2015 Women in the Law Seminar. On each trip, I had the opportunity to meet exciting new people, who are all doing great things in their respective practice areas back home. I’ve walked away from each trip humbled and with real personal connections that I hope to build on in the years to come.

As those at my firm did a few years ago, I encourage you to join DRI. In a short period of time, you can become involved, build your practice and develop personal relationships with attorneys across the country.

Sarah Smith, Drew, Eckl & Farnham, LLP, Atlanta, Georgia

Affinity Group – Veterans


Support [sup·port]: (1). bear all or part of the weight of; hold up;  (2). a thing that bears the weight of something or keeps it upright.  The concept of “support” is not foreign to any of us.  We have each encountered periods in our lives where, but for the support of others, we would not have been successful.  The word “support” is also a term especially familiar to the current and former members of our military.  Whether Soldier, Sailor or Marine, each understands that in the “combat theatre”, the level and quality of your support determines mission success or failure.  DRI understands this better than most legal organizations.

As our veterans transition from military service to their civilian careers, they face new and different challenges – a different “theatre of operation” with diverse “threats” and a distinctive “mission”.   Family members, friends, and reserve military organizations can provide certain levels of support that can ease the transition from active duty to veteran status.  However, those veterans embarking on a legal career face obstacles that are more immediate and may have a more lasting impact on a legal career.  Obtain a private firm or in-house counsel position?  Pursue a career as a litigator or am I better suited to a more transactional practice? Is my long-term career goal to become a shareholder in a large firm or to run my own law practice?  This is strikingly different from a career in the military where your career objective – whether officer or enlisted – is to get promoted to the next pay-grade or get selected for the “special duty assignment” that will increase the odds of your promotion in the near future.

With its conferences, affinity groups, and webinars, DRI is the equivalent of having the Marines on speed dial.  DRI provides the resources to aid young lawyers to gain the confidence to grow into partners; partners to grow their firms; and firms to take their business to the next level by attracting quality clients and lawyers.  Whether you are a young lawyer recently separated from the military and starting your legal career or a shareholder in a 300 lawyer firm, DRI provides the resources, training, and mentoring that ensures your legal career is as successful and productive as your military career.

Semper Fidelis

Tyrone Matthews, Founder and Managing Partner | Matthews Law Group, P.C.

San Diego . Los Angeles . San Francisco . Dallas

A Tribute to Christian Johnson


Often, we attribute DRI Superstar status to DRI members who have held significant leadership positions, have belonged to the organization for a significant number of years or who have completed a significant number of tasks that have helped DRI Grow.  However, sometimes, a person bursts on the scene and in a short period of time makes significant and lasting contributions to DRI.  Christian Johnson is one such person.

As a member of DRI’s Young Lawyer Steering and membership Committees, Christian distinguished herself by spearheading the effort to recruit over 100 new DRI members in 2014.  She lead the young lawyer efforts to hold receptions around the country where young lawyers could come and learn about the many benefits derived from being a DRI member.  Christian’s efforts lead to her being asked to serve on DRI’s Membership Committee where she worked with former committee chair, Chris Kenney on developing DRI For Life initiatives geared towards young lawyers.

Because of her ideas, work ethic and commitment, Christian was destine for greater leadership roles within DRI.  Unfortunately, this young superstar recently learned that she had significant health concerns that have forced her to stop practicing law and her active involvement in DRI.  However, true to her character, Christian did not simply resign from her DRI duties; instead, she first completed all of the projects she was spearheading, but also recommended her replacement

Superstars like Christian will always be a part of the DRI family, whether she is active or not.  Please join the DRI Leadership in wishing Christian a speedy and full recovery.

Douglas K. Burrell, Chair, Membership Committee | Drew Eckl & Farnham, Atlanta, GA


Membership Recruiting Tips


Does it seem like you are being pulled in a thousand different directions both in your personal and professional lives?  Just when you think you have a grip…think again!  I know many of you have very busy lives and as a DRI active member, you are asked to assist in projects like member recruitment that may not warrant a lot of your time.  Below are some tips that can help streamline your efforts.

New Member Recruitment

  • Go for your firm’s associates! – Young lawyers admitted to the bar five years or less receive a discounted membership rate of $165 AND a certificate to attend a DRI seminar for free.  This is an easy sell to your managing partner.
  • Ask me ( for a list of DRI members in your firm or state.  You may be surprised at the names you don’t see.  I can also provide you with a list of prospective members in your firm or state.
  • Invite a nonmember to attend a seminar and let them know they can join DRI at half the cost if they attend.
  • Ask a prospective member if they belong to their state and local defense organizations.  If they have never been a DRI member, they qualify for a free one-year DRI membership
  • Ask your state bar association to provide you with a list of attorneys who belong to state bar “sections” or committees related to specific areas of practice. You’ll see a number of potential DRI members on those lists.
  • Consider diverse lawyer prospects. We all know impressive attorneys who are ethnically or racially diverse, and they all aren’t in “big firms.” Reach out and tell them what DRI has to offer. You’ll find they are most often interested and enthusiastically looking for opportunities to be involved.  Introduce them to DRI’s Diversity Committee.

Please be reminded that you will receive a $100 DRI certificate if you recruit a full-dues paying member!

As always, we appreciate your time and effort in all you do for DRI!

Cheryl L. Palombizio – DRI Director of Member Services

Navigating the Workers’ Compensation Committee


Whether you have a thriving workers’ compensation practice or dabble with a workers’ compensation case every now and again, the Workers’ Compensation Committee is a Substantive Law Committee you need to join. It is a quickly growing Committee with much to look forward to in 2015! The Workers’ Compensation Committee provides its members with the opportunity to meet other workers’ compensation attorneys from across the country and serves as a strong referral network.  For many, the Committee’s Community Page is not only a place to connect with other attorneys, but to also stay abreast of developments in the field of workers’ compensation law and national trends.

In addition, there are numerous ways to get involved within the Workers’ Compensation Committee. After joining, members are presented with immediate writing opportunities, including opportunities to write articles for the Committee’s quarterly publication The Compensation Courier and DRI’s For The Defense. Members can also assist with the Committee’s regular webinars and are encouraged to blog on the Community Page. If you are interested in being more involved, members enjoy the opportunity of becoming a leader on the Steering Committee in a short amount of time and there are several subcommittees that members can join and assist with.

Of course, there is also the DRI Annual Meeting, being held in Washington D.C. this year, October 7-11, 2015. At last year’s meeting, the Workers’ Compensation Committee teamed up with the Trucking Law Committee to present valuable programs to its members. Workers’ Compensation Committee members also enjoyed a dinner of great company and wonderful food. I am sure next year’s dinner at the Annual Meeting will be just as successful.

For more information about our Committee, please contact our leadership. This year’s Committee Chair, Vice Chair, and Membership Chair, are listed below.

Chair, Jonathan Berryhill at

Vice Chair, Libby Valos-Moss at

Membership Chair, Sarah Smith at

We look forward to seeing you get involved!

Member to Member


DRI has been such a gift not only in my career, but in my relationships.   My firm signed me up in 2009 as a newly licensed attorney and I found my way to my first publication opportunity within months.  From there I was appointed as a Young Lawyer liaison to the Professional Liability Committee and hopped on a plane to New York to handle the Young Lawyer activities at the their Seminar. New York, New York in December is hard to beat! My initial publication led right into a speaking engagement at the Young Lawyer breakout session for the Products Liability Conference in Las Vegas.  My husband and I made a vacation out of that trip as it was our first time in Vegas and my first National presentation – I was a little nervous.  A word of advice, a week in Vegas takes stamina, is not for the weak and will net you life long friends if you survive it!  Following my first big trial, I co-authored an article in For the Defense.  In short, the exposure, connections, laughter and light that DRI brings are why DRI is something I will be part of for life.

I have traveled to New York, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, Denver and Chicago multiple times on DRI business.  In each of those cities, I have had the pleasure of meeting people that have shared their stories with me. Some professional, but mostly life.  We are all cut from the same mold in this profession. I have met husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, and in one profound case a young lady that was not a DRI member who was searching to connect back after losing her husband.  What always surprises me when I leave a DRI Seminar is how much I am going to miss my friends until the next time and how happy I am to have met the new faces.  DRI is so much more than a defense organization – as with anything, it is what you make it.  I began as a Young Lawyer Liaison, joined the Young Lawyer Steering Committee and now hold two executive appointed positions for DRI in addition to sitting on the Young Lawyer Steering Committee.  To me, DRI is a gift that has granted me an international audience, career advancement, and most importantly lasting friendships and connections with people I value.  I hope you maximize your DRI experience and wish you all the very best that DRI has to offer.

Christian R. Johnson, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, Houston, TX


Practice, Practice, Practice

As kids, we heard this all the time, from parents and coaches.  “You will never get any better without practice”: from the piano, to baseball, to gymnastics.  Practice builds muscle memory, and without that practice, without that muscle memory, performers and athletes cannot excel, be it at Carnegie Hall or during March Madness.

As attorneys, our jobs require the same attention to practice, practice, practice.  We need muscle memory to help us through stressful or surprising situations that invariably arise in depositions, at court hearings, or at trial.  How do you conduct a successful voir dire? How do you properly impeach a witness with a deposition?  How do you conduct a Daubert hearing to have plaintiff’s expert excluded at trial?  Without it, trial attorneys confronted with a “surprise” cannot adequately represent their clients.

In a recent blog post, Chris Bottcher, Chair of the Trial Tactics Committee, discussed the major problem facing litigators today: the lack of exposure to trials and other hearings necessary for attorneys to hone their skills. However, the 2015 Trial Tactics Seminar offers a great opportunity for attorneys of all experience levels to practice, practice, practice their litigation skills. Topics include conducting a Daubert hearing, dealing with surprises at trial, how to conduct a successful voir dire, and many, many others.

The 2015 Trial Tactics Seminar will be held at Caesar’s Palace Las Vegas, March 18–20, 2015. It happens to be during March Madness. So while you learn from leading trial lawyers across the country to help you build the necessary muscle memory to succeed as a litigator, the top college basketball athletes will be putting their skills to the test after years of practice, practice, practice.  The program will be great. It will be a unique opportunity to learn, connect, and grow. Hope to see you there

Andrew DeSimone – Sturgill Turner Barker & Moloney, Lexington, KY