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

DRI’s Women in the Law Committee – Girl Power at its Best

At a recent DRI seminar, one of the speakers described his family’s long history in the law, including his grandmother who was admitted to the bar in 1938.  I smiled… because my family’s got him beat!  My grandmother, Marie E. Jessen, was one of the very first women to gain admission to the bar of the State of Ohio in July of 1926.  The DRI seminar speaker was intensely proud of the accomplishments of women in his family.  Having a smart, strong, capable woman role model in the law was also important to me growing up.  The reality of gender inequality in the top ranks of our profession was difficult to comprehend in my early years of practice, and I have been disheartened to see many well-educated and talented women leave the profession.

A long-held view was that the lack of women in partnership positions was a function of demographics:  Women had not been going to law school in large enough numbers for a long enough time to reach positions of equity partner or leadership in firms and corporate governance.  Considering that the law firm equity partner percentage has been stagnant at 15% for a decade or more, those early predictions that only time was necessary are no longer persuasive.

Within DRI’s Women in the Law Committee I have found a wealth of talented, driven, and uber-smart women who enjoy bonding and learning from each other, inspiring one another, and helping each other succeed.  Through their work and commitment to the Committee, they prove that all of us succeed when we follow our own instincts, speak with our own voices, and infuse our individuality into our work.

What are the special activities of this group?  There is a long list but I must start with the recent Women in the Law Committee publication – Women Rainmakers:  A Roadmap to Success.  I had the privilege of interviewing a few of the rainmakers for the publication and drafting one of the chapters.  This book is a tremendous resource for all practicing lawyers – male or female.  While directed specifically for women, it is full of advice for all attorneys in private practice who se ek to develop and maintain a book of business.  Simply, it is a valuable and helpful guide to implementing practical, positive steps for one of the most challenging aspects of being a lawyer, i.e., getting business.

The Women in the Law Committee has an annual seminar that is absolutely one of the best investments my firm makes each year.  If you can’t make the trip to that seminar in early February, look for Committee events in your area.  Local networking events have been organized in a couple dozen cities across the country.  And, when you attend your next DRI seminar be sure to participate in the seminar networking events.  The dedicated women of the Women in the Law Committee help develop networking events at each DRI seminar – almost 20 events every year.

The most recent offering from the Committee is Opportunity Calling, a quarterly conference call to bring discussions on networking and business development to DRI members.  The call is free but the advice is invaluable.  In January, Lauren Stiller Rikleen, President of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership LLC, gave a presentation entitled A Conversation about Millennials and Pay Equity – What We Can All Learn about Each Other to Successfully Navigate the Workplace.  Ms. Rikleen, a former law firm equity partner and author of the recently published You Raised Us – Now Work with Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams, highlighted her findings about the pay equity gap, the impact on Millennials, and how women of all ages can chart a course to address the issues.  In April, Patricia Gillette, a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP’s San Francisco office guided a panel discussion about her study of the profiles and traits of successful rainmakers.  Joining her in the presentation were in-house attorneys at Electric Insurance Company, including Patricia Ratner, managing attorney, and Kristen D’Angelo, counsel.  They examined tried and true methods for developing business in the legal profession, and provided successful rainmaking tips on how to get business and keep business for the long term.  It was no surprise that a few hundred members of the Women in the Law Committee joined in for a lively and informative call.

The Women in the Law Committee is a vibrant group that is dedicated to improving the work climate for women in the legal profession and encouraging women to excel.  It is a group that I have embraced and women that I have come to admire over the years.  If you are not already a member of the committee, I hope that you will join (here’s the link – Join WITL Committee!).  We look forward to hearing your voice.

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

Member Advocacy – A Thank You, From DRI

In my short time here at DRI headquarters as a new staff member, I have just been awestruck by the amount of time and energy that many DRI members and volunteers will devote to member recruitment. It is amazing to see how passionate such members are that they are willing to take the time out of their more-than-busy schedules to share DRI with associates and colleagues. It is always so much more effective when a non-member is able to hear about the benefits of DRI membership directly from an active member.

It is important to us that we give back to those who are going above and beyond in helping strengthen DRI membership. That is why I am excited to announce our new 2015 Member Advocate Campaign. Beginning on August 4th and extending until the Annual Meeting on October 7th, any member who recruits a new, full dues paying member OR converts a free member to a full dues paying member will receive a $200 Advocate Certificate. This certificate can be applied to any DRI publication or seminar, including the 2015 Annual Meeting. Plus, there is no limit to the number of certificates you can earn! So essentially, if you recruit four members you can attend the Annual Meeting for FREE. In addition, the certificates are fully transferable to any other existing DRI member – including the new member recruited.

A few other notes about the Advocate Campaign:

  • The offer only applies to new full-dues paying members, however for the purpose of this program “new” may also include former members of DRI whose membership has lapsed for more than the previous calendar year.
  • Certificates must be redeemed by February 29, 2015.
  • DRI board members are eligible to receive the Advocate Certificate under this initiative.

We cannot thank you enough for all the effort you put in to helping show others the value and potential of becoming a DRI member. On a personal note, I am very much looking forward to meeting you all this October at my first ever DRI Annual Meeting!

Mark Jacobson – DRI Senior Coordinator, Membership Strategy

Why I am Attending this Year’s Annual Meeting

We all know that time away from the office is burdensome and almost takes more effort than if you had simply stuck to your normal schedule. But, I promise you DRI’s Annual Meeting is well worth it!

Last year I attended DRI’s Annual Meeting in San Francisco. I was not only impressed by the caliber of programs and panels, but was left in awe at the fellowship that cements the organization together. I was made to feel welcome by each attorney I met and was continuously encouraged to become more involved. What truly made the DRI Annual Meeting worth it for me was the networking opportunities that I was able to take advantage of and the several friendships I was able to make.

First, at each Annual Meeting, the various Committees will plan group dinners where all are welcome and provide an excellent opportunity to meet face-to-face those with people you may be working regularly with to promote and grow your Committee. I know the Workers’ Compensation Committee dinner was a true highlight of last year’s meeting for me.

Also, each of the Committees has its own business meetings and break-out groups. At these sessions, members can become more familiar with Committee leadership, learn about opportunities available within the Committee, and discuss important topics and trends in their given field. For young lawyers, this is a great way to become involved in a Committee and for more senior lawyers, these panels and programs present excellent speaking opportunities.

Finally, each Annual Meeting has several networking receptions, including a larger party on Thursday night and the President’s Gala that takes place Saturday evening. Both are not only great fun, but allow you to meet attorneys from every walk of DRI. I am positive this year’s meeting will be no different and can’t wait!

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

A Cut Above Your Ordinary Conference

I recently had the pleasure of attending DRI’s Diversity Conference in Chicago, IL this past June. It was my first time attending this DRI program and I had no idea what to expect.  I’ve attended events like this throughout my career – conferences seeking explanations and solutions for the increasing absence of women and minorities in the law profession.   Usually, the event is centered on lawyers talking to other lawyers about why there aren’t more woman and people of color in decision making positions within the law.

While these conferences serve the very real need to meet and speak with other lawyers facing challenges similar to your own, several years of attending these conferences has – shall we say – limited my interest in attending another in a seemingly unending series of conferences reiterating what I already know – the legal profession has a women and people of color problem.  Nevertheless, a number of other DRI members insisted that DRI’s Diversity Conference would be “worth the trip from California”.  They were right.

DRI contextualized the challenges we face into thought provoking panel discussions while simultaneously providing solutions to the problem in matching law firms directly with corporate general counsel.  Law firms that were looking to work with Fortune 100 and 500 corporations were able to hear directly from corporate counsel specific strategies for how to get and keep their work – and some were even able to interview with potential clients.  This experience was the direct opposite of my prior experiences with such conferences which ordinarily consisted of “throat-clearing” on the topic by moderately informed panelists followed by coffee and a pastry.  Nothing was accomplished.

In contrast, DRI provided its attendees with panelists that gave you exactly the information you needed to fashion a solution to the problems you may face as a woman or minority lawyer.  Moreover, by using its industry clout, DRI was able to provide selected attendees with the opportunity to interview directly with decision makers who could decide on the spot to send work to them.  No cold-calls.  No hoops to jump through.  All these individuals did was simply register for the conference.  Just amazing.

The 2015 DRI Annual Conference will be held at the Washington Marriott – Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. on October 7 – 11.  If you are on the fence about attending thinking it to be “just another lawyer conference”, let me assure you that DRI conferences are anything but.  If you’ve yet to attend a DRI event, I encourage you to come and find out how different it is from anything else out there for yourself.

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

Milestones

As I prepare for an upcoming lifetime milestone — my marriage to my partner of ten years — I’ve been reflecting on various noteworthy events in my life. Interestingly, I’ve noticed a thread of events that originate with DRI.

Unquestionably, one highlight of my personal and professional life was having my mom present to watch me take the oath to become a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar, an opportunity which arose through my membership in DRI’s Young Lawyers’ Committee. I also was published for the first time as a result of my involvement in DRI. Writing an article in DRI’s Rx for the Defense as a senior associate was an accomplishment as it provided me an opportunity to both demonstrate my mastery of a developing substantive issue and educate others about that issue.

My membership in DRI has also resulted in invitations to participate in various speaking opportunities. Whether being involved in panel or speaking on my own, presenting on topics ranging from the learned intermediary doctrine, multidistrict litigation, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and law firm recruitment and retention has sharpened my presentation skills and has also provide me numerous business development opportunities.

Many colleagues I have met through DRI have developed into friends and I look forward to seeing some of them at my upcoming wedding. “DRI for Life” isn’t just a catchy slogan, it is a true reflection of what DRI offers for those that become members, attend seminars, form friendships, and grow professionally.

Dominic Campodonico – Gordon & Rees LLP, San Francisco, CA

Superstars of DRI

Marie Chafe is a partner at the Boston law firm of Cornell & Gollub. Anyone who knows her will tell you that she has every quality of a DRI Superstar: Accomplishment; National Leadership; Inspiration; and Passion. Marie is an accomplished and nationally recognized civil and commercial litigator in the defense and management of complex products liability, transportation, construction, and business disputes against U.S. and international corporations. She is also a leader. In addition to her passionate fulfillment of her many roles and responsibilities with DRI, Marie is also on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association and Women’s Bar Association, and is an active member and advocate in the IADC, FDCC, and the ABA. In the past year alone, she has spoken across the country at one annual meeting, one trucking litigation meeting, one women’s meeting, and at the 2014 DRI Product Liability Conference in Phoenix.

By her tireless example, Marie is a perpetual inspiration to those around her. Her work for DRI is a constant reminder of everything that DRI has to offer, inspiring members and prospective members to step up, join and be noticed. And, for Marie, it is no surprise that DRI has taken notice! Marie is currently on three DRI steering committees: Membership; Women in the Law (WITL); and Product Liability’s Automotive Group. She is Chair of the Networking Subcommittee of WITL, the Vice-Chair of Biomechanics & Injury Causation Subcommittee of Products Liability, and the Massachusetts State Liaison for WITL. Most importantly, however, Marie is passionate about the value of DRI, personally, professionally and socially. She has used that passion to help organize, market and run WITL networking events across the country to provide women with opportunities for interaction, professional networking, and socializing. The women, and men, who attend these events will attest that she uses her passion to spread the word about the benefits of DRI to the numerous prospective, new and active members that she encounters. On a personal note, when I mentioned to another DRI member that I was writing this piece, he made a statement that says it all:

“Marie is really something else! No matter how busy she is, whenever a DRI need arises, she enthusiastically offers to help, and then completes the job like a superstar!”

Thank you, Marie, for all of your work and your passion for DRI!

Emily G. Coughlin, Esq. – Coughlin Betke LLP

5 TIPS FOR SMALL FIRMS TO MAXIMIZE DRI MEMBERSHIP

As a shareholder at a small firm, I understand the unique concerns of small businesses. My goal each day is to find balance between tending to current client needs, supervising young attorneys, and making sure the firm’s administrative engines are running on all cylinders. My biggest priority, however, is maintaining a steady flow of new business and a stable of happy people to do the work. That’s where DRI comes in.

Small firms have limited resources, both in terms of (wo)manpower and finances, to devote to building a referral network and professional development. We need to make sure that every dollar and hour spent counts because there is not room for “fluff” in a small firm budget. Simply being a member in a national organization with more than 21,000 participants will not give you much bang for your buck. Here are 5 easy tips that can help your small firm maximize its DRI membership:

  1.  Sponsor In-House Counsel’s Membership. DRI offers membership to in-house counsel for only $285/year. In-house counsel who join DRI’s Corporate Counsel Committee (which is free) can also attend any DRI seminar free of charge, and will receive substantial discounts for attending the annual meeting. There are currently more than 900 members in DRI’s Corporate Counsel Committee and introducing your in-house lawyers to this DRI network would be a great way to show that you are all about their specific needs. By sponsoring a DRI membership, you not only cover their CLE needs for the entire year through the free educational programming available to in-house members, you also lay the groundwork to connect with them in person at DRI seminars. That’s a win-win.
  2.  Invest In Your Young Lawyers. All firms feel the impact when an associate leaves to pursue other opportunities, but small firms feel that loss tenfold. The best way to retain talented young lawyers is to invest in their development and let them know that you care. The membership for a young lawyer (admitted 5 years or less) is only $165/year. Included with that membership is a certificate to attend any DRI seminar for free. One of our associates joined DRI during his first year at our firm, attended the Young Lawyers’ Seminar with the free certificate, and made connections that turned into a leadership role almost immediately. He has not even been in practice for three years, but he has already been published in The Whisper and serves as the Young Lawyer Vice Liaison for the Insurance Law Committee. That kind of involvement in a national organization is not only great for him, it’s good for us.
  3.  Join a Substantive Law Committee. Small firms don’t have the same access to multiple practice groups as large firms. Our firm’s practice focuses on insurance coverage and bad faith litigation; if a case involves an IP question, it is not as though we can walk to another floor and get the answer. One of the benefits of DRI is that they have 29 active Substantive Law Committees – which means that you have access to newsletters, compendiums, and leading practitioners in each of those 29 areas. Have a question about Trucking Law? Pick up the phone and call the Committee Chair. Want to know about current trends in Data Management and Security? Download the most recent newsletters. Need to find an expert in a unique area? Search the DRI expert database and expert profiler. These types of broad resources are even more valuable to small firms with specialized practice areas.
  4.  Double-Dip Your Seminar Trips. For small firms, any time a lawyer is out on business travel, the impact is felt on the home front. The firm is down billable hours, fewer hands are around to handle last-minute projects, and travel is much more expensive than staying in the office to watch a webinar. But the truth is that relationships aren’t often formed through webinars. If you want to build a meaningful referral network, you need to get out and shake some hands! Attending DRI seminars is an incredible way to meet inspiring lawyers from across the country. There is not a single DRI seminar that our firm can’t turn into a “double dip trip.” If we are traveling to New York for the Insurance Coverage Symposium, we plan our flights so that we can visit clients in New Jersey and Boston while we’re on the east coast. If an associate is attending the Young Lawyers Seminar in Nashville, it’s easy to have her stop by a client’s office in Atlanta on the way. The convenient locations of the DRI seminars make it possible for small firms to get the most bang for their travel buck.
  5. Seek Out Publication and Speaking Opportunities. Small firms are always looking for ways to set themselves apart from the competition. One of the best ways to increase your firm’s visibility is to become well-known as being knowledgeable in your substantive practice area by publishing or speaking. These opportunities abound at DRI. From blog posts, to articles, and compendiums; from webcasts, to panel presentations, and break-out sessions. DRI is always looking for current topics to share and welcomes participation from its members. Did you recently obtain summary judgment on an issue of first impression? Have you researched an emerging area of law? Share it with the DRI community! Most Substantive Law Committees have a publications chair or a social media chair you can contact to figure out what opportunities exist and how you can get your name out there.

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