DRI Superstars


Normally, when you think of a DRI superstar you think of the names of individuals.  But in the case of the 2014 New DRI Member recruitment efforts, I think of the collective.  There so many superstars who have recruited new DRI members that it would be unfair to name one person.  Thus, I chose to recognize the many DRI members involved in the Substantive Law Committees, and the State and Local Defense Organizations who have all contributed to making sure that DRI remains a strong and vibrant member driven organization.

On the Substantive Law Committee side, through the end of July, the committees are 79% of the way of completing their targeted goal of recruiting 595 new DRI members.  Currently, 11 of the 30 Substantive Law Committees have achieved or exceeded their new member recruitment goal and 5 more committees are well on their way.

On the State and Local Defense side, through the end of July, the SLDO’s are 58% of the way of completing their targeted goal of recruiting 745 new DRI members.  Currently, 11 of the 50 SLDO’s have achieved or exceeded their new member recruitment goal and 10 more SLDO’s are well on their way.

This phenomenal progress could not be achieved without a lot of DRI superstars!  The great news is that we are half way through the year and we have a lot of time for additional DRI superstars to emerge; especially with the new “It Starts With You” campaign.

Thanks to the many DRI superstars who have recruited new DRI members during 2014.

Douglas K. Burrell – Drew Eckl & Farnham, Atlanta, GA

DRI Communities – Your Practice Area Resource


DRI is pleased to announce our new dedicated online communities that will act as hubs for all DRI committee activities.  The contacts made and information shared between committee members is one of the many ways to bring value to your DRI membership.  DRI’s goal is help facilitate these efforts using today’s social media and technological advances.

In the coming months, each of DRI’s substantive committees will be assigned an online community dedicated solely to the members of that substantive law committee.  Through this dedicated online community, you will be able to interact with your fellow committee members and keep up with what’s going on in your committee.  For example, you will be able to:

  • Connect with fellow committee members through the community discussion list (formally known as a list serve)
  • Post, read and comment on legal blogs
  • Stay up-to-date with committee events through the community calendar
  • Post and share documents in the community library, including white papers, reports, articles and other committee related documents
  • Keep current on committee activities and volunteer opportunities through community announcements

The communities are designed to be a one stop location of all things related to your committee and practice area and as a committee member you are automatically added as a member of the community.

Cheryl L. Palombizio – DRI Director of Member Services

Navigating the SLC



I joined DRI to show my firm that I was interested in “business development.”  I was a new associate at my current firm, practicing in the field of employment litigation, and I wanted to prove that I was game for anything.  The very first DRI event I attended was the Annual Meeting in San Francisco (2006).  I attended for free because DRI gives “young lawyers” who sign up as members the opportunity to attend any seminar (including the Annual Meeting) without charge.  I was stunned at the throngs of people in attendance at the opening night reception, and recall thinking that I must be the only one there who did not know a single other attendee.  But then, an amazing thing happened.  I met people.  I met people at the reception, and I met people the following day during the substantive CLE presentations.  I met people at the Thursday night event, where DRI members ate and danced on the green grass of the then-PacBell Park (now AT&T Park).  It was incredible.

All of DRI’s Substantive Law Committees (SLCs) hold Business Meetings at the Annual Meeting.  Everyone is invited.  I attended the Lawyers’ Professionalism and Ethics (LPEC) Business Meeting; I had joined this SLC at the invitation of a current DRI member and LPEC leader (who sent out letters to all new DRI members asking them to join), and I had been told that I should attend the LPEC Business Meeting.  So I did.

The Business Meeting was run by the current leaders of the LPEC, a smart, charismatic and fun group who by the end of the meeting had convinced most of us in attendance that we should be more involved.  Well, I fell for it, and eight years later I am now its Vice Chair.  Since I first joined, I have published articles in LPEC’s newsletter, Professionalism Perspectives, and also contributed to the Committee’s regular column for DRI’s weekly monthly periodical, For the Defense.  LPEC also sponsors webcasts, in which it partners with other Substantive Law Committees on topics that range in substance and in which LPEC members are featured speakers.  I have both planned such webcasts and been a featured speaker.  My involvement in all of these aspects of LPEC led to my appointment as Vice Chair this year.  As an SLC leader, I had the privilege of attending DRI’s leadership conference in Chicago for the first time this past January, where I took part in seminars and discussions which provided me with tools and tips that have made me a better leader within DRI and beyond.

The people I have served with as leaders of LPEC have become some of the most meaningful friends and mentors that I have met in my professional life.  These relationships have expanded my practice in ways I could not imagine back when I attended my first Annual Meeting.

If you are looking for a way to become more involved in DRI, you should join an SLC.  Lawyers’ Professionalism and Ethics is always looking for new members, and if you are interested, please contact me or our Membership Chair, Thom Gilligan at tgilligan@murnane.com.

I will be looking for you at our Business Meeting at the DRI Annual Meeting in San Francisco this October!

M. Amy Carlin – Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, Boston, MA 02109

DRI – Helping Me Meet My Newest Challenge



I have been a member of DRI for twelve years.  In that twelve years, DRI has seen me through a lot of changes in my practice and my life.  In my early associate/young lawyer years, I spent a lot of time growing my contacts list through DRI and developing good relationships with my contemporaries from all over the country.  If you named a state, I probably knew someone there from DRI.  I joined substantive law committees, including the Young Lawyers Committee; wrote articles; presented at young lawyer breakout sessions at seminars; attended the Annual Meeting and took advantage of just about everything DRI had to offer. My relationships, contacts and friendships grew.  Sure enough, my contemporaries and I began to climb the ladders in our firms and slowly but surely we were all positioning ourselves to both generate and refer business.

After developing a strong network, my task over the past couple of years was to prove that I could, in fact, generate business from the contacts I had made.  I looked through my file I keep on these kinds of things while writing this post and in the past two to three years, I have received seven referrals of business from my DRI friends and contacts.  I received another five calls about matters that either did not come to fruition or that I could not take due to conflicts or other issues.  This year I tried my first DRI referral case to a defense verdict.  The referral calls come more regularly now than they ever have before and I can see very clearly how my investment in DRI has turned into an investment in my career.

But, my toughest task yet was presented to me late last year by my business development coach. I was encouraged to think of business development not just as a task of bringing in work for myself, but bringing in work for our other offices, indeed for the firm as a whole.  This new task required me to work on rewriting my “elevator speech” and focus on making sure that when I talked with my contacts, I found ways to mention our other offices (not just West Virginia).  And, I had to make a point to know more about our lawyers working outside of West Virginia.

With my homework done, I then did what I have done over the past twelve years – I looked to DRI and my contacts through the organization to try and meet this challenge.  And while I am certainly still working on this goal, I can also report that DRI, yet again, did not let me down.  Sure enough, the last three cases I have brought in have gone to our offices in Wheeling, West Virginia, Akron, Ohio and Lexington, Kentucky.

DRI is an investment, a long term investment, and it pays great dividends.  It has helped me reach personal and professional goals time and time again.  I have met some of my very best friends and referral sources through this organization.  DRI will certainly remain an important part of my business plan for the foreseeable future.

Laurie K. Miller - Jackson Kelly PLLC, Charleston, West Virginia


A Salute to a Sooner





DRI lost a great friend on June 8th, when Kevin Driskill lost his valiant battle with Leukemia.  Kevin was an Oklahoma lawyer, which I mean as a high compliment.  We had the pleasure of serving on the DRI Board of Directors together for three years, and we became good friends.  I always enjoyed Kevin’s good humor, sound judgment and keen insight.  In his own quiet, cowboy way, Kevin steered matters of policy and substance to fair, efficient and prudent outcomes every time.  He was devoted to his family and his firm, in that order.  DRI is better and stronger because of Kevin’s leadership of the Oklahoma SLDO, his service as a DRI State Representative and as Regional Director.  He made a positive difference in so many ways, and he will be sorely missed.

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


Benefits Diversity Can Provide


“Deceased publicist and corporate icon Malcolm Forbes defined diversity as the “[t]he art of thinking independently together.”   In this rapidly changing world in which substantial demographic shifts are underway, the idea of diversity providing tangible benefits is both exciting and profound.

There is already ample research and support for the idea that diversity trumps homogeneity when it comes to problem solving, and that different viewpoints result in better solutions.  Fortune 500 Companies have found a positive relationship between board racial diversity and firm reputation and innovation.

In addition to enhanced performance, diversity is good for the bottom line.  Women and minority-owned businesses are growing exponentially, and represent one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. As the world continues to evolve, businesses are seeking to tap these new markets in various ways and are cognizant of the vast opportunities these changes can provide.

We as lawyers should embrace these changes and, along with the clients and businesses we represent, value diversity for both the enrichment and opportunities it can create. Recognizing and valuing our differences enhances our life experiences and allows us to better represent our clients.

DRI is providing a wonderful opportunity to experience the benefits diversity can provide.   The Diversity for Success Seminar will be held in Chicago on June 11-12, 2014 at the Swissotel in Chicago, IL.  Hope to see you all there.

Rosary A. Hernandez – Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP, Phoenix, AZ

Get to Know Your Region


DRI is divided into twelve geographic regions consisting of State and Local Defense Organizations (SLDO’s). The Regional Director works with the State Representatives in his/her region on DRI membership issues and in maintaining a close relationship with the SLDO therein.  Regional directors are responsible for planning, organizing and leading the regional meeting. DRI staff, State Representatives and SLDO leaders will assist with the regional meeting, but the primary responsibility and accountability remains with the Regional Director.

Regions meet twice a year; once at the DRI Annual Meeting (which is typically a planning session for the next year’s regional meeting), and again as a group at a local venue. The purpose of the regional meeting is to facilitate interaction and communication among the SLDO’s and DRI.  During the meetings, the SLDO’s discuss issues that are pertinent to their operation and membership and the DRI representatives provide insight on how the SLDO might address those problems.  The DRI segment of the agenda provides information on current DRI initiatives or projects that may be of interest to the SLDO’s.  Finally, the meetings involve a discussion of how the SLDOs and DRI can work together to further the interests of the defense bar.

Cheryl L. Palombizio, DRI Director of Member Services

Greater Than the Sum of the Parts


This is one of the oldest maxims around – and usually true when speaking of dynamically motivated and forward thinking components. In my many years of active participation in my SLDO and DRI, there is no better description of the relationship than “greater than the sum of its parts.” DRI began its formal relationship with State and Local Defense Organizations (SLDOs) in 1965, when DRI itself was only five years old. Since that time, the relationships have strengthened and become symbiotic.

DRI knows nearly all there is to know about every SLDO in the country and actively works to strengthen those critical components of the advancement of the defense bar. Let’s face it – like politics, sometimes all civil defense is local. Legislatures, judges, plaintiff’s bar groups, trade associations, chambers of commerce; all of these entities are making an impact on your defense practice in your state every day. At the same time, many of the issues being addressed have happened elsewhere or there are experts who can help in other states. Here is where DRI comes in, perfectly positioned to provide vast resources that one state group might not be able to sustain. DRI provides speakers, papers, experts, guidance, and practical advice.  DRI helps build websites, provides fully constructed educational programs, creates avenues for SLDOs to address issues with their peer groups, provides amicus support on groundbreaking legal questions, provides support and development for structure and administration, and provides template long range planning guides.  The list could go on and on because, in reality, DRI will and has stepped up to help with virtually any need that an SLDO can present.

Why? Because DRI knows that the civil defense bar is strongest when all of the lawyers in the practice have as much access as possible to the five goals of its mission – education of the lawyer, justice in the civil justice system, balance of plaintiff and defense perspective in the public mind, strengthening the economic stability of the defense practitioner, and promoting professionalism all across the bar. Not every lawyer can partake of DRI’s offerings in the national scope at seminars across the country. Perhaps not every defense lawyer has a practice that needs such a national scope.  Every one of us, though, needs to meet those five goals right in our own backyards. The SLDOs can provide each of these elements and can do so on a broader and more cost effective scale with DRI’s participation. DRI in return sees the holistic picture of the defense bar across the country and can quickly and affirmatively address developing concerns as they begin the spread to other jurisdictions.

So, if you aren’t active in your SLDO, seek it out. It has something to offer you right there in your playground. If you are active in your SLDO and have not yet engaged with DRI, take advantage of the opportunities to do so with direct benefit to your SLDO. And as a bonus, there is never a down side for DRI and SLDO members getting to know one another – you might pick up a referral, you might pick up a lead, you might pick up a friend.

Margaret Fonshell Ward – Ward & Herzog, Baltimore, MD


Member to Member


A little less than 15 years ago, one of my Partners served as the President of the Nebraska Defense Counsel Association.  By default and as he was my mentor in our firm, I “volunteered” to speak at NDCA’s meetings and planned annual meetings.  I eventually served on NDCA’s Board of Directors.  I write of these experiences as they were my path to DRI involvement. I participated in state service and served as DRI’s State Representative for Nebraska and now sit on the DRI Membership Committee.  Over this time, my respect for DRI’s offerings for professional and personal enrichment has grown exponentially. 

As attorneys, we are constantly faced with the responsibility of identifying, addressing and most importantly, solving the problems of our clients.  This responsibility is often carried out in the adversarial arena of litigation, where winning and losing is often the measure of our success.  Simply put, a challenging working environment for anyone.  DRI’s 50 plus year of experience has made it the go-to organization for defending your clients in civil litigation.  DRI’s support ranges from pre-eminent substantive legal writing on complex legal issues to professional opinions solicited from trusted colleagues.  Over the course of my career, I have relied on DRI’s vast resources to serve the interests of my clients.  If my client needs it, I know DRI has it.   

Upon reflection, I wish I had been more involved with DRI in the earlier years of my career. My regret has nothing to do with substantive legal issues or professional development.  It relates to lost time and opportunities to get to know and enjoy the company of great friends, who just happen to be fantastic professionals.  Despite my peek in the rearview mirror, DRI has afforded me the opportunity to establish friendships which will last for the rest of my life.  It is my most treasured experience with DRI, looking forward to and seeing friends at various DRI events. 

I encourage you to find your path to DRI involvement as soon as you possibly can.  You won’t regret it. 

Kyle Wallor – Lamson Dugan and Murray, Omaha, Nebraska

DRI Superstar – June Essis


Being a DRI Superstar is not something that is reserved for the recognizable names of current or former Board and Executive Committee members.  While they have contributed a significant amount to DRI and the Defense Bar, there are a lot of other DRI members whose contributions to DRI are just as important; especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining new DRI members.  Without active and committed members, DRI cannot thrive.  Thus, it is an absolute honor to recognize June Essis, the current Vice Chair of DRI’s Trucking Committee for her leading the new member recruitment efforts for her committee!  June is personally leading the charge by reaching out to the Trucking Law steering committee members to assist them in their new member recruitment efforts.  She is also implementing tactics to help persuade non DRI members to join.  June’s tireless efforts are what makes her a superstar and will help DRI continue to thrive in the future.

Douglas K. Burrell – Drew Eckl & Farnham, Atlanta, Georgia