DRI’s Commitment to Diversity


“DRI’s Commitment to Diversity: Attend the Annual Meeting and the celebration of the Civil Rights Act.

The Annual Meeting set for October 23-25, 2014 in San Francisco, promises to be the best yet.  With an impressive list of speakers on a wide variety of topics, the event should be both insightful and impactful.  Among the headline events and of particular significance to the Diversity Committee, is the main stage program which celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.  The importance of this anniversary and its impact on diverse people since its passage, cannot be overstated.  This program is designed to highlight and meaningfully consider the incredible opportunities that have arisen as a result.

One of DRI’s primary objectives is to educate and enhance its membership.  As lawyers, we should value diversity and the enrichment it provides.   Recognizing and valuing our differences enhances our life experiences and allows us to better represent our clients and become better lawyers.  The Civil Rights presentation allows us to celebrate our differences and the progress that has been achieved over the last 50 years in society at large and within the profession.

The fact that this program is at the heart of this year’s Annual Meeting underscores DRI’s meaningful commitment to diversity and inclusion.  As an officer of the Diversity Committee for the last several years, this commitment to advance issues of diversity is palpable.  Please attend the Annual Meeting and the Civil Rights Act Program.  It should be an amazing opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion simultaneously.  Hope to see you all there.”

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

DRI Annual Meeting SLDO Program – You Spoke, We Listened


DRI’s Annual Meeting is right around the corner and on Thursday afternoon, the SLDO program will feature topics in which you can learn how to strengthen and reinvigorate your SLDO.  Learn about programs that have been successful in engaging your young lawyers, find out about educating the non-lawyer public about your SLDO, review fundamental issues critical to your law practice, learn about the latest and greatest technology developments and discover best websites that are available for your SLDO to utilize and boost its profile.

Past attendees have proclaimed the value of the breakout sessions and asked for more, so on Friday afternoon, breakouts will be focused on Thursday’s topics designed for SLDO leaders to share with one another those experiences that have worked best for them and discover alternatives to approaches that have not fully met SLDO expectations.

Breakouts will be in five groups with an experienced DRI SLDO facilitator encouraging open dialogue on issues of importance to the SLDOs.  Thursday’s faculty will circulate among the groups allowing attendees meaningful follow-up on topics of most interest.   Participants will be encouraged to share their top three ideas for making their SLDO better in the coming year.  Discussions are expected to be lively and informative.

We look forward to welcoming you at this year’s DRI Annual Meeting on October 22-26, 2014 in San Francisco at the Marriott Marquis!

Cheryl Palombizio, DRI Director of Member Services

Working with Your State and Local Defense Organization


DRI affords its members the opportunity to be active in numerous substantive law committees and a chance to network with attorneys throughout the country.  DRI also partners with state and local defense organizations (SLDO) which allows its members to have access to more local resources and issues.

DRI members who are also SLDO members have access to the SLDO’s publications, list serves and databases.  Often times, attorneys may be practicing in a jurisdiction in which they may not be familiar. The SLDO can be a useful resource to gain access to information regarding the courts, local procedures, and practices.  Seminars offered by the SLDO provide great insight into issues unique to that particular jurisdiction.  These seminars also provide members the opportunity to present and market themselves.  SLDO publications provide a great opportunity to publish your areas of expertise.  Leaders of DRI substantive law committees should look to the SLDO substantive law committees for potential new members.  Joining SLDO committees allow members access to information that may not be available at the DRI level.  Each SLDO has a Board of Directors which allows attorneys to become leaders in their profession.

DRI has much to offer and when its members work with their SLDO, the opportunities and options available to them are plentiful.  Check in with your SLDO and see what they have to offer.

Paul Rajkowski – Rajkowski Hansmeier Ltd., St. Cloud, Minnesota

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