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

Happy New Year!



Can you believe it?  Its 2015!  Where does the time go.  It seems like just yesterday, DRI’s Membership Committee published its first Member Blog on DRI Happenings (  I can’t believe it’s been two years.  The Member Blog was started because we (the Membership Committee) wanted to find a way to reach you to tell you about all of the great benefits that come with being a DRI member.  We started with bi-weekly posts every other Thursday.  The blog is a tool to help you (whether a new member or an old member) navigate the waters of DRI to ensure you get what you want out of your DRI membership.

Since the Member Blog has been such a huge success, we decided to expand our posting schedule.  Beginning in April, we will post a blog that that will give you the answers to some of the most often asked questions about your DRI membership.  We will provide useful information about the various substantive law committees (i.e., upcoming seminars, the structure of the committee and ideas for how to get involved) and the work we are doing with your state and local defense organizations.  We will continue to highlight some of the best features of a DRI Membership including DRI Communities (launched in 2014), DRI On-Line, DRI Happenings, DRI Today, For the Defense, In-House Quarterly, the DRI Directory and DRI’s Expert Witness Data Base.  We will also explain why a membership is beneficial for practitioners at both small and large firms.  You can check back with us to hear about what great things DRI members are doing to make DRI a success and let them tell you how DRI has helped them in their careers.

Our theme in 2015 is “DRI Membership: Its Personal.”  So, in 2015, we want to hear from you.  Share your stories with us.  Let us know how DRI has helped you personally.  Tell us about your successes, the friends you made, the doors your membership has opened, and why you continue to renew your membership year after year.

On behalf of the Membership Committee, we would like to thank you for your support in 2014 and wish you a very happy and healthy new year.  We look forwarding to sharing our knowledge with you and hearing from you soon!

Jennifer Muse, Anderson, McPharlin, & Conners, LLP – Los Angeles, CA

The 12 Gifts of DRI Membership



As we enter the holiday season, I am reminded of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  My five year old daughter is a huge fan of the version by Straight No Chaser.  If you have not heard it, you should stop now and take a listen.  Anyway, in celebration of this holiday season, I give you “The Twelve Gifts of DRI.”

12.       Free Membership in DRI’s 29 Substantive Law Committees

If you are like most people, you practice in more than one area and in DRI you can join as many substantive law committees as you like at no additional charge.  Since you are reading this you must be at least a part-time commercial litigator (or hope to be).  But – do you try cases?  If so, check out the Trial Tactics Committee – for free.  Do you deal with e-discovery? Poor you. Why not try out DRI’s e-discovery committee?  DRI’s substantive law committees really do offer something for everyone.  Log in to (call DRI at (312) 795-1101 if you need help with your log-in information) and then click here to try out a new committee or two in 2014. Did I mention they are free?

11.       For the Defense Magazine

Every month, DRI publishes a fabulous, full-color, glossy magazine (delivered right to your real mailbox) designed to help you, the defense practitioner, stay on top of new developments in the law.  If you are not into paper magazines, you can even download the new DRI App and get FTD every month right on your tablet.  Now that we no longer have to turn off our iPads and other devices on airplanes you will never be without great DRI content while you are on the go.  What to do with the paper magazine then?  Give it to a colleague and share the gift of DRI with them!

10.       Referrals – The DRI Membership Database

Did you know that as a DRI member, you have a place to create your very own profile?  DRI’s online membership directory allows you to create a profile that is searchable by others.  Just log in to and click on “edit profile” in the upper right hand corner where you see your log-in name.  Then fill in your profile.  That’s all you have to do.  You can even add your picture.  Last year more than 10,000 people visited DRI’s online directory of members each month looking for lawyers just like you.  Update your profile today!

9.         Free Legal Research Tools

DRI Online is available to DRI members only and it houses past and present issues of For the Defense magazine, seminar materials, articles from Defense Library Series publications, substantive law committee newsletters and more.  It is a great starting point for research on new issues in a case or on an emerging area of law and it is free!  Log into and try it out now!

8.         CLE at Right From Your Desk

DRI sponsors numerous webcasts every year covering all kinds of different substantive practice areas.  These webcasts are a great value at only $150 per site.  This means you can invite your entire office to watch the webcast (maybe even pop some popcorn) and everyone can earn CLE credit for only $150.  Check out the current webcast offerings here.  If you missed a webcast, or need emergency credit (come on, we’ve all been there) you can order a DRI webcast on demand!  DRI is just as fancy as your local cable or satellite provider and way more economical.

7.         DRI Keeps You in the Know

You can get all the legal news you can shake a stick at right on the DRI Today webpage. You can even make it your home page so you never miss a thing.  You can filter the news by the topic(s) in which you are interested and find everything from insurance law to class actions and medical liability to expert witnesses.  You can find it all at DRI Today with just a quick search. And it’s free too!

6.         Amazing Seminars and CLE Opportunities

DRI’s bread and butter has always been, and continues to be, affordable, high-quality CLE.  DRI is the leading provider of defense-oriented education in this country offering dozens of seminars all over the nation every year on timely and important topics in the areas in which its members practice. You can check out all of DRI’s seminar offerings here.  The highlight of the year for DRI is its Annual Meeting held each fall in October.  If you have never attended an Annual Meeting before, mark your calendar now for October 22-25, 2014 and join 1,100+ of your favorite defense colleagues in San Francisco, California.

5.         Help Retaining and Researching Expert Witnesses

DRI maintains a free expert witness database for its members.  Through the database you can locate an expert for your case, research the opposing party’s expert, research an expert you are considering retaining and more.  In addition, DRI has formed a strategic partnership with the legal research professionals of Expert Witness Profiler. Your membership in DRI now offers you the most comprehensive background profile of an individual expert witness on the market today.  There is a fee for this service, but you will also receive enhancements to which only DRI members are entitled.  Finally, Thomson Reuters Expert Witness Services and DRI have also joined forces to create Expert Intelligence Reports for DRI members that will seamlessly integrate the combined expert resources of both DRI and Thomson Reuters Expert Witness Services into a single interactive and comprehensive report detailing an expert’s background and history.  Check it out here.  Again there is a fee for this service, but it is significantly discounted for DRI members.

4.         Influence on Law & Public Policy

The DRI Center for Law and Public Policy provides a meaningful voice for the defense bar in the national discussion of substantive law and constitutional issues as well as the integrity of the judicial system through scholarship, legal expertise and advocacy.  It is a voice that is heard through published research materials, amicus briefs, practical tools and resources, and creative public education initiatives. The New York Times recently cited DRI’s amicus work as part of the growing influence of business on the United States Supreme Court.  DRI advocates for its members and its members’ clients and is a strong voice in the shaping of law and policy across the country.  “What has DRI done for me and my clients lately” you might ask.  Well, here is a great place to start in answering that question.  Additionally, DRI is a strong supporter of the National Foundation of Judicial Excellence.  The mission of the NFJE is to address important legal policy issues affecting the law and civil justice system by providing meaningful support and education to the judiciary, by publishing scholarly works and by engaging in other efforts to continually enhance and ensure judicial excellence and fairness for all engaged in the judicial process.  To carry out its mission, the NFJE holds an Annual Judicial Symposium each summer and pays the costs of attendance for appellate judges from across the country.

3.         DRI Neutrals Database

Do you need a mediator?  An arbitrator?  Search no further.  DRI can help.  Just log in to and search the DRI Neutrals Database for free.  DRI has partnered with the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals to provide defense firms with the foremost national roster of experienced and vetted civil mediators and arbitrators available. DRI’s Neutrals Database allows DRI members to view state rosters, perform a more detailed search by practice expertise, or see which neutrals are recommended by your fellow DRI colleagues.

2.         Leadership Opportunities Galore

As you can no doubt see, DRI has a lot going on and it is all in the name of helping its members.  As a direct result, DRI has lots of opportunities for its members to take on leadership roles in exciting projects, committees and initiatives.  In fact, even as I type this, I am in need of a membership vice chair on the Commercial Litigation Committee!  We have other openings for new leaders too!  The opportunities to lead are nearly limitless and range from serving as a writer for a publication or an editor of a committee newsletter to serving as a webcast or seminar chair to serving as a main stage speaker at the DRI Annual Meeting.  If you are passionate about serving in an organization committed to furthering the defense practice, we have a spot for you.  Keep calm and lead on.

1.         Business Development & Networking

Finally, nothing says “Happy Holidays” like getting new business, right?  Even Lucy in the old Peanuts cartoon knows this.  DRI’s entire Annual Meeting theme this year was on making it rain and growing a book of business.  DRI’s seminars provide numerous and meaningful networking opportunities including cocktail receptions, dine arounds, committee meetings, receptions for women and attorneys of diverse backgrounds and even events specifically for young lawyers and in-house counsel. Personally, my biggest source of new business comes from colleagues I have met through DRI.  The cost of DRI membership for most folks is about $300.  The average cost to attend a couple of DRI seminars a year is roughly $5,000 (registration and travel).  If you only get one case in 10 years that bills only $50,000, you will have repaid yourself nearly every dime of your investment in DRI.  I submit to you that somewhere over the course of that 10 years, with a solid commitment to DRI you will have not only had a great time and learned a lot, but you will also have networked and met many, many more people from all over the country than you can even imagine.  Such efforts will likely result in more than one case coming your way over the course of the next 10 years.  Do the math on DRI.  If you make a firm commitment to getting involved over the next 10 years, you won’t be sorry.  Make DRI your New Year’s Resolution in 2014.

And there you have it – The Twelve Gifts of DRI Membership.  So, who are you going to give the gift of membership to this year?  Decide and then send me an e-mail ( and I will help you give a gift that truly lasts all year.  I will personally make you (I’m crafty like that) a DRI membership gift announcement (suitable for wrapping and gifting) that you can put under someone’s tree.  Really!  Just don’t wait until Dec 24th to contact me.  I don’t do rush orders and I may strongly resemble the Grinch upon receiving your message.

Happy Holidays to everyone – no matter which holiday you celebrate.  May this season bring you peace, happiness, joy and lots and lots of new business.

Laurie K. Miller - Jackson Kelly PLLC, Charleston, WV


Navigating DRI’s Commercial Litigation Committee


How can you maximize the value of your DRI membership in the Commercial Litigation Committee?  As Woody Allen famously said, “eighty percent of success is showing up.”  In other words, show up and get involved.  As you know, DRI has many wonderful benefits for members who do not actively participate in the committees, including the expert witness database, great CLE programs, For The Defense magazine, and many other great offerings.  However, to truly get the benefits of your membership, network with interesting, fun and knowledgeable lawyers, and ultimately, grow your business, you have to get involved.

The Commercial Litigation Committee has many opportunities for its members to become active.  A fairly simple way to raise your profile in the Committee is to become involved in one the Substantive Law Groups.  At present, the CLC offers the following SLGs for its members: Class Actions; Complex Litigation; Financial Institutions; Computer Fraud/Information Security; Pretrial Practice and Anti-Trust/Consumer Protection; as well as three other global subcommittees, Networking, Mentoring and Diversity.  Each of these SLGs provides a chance for members to take on a role on the SLG’s committee, such as membership, publications and the DRI Community page for the CLC.  Involvement in the SLGs raises your profile in the CLC, leading to greater opportunities for advancement in the Committee.

Another great opportunity to become involved with the CLC is participating in the development and marketing of the CLC’s annual seminar on Business Litigation.  In 2015 the CLC is teaming with the International Committee and putting on a seminar in Toronto, Canada June 4-5.  While the seminar planning is complete, there are opportunities to get involved in marketing the seminar.  In addition, the CLC holds its own meeting with CLE presentations at the DRI Annual Meeting each October, and planning for 2015 will get underway soon.  Each of these represents a fantastic opportunity for members to get involved in the CLC, and to advance within the Committee.  Don’t miss your chance to increase your DRI profile, meet intelligent, fun and interesting colleagues, and grow your network of referrals.  Reach out to me, Chris Sheean ( or the CLC chair, Kathy Lang ( and we’ll be sure to get you a position in an area that suits your interests.

Christopher T. Sheean,Swanson Martin & Bell, Chicago, IL | Vice Chair, Commercial Litigation Committee