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.  


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DRI: It’s Personal!

Posted on June 12, 2015 02:45 by Tanya Lawson

I saw a post recently on the DRI Diversity blog that impacted me at my core.  It is the sort of post that some organizations would have shied away from because it raised serious issues on a diversity topic that is still very controversial for some.  Instead, in subsequent days I saw other posts from DRI members lauding the author of the article for his courage to raise these important issues.  This is one of the primary reasons that I gravitated toward and have been a longstanding member of DRI over any other legal organization.  DRI’s commitment to diversity is real!  DRI and its members have been at the forefront of these issues and I have found DRI to be an oasis in what can sometimes seem like a legal desert.

As an African American woman who has been practicing over 20 years, there are some circles in which I have not always felt welcome or appreciated.  I have had to work hard to try to fit in and get ahead in a profession that I love but which can sometimes be very challenging for African Americans, especially in a large firm environment.  I can remember it like it was yesterday -- the first time I attended a DRI Diversity for Success Conference in Chicago almost a decade ago.  It was at a reception which was filled with people of all ages and backgrounds but who all seemed to be excited about making diversity a priority for the organization.  People were warm and welcoming and I began an odyssey with DRI that would take me to the highest levels within the organization and ultimately the profession.

Ever since that first day, I looked forward to attending the Diversity for Success Conference each year.  I would re-connect and solidify relationships with old friends and would get the sustenance I needed to go back to Florida to continue my drive to achieve success in the profession.  Indeed, the diversity conferences became a fixture in our African American Forum budget at my prior firm and attorneys would vie for a spot on the team selected to attend.  Each time I have attended the conference since that first day, I have experienced an intense feeling of belonging and have felt revived and rejuvenated.  Not only have my experiences with DRI had a curative quality, I gained deep insights as well as good friendships as a result of my participation in DRI sponsored events.

I was for some time the only African American female partner in my former AmLaw 200 firm, and then later only 1 or 2 African American female partners.  DRI’s diversity committee offered sometimes the only opportunity I had to interact with and bounce ideas and experiences off a variety of other African American male and female partners in large law firms.  As co-chair of diversity at my prior firm, I also leaned heavily on DRI’s leadership for ideas to assist me to bring new insights to the diversity and inclusion dialog.  Douglas Burrell, DRI’s current Membership Chair, has been a source of constant encouragement and inspiration.  Pam Carter, who heads up the DRI’s Diversity Committee, was also a tremendously positive influence.

From my perspective, DRI should be a staple in any lawyer’s portfolio of membership organizations.  For me it has been intensely personal and I have thoroughly enjoyed my association with DRI!

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According to the February 25, 2014 Report from the National Association of Women Lawyers, its annual survey reveals little change in the  compensation, leadership roles, rainmaking, and equity partnership of women at the nation’s largest 200 firms. See National Association of Women Lawyers 2014 Eighth Annual National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms (February 2014).  In addition, recent NALP research found that while overall representation of minorities among associates at large firms has more than recovered since sliding in 2010, the representation of African-Americans/Blacks specifically has in contrast declined every year since 2010 — from 4.36% of associates in 2010 to 4.10% in 2013.  See Perspectives on Diversity, NALP Bulletin, June 2014.  Some additional statistics related to African Americans reported in the ABA Journal recently are as follows:

  • Only 3 percent of lawyers in large law firms are African American, and only 1.9 percent of partners are African American;
  • Although the percentage of all minorities increased slightly last year, at 223 reporting law firms the number of African American lawyers fell;
  • Out of 77 Am Law 100 firms that reported minority numbers for equity partnerships, 31 either had no African American equity partners or just one. 
Statistics on the slow progress of women and minorities at law firms highlights the importance of continued diversity efforts, such as the DRI Diversity Seminar and Expo.  

During the upcoming DRI Diversity for Success Seminar, attendees will learn about new diversity initiatives created by a bar association, law firm, and corporation. Attendees will also learn about the training and exposure needed to develop clients. During the Expo, attendees will use the tips they have learned during interviews with corporations, seeking to diversify their outside counsel.

The 2014 DRI Diversity for Success Seminar and Expo will be held June 12-13, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Click here for additional information on the Diversity for Success Seminar. DRI members may still register to attend on-site with payment by check or credit card.

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Categories: Diversity | DRI Brand | DRI Committees

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DRI Online Communities

Posted on May 22, 2014 02:28 by Admin

On May 21, DRI rolled out the new committee online communities.  The new communities will enhance DRI’s web presence and will allow committee members to connect with each other and share information more easily.  Each community will have a discussion list, which will replace the current list serve, as well as a document library, blog, and calendar.  Committees will also be able to post announcements about their seminars and publications, and promote open positions and volunteer opportunities.  All posts are sent to members as a daily digest from the communities, unless a member changes his or her settings to real-time delivery.   The communities are designed to be the hub for all committee activity. 

There are six substantive law committees serving as the pilot group: Commercial Litigation, Employment and Labor Law, Product Liability, Women in the Law, Workers’ Compensation, and Young Lawyers.  Additional committee communities will go live over the course of the year.

Members can access the communities through the DRI website,  (there is a new link in the top blue navigation bar).  Committee members are automatically members of the respective community and are being notified via email. Members should call (312) 695-6221 if they are having trouble logging in to the site.

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Thank You

Posted on December 31, 2013 03:43 by Admin

To the bloggers and readers of DRI Today:

DRI would like to use this opportunity to thank you for your commitment, once again, to the DRI Today blog. Throughout the course of the year this blog has received multiple entries as well as several new bloggers, representing nearly every substantive law committee and practice area, and for that, we say THANK YOU. 

Your efforts have provided quality content and food for thought for your fellow DRI members and throughout the legal community. We would also like to thank our officers, board of directors and committee leaders, as well as their companies and firms, for their hard work throughout this past year. We appreciate your support and engagement within the DRI community. We look forward to working with all of you in 2014. 

Please continue to submit your entries to the DRI Today blog, as well as our sister blog, DRI Happenings. Look for new blog content beginning on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

Wishing you and yours a Happy New Year. 

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DRI and The National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals announced today that they are joining forces to provide you with access to the biographies and calendars of NADN members across more than 45 states.

All DRI members will now have immediate access to NADN's live database of more than 800 top-rated, litigator approved neutrals via This new DRI Neutral Database allows defense counsel to search by state, type of civil dispute, ADR practice expertise and other criteria important to defense counsel. Given NADN's rigorous due diligence interview procedures, DRI members are assured that the neutrals resulting from any searches are considered amongst the top ADR practitioners, as rated by both defense and plaintiff's attorneys in any given state.'s live calendar functionality will also prove useful to DRI members who may wish to confirm which of the top local mediators or arbitrators is available on a preferred date.

"DRI is excited about partnering with the NADN to make the Academy's database of neutrals available to our entire membership," said John R. Kouris, DRI Executive Director. "In addition to serving as a tremendous resource, the database will provide DRI members with great value."

"We're delighted to partner with DRI in providing defense firms with access to detailed biographies of the nation's top mediators and arbitrators," said Darren Lee, Executive Director of NADN. "Since 2008, we've sought the feedback of defense and plaintiff attorneys in many states in order to identify those neutrals that litigators trust to mediate or arbitrate their own cases. This project has allowed us to compile a terrifically useful roster of proven ADR practitioners - from solo practice mediators, to panelists with respected ADR organizations. We look forward to working with DRI in the years to come, providing its members with a reliable roster of the most experienced ADR attorneys."

The DRI neutral database is for members only - another great benefit of DRI membership.  For more information on this benefit and other resources DRI offers to help grow your practice, visit or call our Customer Service Department at 312.795.1101.

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People often ask me why they should join DRI. After all, there are lots of organizations out there for lawyers.  Joining a legal association costs money and can take away from billable time. 

So then, why DRI? 

Bang for the buck. 

That’s right. Bang for the buck. There is no other group that will give you back as much as you put in.   If you are looking for a way to expand your referral network, enjoy the highest quality continuing legal education, and make friends that will last a lifetime, there is no other place to go. 

But don’t just take it from me. After all, I’ll admit it. I’m biased. I love DRI and the Women in the Law Committee (WITL).  It’s been the most personally and professionally rewarding organization I’ve ever been involved with in my fifteen years of practice.  Instead, let me share with you what several dozen other women had to say about the WITL Committee.

In June of 2012, nearly three dozen women gathered together in Chicago for a WITL Committee Leadership meeting.  During the meeting, I asked the women in the room to tell me why they joined DRI’s and the Women in the Law Committee.  I wanted to know if the same things that drew me to this dynamic group were the things that others recognized as well. 

The result was overwhelming. As I stood at the blackboard and wrote down the words and phrases that the women in the room called out, I realized that we had something very special - - something that so many other women would want to be a part of. 

So, what did the women in the room say about WITL?  Here are some of the things they said:
-Skills development
-Business referrals 
-Genuine friendships
-Lots of opportunities
-Women helping women
-Professional growth and development
-Leadership training
-Cross-generational access to other women lawyers
-Means to help younger women lawyers
-Positive impact on community
-Mentoring inside and outside of DRI
-Opportunity to meet in-house women
-Inspiration and “re-charging”
While these items are from all women, they can all be said of all DRI committees.  If these things appeal to you, then consider joining DRI and one of our 29 substantive law committees (including Women in the Law).  After all, when’s the last time you did something so beneficial to your legal career that was also “fun”!

Lana A. Olson
Lightfoot, Franklin & White, LLC
400 20th Street North
Birmingham, AL, 35203 
(205) 581-1514

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A Word from DRI's Membership Committee

Posted on January 31, 2013 01:58 by Jennifer Muse

Welcome!  I have been a member of DRI since 2007.  A partner at a former law firm suggested that I join DRI to develop my practice.  At the first conference I attended (Insurance Coverage and Claims Institute), he introduced me to friends he had made over the years and encouraged me to get involved.  Little did I know six years later, I would be a DRI success story and that DRI would ask me and my new friend, Steve Crislip (a member since 1982), to help get the word out about the benefits of a DRI membership through a Membership Blog.  

On a bi-weekly basis (every other Thursday), DRI and its Membership Committee will use the DRI Blog to provide you with information about the benefits of a DRI membership.  We will provide answers to some of the most often asked questions and help you navigate the waters so that you can get what you want out of your DRI membership.  We will provide you with useful information about the various substantive law committees (i.e., upcoming seminars, the structure of the committee and ideas for how to get involved).  We will highlight some of the best features of a DRI Membership including DRI On-Line, DRI Today, For the Defense, In-House Defense Quarterly, the DRI Member Directory and DRI’s Expert Witness Database.  We will provide you with instructions and ideas on how to update your DRI profile in the DRI Member Directory to make it work for you.  We will also use the blog to shine a spotlight on some of the members who have helped make DRI the organization it is today and let them tell you their success stories and how DRI has helped them in their careers.  

We don’t want the blog to just be about what DRI has to offer.  We want (need) to hear from you.  Ask us your questions.  Let us know how DRI can improve your membership experience so that we can make DRI work for you.    

With that said, DRI and the Membership Committee would like to officially welcome you to its Membership Blog.  We look forwarding to sharing our knowledge and hearing from you!

Jennifer Muse
Anderson McPharlin & Conners LLP
Los Angeles, CA 
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The Approach to Diversity

Posted on October 18, 2012 02:24 by Alison Y. Ashe-Card

“Is dicing the workforce into pre-set categories going to encourage working together,” ponders author Liz Ryan.  In a recent Harvard Business Review article, she describes a recent diversity conference with which she was involved where concurrent sessions were held focusing on women, Baby Boomers, the GLBTQ population, Asians, African-Americans, and the physically challenged.  Ryan suggests, "We are not going to get better at confronting the differences that hamper our ability to work together by separating our people into broad-brush groups... Instead, we're going to get better at celebrating the family backgrounds, religious traditions, and ethnic heritage that our people bring with them to work. We can do that by talking about it — all the time — and by teaching people to talk about the 'sticky human stuff' in general."  She advocates that barriers will be broken down when we actively engage in conversations about our differences.

DRI has demonstrated that it is on the path to becoming a thought leader on the issue of diversity within our profession.  A core centerpiece of DRI’s diversity efforts is the Diversity for Success Seminar and Corporate Expo which will be held on May 30, 2013 in Chicago.  Diversity not only involves how people perceive themselves, but how they perceive others. Those perceptions affect their interactions.  The Diversity for Success Seminar provides a forum for attendees to have courageous, thought-provoking discussions about our differences and the role it plays in our firms, businesses and in the legal profession. 



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To my DRI Brothers and Sisters – this year’s DRI Annual Meeting will be spectacular with Block Buster Speakers, exciting CLE programming, 8+ panel counsel meetings  and a Thursday night social event at the Super Dome. The City of New Orleans is as vibrant as ever and the locals are waiting for us all with open arms. Join us for what will be for sure the best ever Annual Meeting we have ever had.

See you in a couple of weeks

Carlos Rincon –

Board Member, former Trucking Law Chair, Texan in dire need for some Cajun food



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