DRI Member Stories

Read testimonials from DRI members on how DRI helped their careers, build their networking, and increase their confidence.

Pamela Carter

Steering Committee, Diversity and Inclusion
Carter Law Group LLC
New Orleans, LA

Pamela CarterDRI's commitment to diversity is real! DRI members bring passion and purpose to the practice of law and are often at the forefront of key legal and life issues. I have found DRI to be an oasis in what can sometimes seem like a legal desert for a small law firm owner and woman of color.

As an African American woman who has been practicing for over 25 years, there are some circles in which I have not always felt welcomed or appreciated. I have had to work hard to try to fit in and get ahead in a profession that I love, but quite frankly, it is one that oftentimes has proven to be very challenging. I recall being very uncertain walking into my first DRI meeting in 1998. I was young and honestly did not see many people within the organization who looked like me. Nonetheless, I began to forge relationships as the organization began to grow more inclusive of women and minorities, and I’m glad I stayed for the years of wonderful adventure. I have served as DRI Diversity & Inclusion Chair, Chair to many seminars, and DRI Board of Directors. With numerous opportunities to build leadership skills through training, conferences, and holding many committee positions, DRI has groomed me and many others to be leaders in our profession. For me, getting involved with the DRI Board was one of the best experiences of my life. Without my DRI involvement, I would have never known about this great organization. I would have never met the amazing people I have or had the opportunity to meet individuals whose companies have become key clients of my law firm.

Marie Chafe

Chair, Women in the Law
Cornell & Gollub
Boston, MA

Marie ChafeFor me, DRI has only gotten better with time. I became a DRI member within a couple of years of graduating from law school. I read the legal journals and mailings (no e-mail back then!), and every year, I attended the DRI Product Liability Conference, which most suits my area of practice. I looked forward to that conference each year, the informative CLE, great speakers, and networking. I soon started to make friends with familiar faces that I saw year after year. After several years, someone invited me to become the marketing vice-chair of one of the subcommittees. I wasn’t even sure what responsibility that would be, but I said "yes" anyway. And that’s really when my "membership" in DRI began. It was rejuvenating to get to know that smaller group and then many more members of the larger Product Liability committee. I got to step out of my day-to-day practice and get a fresh look at legal issues and common concerns with other lawyers around the country that practice in a similar area. And, the people involved are pretty fun too.

Later, I got involved in the Women in the Law Committee, starting small and move up in leadership positions so that I am now Chair of the Committee. The connections, the friendships, and the chance to develop colleagues across the country – all of that combined to create my strong network of friends. They are people that I use as resources, for advice, and for referrals. I’ve gained new clients and new business from those DRI contacts. That is what success means to me – the chance to work with people I enjoy spending time with and on issues that I care about. That is what DRI has become for me.

Dessi Day

Chair, Employment and Labor Law
Greene & Roberts LLP
San Diego, CA

Dessi DayDRI is so much more than a leadership path for me. When I joined this community almost 20 years ago, I never set out on a quest to achieve a leadership role. I followed my heart and said "yes" when asked to help with big and small tasks. Along the way, my DRI community helped me uncover my leadership potential and taught me to trust my gut and be me.

Working with great leaders like Emily Coughlin, Douglas Burrell, Lana Olson, Laurie Miller, Amy Miletich, Mark Fahleson, Spencer Silverglate, Sid Steinberg, and Stan Graham has inspired and encouraged me to be better, do better, and help others step up and shine.

The generosity of my DRI tribe blows me away every day! I lead from the heart and am so inspired by all the men and women in leadership roles who are involved in all facets of this organization. The collaboration and deep sense of belonging that I have experienced on my DRI journey is like no other professional organization I have encountered. I am certain that this unique sense of community, teamwork, respect, and awareness of differing viewpoints is in large part attributed to DRI's ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and support of women in leadership roles.

The last year has been a year of increased awareness, introspection, and self-reflection for me and many others. As I navigate the daily challenges of the global COVID-19 crisis, I am ever so grateful for my DRI team that has taught me to lead with kindness, humility, and gratitude for the generosity of this talented community of over 16,000 defense lawyers and professionals.

Joshua Joel

Author, For The Defense
Stanton Law LLC
Atlanta, GA

Joshua JoelThrough DRI, I have developed a supportive national network of labor and employment attorneys like me who enrich my practice and help me better represent the small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startup clients that I serve. My DRI community is my brain trust. There is no question that comes up in my practice that a member of my community cannot answer. And, of course, DRI has been a great referral network. I know I can have a trustworthy lawyer for my clients anywhere in the country within minutes, which is a huge benefit especially when working for a smaller firm. DRI has also provided a platform for me to become a thought leader in my practice area by providing opportunities to publish articles and be a resource for other practitioners. All of this culminates in the DRI seminars, where I have built meaningful relationships with like-minded attorneys. In short, DRI has become my professional community.

Stephen Keller

Newsletter Editor, Governmental Liability
Schiller Barnes Maloney PLLC
Louisville, KY

Stephen KellerDRI is a first-rate organization that should be on every lawyer’s membership list. Its top-notch personnel help lawyers in three important ways – networking, professional development, and fostering a sense of community. Don’t hesitate to join. You’ll be glad you did.

Steven Kennedy

Membership Chair, Intellectual Property Litigation
Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP
Toronto, Canada

Steven KennedyWhen I first joined my firm as a “baby lawyer,” I was, as most are, trying to figure out how to establish my personal brand, develop my skill set, and turn my mentality from law student/“research grind” into a fully-formed lawyer that could be put in front of clients. What was already a daunting task for a naturally introverted person like myself was made more difficult by having relocated to a new city in my third year. As luck would have it, that very same year was the inaugural IP Litigation Seminar for DRI, and my firm encouraged me to attend and get involved in the organization from the ground up. Within a few hours of getting off the plane and checking into the seminar hotel, I quickly met a fantastic, collegial and incredibly welcoming group of lawyers that brought me into the fold and made the “daunting task” of getting involved with a group of strangers into a natural and easy one. Flash forward to 2022, and many of these lawyers have become my friends, referral sources, and advisors who I look forward to seeing as often as possible.

Separate and apart from the business development and networking I’ve enjoyed from DRI is a steady and healthy dose of substantive content. As a Canadian lawyer who represents multi-national clients, it’s important to have an up-do-date understanding of the developments in U.S. IP litigation, and DRI has been an invaluable resource in this regard. DRI has basically been a friend, advisor, and tutor to me for over a decade.

Catherine Ava Leatherwood

Chair, Young Lawyers
Rogers Townsend LLC
Columbia, SC

Catherine Ava LeatherwoodThe biggest value DRI brings is in its people. The connections made through this organization span much more than just business referrals. Your colleagues become a sounding board, an invaluable resource, and a strong support system for years to come. Starting my DRI involvement as a Young Lawyer has provided me with all these benefits and so many more. It has truly enhanced my career and my development as a lawyer.

Ebony Morris

Co-Editor, Raising the Bar
Garrison Yount Forte & Mulcahy LLC
New Orleans, LA

Ebony MorrisBefore joining DRI, I had no idea how to become involved in national organizations or effectively network within the legal profession as a diverse attorney. As a member of DRI, I have learned, by way of networking with attorneys from across the country, how to get involved in a professional organization and how to build networking relationships with other attorneys.

Moheeb Murray

Newsletter Chair, Life, Health and Disability
Bush Seyferth PLLC
Troy, MI

Moheeb MurrayBeing a part of the DRI community has benefitted me professionally and personally in too many ways to count. Though my DRI experience started out as a way to learn more about substantive areas of law in which I practice, it has been so much more. The DRI leadership's welcoming attitude at all levels led me to get engaged more deeply. I am a better lawyer for it.

Now, through DRI, I've met and developed a network of talented lawyers and experts throughout the country. Not only have I been able to learn from their collective experiences, I've been able to cross-refer cases with professionals who, through their affiliation with DRI, I know are respected leaders where they practice. I've also been able take advantage of the plentiful opportunities DRI's programming provides to get together with existing clients and meet new ones at social events, conference dine-arounds, counsel meetings during conferences, or committee meetings. DRI has also provided a means for me to share my knowledge with colleagues and clients. I have truly valued the numerous opportunities I've had to write for DRI publications and speak at conferences. It was refreshing to see that there is no shortage of ways to contribute if someone wants to. All it took was being willing to volunteer. And now, by being actively involved in committees over the years, I've been able to help others get all of the benefits of DRI that have been available to me. That's perhaps the most rewarding part of being in DRI. Not only does DRI help advance my career, it gives me a means to help others do that too.

Sarah Thomas Pagels

Publications Chair, Women in the Law
Laffey Leitner & Goode LLC
Milwaukee, WI

Sarah Thomas PagelsI know it sounds trite, but DRI members are not just professional colleagues for me - they are friends for life. While I expected to get a lot out of DRI professionally, I did not think about how much DRI would mean to me personally. In 2012, my husband was put on a lung transplant list. When we finally got "the call" in 2013, I had the unenviable task of trying to quickly re-settle my family in another state while my husband had his life-saving surgery. I had about 48 hours' notice to move my family to Minneapolis for three months. With a handful of e-mails to my DRI friends, within 24 hours, I had recommendations for the best neighborhoods to find rental housing (Air B&B was still pretty new), contacts for discounts at long-term hotels, lists of REALTORS® who had furnished apartments, babysitting services, best playgrounds and areas for kids, best kid-friend restaurants, grocery stores that delivered (still a fairly novel concept back then), offers of meals, and offers of temporary office space. One of these friends even offered to let us stay in her house until we could find something more permanent. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and willingness to help from my DRI family when I was in a personal crisis. Many of the contacts who helped me through this crazy time were those I met as a young lawyer, and we still see each other at DRI meetings years later. DRI truly is an organization for all aspects of our lives – personal and professional.

Jeremy W. Richter

Managing Partners
Webster Henry Attorneys and Counselors At Law
Birmingham, AL

richterWhen John Trimble reached out to me a few years ago and invited me to join DRI and get involved with the Law Practice Management committee, I did so, not knowing what to expect. I wasn’t a law firm leader, and I certainly wasn’t a managing partner. What I found in the committee was more important than either of those things. I found a small community of people who were receptive to new people and interested in diverse ideas and discourse. You may already know this, but those things are a rarity.

With the warm reception I received, I was encouraged to start writing articles for DRI’s various publications and sharing with LPM the articles I was writing elsewhere. Based on the feedback I received, I jumped into helping plan the 2019 Managing Partners and Law Firm Leaders conference, even though I had never attended one and with a large dose of imposter syndrome. I didn’t contribute all that much to the planning and organizing of the event, but I was in the room where it was happening – and if you’re a fan of Hamilton, you’ll know that being in the room where it happens is sometimes the most important bit.

What happened next is the most important part. In September 2019, I attended the Managing Partners and Law Firm Leaders conference in Denver. And I say this next part without hyperbole – it transformed my understanding of how to make myself more profitable.

I had always one to strictly keep up with my billable hours on a daily basis. To that point, I had used the same spreadsheet for seven years to track my time entries. This allowed me to keep up with where I was paced for achieving my goals billable goals my firm had for me and that I had for myself. But what I wasn’t tracking was the value of my time.

In one of the sessions at the 2019 conference, the speakers presented on key performance metrics. I had a light-bulb moment sitting right there looking out the window at the eastern edge of the Rockies as a thunderstorm broke over the mountains and poured itself onto the prairie. Keeping up with my time entries wasn’t enough. What was important wasn’t the number of hours I was billing, but the value of those hours. The value was the metric that mattered most.

I had to figure out a way to determine the value of each hour. Since I work for so many clients, each of whom has a different rate, the solution wasn’t as simple as multiplying the number of hours billed in a day by X and determining their value. I had to keep up with the value of each billable entry. Fortunately, I already had a spreadsheet, so I just created a column for the rates and a column with a simple formula to tell me how much each entry was worth. That way I add it up at the end of the day and know how much money I’d earned each day. I’ve been using this method for two years now, and as a result, having a running understanding of how I’m progressing toward my profitability goals.

I don’t know whether the 2021 Managing Partners and Law Firm Leaders conference will bring with it any transformative moments for my law practice. But I do know that by being there, I’ll be giving myself the best opportunity to learn from a diverse group of presenters who bring with them the knowledge and accumulated wisdom to provide light-bulb moments. And I want to be in the room where that happens.

Alice Ricketts

Publications/Online Programming Vice Chair, Workers' Compensation
Anderson Crawley & Burke PLLC
Ridgeland, MS

Alice RickettsI only graduated law school and began practicing within the last year, and I entered a legal field that is incredibly small and already well acquainted. I wasn’t sure how much DRI could offer me when I first signed up, but joining DRI has allowed me to make connections not only in my local community, but across the nation as well. As a young lawyer, connections are key, and DRI has been a great avenue to meet others and expand my practice.

Carlos Rincon

Author, For The Defense, Trucking Law
Rincon Law Group P.C.
El Paso, TX

Carlos RinconMy name is Carlos Rincon. I am a civil defense lawyer in El Paso, Texas where I am focused on representing the motor carrier and product manufacturing industries.

In 1999, I became active in the DRI Trucking Law Committee. With no contacts, I simply reached out, signed up to a committee and was slotted in Trucking, which was then just in its infancy as a committee. The lawyers who were heading this committee were interested in creating a vibrant organization that would complement the work of the Truck Industry Defense Association. Consequently, in 2000 I was asked to be the Chair of the Inaugural DRI Trucking Law Committee seminar in St. Louis. The inaugural event in 2002 was a smashing success and has led to DRI Trucking hosting some of the largest truck industry legal events in the nation. DRI Trucking is now a staple in the trucking law education circuit. Eventually, I would become Chair of the DRI Trucking Committee and serve on the DRI Board of Directors as a National Director.

The DRI journey allowed me to make lifetime connections with lawyer colleagues and industry contacts and eventually lead me to open Rincon Law Group, P.C. in 2006. Our firm's trucking practice has grown into one of the largest in the Southwestern United States. We estimate that over 75% of our client base can be traced back to DRI. I am eternally grateful.