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John R. Kouris Recognized for Twenty-One Years of Leadership at DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar

  • Published November 07, 2019
    Modified July 09, 2020

DRI Establishes New Award Honoring Its Longtime Executive Director

CHICAGO ­– (November 7, 2019)— At the organization’s annual meeting in New Orleans, October 16-19, DRI President Toyja Kelley announced the creation of the John R. Kouris President’s Award, with Mr. Kouris as the award’s first recipient.

As DRI Executive Director for 21 years, John Kouris realized his vision to help build a global organization offering cutting edge education programs, outstanding publications, and opportunities for members to network and grow their practices. Under Kouris’ leadership, DRI grew to more than 20,000 members of the defense bar; launched the DRI Center for Law and Public Policy, the defense bar’s only research and advocacy center; increased education offerings to more than 35 legal seminars a year; and grew the number of substantive law committees to 29. His efforts to broaden opportunities in the legal profession resulted in the creation of DRI’s Women in the Law Committee, a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the creation of two $10,000 diversity law student scholarships that are awarded annually.   

The President’s Award will be among the highest distinctions given to an individual or organization that has made extraordinary contributions to the legal community. The award will be presented by the DRI President during the Annual Meeting.

“So many leaders have an aversion to change, as if they have found the one best way to manage,” says Toyja Kelley, DRI’s outgoing president. “John’s whole focus from day one has been organizational relevance. If you don’t change as an organization, you lose relevance. In John’s eyes, if a change will make DRI better, more diverse, more skilled, more resourceful, more responsive to member needs, then we need to do it. And he has for twenty-one years.”

“I am humbled by this honor,” says Kouris. “It has been a privilege to have served DRI and the defense bar all these years. I have met and worked with so many wonderful people. I made DRI my life; I have not regretted it for one second.”

Kouris is the first lawyer in his family, having graduated from Loyola of Chicago School of Law. He received his B.A. from Western Michigan University. He was a trial lawyer for thirteen years and former COO of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy before coming to DRI. John is also a former Big Ten football official, whose career spanned twenty-five years.  

About DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar

For more than fifty-five years, DRI has been the voice of the defense bar, advocating for defense attorneys, commercial trial attorneys, and corporate counsel and defending the integrity of the civil judiciary. A thought leader, DRI provides world-class legal education, deep expertise for policy-makers, legal resources, and networking opportunities to facilitate career and law firm growth. For more information, log on to