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Women in the Law

From the Chair

By Marie E. Chafe

I continue to be impressed by all of the terrific members of this committee and everything that we have accomplished – the seminar, the programs, the networking, the community, and that’s just a part of everything we do. Often, I begin committee e-mails with a shout-out to “Team WITL.” I have thought of our group as a diverse set of women with different skills, coming together to work as one. The U.S. women’s soccer team often comes to my mind, including some of their memorable wins. Our committee seems to function just like that – including our push for pay equity.

Well, I’ve changed my mind; or, rather, I’ve changed my analogy. I like to read articles about management and organizational structure. Perhaps it’s my old college degree in organizational psychology coming back, but I find it fascinating to study how groups or people are managed – how they succeed and how they turn toxic. A while back, I came across the concept of a “hive.” It sounded intriguing, but I didn’t really dig deeper. A few months later, I saw the concept mentioned again in the context of women entrepreneurs. I’ll confess that my first thought was that the idea had something to do with a “queen bee.” Not true. Rather, it’s remarkably complex.

So, let’s talk about a hive. Each hive will, no surprise, have a queen bee, but it is a popular misconception that the life of a regular honeybee is ruled by that queen. A hive will reach a critical moment when it becomes overpopulated and needs to make a life-or-death decision – where to branch out and make a new home. The process that follows includes democracy at its best – collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building.

In the end, the collective work of the group is impressive, and far better than all individual efforts. To function as a “hive” is to function with a collective consciousness, to think and act as a supportive community, and to share knowledge, thoughts, and resources.

Following, are the best qualities of a hive:

  • Shared interests and goals that foster mutual respect and a drive to work together productively
  • Willingness to explore diverse solutions to maximize a positive outcome
  • Inclusive effort to allow a broad and deep evaluation of everyone’s contributions
  • Balanced interdependence (information sharing) and independence (individual decision making)

Pretty good stuff, right? The “hive” has been found to be remarkably effective at producing good decisions, and the frenzy of different activity coalesce into a single purpose. For the Women in the Law Committee that single purpose is the help, support, and nurture one another and our shared successes and sense of community during trying times.

Let’s take a look at everything that the committee has been up to – and some plans in the works.

The Seminar – A huge shout-out to Meade Hartfield and to Jennifer Nutter, who navigated the many changes to the seminar as it evolved into a virtual platform in April. The programs were insightful and interesting, the networking was creative and fun, and the playlist was (and is) empowering and awesome. (For anyone who has not yet found some motivation in our playlist, check it out on Spotify @ WITLAnthems.) Deep appreciation also goes to Stephanie Holcombe and Sarah Thomas Pagels, who steered the marketing of a virtual seminar and exceeded all expectations. Anyone interested in helping to plan the next seminar, please get in touch with Jennifer or Stephanie, who will be chair and vice-chair of the program.

The Annual Meeting – The DRI Annual Meeting is coming up soon. This month, the entire DRI organization will be coming to my hometown of Boston. I’m thrilled to welcome everyone here. Here’s a preview of what’s in store. If you are interested in helping out, please contact me.

  • Women in the Law Workshop: Re-connect, Re-engage & Rise Stronger Together. Join us Oct. 13, when Stephanie Scharf will lead an interactive discussion about the current state of women in the legal profession, the effects of the last year on women’s careers, and efforts to create an inclusive workplace in the wake of the pandemic. Stephanie is a former President of the National Association of Women Lawyers and the current Chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.

    Next, Julie Showers will lead an engaging workshop that coordinates with the presentation and tackles the topics of conscious inclusion and confronting bias. Julie is Associate Vice-President and Chief of Staff in the Office of Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota. She also is a favorite committee speaker on conflict resolution and handling difficult conversations.

  • Owning the Future – Next Generation Data and How It Impacts Your Practice, a Joint Panel Presentation of Trucking Law, Commercial Litigation, and Aviation Committees, moderated by WITL’s Rachael Rodman. Friday, Oct. 15, from 1:30-2:30 p.m.

  • Women in the Law Committee Dinner the evening of Oct. 13 at Porto-Boston.

  • Joint Luncheon of the Diversity & Inclusion and WITL Committees, Oct. 15, with keynote by Justice Dalila Wendlandt of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, who will speak about her insights on bias in the profession. She is a memorable, show-stopping speaker with a unique background. She is a native Spanish speaker with roots in Columbia. After attending the University of Illinois, she earned a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, designed and developed a climbing robot, then decided to head off to Stanford Law School. Not your ordinary path to the bench.

I can’t wait to see everyone here in Boston.

I want our incredible WITL hive to continue to be a resource for every member. Keep active and stay in touch!

Marie ChaeMarie E. Chafe is a partner with Conn Kavanaugh. She defends wrongful death and catastrophic injury product liability cases, franchise and commercial disputes, toxic substances litigation including asbestos matters, commercial contract and construction matters, medical device allegations, consequential warranty claims, as well as matters of general liability against domestic and international manufacturers, distributors, and insurers. With 30 years of experience, she has tried cases and handed the appeals of matters in the state and federal courts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Employer Return-to-Work and Vaccine Mandates

Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should

By Brandy K. Simpson and Jessica Cozart

For good reason, two of the most popular employer questions in 2021 are:

  • whether employers can require employees to return to the workplace and
  • whether employers can mandate their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

These are particularly important questions for small businesses, which cannot afford a legal battle, having barely survived the pandemic as it is. Even if the answers to these questions are “yes,” there are still a plethora of things to consider. For example, should an employer mandate these things? What are the risks and costs associated with doing so? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided guidance regarding COVID-19 mandatory vaccination programs, though even if an employer were to mandate the return of all employees to the workplace, there are multiple policy considerations and a variety of guidelines.

Employers can likely require employees to return to work, but should they?

Following the roll out of the vaccine and the eligibility of vaccines across the country to everyone 12 and older, employers are impatiently waiting to fully reopen their businesses to pre-COVID-19 status. While employees and employers alike are ready and excited to return to some sense of normalcy, it is not as simple as welcoming everyone back.

Employers should familiarize themselves with the status of the law and current recommendations of various national and local public health authorities and laws including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 (OSHA), EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Employers should also be prepared for employee pushback and commit to working with employees who may not be able to return to a high-risk work environment.

According to the CDC’s “Guidance for Businesses and Employers,” in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, employers should consider activities to

  • Prevent and reduce transmission among employees
  • Maintain heathy business operations
  • Maintain a health work environment.

The CDC also references OSHA’s Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, specifically noting employees can spread the virus even if they are symptom free.

To some, avoiding the spread of COVID-19 seems simple. The issues are making sure all employees are aware of the policies and protocols put in place by an employer and ensuring employees adhere to the policies and protocols as people become laxer about precautionary measures caused, in part, by the fatigue brought on by a long-lasting global pandemic.

If employers plan to require employees to return to work, they should consider policies and protocols for social distancing, in-person health checks upon entry, arrangements for working from home or flexible time off in the event of illness, quarantine procedures, employee education, and mask mandates, among other things.

Along with in-person health screenings come additional questions relating to what health information an employer can reasonably request along with the requirement that information obtained must remain confidential. If employees claim they are unable to return due to a medical condition or a request for a “reasonable accommodation” under the ADA is made, employers will need to evaluate these requests on a case-by-case basis.

Generally speaking, an employee cannot refuse to return to the workplace due to a fear of exposure to COVID-19. If an employee’s refusal to return to work stems from a mental or psychological condition, the employee may be entitled to a “reasonable accommodation.” However, if an employee has a legitimate fear that imminent danger or death exists, an OHSA complaint may be filed, and an inspection may be requested. [See “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.”]

Even if employers can require employees to return to work, should they? There are not a lot of protections at the federal level for employees who fear returning to work. However, employers should be prepared for possible criticism or negative repercussions if remote work options are rescinded.

Employers considering return to work mandates should prepare specific policies and protocols to address what the employer plans to do and what is expected of employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Seeking guidance from the CDC, OSHA, EEOC, ADA, and FFCRA is strongly recommended.

To Mandate or Not to Mandate Employee Vaccinations?

Another question that employers must consider and act upon is whether to mandate that employees returning to the workplace be vaccinated. Most lawyers agree that no vaccine requirement can be made 100 percent infallible. Every employer must adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which could grant people exemptions from vaccines for religious and medical reasons. With that said, it is believed that genuine exemptions do not affect most of the American population. Even though the Christian Science and the Congregation of Universal Wisdom faiths prohibit vaccines, it is estimated there are fewer than 50,000 Christian Science followers in the entire United States and even fewer followers of the Congregation of Universal Wisdom faith.

One argument against mandates is that individuals cannot be required to get a vaccine that is being distributed under an emergency use authorization (EUA), as opposed to a full license. To date, only the Pfizer vaccine has its full license for use in individuals 16 and older. Moderna and Janssen (aka Johnson & Johnson) have received EUA. The issuance of an EUA is different than an FDA approval (licensure) of a vaccine, in that a vaccine available under an EUA has not yet been approved. In determining whether to issue an EUA for a product, the FDA evaluates the available evidence to determine whether the product may be effective and further assesses any known or potential risks and any known or potential benefits.

There are few, if any, legal barriers to employers mandating vaccines that have been distributed under EUAs. While there are some employers, health care entities, and schools/daycares, among others, that have already mandated vaccines, the FDA has never granted an EUA vaccine for the entire population. Therefore, even the employers that mandate vaccines have never faced the situation of a vaccine being distributed under an EUA and the repercussions resulting from potential adverse outcomes is unknown.

There seem to be two main arguments against EUA vaccines: the first is a legal issue and the second a policy issue. The legal argument is that the law setting forth the requirements for EUA contains language requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to ensure that people know they can refuse the vaccine. This requires the informational materials accompanying EUA vaccines to contain the phrase “it is your choice to receive” the relevant vaccine. The policy argument is that the standards for EUA vaccines are lower than the standards for full approval. EUA vaccines are experimental, thus, not enough is known about them to fairly mandate their use. Lawsuits asserting both arguments have already been filed in several states.

Additionally, under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, legal protection is provided to the companies distributing critical medical supplies such as these vaccines, unless there is “willful misconduct” by the company. This protection is extended until 2024. Therefore, for at least the next three years, these companies “cannot be sued for money damages in court” for injuries related to the administration or use of products to treat or protect against the coronavirus.

However, many argue that there are good reasons to reject both the legal and policy arguments. In response to the legal argument, the EUA statute only addresses the action of federal officials, not private actors, including private employers. In most states, private employees are “at will” employees, meaning they can be terminated for any reason that is not explicitly illegal. Before the pandemic, the general guidance from the FDA and CDC, was that vaccines provided under EUA cannot be mandated. Generally, the federal government has taken the position that whether an employer can mandate a vaccine is a matter of state or other applicable law. Additionally, proponents of a vaccine requirement argue that this is an avenue to ensure it provides its employees with a “safe” work environment.

Critics of mandating COVID-19 vaccines often cite the “experimental” nature and EUA status. However, the EUAs were issued based on data from clinical trials including tens of thousands of people — as comprehensive as the data generally submitted for licensed vaccines. Further, CDC data supporting use of the vaccines is solid with mRNA vaccines believed to be more than 90 percent effective. To date, the vaccines’ safety record seems strong. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker, as of the date of this article, more than 391 million doses have been administered with 55.8 percent of the total U.S. population fully vaccinated.

The federal government has traditionally regulated employers in two ways. It has used regulations to increase safety in the workplace. The federal government generally does not intervene to prohibit safety measures or, in other words, to decrease safety. It also regulates employers to prevent some types of discrimination against those with disabilities or based on religion. Along those lines, the EEOC has made it clear that employers may exclude from the workplace employees who refuse to be vaccinated but should not discriminate against those who cannot receive COVID-19 vaccines because of an underlying disability or religious belief.

Many question how a business will protect its employees from those that refuse to receive the vaccine. A vaccine requirement is a safety measure, in that it is meant to protect the health of employees, clients, students, and others in workplaces or schools. Employment in the United States is largely at will, allowing employers wide latitude in setting workplace rules. While legal authority stating employers mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for employees is legally forbidden may be lacking — it is not to say a vaccine mandate is the right choice for every employer.

Whether employers should mandate employee vaccination is a complex question with a tried-and-true legal answer — it depends. Employers have a lot to consider when deciding whether to mandate employees return to work or require that employees be vaccinated. Unfortunately, there are a lot of questions for which we simply do not have answers yet. It will be beneficial for all employers, as well as counsel advising employers, to stay abreast of the ever-changing guidelines and recommendations as we head into year two of the dreaded Coronavirus.

Brandy SimpsonBrandy K. Simpson is a member at Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a motivated and responsive attorney proficient in all aspects of the civil litigation process. While she primarily focuses her practice on medical malpractice defense, she also has experience defending premises liability, personal injury, and products liability matters. 

Cozart_JessicaJessica Cozart is Of Counsel at Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice.  She is licensed in Missouri, Illinois, and Louisiana.  Ms. Cozart’s practice areas include property and casualty litigation, insurance coverage and insurance defense involving claims of personal injury, premise and products liability, construction defects, and entertainment and leisure liability.

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Working Remotely

More Than a Remote Chance to Violate Ethical Rules

By Sharon Stuart

In a matter of weeks, the pandemic achieved a transition to remote work that would have taken years for the legal community to achieve on its own. Remote work quickly became standard operating procedure. Attorneys have embraced this “new normal” and firms and corporate legal departments have recognized the benefits of allowing attorneys to work remotely at least part-time.

Until recently, the Model Rules of Professional Conduct never distinguished between working in a physical law office and working remotely. However, on December 16, 2020, the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility released Formal Opinion 495, “Lawyers Working Remotely.” It provides guidance for a lawyer forced or choosing to practice law in a jurisdiction in which she is licensed while being physically present in a jurisdiction in which she is not licensed. The Opinion provides that a lawyer physically present in a jurisdiction in which she is not licensed, which has not determined that such practice is unauthorized, may practice if she meets the following guidelines:

  • She does not hold herself out as being licensed to practice in that local jurisdiction
  • She does not advertise or “hold out” as having an office in that local jurisdiction
  • She does not provide or offer to provide legal services in that local jurisdiction

The opinion adds that a lawyer should not provide local contact information in that unlicensed jurisdiction on websites, letterhead, business cards, or other advertising, as such would improperly establish a local office or local presence under the ABA Rules. For example, you can’t hang a shingle in a jurisdiction in which you aren’t licensed.

While this opinion certainly applies to temporary accommodations made during the pandemic, it has wider application. Many lawyers were practicing remotely before the pandemic, but many more joined their ranks after being forced to. And many will continue to work remotely even when they don’t have to. As we become more accustomed to working remotely, many lawyers are scouting for new locations from which they might continue to practice, such as a vacation spot on the beach or the lake. Before you commit to that ideal getaway location, a little research is in order.

When is it appropriate to take your law practice to the mountain house? When is it ok to continue working remotely from another state when your spouse gets transferred? For a lawyer in such a situation, the most important consideration is the rules and opinions of the jurisdiction in which she is not licensed. Most bars have not addressed this issue from a pandemic or temporary standpoint, but virtually all bars have addressed the question of what it means to practice law in their jurisdiction.

You should review these opinions and rulings regarding the unauthorized practice of law. ABA Model Rule 5.5(b) (1) is a good place to start. It prohibits a lawyer from “establishing an office or other systematic and continuous presence” in a jurisdiction in which the lawyer is not licensed.

Even before the pandemic, a few states addressed this issue in formal opinions, such as Maine and Utah. See Maine Ethics Opinion 189 (2005); Utah Ethics Opinion 19-03 (2019). Both found that practicing in a lawyer’s licensed jurisdiction from those states (where the lawyer was not admitted) did not violate their rules. The guidelines of Formal Opinion 495 are consistent with the opinions of these states and otherwise consistent with the Model Rules. Other jurisdictions, like Florida and D.C., eased their restrictions during the pandemic. Yet other states are still quite restrictive. Thus, it is critical to know the rules in the jurisdiction in which you practice remotely.

Why does it matter?

ABA Model Rule 5.5 prohibits lawyers from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law – “a lawyer shall not practice law in a jurisdiction in violation of the regulation of the legal profession in that jurisdiction.” Model Rule 5.5(d) (2), Comment [2], explains that the rule is designed to protect the public against unqualified persons rendering legal services. While a local jurisdiction does not have an interest in regulating an out-of-state lawyer’s practice for out-of-state clients simply because the lawyer has a private home there, a state does have an interest in making sure that lawyers who practice within its jurisdiction are competent to do so.

And remember, a violation of the rules of the local jurisdiction (of which you are not licensed) is most likely a violation of the rules of the jurisdiction where you are. You must determine whether you can practice law from there without violating their rules and thus those that govern your practice.

Keep in mind, also, that the rules allow a lawyer to provide legal services on a temporary basis in the local jurisdiction if those services arise out of or reasonably relate to the lawyer’s practice in a jurisdiction where the lawyer is admitted to practice. The rules don’t define what is temporary, but Comment 6 notes that “temporary” may include services that are provided on a recurring basis or for an extended period of time. For example, in a pandemic, law offices and in-house legal departments may be physically closed as safety measures, requiring lawyers to temporarily work remotely. That temporary period may vary significantly based on the sheltering restrictions put in place by the jurisdiction. The ability to practice in a jurisdiction temporarily without violating the rules is comforting as we navigate the remote work that is and is not permissible. And, Model Rule 5.5(d)(2) permits a lawyer admitted in another jurisdiction to provide legal services in the local jurisdiction that they are authorized to provide by federal or other law or rule to provide.

Remember, under the choice of law provisions in Model Rule 8.5, a lawyer may be subject to discipline in the local jurisdiction, as well as the licensing jurisdiction, by providing services in the local jurisdiction. A lawyer admitted to practice in a jurisdiction is subject to the disciplinary authority of that jurisdiction, regardless of where the lawyer’s conduct occurs. Conversely, a lawyer not admitted in a jurisdiction is also subject to the disciplinary authority of that jurisdiction if the lawyer provides or offers to provide any legal services in that jurisdiction. It is possible for a lawyer to be subject to the disciplinary authority of both the local jurisdiction and the licensing jurisdiction for the same conduct.

To make the chance of an ethical violation as remote as possible, here are a few takeaways:

  1. Make sure the local jurisdiction allows the remote practice you contemplate.
  2. Don’t hold yourself out as practicing the law of the remote jurisdiction.
  3. Assess whether your remote work constitutes “temporary” practice under the rules of the jurisdiction.
  4. If in doubt, get an opinion from your state bar.

And, let’s face it, these simple steps sure beat having to study for another bar exam!

Sharon StuartSharon Stuart is a founding partner of Christian & Small LLP, where she handles complex and class action product liability, toxic tort, insurance, and business cases. Sharon is also President and Claims Counsel of Attorneys Insurance Mutual of the South, Inc., a lawyer-owned company providing attorney malpractice coverage in Alabama and Tennessee. She is recognized in Chambers USA, The Best Lawyers in America – garnering multiple "Lawyer of the Year" honors, the Top 50 Mid-South Women Super Lawyers, and is one of Benchmark Litigation’s Top 250 Women in Litigation. Sharon is active in the International Association of Defense Counsel, DRI, and the American Inns of Court. She is past President of the Alabama Defense Lawyers Association.

Pandemic Living

Parenting a Four-Year-Old

By Lynne O. Ingram

A typical virtual day in 2020/2021

4:30–6 am: wake, workout, and shower

6–8 am: work 

8–9 am: Jude wake / breakfast / tub / dress

9–9:30 am: Zoom class session #1 / reading and math

9:30–10 am: homework

10 –11 am: work / send Jude to “gym class”

11–11:30 am: Zoom class session #2

11:30 am – 12 pm: work

12–12:30 pm: lunch

12:30 – 6 pm: work, while Jon does 5:15pm Zoom speech therapy with Jude and cooks dinner

6:00–6:30 pm: dinner

6:30–8 pm: work, while Jon cleans up the kitchen and does Jude’s bedtime routine

8 pm: bedtime with Jude

Jude’s fragile start to life informed our conservative approach to COVID and self-quarantining. Born eight weeks early weighing 2 lbs. 10 oz., Jude spent his first 53 days in the NICU at Bryn Mawr Hospital, initially on breathing support. At 18 months, Jude was hospitalized for bronchiolitis and transferred from Bryn Mawr’s ER to Nemours Children’s PICU in Wilmington, DE during a snowstorm.

Jude, birthdayJude, ambulance

So when Jon and I started learning more and more about this new coronavirus—lung complications, acute respiratory distress, ventilator dependency—We. Freaked. Out. Despite the fact that Jude is now a robust, thriving four-year-old, the memory of your newborn baby struggling to breathe never leaves you. We flashed right back to the NICU, with its beeping machines and high flow nasal cannulas.

Jude’s early days shaped me as a mother, and that instant protective response has muscle memory. When you watch your child struggle to learn how to do things in the world that they were meant to have done in the womb, your heart aches in a way that’s indescribable. I stood guard at his Isolette, jumped at the sound of a cough or sneeze, and scrubbed my hands and forearms so many times a day that they cracked and bled.

So when the severity of COVID-19 became clear, we reflexively jumped into hyper-protective mode: Hours spent wiping down groceries with Clorox wipes. Not leaving our house for weeks at a time. Having everything delivered—groceries, toilet paper, pantry staples. Not letting anyone in the house. Waking in the middle of the night to check on Jude.

The transition to pandemic life was not a graceful one. One day bled into the next as we juggled work, parenting, and the obsessive wiping-down of every can of seltzer in the grocery delivery. The pace of the early lockdown days was not sustainable: Simultaneously working and parenting seven days a week, eating too much, drinking too much, not working out, and barely sleeping.

When I attempted to close my eyes at night, all the emotions that I buried throughout the day rose to the surface of my consciousness: Guilt over keeping Jude from his family and friends, but being too afraid to expose him to something that could attack his respiratory system. Guilt over sticking him in front of the TV again or leaving him to play by himself for hours on end so I could work. Anxiety over not working as many hours as I knew I should because it’s literally impossible to work and parent full-time.

JudeWe adapted and eventually found our way, even if it wasn’t always pretty. We added some healthy meals—vegetables and lean proteins—into the sea of comfort food—carbs, cheese, cream. I squeezed in early morning workouts over Zoom with the trainers from my gym. On the mornings I didn’t, Jude and I would work out together during lunch.

As we settled into our new normal, we began to recognize how fortunate we were compared to so many others. Jon and I were luckier than most with our jobs. As a financial advisor recruiter, Jon worked from home full-time pre-COVID, and continued to do so without issue. I seamlessly transitioned to being fully remote—given my prior travel, court appearances, and other meetings out of the office, I was already doing a fair amount of work at home. And, I had a dedicated office space. Many of my clients had travel restrictions through their companies, and expected Zoom meetings and mediations, which were easily accomplished from home.

Mission Control

Jude, mission controlJude, our only child, was used to entertaining himself for stretches of time, and he is old enough that he could have a snack or watch TV without hands-on supervision. Jon and I were largely able to juggle our work schedules and switch off with Jude, though some days were rockier than others. There’s nothing like having your four-year-old tell 100 of your colleagues to “Say excuse me before you start talking, Mommy,” after being asked to give an update on an upcoming program. Fortunately, it was a Women in The Law meeting, and many could relate to the comedic pitfalls of Zooming from home. If anything, they were relieved it didn’t happen to them!

In June of 2020, we expanded our bubble to include my parents, my sister,, and her family. Our COVID crew—six adults, three kids, and two dogs—hunkered down for the summer at my parents’ beach house in Avalon, New Jersey. Each morning I walked five miles on the beach with my husband and sister, soaking in some much-needed Vitamin D. We ate healthier, slept better, and laughed more. We had our family there to watch Jude while Jon and I worked upstairs in separate rooms, uninterrupted for the entire day. Jude had his two cousins to play with, and he was thrilled. They swam in the pool out back, went for walks, and had some normalcy for the first time in months. It was truly idyllic. We knew this time was fleeting, as fall meant the return to isolation, so we met each day with presence and gratitude.

As September drew closer, the anxiety levels steadily creeped back up. Jude was starting at a new Montessori preschool, and the final week of summer was fraught with uncertainty. Every hour, we reassessed “the numbers”—the COVID infection rate, confirmed cases, any data available in and around Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We went back and forth over whether to pull him from school, hire a nanny, or return to our pre-summer mayhem of working full-time and parenting full-time while Jude raised himself with the help of Disney+ and Paw Patrol.

Jude, First DayUltimately, we were comfortable with his school’s health and safety plan, the small class size, and the school’s commitment to mask wearing, social distancing, disinfecting regularly, and keeping the children as safe as possible. Jude went back to school and stayed healthy, made new friends, and learned new things.

We approached the holidays with an abundance of caution, choosing to keep Jude home for much of the season. While this brought a bit more chaos to our lives, I found myself oddly at peace with the ever-changing landscape of pandemic life. We typically host Thanksgiving, and I love entertaining. But I felt a profound calmness at the thought of watching the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Parade on TV, not cooking for days on end, and spending the day at home with my little family. Maybe we’d order Chinese food? Maybe we’d stay in our pajamas all day? Who cares! Turns out, my mom wasn’t so willing to let Thanksgiving traditions go by the wayside, and we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner over Zoom. But I noticed a distinct shift in myself as I loosened my grip on expectations and accepted each day as it came. 

As I am sure is true for all of us, the last year and a half tested, challenged, and pushed me to the edge of sanity. But it was also a time of intimacy, presence, and gratitude. Life would have been so different if I were separated from my family, caring for elderly parents, or standing by helplessly while a relative suffered the virus in isolation. The fact that we got so lucky—our health, family, and finances still intact—has taught me to take nothing for granted. 2020 forced me to slow down and appreciate the beauty of every day.  

Pre-pandemic life was life at full throttle. Everything was go-go-go. But lockdown life gave us the opportunity to just BE. Not going to restaurants meant cooking meals as a family. With no museums to visit, we discovered some beautiful trails right in our neighborhood that had previously gone unnoticed. Not running from gymnastics to music class meant time to up our arts-and-crafts game. Less commitments on our calendar meant less stress, less chaos, and more of JUST US. 

Being with Jude so intimately was like watching him grow up before my very eyes—the opposite of what you might expect being with someone every day. You would expect to not see the small changes over time. But, to me, they were magnified. Over lunch, I learned about his friends at school, his dream last night, what he played that morning while I was working, or any number of things that come across a four-year-old's mind.

When I took Jude to doctor's appointments, I was so impressed with how effortlessly he wore his mask, how mature he can be, and how brave he is. Doing speech therapy and occupational therapy at home via Zoom—typically done at school by the Delaware County Intermediate Unit—allowed me to see how his mind processes things and how far he has come. One night, when I was getting Jude to come up for dinner, I found him in my office at my desk, typing away. “I can’t come to dinner, Mom,” he said. “I’m too busy working.” I smiled, realizing that not only have I gained insight into his world, but he has a deeper understanding of mine.  

The pandemic forever changed me—as a person, a mother, a wife, a lawyer. I strive to be mindful of the fact that my pandemic experience does not match the experience of so many others—those who have lost their jobs, their loved ones, their lives. I am more awake to the small but significant moments throughout the day; tiny details I missed when life moved at a faster pace. Most importantly, I am more cognizant of the suffering around me, and remember to treat myself and others with a bit more compassion, patience and grace. 

Lynne IngramLynne O. Ingram is a member of Campbell Conroy & O'Neil, P.C. She is a seasoned trial lawyer with a diverse civil litigation defense practice. Lynne specializes in defending catastrophic, high exposure losses, and has significant experience in matters involving gas fires and explosions. She represents clients in cases across the United States, through all stages of litigation. Lynne works with clients in a broad range of industries, including construction, hospitality, insurance, medical, retail, and product design and manufacturing. Her practice areas span commercial and construction litigation, mass torts, personal injury/negligence, and premises and products liability defense. Lynne is admitted to practice in state and federal courts in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, and Maryland.

Women in the Law Committee

From the Publications Chair

By Sarah Thomas Pagels

You are probably aware of that this newsletter is called “Sharing Success,” which is one of the founding principles of the WITL committee. It is also a principle that I personally value — the collaborative nature of lifting as we climb is a key tenet of my career growth plan and why I spend so much of my nonbillable time dedicated to the work of this committee. Unfortunately, sharing success is still not always front of mind. By now, many of you have probably read the ABA piece that has been circulating through the online community written by Susan Smith Blakely about what she contends is a “cause” of women lawyers’ lack of “upward mobility” in our careers. You can read the article here, but you should know this is the opposite of what our committee stands for.

I hope if you read the Blakely article, you have also read the growing number of articles and letters in response to it, which properly put the onus where it belongs – on someone other than women lawyers. Rather, the onus properly belongs on our firms and companies, in our professional organizations like DRI, and on all of our leaders (regardless of gender or gender identity) to change their expectations and their systems to enable the women lawyers to grow and set their own definition of success. In case you missed them, some of my favorite responses that provide a fresh and welcome perspective are here and here.

As a working mom myself, I am grateful that the vast majority of those reading Blakely’s article (including those that have commented publicly about it) have noted that it is particularly tone deaf, especially for any working parent that has survived the last 18 months while in the midst of a global pandemic. I also am proud that the WITL committee has always been at the forefront of addressing these kinds of issues in DRI, not only asking for change, but showing by example and leading the charge for all of our members (regardless of gender, gender identity, or parental status) by providing practical resources on advancing and promoting women lawyers at all stages of their careers. This is all while creating more inclusive, fair, and equitable systems and processes in our firms and companies that make everyone’s lives better. It is in that spirit, that I am pleased to share this month’s newsletter with you.

  • First, Marie Chafe’s “From the Chair” column shares how her changed views on the hive mentality mean great things for all of us on this committee.
  • Moreover, our committee’s ongoing commitment to personal and professional growth was never more evident than at our 2021 (virtual) Women in the Law Seminar held in April, “Owning Your Worth.” Hats off to our amazing Seminar Chair Meade Hartfield, who did an incredible job navigating the pandemic and the constant changes relating to planning a seminar subject to varying restrictions.
  • Similarly, this issue’s WITL Champion, Joe Cohen, certainly takes WITL’s charge to our members to help create an inclusive environment to heart. His partners Stephanie Holcombe and Amy Falcon tell us exactly why Joe Cohen is so deserving of this recognition and remind us that DRI can provide each of us with the skills we need to lead and create a culture of belonging that we can take back to our companies and firms.
  • We are also thrilled to feature Myra Dyer, one of our favorite non-lawyers, in this issue’s WITL Spotlight. Myra, along with our other partners at Exponent, have been long-time supporters of our committee and its members and also support the culture of inclusivity and shared success that is a cornerstone of our committee’s work.
  • Lynn Ingram’s peek into “Pandemic Parenting” reminds us how amazing our committee members are and how we can and do navigate all kinds of day-to-day challenges when we have the support of our firms, colleagues, companies and clients.
  • Sharon Stuart’s article about the ethics of remote work provides us with needed guidance to ensure we keep our work above board, regardless of where we might be working.
  • Brandy Simpson provides us with her thoughtful analysis of whether employers should mandate vaccination, a hot topic no matter where you work.
  • This issue’s Corporate Counsel profile features U-Haul’s Kristine Campbell, who shares what innovations her company has put in place to support her legal team and all U-Haul employees facing the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
  • Last but not least, we are bringing back “Good News” — something I know we could all use more of these days!

I hope you are inspired by each of these articles and look forward to more opportunities to share our different versions of success together – whether virtually or in-person. Happy reading, Hive!

pagels-19Sarah Thomas Pagels is a Partner at Laffey, Leitner & Goode, LLC. Sarah has a wide range of experience defending clients in all types of litigation matters but has focused her practice on defending companies in general commercial matters, product liability and toxic tort matters, and professional malpractice claims. Sarah is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law. She is admitted to the Wisconsin and Illinois bars. She is also admitted to the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

WITL Member Spotlight

Meet Myra Dyer

How are you involved in DRI? (What committee(s) do you serve/what leadership roles in DRI do you hold?) 

I got involved with DRI in 2018 and have participated in several committee events including, Women in the Law, Product Liability, Young Lawyers, Diversity & Inclusion,  and the international seminars. Every committee and every person I’ve met along the way has been amazing, but I instantly fell in love with the WITL community. At my first event in Miami, I reached out to the committee leads and asked if there was anything I could do to assist. Since then, I’ve been very active with the Networking Subcommittee and helping the community stay connected outside of our annual WITL seminar.

What is a typical day like for you [both before and after COVID]?

On a typical day, pre-covid, I would wake up, work out, or maybe pop into a yoga class. Then, head to the office or to a meeting with a client. Morning meetings with clients were my favorite days, so that I could avoid the work commute and spend time with new people. Afternoons were my time for catching up on various initiatives, emails, and meetings. Most evenings, I was either catching up with someone for happy hour or heading home to pack before my next work trip.

And then – COVID. Over the past year, I still wake up and work out, but instead of a yoga studio or gym, it’s a walk in the park or yoga in the living room. Without the work commute or need to hop in the car for a meeting, I am able to make breakfast and spend time with my husband. Virtual meetings consume my days for at least six to eight hours, and then I always try to sneak away in the evenings for a walk. Happy hours are on hold, which allows time for experimental cooking and enjoying a restful evening, without the stresses of my next work trip looming over me. My latest endeavors include being hooked on strawberry rhubarb pie and lemon meringue cookies … ’m also in my third trimester, so this could explain the obsessive cooking habits!

What do you enjoy most about DRI?  

The DRI community supports one another in ways that I’ve not seen before in other organizations. It is a group of authentic and genuine people, dedicated to helping each other grow, evolve, and strive in their respective business areas. The friendships made in this organization are real and last a lifetime, and I am grateful that I had the chance to be introduced to this incredible global network.

What is your best practice tip or what tip would you share with your younger self?

Never underestimate the value of listening. Ask questions, be true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to add a personal touch to the conversation. I’ve found that it’s best not to be all-business, all of the time. That’s exhausting.

What is your favorite WITL memory/moment? 

Every WITL seminar, yoga on the beach in San Diego, meeting new friends at my first meeting in Miami, trivia … But my ultimate favorite was a get together at the annual meeting in San Francisco a couple of years ago. A group of WITL members met one morning, and we all walked to a cycling studio to check out one of their classes. It was my first spin class, and I could barely walk afterwards! It was amazing. After the class we grabbed breakfast together and made our way back to the main event. Sometimes the larger conferences can be a bit overwhelming. That morning adventure was the perfect escape with good friends and time to enjoy an amazing city.  

Fun fact?

I used to race downhill mountain bikes in college and our team won the national championship in 2008. One of the photos of me from the race ended up in a Women in Engineering calendar that my school put together the following year. So, somewhere out there, I’m Miss September, with a full-face helmet and body gear, riding a bike down the side of a mountain.

What inspires you?

Someone who is kind to others, authentic, works hard, and is passionate and grateful for the life they lead.

If you are/were working from home, what are you doing during the time you previously spent commuting to the office?

Experimental cooking, spending more time outdoors and with family, and taking time to rest and relax.

What is your best working-from-home tip or videoconferencing story? 

So many stories of audio left on, screen sharing, and accidently pulling up the wrong content. But I’d say the best tip I’ve received and am actively trying to follow is to establish boundaries and trust that your colleagues and clients will respect them. Working from home can be endless and exhausting, and often is for most of us. So, if you have the incredible opportunity to work from home and you want to avoid burning out too quickly, just be sure you’re still allowing yourself time in the mornings and evenings to decompress and recover. Just because we have a mobile computer and phone, doesn’t mean we have to be plugged in 100 percent of the time. I’m still battling with this notion, but the more I can set boundaries, the happier I am. (And the happier my family is too!)

What is your current “favorite thing?”

The sausage breakfast sandwich and sweet potato fries at River and Roads in Denver. For all of you Denverites out there, just let me know when you want to catch up for a fun bite!

Myra DyerMyra Dyer is a licensed metallurgical and materials engineer, a certified welding inspector, and as part of Exponent’s Business Development team a professional matchmaker — dedicated to connecting clients to the most appropriate technical expert for their needs. While she started with Exponent in its materials and corrosion engineering practice, she now has the opportunity to work with clients and be a link to more than 900 consultants worldwide. When she’s not playing matchmaker, you can find her out exploring or cooking, preferably without a map or a recipe; and it’s nearly impossible for her to pass up a karaoke opportunity.

In-House Counsel Spotlight

A New "Normal" for U-Haul's Christine Campbell

By Marie E. Chafe

This issue’s In-House Counsel Spotlight is Kristine Campbell, Director of Litigation at U-Haul International. Kristine was a panelist at the 2021 DRI Women in the Law Seminar, as part of a program featuring in-house counsel from a range of companies speaking about Lessons Learned in the Pandemic Trenches. Kristine offered a different view on handling the pandemic crisis from her position in a company that is hands-on and in the field every day.

Tell us a little about U-Haul International and its legal department.

U-Haul has about 20 lawyers in our main offices in Phoenix, Arizona. It is a very linear structure that allows everyone to report on their work directly to the General Counsel.

In my 10 years at U-Haul, I’ve learned a lot about the various aspects of the company. It’s not only about the do-it-yourself moving trucks. In its 75-year history, U-Haul has expanded to offer storage facilities throughout North America, distribute a large array of packing and storage boxes, and supply propane as one of the nation’s largest national retailers of alternative-fuel for vehicles and backyard grills. As you think about those different parts of the business, you’ll realize that the legal department handles a large variety of issues – contract, property, personal injury claims, and franchise issues — to name just a few.

What was the career path that led you to your current in-house position?

I enjoyed my time at Greenberg Traurig, but when the U-Haul relationship partner mentioned to me that an in-house position was open, I was intrigued. I just had a second child and was thinking about making a career change. I wondered if going in-house would be better suited to my skill set and give me added options.

What was the most important thing you learned as you transitioned into your role as in-house counsel?

When you work in-house as a lawyer, your client is right there with you – you are easily accessible to them.  You need be available and to address a wide range of questions on many different issues. For a company like U-Haul, in particular, presence is important. I thought an in-house position might give more flexibility or less of an hourly commitment, but that is not true. Instead, the business of U-Haul is hands on and requires committed time at the office between 8 am and 6 pm. I’ve also realized that the employees of U-Haul listen and appreciate the legal advice that I and other members of the legal department give. The typical U-Haul employee is very loyal to the organization, and they work hard to do the right thing. It has been very rewarding to have my fellow employees seek my advice and follow the suggestions that I make.

What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in your in-house position?

U-Haul is a company that has a greater percentage of men in its ranks, so I tend to stand out. It is also true that many of the management team at U-Haul are engineers. In many respects, those practice differences set me apart to an equal degree. While there are some challenges in speaking across those differences in mindset, I have always felt supported and encouraged to excel in my role.

What do you enjoy most about your role as in-house counsel?

I love the fast-paced work. I come in everyday not fully knowing what issues I need to address. I may have an environment issue, a real estate challenge, a zoning matter, ADA compliance concern, employment dispute, intellectual property, corporate/securities, class action litigation, or a more common negligence or product liability matter. I am never bored, and I find that very exciting and rewarding work.

What, if anything, has changed about the way your company does business since March 2020 during the global pandemic?

Nearly everything changed, and the company’s ability to address the new challenges has been impressive. A first priority was how to continue business operations. U-Haul’s business is inherently in-person and involves working across state lines. An initial project was to develop (and continuously update) a 50-state survey: What COVID restrictions are in place? What can or can’t employees do in each state? What is the state’s definition of “essential worker?” Where does that encompass a U-Haul employee?  We found that the rules and regulations across the states varied significantly. Keeping up with all of the legislative and executive orders has kept us on our toes.

How has your legal department adjusted?

A truly valuable benefit from the last year has been the working relationships that I developed with a wide range of employees. Rather than having a usual impression that the legal department is a hinderance to moving forward with new business ideas, we became the department that was viewed as 100-percent focused on helping every aspect of the company succeed. That changed image has spread within the employee ranks, and I now receive many more calls and inquiries from outside the normal reporting chain. A more broad-based set of employees understands that I and other members of the legal department are there to help them. They reach out to us more often now before significant problems develop. That shift has been very rewarding to see.

The need for a coordinated, 50-state response also has led to better communications within the legal department and also communications to all employees. Everyone in the company knows how to get in touch with the legal department – and now they do! Once things return to “normal,” I will work hard alongside the other in-house counsel to keep those improved lines of communication going.

Are you working remotely or going to the office?

The nature of my work requires that I always have a presence in the office. We implemented and continue to revise safety protocols to ensure that everyone in the office stays healthy and safe.

What initiatives or programs have you worked on or that your company offers are you most proud of?

I have worked on the development of a national counsel program that includes several larger, national law firms and many local firm assets. The selected firms include women and minority-owned firms and firms with robust diversity initiatives.

Once every year (until recently), the attorneys and law firms that we work with come together in Phoenix for training and workshops that discuss the U-Haul business. We try to be very transparent and share information about the company and its activities. The best relationships that I have with outside counsel are with the people who provide practice legal advice, structure their communications with me to highlight what decisions need to be made, and work with me as part of the “team.” Those relationships take time and have been increasingly beneficial to the company.

What are your interests and hobbies outside of your legal career?

With two smaller kids at home, it’s no surprise that an important part of my day is to spend time with my family. We play a lot of games, and I have seen a lot of swim meets! The challenges of working through the last year have been heightened by my need to be at the office and the kids’ new homeschooling schedule.

Over the last year and a half, I have become re-focused on finding time for myself. I have always been athletic, and staying active has been an important part of my overall health. With so much upheaval occurring around us, I am happy to say that I have been able to protect one hour of time every day for an activity – hiking, running, or being on the new Peloton bike. That time has been very supportive to me and has helped to keep me calm and driven to help my company address all of the challenges that COVID has brought.

christine campbellKristine Campbell is Director of Litigation at U-Haul International, which serves millions of do-it-yourself household-moving customers annually. Established in 1945, U-Haul maintains the largest national rental fleet of trucks, trailers, and towing devices while also offering storage facilities throughout North America and the associated packing and storage boxes. The company also supplies alternative fuel for vehicles and backyard grills as one of the largest national retailers of propane. Prior to joining U-Haul, Ms. Campbell was a Class Action and Commercial Litigation attorney at Greenberg Traurig, LLP for eight years. Ms. Campbell is a graduate of Brooklyn Law School and Connecticut College (majoring in Chinese).

marie chafeMarie Chafe has represented clients nationwide in a variety of industries related to her product liability defense practice, including automotive, aviation, industrial equipment, consumer products and tools, medical devices, and trucking.  She also represents business interests in commercial litigation and franchise disputes. Marie is an active DRI member, and she serves as Chair of the Women in the Law Committee and a member of the steering committee of the Product Liability Committee. Marie also is serving as President of the Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association. 

WITL Champion

Joe Cohen: Friend, Colleague, and Leader

By Stephanie Holcombe and Amy C. Falcon

We could not be more honored and excited to introduce the Fall 2021 WITL Champion Joe Cohen, a friend, a colleague, and an incredible leader. Joe is the reason that we became members of DRI, and he did not stop with just our membership. He has educated us on how to become involved in leadership roles. He has supported us throughout the process. And he has been our champion and cheering squad along the way. A great leader not only leads but also encourages, supports, and cheers those he leads and strives to bring them up the ladder with him or her along the way. This is Joe Cohen. Not just to us, but to everyone. We are honored to feature Joe as our WITL Champion, sharing his story with you.

Describe your role at your law firm or company with respect to working with and being a supporter or ally of women attorneys.

I am a partner at Porter Hedges LLP in Houston. Over the years I have been at this firm, I have worked on several cases with women attorneys and have trained, mentored, and sponsored many of them. I also serve on the firm’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee.

What programs or efforts have been put in place at your firm or company to help advance women attorneys?

Our firm has a very active Women’s Initiative program that sponsors multiple client events during the year and has been quite successful. Additionally, we recently changed the name of our Diversity and Inclusion Committee to add “Equity and Belonging.” This important change is to demonstrate that the firm does not just believe in the value of Diversity and Inclusion, but also believes in Equity and Belonging for women and diverse attorneys.

What role do you think DRI and its leaders can play in creating programs or efforts to help advance women attorneys in their careers?

I think DRI and its leaders should continue to put their full support behind WITL and its programs. I also think they should strongly encourage women to seek out and work toward leadership roles in other SLCs, on the board of directors, and on the executive committee. Moreover, DRI should make an active and concerted effort to promote women into those roles. Fully diverse leadership brings together different perspectives, experiences, and innovative approaches necessary to serving the ever-changing needs of DRI’s membership. Gender diversity is a critical component to DRI’s success.

In what ways have you used to your leadership role in DRI to create programs or efforts to help advance women attorneys outside your law firm?

While I was an SLC Chair, I made a concerted effort to ensure that I was placing women and diverse attorneys in important and visible roles, including that of the Seminar Chair. While on the board of directors, I was the Liaison to the Diversity Committee, and worked with many of its women members to expand and grow the committee, and to assist wherever I could as a mentor and a sponsor.

Why take time from your own legal career to be a mentor, partner, ally, sponsor, and champion for women attorneys’ careers? Why does it matter to you personally?

I take the time because I care about change. I started practicing in 1991 and watched judges and male attorneys treat women poorly, referring to them as “little lady,” “darling,’” and other inappropriate monikers. I was taught to treat women as equals; no one should be demeaned like that. It matters to me because it is simple human decency. It matters to me because I have witnessed women not having the same opportunities as men in various organizations and in the practice of law. It matters to me because I want to be a sponsor and not an opponent. And it matters to me because there are many women attorneys from whom I have learned great skills and who have championed me. Sponsoring and mentoring women is an opportunity for me to pay it forward. It is also just the right thing to do.

What was the path you followed to make being a mentor/partner/ally/sponsor/champion an integral part of your own career?

I am not sure that I followed any particular path. Having seen behaviors that I did not like, I simply decided that I was going to be someone who not only refused to tolerate that behavior, but would also be an active ally to women in the law however I could.

What is the most exciting aspect of your efforts to be a champion for women attorneys?

The most exciting aspect for me is watching the success of women I have sponsored or mentored, whether it be winning a motion or trial, making partner, getting a new client, or advancing in DRI or other organizations.

What are your goals and plans as far as continued collaborative efforts, both at your law firm or company and within DRI, to retain and advance women attorneys professionally and grow the next generation of leaders in DRI?

My plan is simply to try to continue to provide good work to the women with whom I work and to continue to mentor and sponsor them in every way that I can. At DRI, I plan to continue to sponsor and mentor individuals on DRI opportunities and paths to advancement.

Please share some tips/advice for other attorneys who aspire to be champions as far as efforts to retain and advance women attorneys in firms or in-house positions.

Check-in with the people with whom you work. Make sure they are getting the opportunities they want and give them opportunities for which they may not even think they are ready. Make sure they understand that they can come to you with difficulties they are encountering.

Make sure the people with whom you work understand that it is okay to make mistakes because mistakes sometimes happen, particularly with younger attorneys. The key is learning how to fix your mistakes and not making the same mistake a second time.

Be respectful of someone’s obligations at home. The demands of this job invade all of our home lives at one time or another. Don’t be the person who wants everything immediately when it is not necessary or the last-minute person who turns everything into an emergency.

What is your favorite DRI WITL memory or moment?

My favorite DRI WITL moment was when my dear friend Emily Coughlin won Second Vice-President. Now that she is our President, it is amazing to witness how well she has led DRI through all of the difficult issues presented by the pandemic.

What advice would you have for junior women attorneys who are looking to find their own champion or be a champion to others?

Don’t be afraid to pick your own mentor or champion. Approach attorneys at your firm with whom you think you want to work, and when you find someone with whom you work well, try to continue to work with them. The best mentor relationships—in my experience—happen naturally.

Joe CohenJoseph Cohen is a partner at Porter Hedges in Houston. His practice focuses on handling the defense of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases arising from allegations of products liability (including pharmaceuticals and medical devices), chemical and substance exposure, general negligence, and commercial litigation. He has successfully tried cases to verdict and engaged in extensive motion practice, including complex summary judgment issues and intricate challenges to experts in a variety of disciplines. Joe has handled matters in over 35 states and in multiple counties throughout the state of Texas.

2021 Seminar Recap

"One for the Books"

By Sarah Thomas Pagels

As seminar chair C. Meade Hartfield said repeatedly on our seminar planning calls in 2020 (and well into 2021), the theme for 2021 was “bob and weave.” Indeed, no one showed a greater ability to bob and weave while providing us all with a perfect example of grace and flexibility than Meade and her Vice Chair Jennifer Nutter. There is no doubt that with Meade’s fearless leadership and the help of our stellar seminar committee and tireless committee Chair Marie Chafe, we successfully pulled off the first-ever (and best) virtual WITL seminar, “Own Your Worth,” held April 28-30, 2021.

Top 10 Things To Remember

  1. Our fabulous sponsors: Without sponsors the virtual Seminar and our amazing activities would not have been possible.
  2. Raising funds and sending books: We helped Chicago-area children (and beat Drug & Medical Device in our competition) through Open Books as part of our WITL service project.
  3. Our amazing collection of speakers: Our speakers virtually taught us how to lead, recognize and amplify diverse voices, use and grow our emotional intelligence, manage and silence our inner critics and battle self-doubt, prep and highlight your corporate witness, and what lessons we learned from practicing law in a pandemic. I was as engaged on screen as I am in the room – no small feat!
  4. Finding and keeping your “mental wealth” in balance: Jeena Cho helped us and included some practical tips for grounding ourselves in times of great stress.
  5. Sparking Joy and Airing Grievances: This “Festivus” for the rest of us might need to become an annual tradition!
  6. Virtual activities: From book clubs to coffee tasting, murder mystery solving, pie baking, trivia, wine tasting, and yoga, we took our favorite parts of our in-person seminar and made them virtual.
  7. The online chat experience: We were all active and engaged, and it showed!
  8. The amazing WITL playlist: Yeah, baby, you’re worth it!
  9. Our more than 100 first-timer attendees: We know you are hooked and will be back for more!
  10. New (and old) WITL friendships (re)kindled and memories created: While nothing can replace in-person connections, this was as close as we could (safely) get.

As always, the WITL seminar was one for the books. What 2020 and 2021 has taught is that we all need to be flexible and bob and weave. I, for one, can’t wait to see what new creative ideas 2022 will bring!

WITL Good News

Celebrating Our Members

Marie Chafe

Our committee chair, Marie Chafe, has made the move to a new firm. Marie is now a partner at Conn Kavanaugh Rosenthal Peisch and Ford, LLP, continuing her practice in product liability and commercial litigation defense. The transition comes after many years as a partner and prior associate at a smaller firm just across the street from her new office. It’s a big, bold change that exemplifies everything that WITL represents – do what’s right for you, face challenges from leadership, and own your worth! She credits our supportive committee for the knowledge learned and leadership skills developed to know what’s right and to take the career leap. Congrats Marie!

Patricia “Peezy” Mullins

Patricia “Peezy” Mullins of Foland, Wickens, Roper, Hofer & Crawford, P.C., was named one of the top 30 “most powerful” health care lawyers in the state by Missouri Lawyers Media in March 2021. We know she is powerful, but now others do too! How cool is that? 

FormanWatkins Holds Lunch-and-Learn on DRI Women in the Law Seminar

In June, Forman Watkins & Krutz attorneys participated in a Lunch-and-Learn hosted by the Firm’s Women’s Initiative, with attorneys from several FormanWatkins offices sharing valuable takeaways from the 2021 DRI Women in the Law Seminar. The topics sparked conversations regarding business development efforts, as well as discussions of defense law best practices and litigation skills. The Lunch-and-Learn also prompted continued discussions regarding networking and professional development opportunities, including those available through the DRI Women in the Law Committee.  

Seven FormanWatkins attorneys attended the DRI Women in the Law Seminar held April 28 to 30, 2021: Chelsea Gaudin; Ruth Maron Huskey; Sam Kapoor; Michelle Roy; Jennifer Studebaker; Caroline Upchurch; and Elizabeth Penn, who also served with the DRI planning committee for this year’s seminar.

FormanWatkins is a commercial, employment, and litigation firm led by a diverse partnership, where the experiences and talents of the female leadership are fundamental to its firm culture. Because of the firm’s commitment to skills development and professional advancement opportunities, FormanWatkins boasts high female retention and partnership.

FormanWatkins is proud to sponsor attorney participation in DRI’s Women in the Law Committee as a continuing commitment to the firm’s diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives.