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DTCI: Corporate, in-house counsel tell why they belong to DTCI

May 17, 2017

kevin tyra DTCIAs Membership Chair of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana, I have encouraged all corporate and in-house counsel to join DTCI. I am turning over this column to two in-house friends and colleagues: Michele Calderon Johns, vice president and chief risk officer at Indiana University Health; and Kayla Goodfellow, staff defense counsel at Cincinnati Insurance.

Why did you join DTCI?

Michele: At the time I joined, I was with a firm that had a strong health care section and multiple attorneys providing medical professional liability defense. We all saw the immediate value of professional development, networking with like-minded folks, the opportunity to push ourselves to present new or developing topics, as well as a chance to lead the health care section. Quite frankly, DTCI provided an opportunity and safe harbor to share ideas, ask for help, and tell war stories and precautionary tales.

Kayla: Because someone who knew more than I did told me to.

How do you benefit (particularly as in-house counsel) from membership in DTCI?

Michele: When I left private practice to become in-house counsel, I continued my DTCI membership. As our in-house department has grown, all of our litigation attorneys are encouraged to participate in DTCI. We are fortunate in getting to hire outside counsel to assist with defense of litigation matters. When selecting outside defense counsel, those who have a strong commitment to the defense bar and have shared their time and knowledge with DTCI over the years come to the forefront in our selection process. At this point in my career, many of my duties take me further away from the courtroom and management of litigation. I probably value my relationship with DTCI and its members even more, as it is a link to the sharp edge of the practice, the trends, the new ideas and innovations, and yes, the next generation of stellar defense counsel, as we have to be doing some succession planning!

Kayla: I believe the greatest benefit is the community DTCI creates. It creates a whole group of resources. And it familiarizes you with the other attorneys with whom you will inevitably litigate. When attorneys know each other through organizations like DTCI, it gives litigation a cooperative tone from the get-go.

Please describe a memory of a DTCI event you particularly enjoyed or found helpful.

Michele: The ethics offerings of the last several years’ annual conferences are not only helpful with meeting CLE requirements but have actually been very thoughtful and enlightening. Watching a Court of Appeals argument. Listening to a physician who was a defendant in a medical malpractice lawsuit talk about how it affected him, his practice, his family and his community. But the best memories are actually those during cocktails or dinner, in sharing stories and ideas with esteemed colleagues.

Kayla: Several years ago, I attended the Rookie Seminar. It was a relief to be in a room with other young attorneys who were trying to make it through the same learning curve as me.

What would you say to an in-house or corporate counsel as to why they should join, and be active in, DTCI?

Michele: It is very easy to become isolated within your own organization, and depending upon the size of your legal team, you may become isolated in your legal thinking. We are smarter together. DTCI provides the exposure to diversity of thought and environmental assessments of what is going on in the “outside” world. Plus, the fellowship and friendship of other attorneys who are fighting the same battles daily, and have wisdom and experience to share, is invaluable no matter where one practices.

Kayla: In-house counsel are frequently handling cases on their own, without the hierarchy of a traditional firm. That comes with a lot of responsibility. It is an absolute necessity to stay up to speed with developments in the law. It also means your trial skills have to stay sharp. DTCI seminars are helpful with both of those things.

Final thoughts

To all corporate counsel and in-house counsel (as well as all defense trial counsel): Please consider joining DTCI if you are not already a member and attending DTCI programming, starting with the 50th anniversary annual conference in November. There are many demands on your time and money, but this would be one of the best investments you will make. For more information, please contact our executive director, Lisa Mortier, at lmortier@dtci.org or 317-580-1233, for more information.•

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Kevin C. Tyra is a director of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana and the principal of The Tyra Law Firm P.C. in Indianapolis. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors.

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