Dan Chamberlain, a partner at the Indianapolis plaintiffs law firm Cohen & Malad P.C., was involved in litigation that led to one of the largest settlements in American history — the National Football League’s $1 billion settlement for retired players suffering from conditions resulting from traumatic brain injury. But closer to home, he’s also trying to make sure that Hoosiers and Indiana lawyers are comforted in their times of need.
Here are a few questions Chamberlain answered about himself and his plans for his year as president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, which began in May with a passing of the gavel from Past President John Young.
Indiana Lawyer: What does ITLA mean to you?
Chamberlain: I became a lawyer 25 years ago and was introduced to ITLA by former President Max Goodwin. Max had the most impressive phrase about ITLA, “We do good things, for the right reasons … for everyone.” That statement is still the same today as it was a quarter of a century ago. ITLA stands for the rights to trial by jury and equal access to all, regardless of income, gender and race. All lawyers should subscribe to these ideals as we did when we took our Supreme Court oath to be officers of the court.
As president, what are your priorities for the organization? Any initiatives you’re planning?
Promote professionalism and civility. One of the (things) that I believe is important is our initiative with Gleaners Food Bank, and also participating in providing meals and assistance to attorneys and their families suffering serious illness. I hope to partner with other bar associations to implement this program.
What do you consider the most important areas for ITLA to lobby for changes in the law or to preserve laws that might be in jeopardy?
Immunities limiting access to justice are dangerous and should be defeated or repealed. But there should also be protection for the right to contract, unencumbered, for necessary legal services and preserve such things as class action, mass tort, injury and other areas requiring intervention in our judicial system.
What’s something about you personally that ITLA members might not know?
I received a music scholarship to college. The highlight of my experience was playing with Chuck Mangione and Maynard Ferguson. Once. I wasn’t asked back. I decided to be a lawyer.
You’ve been involved with some high-profile, complex traumatic brain injury cases and class-action litigation. What have experiences like those taught you about yourself?
I transitioned to the board of the Brain Injury Association of America about 10 years ago. BIAA is based in Washington, D.C., and has approximately 30 chapters and offices across the United States. I became the BIAA chair at about the time that the NFL class-action litigation was gaining traction in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As BIAA chair, our board decided that we would file amicus briefs on the science and medicine of brain injury. The affidavits accompanying the various amicus briefs up to the Supreme Court of the United States were a part of the overall judicial record of the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history. Without the help of the folks at Cohen & Malad, I would never have had the ability or option to participate in this brain injury litigation helping retired NFL players and their families collect entitlement benefits under the settlement.
What do you think you’d be doing for a living if you weren’t a trial lawyer?
Definitely not a musician, but probably a doctor or other health care provider working with brain injury survivors.
Tell us a bit about your family and things you enjoy doing.
I have three kids, two boys and a girl. The oldest is 23 and will be a permanent student in Colorado. My youngest is 13 and she attends Park Tudor. My middle son will be 21 shortly and just returned to Fort Hood from his first military tour in the Middle East. One of my least favorite activities is watching the news when my son is deployed. Proud of all of them.
My wife loves teaching little kids and went back to her same classroom at Hamilton Southeastern after 13 years. The kids love her.
As far as my hobbies, I used to enjoy playing golf. But, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I got the message and moved on.
I became interested in target shooting when Jim McDonald and ITLA hosted a skeet shooting event. It was really a lot of fun and paired with a renewed interest in fishing, I like that neither the skeet or fish are able to voice a position in opposition to mine.
What would you say are your proudest personal and professional achievements?
Being in Congress with the leadership of Walter Reed Medical Center, Department of Defense, Wounded Warriors, Kessler Foundation, NIH and members of the TBI Congressional Task Force.
When Sen. Joe Donnelly approached the BIAA to support the Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, we were honored. The legislation mandated baseline screening and testing, counseling and other brain services for all current and future military service members across the country. It was visionary. Who would have known that my son would be among those active military duty members who will benefit from the Sexton Act?
The proudest achievement other than family and friends, is following in the footsteps of great ITLA leaders that came before me and will succeed me. I am proud to be the 62nd president of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association.•
– Compiled by Dave Stafford