Trial Network Member Symposium
August 3 - 6
The Ritz-Carlton Denver
Denver, CO

Program Agenda

  • Thursday August 3, 2023
  • Friday August 4, 2023
  • Saturday August 5, 2023
6:00p - 9:00p

Cocktail Reception and Dinner in the Ballroom Foyer

7:30a - 8:30a

Breakfast and Registration

8:30a - 8:35a

Welcome and Introductions

David Suchar – Maslon

8:35a - 9:00a

Models of Business Development Success: Leveraging Your Strengths in the Network and Beyond

Felice Wagner – The Trial Network

Despite what you may have heard, there is no “right” way to develop business. Rather, the key to business development success lies in identifying and then leveraging your strengths in your practice. In this program, Felice Wagner, Executive Director of The Trial Network, and nationally recognized business development expert, will introduce you to four models that have resonated with countless lawyers to help them on their path to business development success.

9:00a - 9:45a

Table Discussions: Best Practices in Leveraging the Network

Drawing on the different models of business development success, learn what each of us can do to succeed in the Network. Topics will include referrals, client invitations, main stage presentations and breakouts, and staying connected between programs.

9:45a - 10:30a

Panel: Best Practices in Leveraging Your Marketing Team

Moderator: Katie Bryk – Bush Seyferth

Whether your firm has a full marketing team or a “team” of one and you’re wondering how to best utilize their time, or your firm doesn’t yet have dedicated marketing support and you’re wondering what you’re missing, this session has something for everyone. A panel of partner-marketer pairs will share examples of successful collaboration between their firm’s marketing team and attorneys to drive a conversation:

  • What does a law firm marketing team do anyway?
  • Approaches to marketing: department size, roles, attorney-client interaction, strategic planning and budgeting, and more
  • Best practices for working with your marketing team
  • Unlocking your firm’s marketing potential
  • Next-level marketing: what’s new, what’s next

Lee Hollis and Paula McCauley, Lightfoot Franklin & White
Katie Reilly and Matt Plavnick, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell

10:30a - 11:00a

Refreshment Break

11:00a - 12:00p

Next-Level Leadership: Preparing for Tomorrow with Effective Leadership Today

Marcie Shunk, The Tilt Institute

While they confront the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sagging economy, continued global upheaval, and more, many leaders are facing the same challenges as the people they lead. Burnout, anxiety, and uncertainty are rampant, heightening intensity in the workplace and elevating the importance of effective leadership skills.

Topics will include:

  • The shifting power dynamics in law firms
  • The practice of leadership
  • Walking your why: defining personal core values
  • Aligning personal strengths to motivate and influence others
  • Managing conflict, shifting mindsets, and generational gaps
12:00p - 12:15p

Gather Lunch for Breakouts

12:15p - 1:15p

Break-Out Sessions

Breakout A: Let’s Talk About…Billable Hours and Compensation
Nikki Nesbitt, Goodell DeVries Leech & Dann
Tim Corcoran, Corcoran Consulting

For as long as many of us can remember, firms have required attorneys to bill 1,800 hours per year or more. However, shifting societal norms, technology-driven burnout, mental health awareness, and other factors that have been simmering for years hit a boiling point during the pandemic, leading associates in particular to start pushing back on “business as usual.” In this session, participants will discuss how firms are grappling with simultaneous increased demand for services, rate pressure, and calls for higher pay.

Topics will include:

  • Reasonable billable-hours requirement in today’s environment
  • Appropriate expectations for associates and inspiring compliance
  • How firms are motivating attorneys to meet those requirements
  • How firms are incentivizing, and compensating for business development activities


Breakout B: Slow Dockets and Fast Stories: How Positive PR is Helping One Network Firm Boost its Brand
Matt Plavnick, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell
Dave Poston, Poston Communications

As a result of the pandemic, WTO faced a unique challenge – how to continue to build its brand based on trial victories in an environment where court closures and slowdowns dramatically reduced the successes they could tout. Participants will hear the outside agency and internal firm perspectives on the development and execution of the strategy to protect and promote the firm’s market position.

Attendees will:

  • Learn when it makes sense to proactively hire a PR agency
  • Understand how an effective PR campaign directly and indirectly supports a firm’s overall brand
  • Learn various and emerging ways to meet communications and reputational challenges


Breakout C: Mastering Client Service: How to Make Yourself Indispensable
EJ Stern and Katherine Wilson, Fractional Law Firm CMO

 In this age of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever that clients perceive outside counsel as indispensable. This interactive session will offer practical tips to strengthen your client relationships and weather even the most tumultuous scenarios.

You will learn:

  • How to shift from being a client’s lawyer to a trusted business advisor
  • Best practices to increase client retention
  • Ways to maximize client engagement, even from afar
  • Strategies to proactively solicit and act on client feedback
  • Tips to develop an effective succession plan


1:30p - 5:00p

Afternoon Recreation


Buses Board for Reception and Dinner at the Cherry Hills Country Club

7:30a - 8:30a

Breakfast in the Ballroom Foyer

8:30a - 9:15a

Hot Topics in Law Firm Management

Tim Corcoran, Corcoran Consulting Group

No matter the size, specialties, or financial performance, all law firms share two common bonds: an economic model designed in a different era that is facing significant pressure to adapt, and a market for legal services that is changing at a faster pace now than at any other point in our lifetimes. Some may consider these to be disruptive headwinds, but law firm management expert Tim Corcoran thinks there’s never been a better time to be a law firm leader or shareholder.

Tim will explore the hottest topics in law firm management, including:

  • Succession planning
  • Strategic pricing and alternative fee arrangements
  • Differentiation
  • Profitability and compensation
  • Governance
  • Innovation
  • Remote work and new operating models
9:15a - 10:15a

Trial Network Trailblazers: A Conversation with WTO’s Mike O’Donnell

Mike O’Donnell, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell
Amy Sorenson, Snell & Wilmer

A litigation powerhouse, Mike O’Donnell has tried more than 85 cases to verdict over the course of his career, is the immediate past president of the American College of Trial Lawyers, is nationally ranked in Chambers USA, and has been named the #1 lawyer in Colorado Super Lawyers for 10 of the last 11 years. Twenty-five years ago, Mike and four other partners struck out on their own to establish a civil trial-focused firm.

In this “fireside chat,” Mike will share his biggest challenges and proudest moments at the helm of Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell, which has grown into a nationally recognized firm with more than 100 attorneys. He’ll also share highlights from his career, tips for success, and how WTO is navigating succession planning.

10:15a - 10:45a

Refreshment Break

10:45a - 11:45a

Break-Out Sessions - Round 1

Breakout A: The Five Fatal Mistakes Good Civil Lawyers Make In Criminal Investigations
Jack Sharman, Lightfoot Franklin & White
Gabe Wohl, Bowles Rice

 Why do savvy, sophisticated civil lawyers sometimes cause their clients so much harm when facing a criminal investigation? The answers lay not in the obvious differences between our civil and criminal justice systems, but rather in the assumptions that civil lawyers make about criminal matters. This breakout offers a handful of practical – if sometimes controversial – insights that will help you and your clients navigate this minefield.


Breakout B: Let’s Talk About…DEI – What’s Working, What’s Not
Malissa Wilson, Forman Watkins
Mary Kaczmarek, Skillful Means Marketing

Whether your firm is struggling to recruit and retain diverse attorneys or you’re wondering whether supporting DEI means feeling guilty about your success, this session is for you. Using an eye-opening, interactive activity as a springboard, we will explore how privilege and bias impact career opportunities and learn what other firms and legal departments have done to meaningfully impact DEI. We challenge you not to have at least three “ah-ha!” moments in this engaging session, where everyone will leave equipped with actionable steps to improve their firm’s DEI efforts.


Breakout C: Differentiating Yourself in a Saturated Legal Market
EJ Stern and Katherine Wilson, Fractional Law Firm CMO

 The market is filled with talented lawyers, so how do you cut through the noise and stand out from your peers?

In this interactive session, you will learn the fundamentals of branding and how to apply these concepts to develop your personal brand, including:

  • How to assess your current brand perceptions
  • Strategies to develop your personal vision statement
  • Techniques to create your personal brand pillars and key messaging
  • Best practices to amplify your brand on LinkedIn
  • Tools to integrate your messaging into every interaction
11:45a - 12:00p

Gather Lunch for Second Round of Breakouts

12:00p - 1:00p

Break-Out Sessions - Round 2

Breakout A: Let’s Talk About…Hosting a Successful Partner Retreat or Strategic Planning Session
Diane Averell, Porzio Bromberg & Newman
Joshua Metcalf, Forman Watkins
Amy Sorenson, Snell & Wilmer
Felice Wagner, The Trial Network

Business is booming, clients are happy, and employees are thriving, but will that always be the case? What if your firm is struggling in one or more of these areas? In this collaborative breakout, we’ll explore why regularly scheduled partner retreats and strategic planning sessions are critically important – and while doing so, how to maximize the return on investment of your time and resources.

We’ll consider:

  • Logistical considerations for partner retreats: location, duration, format, participants
  • Transforming your strategic plan from abstract to actionable
  • Tips for collaboration and buy-in across the firm: fellow partners, marketing, finance, operations, HR, IT, etc.
  • Monitoring progress and ROI


Breakout B: Recruiting and Retaining Talent in a Hybrid Work Environment
Moheeb Murray, Bush Seyferth
David Suchar, Maslon
Marcie Shunk, The Tilt Institute

Following a long stretch of remote work due to the pandemic, many firms have opted – or been pressured – to continue with some form of a hybrid work environment. However, this “new normal” presents unique challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent and preserving a firm’s culture.

This breakout will explore issues such as:

  • Recruiting: platforms, processes, and differentiators
  • Onboarding: policies, expectations, technology, and administrative resources
  • Employee engagement: meetings, communication, recognition, social opportunities, and incentives


Breakout C: Killer Presentations: Making the Most of Your Time at the Podium
Jill Leibold, IMS Consulting
Edd Schillay, The Trial Network
Kathryn Walker, Bass Berry & Sims

Speaking on the main stage is a tremendous opportunity to showcase your expertise and generate name recognition in the Network. In this session, hear from main-stage favorites and The Trial Network’s own Edd Schillay on how to leverage your time at the podium and ensure your presentation earns “Tops” ratings from the audience. Topics will include:

  • How to capture the PRC’s attention with your presentation proposal
  • Presentation dos and don’ts
  • Knowing your audience: leveraging attendee data
  • PowerPoint tips
  • Finishing strong: what to do after your presentation


Afternoon Recreation

1:30 - 5:00p

6:00p - 9:00p

Closing Night Reception and Dinner in the Ballroom Foyer