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Nov 15, 2017

DRI Membership: It’s Personal

By Courtney Presthus

My entire life I have sought to be a leader in whatever endeavor I take up. Heck, I even have a minor in “Leadership Studies” (I bet you didn’t know that was a thing). My career goals were no exception to this rule. Early in my legal career, I knew I wanted to be a civil litigator. The more cases I worked on, the more I realized that I have a proclivity towards the defense side of the aisle. True to my nature, I immediately began seeking out ways to be a top civil defense litigator in my home state of North Dakota. Of course, when most people think of tough litigators and catastrophic civil cases, a small town North Dakota courtroom doesn’t typically come to mind. My state has a small bar and an even smaller community of civil defense litigators. My challenge then became, “How can I stay at the cutting edge of the legal field while still serving the state that I love?” Enter DRI.

Thankfully, my private practice firm of Ebeltoft . Sickler . Lawyers PLLC was already involved in DRI when I came on board. Our managing partner, Randall Sickler, and former president, Paul Ebeltoft, encouraged me to become a member. I agreed and jumped in head first when I attended my first conference, the Annual Meeting in Chicago, back in 2013. I can vividly recall arriving at the meeting and being instantly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the conference center, the sheer volume of participants, and of course, the fact that a shy 20-something from small town North Dakota was now setting sail in a sea of black and grey suits in which I knew absolutely no one. My very first night at the conference, I swallowed my fears and resolved to stroll down to the welcome social, even though my inner homebody was begging to stay in the room and order a deep dish pizza. Little did I know, five minutes later I would be chatting with a fellow trial attorney on the escalator, a long-time DRI member who took me under his wing and introduced me to over a dozen peope that night, including then DRI President-Elect Laura Proctor. Maybe it was because I looked like a lost associate in the big city, maybe it was because almost everyone I spoke with that night had “never met someone from North Dakota before,” or maybe it was just that networking at DRI was just that easy, but each and every person I met was so welcoming and friendly. From that point forward, all of my new girl fears were gone, and I was officially on my way to reaching my goals.

After that conference, it didn’t take long before I was on several substantive law committees in DRI and had attended several practice area specific conferences. In 2014, I was fortunate enough to take over as the North Dakota State Representative for DRI, and to say that serving in that capacity has opened doors for me would be an understatement. As a state rep, I work with some of the most experienced and respected lawyers in the country on a regular basis, and I attend multiple leadership meetings every year in an attempt to give a little back to the organization that has served me so well.

San Diego, Boston, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C., are just a few of my favorite places that I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to with DRI, and at each of those places I’ve brought home new friendships and litigation skills that set my practice apart from others in my bar. I serve insurance companies all across the country and have worked with attorneys from numerous states. DRI has brought my practice innovation and connections. It has also brought me confidence in my own ability. Now, when I’m at a conference and hear “I’ve never met someone from North Dakota before,” I smile, because I know that if that person has a client or legal issue in my state, they are going to reach into their mental directory of all the North Dakota lawyers they know and

Courtney Presthus is an attorney with Ebeltoft . Sickler . Lawyers PLLC in Dickinson, North Dakota, where she is a member of the firm’s Litigation Solutions Team. Her practice maintains an emphasis on insurance defense litigation and medical malpractice defense litigation. She is an active member of DRI, serving as the DRI North Dakota State Representative and on the steering committee of the DRI Trial Tactics Committee.