HUNTINGTON -- Earlier this month, Marc Williams concluded a "challenging" year as president of the largest international organization of civil defense attorneys.
At the group's annual meeting in Chicago, the Huntington attorney turned over the control of DRI to new president Cary E. Hiltgen of Oklahoma City, Okla.
"It was a challenging year because of the economy," said Williams, a partner at Huddleston Bolen. "There was so much uncertainty. After I took office in October 2008, within 30 days, the economy craters, the stock market crashes, financial institutions were going out of business. We didn't know what to expect. We didn't know whether our seminar attendance and membership numbers would decrease."
But Williams said years of planning paid dividends for the group.
"In the last 5-6 years when we were setting these membership and attendance records, we were setting aside money in, essentially, a rainy day fund," he said. "We didn't know when we'd need some money. We were able to invest in some things to help us get through it.
"We changed our message to our members to emphasize that even though the economy was weak, this was not the time to back off of involvement in DRI. It is a good way to battle a bad economy because of the business and networking opportunities. And that resonated with our members. Our membership numbers stayed pretty steady."
In fact, Williams said last week's annual meeting in Chicago set a record for attendance.
DRI is the international organization of attorneys defending the interests of business and individuals in civil litigation. The group provides numerous educational and informational resources to members and offers many opportunities for liaison among defense trial lawyers, corporate America, and state and local defense organizations.
DRI also has an international presence, seeking to enhance understanding of the law among members of the defense community who have reason to be concerned with the expanding globalization of litigation defense.
Williams said he thinks he helped meet some of the group's goals in the past year.
"We wanted to increase and enhance our presence, increase the visibility of our brand," he said. "That's an ongoing issue. I think we've been successful. We've been making web presence stronger, increasing amicus efforts at the United States Supreme Court, becoming more technology advanced. We're doing some web-based seminars that let
us cover more discreet topics."
For now, Williams is still a DRI officeholder as immediate past president. And for six years, he will serve as a senior advisor. That includes three years on the nominating committee to select new officers.
"It's been the best opportunity of my professional life to work in an international organization such as DRI," Williams said. "We've been expanding our reach into all kinds of areas of civil litigation. DRI is a true leader and voice for lawyers in the defense of civil litigation."
Williams also noted that DRI is beginning to celebrate its 50th anniversary, and Williams said he is the second West Virginian to be DRI. The first was Stanley Morris, a Charleston attorney who was at Steptoe & Johnson. He was DRI's first president.
"So, it's kind of come full circle," Williams said.
Williams is a trial lawyer with a complex litigation practice. He has had primary responsibility for more than 100 jury trials and appeals in both state and federal courts. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America in eight categories and by Chambers USA in Band One (highest designation) in the area of Commercial Litigation. He also has been designated as a West Virginia SuperLawyer. He is rated AV by Martindale Hubbell.