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Nov 30, -0001

DRI Membership: It’s Personal

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 call…me.

■■ 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