Deposition Workshop Slots Filling, New Journal, Legislative Update, and more... 

VADA Defense Line 


Happy New Year!  I hope you and your families had an enjoyable holiday season and are staying healthy and safe.

Our Board of Directors and Section leadership met at the Williamsburg Lodge on January 20 for our first Board meeting of the new year.  The VADA had a successful year in 2022 and we hope to see that success grow in 2023.

Our first meeting for 2023 will be the Deposition Workshop on March 3-4 at the University of Richmond. This interactive, two-day program is geared toward newer attorneys and will address navigation of commonplace issues such as a difficult opposing counsel, a lying deponent, experts, sympathetic and minor plaintiffs, and more. Day two will feature a breakout session with deposition role-playing and critique from senior attorneys. Space is limited, so register today on the meeting website.

Looking ahead, please plan on attending the Spring Sections Seminar, May 3-5, 2023 at Hotel 24 South in Staunton, and our Annual Meeting, October 25-27 at the Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Stay tuned to our website, Defense Line newsletter, and social media platforms for more information on all VADA happenings!

My sincere thanks once again to our Board of Directors, Section Chairs and Vice-Chairs, and all others who have volunteered your time and talents in service to the VADA. I encourage all members to get involved and maximize the extraordinary value this organization can bring to you. From our Wellness and Legislative Committees, to our Women’s Section, to our substantive practice group sections, there is truly something for everyone. I hope to see you at a VADA event soon!

Julie Palmer
VADA President, 2022-23

Limited Spots Remain - Register Today

March 3-4, 2023
Jepson Alumni Center at University of Richmond

This two-day workshop will teach you the skills needed to (1) face down a bullying senior plaintiffs’ attorney; (2) handle a lying deponent; (3) pull the information you need out of a reticent deponent; (4) ensure that what you discover in depositions is admissible in court; (5) use the latest in technology to build an air-tight case; (6) depose experts effectively; (7) handle sympathetic or minor deponents; and more!

The second day will be spent in four-person breakouts in which each new attorney will play the parts of deponent, defense attorney, plaintiffs’ attorney, and observer. At each stage of the depositions, senior coach-attorneys will critique performances and make suggestions.

Space is limited, so register today.

Mark your calendars now for our popular Spring Sections Seminar.  We will return to the popular Hotel 24 South (formerly the Stonewall Jackson) in Staunton for two days of litigation section-specific sessions, as well as many social events. 

Registration will open soon.


Did you know?  VADA’s outreach extends to four social media platforms!  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.  We also have two exclusive “Members-Only” groups: one on Facebook and one on LinkedIn.  There, you can access current legal news, state and local opinion digests, and other content available exclusively to VADA members.

Introducing the following additional members of VADA's Board of Directors for 2022-23! Beginning in the top row, from left to right, are: Director Emeritus, Audra Dickens of The Progressive Group in Richmond; Director Emeritus, Rachel Horvath of Smith Bain Manuel & Horvath LLP in Charlottesville; Director Emeritus, Daniel Sarrell of Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black in Roanoke; DRI State Representative, Past President John Mumford, Jr., of Hancock, Daniel & Johnson, P.C., in Richmond; Young Lawyers Chair, Alexandra "Allie" Hamm of Byrne Canaan Law in Richmond; and Legislative Chair, Patrick O'Grady of Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, LLP, in Midlothian.

We thank each of you for your leadership and
your service to VADA!

The VADA Board of Directors and Section leadership met January 20 in Williamsburg for our first quarterly meeting of the new year! Details on all we have planned for this year can be found on our website, in our Defense Line newsletter, and on our social media platforms!

The 2023 General Assembly session convened on January 11, ushering in a 45-day “short” session that is projected to end on February 25. As of the January 20 deadline, 2,333 bills have been filed.

Of the bills that have been filed, those that have been flagged for VADA’s review range in subject matter from civil procedure to medical malpractice, professional liability, and workers’ compensation, among many others. After Crossover Day on February 7, VADA’s leadership team will identify those bills that have passed one chamber that are most impactful to VADA’s members so that these priority bills can be closely tracked and monitored as session progresses.

VADA’s Lobby Day was held January 24, when VADA was in Richmond for our second annual Lobby Day at the Virginia General Assembly! Our sincere thanks to Delegates Dawn Adams, Les Adams, Jeff Bourne, Ellen Campbell, Karen Greenhalgh, Terry Kilgore, Jay Leftwich, Michelle Maldonado, Rip Sullivan, Vivian Watts, and Wren Williams, and Senators Jennifer Boysko, Mark Obenshain, Mark Peake, Bill Stanley, and Scott Surovell, who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with us. A special thanks to Delegate Les Adams, who, in addition to meeting with us, introduced us to the House of Delegates during the floor session! 

We had our first Informal Chat on January 10. Thank you to all who joined us as we chatted about triumphs and fails, and everything in between.

We are planning a section event at the Spring Meeting in Staunton. Watch your email for details.

Don't forget to join the VADA Women’s Section Listserv.  This Listserv is private and not connected to the VADA website.  Only members of the Women’s Section may request to join the Listserv, and Amy Gilbody and Sherma Mather have exclusive rights to add any current member to the Women’s Section. To join the Listserv, please email Sherma at or Amy at

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Be sure to bookmark VADA Upcoming Events so you don't miss out.


March 3-4
Deposition Workshop
University of Richmond

April 19
Southwest Region Networking Event

May 3-5
Spring Sections Seminar
Hotel 24 South, Staunton

June 1
Capitol Region Networking Event

TBD Summer 2023
Paralegal Seminar

October 25-27
Annual Meeting
Marriott Resort Virginia Beach Oceanfront

December 1
Young Lawyers Boot Camp

The Journal of Civil Litigation
Winter 2022 Edition

Do not miss the Winter 2022 edition of The Journal of Civil Litigation!  It includes six judicial opinions and three feature articles:

  • Judge Lannetti and Jennifer Eaton explore mentorship for lawyers, concluding that it “creates a sense of community and encourages civility because it demonstrates that we – as individual attorneys – are not alone.”
  • Raymond Escobar discusses the history, procedural process, limitations, and benefits of the no-fault Virginia Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program.
  • Karlo Goronja and Stewart Pollock examine liability and defenses for manufacturers in consumer modification and products liability cases, including what happens when truckers upgrade the turbo but not the electronic control unit.

Many thanks to Managing Editor, Molly Terry; Editor-in-Chief, Kent Sinclair; the Board of Editors; and Chair of the Board of Editors, John D. Eure for consistently producing such a quality journal. 

VADA members receive the Journal as a benefit of membership and can search current and past journals, including by keyword, on our website.

This Star City native loves to sing and practice law, perhaps in that order.  Her favorite thing about the practice of law?  Always moving forward!  For this and more on this month’s VADA Spotlighted Member, click here.

Missed A Webinar
or Meeting?

Did you know that many VADA Lunch & Learn webinars and online programs are available to watch on-demand? Click here to see the library of available content, which can be found in the members-only area of our website.

Dues renewals are underway! The first reminder for 2023 dues went out at the end of December – if you are unsure of your status, please contact Executive Director Sherma Mather at or Membership Chair Robyn Ayres at for more information.

Jeffrey Gaull
Wilson Elser

Nancy Goodiel
DeCaro Doran

Adolfo Lopez

Lindsay Powell
Wilson Elser

Stephen Rutigliano
Carr Maloney

Melissa Ryan
DeCaro Doran

Briana Stevens
Wharton Aldhizer Weaver

Anthony Tamburro
Setliff Law

Brendan D. O’Toole
Williams Mullen

Paying it forward this month is VADA member Brendan O’Toole of Williams Mullen in Richmond.  A graduate of Wake Forest University and the University of Richmond School of Law, Brendan focuses his practice on complex federal and state commercial litigation, with an emphasis on financial services, residential development and construction, mortgage disputes, and the defense of business tort and class action claims.  Outside of the office, he serves his community as a board member of Communities in Schools of Chesterfield (CIS), an organization utilizing public and private partnerships to provide prevention and intervention services to at-risk youth and their families in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  A cancer survivor, Brendan also participates with the Association for the Support of Children with Cancer (ASK), Young Adult Survivor’s Advisory Group.

Brendan further is active in the Virginia Redemption Project, which recruits, trains, and supports volunteers to assist individuals incarcerated in Virginia’s prisons to petition for post-sentencing relief and executive clemency.  In recognition of his work with the VRP, Koch Industries honored Brendan this past November with its 2022 Criminal Justice Pro Bono Award.  This Award honors individuals and organizations who have partnered with Koch to help remove barriers, restore lives, provide second chances, and strengthen communities.  Koch recognized Brendan for his efforts in securing a conditional pardon for Sincere Allah, a then-41-year-old African American man, who had served 23 years of an excessive and unfair 45-year prison sentence in a questionably handled case.  Through the tireless efforts of Brendan and members of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, former Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam granted a conditional pardon to Mr. Allah on January 12, 2022.

Thank you, Brendan, for giving so generously of your time and your talents on behalf of Mr. Allah!  Thank you, too, for paying it forward and making such a positive, real-world impact in our community!

Setting Goals in the New Year

Sophia Brasseux
Moran Reeves & Conn

As we enter 2023, many of us may be setting personal and professional goals for the year ahead.  Setting goals helps provide a sense of direction and purpose, and accomplishing goals provides a dopamine boost.  However, despite the best of intentions, at the close of each year, we may find that certain goals are left unmet.

There are a variety of reasons we might not accomplish the goals we set out for ourselves.  While some of those reasons are personal or situational, below are a few key reasons people do not meet their goals that all stem from the goal setting process:

  • The goal is not specific. Often, we set vague long-term goals for ourselves such as “working on my health,” or “finding more work/life balance.” However, this type of goal setting tends to be ineffective as the results are not specific. For example, what does it look like to achieve “work/life balance?”  This goal is ambiguous. For some, it might mean working flexible hours with ample time spent on personal pursuits.  For others, this may simply mean getting home from work before 7 p.m. on a regular basis. Without a clear vision of what you are aiming for, it is difficult to put together a plan to accomplish your goal or even determine whether your goal has been reached.  The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to develop a strategy and start taking action to achieve it.
  • The goal is not realistic.  Sometimes when goal setting, we set goals that are aspirational, but not necessarily realistic or attainable due to life circumstances, time, or other variables.  For example, someone who does not know how to swim and is afraid of water will likely not accomplish the goal of completing a triathlon within two months.  However, if that same person’s underlying intention is to overcome his or her fear of water, the goal of taking a swimming lesson is much more realistic and attainable.
  • The goal is not motivating.  Each January, gyms and fitness classes become filled to capacity.  However, by March, much of the January crowd has cleared out. Although many people start the year perhaps with the goal of going to the gym more often, few achieve this specific goal.  This is likely in large part because most of those people simply do not enjoy going to the gym.  Rather than setting a goal to accomplish an onerous task because you feel like you “have to”, be intentional and set a goal that you will enjoy accomplishing.  Think about your “why.” If you set the goal of going to the gym more but hate the gym, accomplishing that goal will just be more of something you hate.  In this scenario, there is no good “why” to help motivate you.  Instead, if the underlying intention or the “why” is to improve your overall health by staying active, maybe set the goal of trying a new fitness class once a month, taking a monthly long walk with a friend, or regularly engaging in some other activity you enjoy.

The examples above are focused on health and wellness; however, these principles can be applied to other personal or professional goals as well.  When thinking of your five- or even ten-year plan for your career, it is just as important to set specific and realistic goals you feel motivated to accomplish.  Otherwise, you might find yourself disappointed you did not achieve a vague lofty goal rather than appreciating and enjoying all your wonderful accomplishments along the way.

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    VADA’S Mission

    The mission of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys is to develop and support Virginia attorneys engaged in a civil defense practice in the professional and ethical representation of their clients through education, communication and fellowship.

    Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys
    1915 Huguenot Road, Ste. 301
    Richmond, VA  23235
    804-649-1002 |

    Executive Director: Sherma Mather
    Director of Meetings: Amy Gilbody
    Journal of Civil Litigation Managing EditorMolly Terry

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