The "VTLA Member Spotlight" is an opportunity to turn the spotlight on a member making an impact in the Association and the profession. These members exemplify the mission of VTLA and we are thrilled they're part of the VTLA Family!

If you are interested in being highlighted or nominating a colleague, please contact Courtney Hammack: chammack@vtla.com, or 804.343.1143 ext. 316.

Tillman Breckenridge                                                                                                                                 February 2017

Tillman J. Breckenridge
Bailey & Glasser
Washington DC

What kind of law do you practice?
I am an appellate and Supreme Court lawyer. That entails briefing and arguing cases on appeal all over the country in state and federal courts. But it also includes consulting on trials and other advice at the trial level. Thankfully, the key skills translate anywhere, so I am able to have both a national and a state practice. I also head the Appellate & Supreme Court clinic at the William and Mary Law School.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
1

Greatest benefit from being a member?
Easily getting to know a new group of great people. Since moving from a defense firm, I've met some truly nice and outstanding people at VTLA events. Everyone has been very welcoming and kind.

Where were you born?
Michigan -- Go Blue!

Favorite social media account or app?
Words With Friends

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
Boring answer, but it would only be a slight variant on where I am now. I wanted to be a lawyer since at least third grade, and even filled out the little career forms to try to have it come out as lawyer. I loved the idea of working to make the boundaries by which people interact fair for all. When I got a little older, I tried out a few other things. I was an EMT to see if I wanted to be a doctor. I looked into psychology and advertising. I always came back to law. I'm living my dream.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
Doing His Part

What was your first job?
Cook at Long John Silvers

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 16?
Find and get good value out of mentors. I know you're pathologically shy, and you have no basis for knowing this, but there are many people out there who can guide you along your way. It is best for you and everyone whose lives you will eventually affect to absorb as much as you can. You will get some bad, but well-intended advice along the way, and having good mentors can help prevent the negative effects. 

Best book you have ever read?
Gotz and Meyer by David Albahari

Music on your current playlist? 
Gangsta rap and musicals


Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I'm a bit of an energy nut. I read what I can get my hands on about new energy technologies (in my rare free moments with two jobs, a wife, and four young kids) with an eye toward someday affecting energy policy in a positive manner. It feeds the old math/science nerd in me that I'd abandoned after high school. I'm in love with the new molten salt reactor designs. The song I listen to on the way to oral argument might surprise a few people too, but I'll keep that out of print.

Mark Dix                                                                                                                                                       January 2017

Mark D. Dix
Cantor, Stoneburner, Ford, Grana & Buckner
Richmond

What kind of law do you practice?
Primarily personal injury, but I've always had civil rights (1983, police misconduct, jail cases) and employment as my niche practice areas, remnants from my days as an Assistant Corporation Counsel for the District of Columbia.

Where were you born?
Fairfax, Virginia

Favorite social media account or app?
Facebook

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
I'd work at NASA. Any job, doesn't matter. Well, except freeze-dried food tester; too many bad memories from trying the ice cream at the Air & Space Museum gift shop on field trips.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what would the title be?
There Is No Way That Actually Happened

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 16?
Be patient, take time to smell the roses. Try as many things as you can. As a teenager, I think I was too eager to grow up and be an adult, and a lawyer in particular; I fully blame "L.A. Law." Now, especially as a father of two amazing kids, I find myself trying to slow time down. 

What is your guilty pleasure?
Craft beers, enjoying Richmond's incredible dining scene with family and friends, binge-watching a TV series on Netflix, sleeping-in (never seems to happen), and playing video games on my PS4 (also, never seems to happen). 

Best book you have ever read?
Animal Farm


Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
Eight years ago (and most definitely before kids!), I was looking for something challenging to undertake in my spare time, so I became a volunteer firefighter and EMT for Chesterfield County. It was a lengthy process, the same required of career firefighters, entailing several hundred hours on nights and weekends over 9 months. I worked my way up to engine driver, and am now an Acting Lieutenant. I also love live music, and have a love/hate relationship with sweet potatoes.

Do you have any pets?
Yes, an incredibly sweet, 9 year old rescue pitbull mix

Music on your current playlist? 
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Young the Giant

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?

Albert Einstein, so that hopefully someone can finally explain to me his theory of relativity in a way that will stick. Multiple attempts, including taking Astronomy and Cosmology classes at William & Mary, have all failed.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

Finally, an easy question! Safari in Africa, or anywhere in South America.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
9

Greatest benefit from being a member?
Camaraderie, hands down. I came to VTLA with a unique perspective, having previously worked as a defense lawyer for a number of years, and an active member of several defense bar associations. You just cannot place VTLA in the same category as the organizations of which I had been a member. The mutual respect, friendship, the willingness to help one another, especially in times of need, is unparalleled. I've heard VTLA described as the state's largest law firm; I'm a firm believer in that. 

Amy Whitelaw                                                                                                                                           December 2016

Amy S. Whitelaw
Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen
Richmond

What kind of law do you practice?
Personal injury. Helping people who have been hurt is really rewarding.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
1

Greatest benefit from being a member?
The greatest benefit I've received from being a VTLA member is getting to learn from everybody else. Even just reading messages on the listserv has taught me so much. There's a huge wealth of information in VTLA and it's membership is it's greatest resource.

Where were you born?
Buffalo, New York

Favorite social media account or app?
Feedly. It's how I keep up on all of my blogs.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I've been a musician since I was 7 years old. I started out by playing piano and then moved over to drums, xylophone and marimba. I played in the school band as a child and joined the pep band in college. We played at Women's Volleyball and Men's and Women's Basketball games and I even traveled with the Men's Basketball Team to the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia one year.

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 16?
You're going to get to do exactly what you've always wanted to, just have a little patience.

What is your guilty pleasure?
HGTV. I'm always watching Property Brothers or Flip or Flop or Fixer Upper and pointing things out to my husband that I'd like to do. He likes to remind me I am not handy in the least and that I'd have to hire somebody to do the work, no matter what fantasies I may entertain about being able to tear down walls and lay down flooring.

Best book you have ever read?
And Then There Were None

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
I'd love to visit Palau. It's supposed to be a beautiful little country and there's even this lake where the jellyfish have lost their ability to sting, so you can actually snorkel with them and not get hurt. 

Kevin Duffan                                                                                                                                                                    November 2016

Kevin M. Duffan
Shapiro, Appleton & Duffan, PC
Virginia Beach

What kind of law do you practice?
Plaintiff's personal injury and medical malpractice.

Where were you born?
Washington DC, but have lived in Virginia Beach since I was 3 years old.

What was your first job?
Bookstore stocker at a local community college.

Music on your current playlist?
A lot of 90s hip hop and alternative rock.

Do you have any pets?
One 10 year old Cockapoo named Nugget.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I can get lost for hours on YouTube watching up-and-coming singers cover songs of famous artists. I remember seeing people like Justin Bieber and Christine Grimmie (RIP) on there long before they were famous. 

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
I'd be a broker/purchasing agent for an exotic car dealership. I love sports cars! That, or I'd run for elected office of some sort (local, not national). 

Best book you have ever read?
Hard to pick a best ever, but I really enjoyed "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" which I just read.

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?
Colin Powell. Despite all of the hot-button issues he's been involved with (the selling of the Iraq war to the public chief among those), I did a biography report on him for my AP Journalism class in High School and have admired him for a long time.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Australia. But I'd need to be there a month or longer to truly experience it.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
6

Greatest benefit from being a member?
My comments will not be unique here, but VTLA is an incredible resource for any trial attorney practicing in Virginia. I have found the listserv to be wonderfully helpful when researching a topic or issue that I have not encountered in my practice, and the camaraderie shared with other VTLA members is an added bonus. 

Tom Albro                                                                                                                                                                             October 2016

Thomas E. Albro
Tremblay & Smith, PLLC
Charlottesville

What kind of law do you practice?
Civil litigation with a concentration in medical and legal malpractice, defamation, personal injury and eminent domain.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
41

Greatest benefit from being a member?
The friendship of colleagues and the opportunity to share information with them have been major benefits. I also value the opportunity to improve our justice system through VTLA's efforts. It has been gratifying to work with so many outstanding professionals who are willing to share their expertise and give freely of their time.

Where were you born?
Brooklyn, NY

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 16?

No one ever got wheeled into the funeral home thinking "I should have spent more time at the office!" Learn to relax and take it easy.

What was your first job?
Summer job in high school working in a textile factory.

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I own and attempt to maintain a 1956 Buick Special convertible and a 1960 MGA. Also, last year I decided to start taking piano lessons- it's humbling but has been worth the effort. 

Do you have any pets?
A Brittany Spaniel

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
A fighter pilot 

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?
H.L. Mencken for his wit, sarcasm and intellect; Barry Goldwater for his observations on American politics; and Clarence Darrow for his war stories.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Southern Germany where my ancestors are from

Molly Garrett                                                                                                                                                                   September 2016

Molly Garrett
ShounBach
Fairfax

What kind of law do you practice?
I practice family law, including everything from adoptions, custody and visitation, support matters, equitable distribution and divorce.

Where were you born?
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Do you have any pets?
Unfortunately not presently, but I have had Briards (French sheepdogs) for 20 years and hope to have another in my life very soon.

Title of the last book you read?
All Fall Down by Jennifer Werner

What was your first job?
Working in a discount clothing store called Gabriel's in high school in Pittsburgh, PA.

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?
iPhone (and charger); tweezers; sunscreen

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
I would love to work in animal conservation and rescue on a large scale along the lines of the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand or the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Africa. I would also love to write travel and activity guides so that I could travel all over the world and participate and witness amazing things and my only responsibility would be fully engaged in the environment so that I could then share my thoughts and suggestions. Anything with animals and travel would be ideal. 

What is one random fact about yourself that no one else would believe?
That I used to love riding dirt bikes as a little girl and was the only female member of YMCA Indian Guides and was highly offended at the concept of my having to be an Indian Princess or Brownie instead. 

Guilty Pleasure? What can you not live without
Half sweet iced tea and my iPhone

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?
My dinner party would consist of Frieda Kahlo, Louis Armstrong, Condoleezza Rice, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Barack and Michelle Obama, Janice Joplin, Jane Goodall, Steve Jobs, my late grandmother, Arlene Duffy, my mom and a couple of close friends. It would be amazing. 

Describe your most embarrassing moment.
There have been quite a few personally, but since this is for VTLA, my most embarrassing moment professionally was getting WAY to casual with a Judge in his chambers when I was a young attorney and jokingly comparing his comments/demeanor in chambers to a person on a reality TV show called King of Cars, which could, and perhaps was interpreted as less than complimentary. Thankfully, I do not think that this particular judge remembers this incident and I have artfully chosen to forget it as well.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Definitely South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
5

Greatest benefit from being a member?
There are in my opinion three really great benefits of being a VTLA member. As a member you have the chance to meet so many other really good attorneys; you almost have an instant network. Along those lines, the VTLA Family Law List serve is an enormous resource for any one who practices family law, the participants on the listserve are the who's who of family law and are happy to help you tackle unique or special issues. Thirdly is the great educational programs that the VTLA sponsors each year.

Cory Ford                                                                                                                                                            July 2016

Cory R. Ford
WillliamsFord
Leesburg

What kind of law do you practice?
Wrongful death, personal injury, and medical malpractice. 

Where were you born?
Phoenix, Arizona

Do you have any pets?
Rosco. 50% Basset, 50% Beagle. 100% awesome.

Title of the last book you read?
Herobrine: Revenge of a Monster (to my 7 year old).

What was your first job?
Washing dishes when I was 14. Technically, I had a paper route before that but it was a part time gig.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
8

Greatest benefit from being a member?
Community. Lawyers tend to try to think of everything on their own, which can be a huge mistake. The best part of VTLA is being able to ask another member his or her opinion, and gain from their experience. It's a great organization that supports its members, who also support each other. The listserve is the online version of what you can do in person, just go up to a VTLA member and ask them for help, advice, or an opinion.

What is one random fact about yourself that no one else would believe?
I'm told I'm a distant relative of George Washington on my grandmother's side but I don't know if I believe that, either. Having heard tall tales before, I kind of figured my ancestral link to King Arthur would soon follow. 

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?
A fishing rod, bait, matches. This is assuming "things" don't include people, in which case I'd bring my wife and two sons...assuming further that by bringing them we wouldn't all watch each other starve to death, in which case it's back to fishing rod, bait, and matches. 

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
Delivery driver for Yellowstone National Park. It's absolutely beautiful there, I'd love to just drive around it all day. Plus delivery people are like Santa, they bring packages and everyone is happy to see them and get their stuff. Who doesn't like to get stuff? It's a win-win. You also don't have to pay for the gas.

Guilty Pleasure? What can you not live without?
Flying. I am a pilot and I love to fly. 

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?

Anyone who could threaten, cajole, incentivize, convince, or inspire my kids to actually eat their dinner, particularly my four year old Wyatt who resists anything that isn't bread. So any dead or alive motivational speaker or exceptionally inspiring nutritionist, I suppose. Prefer living one though.

Describe your most embarrassing moment.
Truly, as I get older I discover more and more that there's simply no time in life to be embarrassed. Laughing about your own stupidity is the cure to embarrassment. I laugh at myself a lot. 

Jonathan Wren                                                                                                                                          December 2015

Jonathan Timbrell Wren
MartinWren, PC
Charlottesville

What kind of law do you practice?
The majority of my practice is plaintiff's personal injury. I handle all kinds of injury cases - the weirder the better. I also maintain an active adoption practice and take on miscellaneous general civil litigation matters like the occasional estate litigation case or landlord tenant case. I also represent the County of Albemarle doing their tax collection via judicial sale work. I hope to soon represent Charlottesville doing the same work.

Where were you born?
Washington D.C.

Do you have any pets?
Yes. 1 dog. 1 cat. 1 gecko named GEICO. And 10 chickens.

Title of the last book you read?
I am currently working my way through The Broken Empire trilogy. I like historical fiction like the books by Bernard Cornwell. The Broken Empire is more fantasy than fiction, but I am still enjoying it.

What was your first job?
My first steady job for money was during the summer after my first year in college. I worked as a "park ranger" in Arlington County. My uniform was hilarious.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
20

Greatest benefit from being a member?
In the beginning, it was the CLE that drew me to VTLA. The CLE still rocks, but now the greatest benefit is the personal relationships that I have formed and maintained with other VTLA members. Today, I most value the lasting friendships, informal collaboration, and sense of team that have grown out of and pervade my VTLA experience. I can't imagine practicing law and not being a VTLA member.

What is one random fact about yourself that no one else would believe?
I ran my first Spartan race last year - and I'm going to do it again this year. I loved it.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
I would like to see and experience more of natural North America. I would especially like to spend more time fly fishing around the country.

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?
Assuming I couldn't bring my family, I would bring a
snorkel; a fishing rod; and my clawhammer banjo.


If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
Something to do with soccer. If there was a professional 0-40 league, I would do that. But more likely, I would coach and train youth teams full time. Or maybe try to become a professional ref. Or maybe represent young players wanting to play professionally. 

Guilty Pleasure? What can you not live without?
My one and only true love - my wife.

Lauren Ellerman                                                                                                                                      November 2015

Lauren M. Ellerman
Frith & Ellerman Law Firm, PC
Roanoke

Where were you born?
Manassas Virginia (back when Prince William County was farmland!)

Title of the last book you read?
One Thousand Gifts (about being grateful for the little things)

What was your first job?
Einstein Bagel Employee in HS

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
12

Greatest benefit from being a member?
Meeting other plaintiff lawyers and sharing experiences, ideas, documents, stories.

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?
My grandfather. He was my first and best cheerleader. He graduated from William and Mary in 1932, in the middle of the depression. He raised a wonderful family, read the Washington Post cover to cover every day, was an inventor and wonderful person. I miss him. 

What is one random fact about yourself that no one else would believe?
I can't keep presents I am giving a secret. Even now, about a week before a holiday I am asking my husband whether he wants to know what I got him early - or whether he wants to open his Christmas present a week before. He has will power and always declines. It drives me nuts!

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
France.

If you were on an island and could only bring 3 things, what would you bring?
I suppose things mean things and not people. My journal. A tent. A pony-tail holder.


Describe your most embarrassing moment.
I have tripped in more than one Courtroom across Virginia. I am short and try to wear heels, but never gracefully.

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
I love my job. I wouldn't change my job. Maybe I would hire a few more experts if money wasn't an issue, but I wouldn't change my job. I might also purchase better hold music for our firm's phone system, or buy a cappuccino maker for the office kitchen... but no job change. 

Gobind Sethi                                                                                                                                                    June 2015

Gobind S. Sethi
Hall & Sethi, PLC
Reston

Where were you born?
Chandigarh, India

Title of the last book you read?
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

What was your first job?
Summer construction work when I was in high school.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
7

Greatest benefit from being a member?
Receiving advice from the exceptional members of VTLA when an issue arises in a case I am handling and I could benefit from a second or third opinion.  

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?
My paternal great-grandfather. He died before I was born. There is a lot I would like to know about my family history going back into the 19th century that only he knew.

What is one random fact about yourself that no one else would believe?
I was never enrolled in 6th grade.

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
Depends on my mood. Some days I crave for Hawaii and clear waters, especially when I have had a long day. Other times I would like to go to Berlin, Germany. It is supposed to be an edgy city with great modern history.

Rob Dean                                                                                                                                                         March 2015

Robert E. Dean
Gentry, Locke, Rakes & Moore
Roanoke

Where were you born?
Michigan 

Title of the last book you read?
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
3

Greatest benefit from being a member?
The greatest benefit, by far, of joining the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association is the opportunity to learn from veteran trial lawyers around the state. There are so many opportunities for mentorship: the VTLA email listserv, the VTLA annual convention, and the fall seminars. As a new trial lawyer, it has been an incredible resource.  


What was your first job?
Newspaper Route

If you were on an island and could only bring three things?
My wife, Jennifer, an immigration lawyer in Roanoke, and our four-month-old daughter, Elena, will be on the island with me. Our daughter tends to get fussy, except when we put on Winnie the Pooh, the original version, so we'd have to bring along a DVD player. My wife loves to read, so if a sack of books from the library counts as "one thing," we'll bring it. Finally, as most VTLA members know, I'm never without my iPad. Here's hoping for 4G coverage on the island. 

Julie Gerock                                                                                                                                                 February 2015

Julie C. Gerock
Maddox & Gerock, PC
Vienna

Where were you born?
Melrose, Massachusetts 

Title of the last book you read?
H20 (a teen novel I am screening before I let my daughter read it)

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
There are lots of places I have never been so narrowing this down is not easy. If I must narrow it down, then I would have to say Alaska. I love sea life and would love to go on an Alaskan cruise.

What was your first job?
Grocery store bagger


If you were on an island and could only bring three things?
Assuming it were a tropical island, I would bring drinking water, sunscreen, and a journal with a pen. Hopefully the pen would not count as a 4th item! 

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
5

Greatest benefit from being a member?
The greatest benefit I have received is the relationships that I have developed with other attorneys around the state, both within my area of practice (family law) and outside my area of practice. This has had tremendous benefit for my clients who need legal assistance in other areas of the law as I now have trusted attorneys with whom I have personal relationships that I can confidently refer my clients to.  

If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner (living or dead), who would you invite and why?
My maternal grandmother. She died when I was about 12 years old. I was very close to her and despite my young age when she died, her impact on my life before then was significant and lasting. As a young girl and adult, I often would ask myself before making decisions what my Nana would think of the situation as she was a woman of strength who managed to persevere and provide for her family after her husband left her with three young children including a son who was deaf.

One random fact about yourself that no one would believe?
Where to begin? I was on the dance team for the University of Miami and was on the field for the Orange Bowl in 1991 and the Sugar Bowl in 1992.

If money wasn't an issue, what would your dream job be?
I would either be a dance instructor or a high school teacher. I grew up dancing and dance played such a large role in my life. It gave me poise, confidence and it taught me about perseverance and being able to take constructive criticism. With respect to being a high school teacher, I minored in secondary education and one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had was when I student taught for a semester at a high school in Miami, Florida.

Describe your most embarrassing moment.
There are so many. A legal one I remember is when I was trying to use the idiom "nip it in the bud" but unfortunately, I thought the idiom was "nip it in the butt" which I then actually wrote in a letter. I still laugh about that one!

Brody Reid                                                                                                                                                    January 2015

Brody H. Reid
ReidGoodwin PLC
Richmond

Where were you born?
Richmond

Title of the last book you read?
Code of Virginia

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
New Zealand. Given the length of the flight, I would need at least a month away from the office. I lived in London after college and played rugby with the "London Kiwis". My teammates couldn't stop talking about how amazing things were back home - culture, landscape, and sport.

What was your first job?
Soccer Referee

One random fact about yourself that no one would believe?
While I am a huge fan of food, I won't eat raw apples. No idea why, just can't stand them.

How many years have you been a VTLA member?
7

Greatest benefit from being a member?
VTLA membership has a ton of benefits, but I think the greatest benefit I receive is the access to brainstorm and get answers from other VTLA members from the list serve or by simply calling a fellow member from the directory. Our firm is very small compared to some of these multi-state or national defense firms, so being able to pool experiences about issues or get another point of view on a particular issue in a case is invaluable and allows us to level the playing field for our clients.

If you were on an island and could only bring three things?
Great question. Other than the practical (satellite phone, desalination kit, and solar powered RV), I would probably bring a hammock, radio, and scuba gear. Can't think of three better ways to pass the time on an island.

Describe your most embarrassing moment.
Other than being asked to share my most embarrassing moment with the whole internet you mean? Seriously - can I plead the fifth?