Young Lawyers Committee

 

~The LADC Young Lawyers Committee is where new lawyers get to know one another, and network with experienced professionals.~

In 2014 the LADC Board of Directors mandated and formed the Young Lawyers Committee in order to provide more participatory opportunities for young lawyer members. The Association concluded that young lawyers need their own committee to determine ways in which to increase their roles.  Since that time, the roles of young lawyers in participating and governing have increased through communication between the YL Committee, the LADC Board, and initiatives started by the YL Committee and supported by the Board. 

The YL Committee is now a standing Committee provided for in the LADC bylaws.  Young lawyers speak at almost all LADC seminars, write columns for the LADC monthly newsletter, and organize their own mini-seminars.  These activities provide an excellent opportunity for young lawyers to get exposure in their field of interest. Perhaps the crown jewel of YL Committee initiatives has been the annual LADC Board and Young Lawyers Awards Dinner, at which the Frank L. Maraist and Young Lawyers Committee Member of the Year awards are presented. The lifeblood of an organization is in developing its younger members.  The LADC is grateful for the work of the Young Lawyers Committee.

The Committee is chaired by Dianna Duffy Willem. Committee members serve a three year term except for at large members.  We thank our committee members who have completed their terms for their faithful service.

If you are interested in serving on the Committee or in assisting with any of the activities of the Committee, please contact the LADC at [email protected].


 

Chair

Dianna Duffy Willem (District 5) --  Hebbler & Giordano

Dianna Duffy Willem was born and raised in the Greater New Orleans area and has been practicing law since 2015. She joined the firm as an Associate Attorney in May 2018, and became a Partner in June 2023. Her practice focuses on litigation of matters involving automobile liability, insurance defense, and insurance coverage. Ms. Willem is the current Chair of the Young Lawyers Committee of the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel. She is also a member of the Jefferson Bar Association and Louisiana State Bar Association. She is admitted to practice before all Louisiana state and federal courts. Ms. Willem is a graduate of Mount Carmel Academy in New Orleans. She then attended The University of Alabama where she graduated in May 2010 with Bachelors of Arts in Musical Theatre and Public Relations. She received her Juris Doctorate in 2015 from Loyola University of New Orleans College of Law. While at Loyola, Ms. Willem served as President of the Student Bar Association, and was a member of Moot Court and Maritime Law Journal. Outside of the office, Ms. Willem enjoys spending time with her husband and their two children.

 

 

District 1

Matt Smith -- Kean Miller -- Committee Member

Matt Smith is a partner in the Baton Rouge office of Kean Miller. He joined the firm in 2013 and practices in the commercial litigation, toxic tort defense, and environmental litigation groups. His work focuses on the representation of oil and gas exploration and production companies, mid-stream companies, and other industry companies in various litigation matters including property damage and contamination, property rights, and commercial and contractual disputes. Matt earned his B.A, summa cum laude, from Louisiana State University in 2009. He earned his J.D., magna cum laude, from the LSU Law Center in 2013, where he was a member of the Moot Court Board and the Order of the Coif.

 

Forrest E. Guedry -- Kean Miller -- Practice Group Liaison (Insurance, Construction and Commercial)

Picture of Forrest E. Guedry Forrest Guedry is an associate in the Baton Rouge office of Kean Miller. He joined the firm in 2018 and practices in the casualty and mass tort litigation group. Forrest has represented national retail establishments, international restaurant chains, local contractors, municipalities, business owners, employers, and landlords in the defense of premise liability matters, personal injury lawsuits, contract disputes, defense of workers compensation claims, and eviction proceedings.  Prior to joining the firm, Forrest practiced insurance and worker’s compensation defense in Lafayette, Louisiana.

 

Stephen J. Eckholdt -- Galloway Law Firm  -- Committee Member

Stephen Eckholdt is a Director in the Mandeville office of Galloway Johnson Tompkins Burr & Smith. He focuses his practice on defense litigation that includes the areas of transportation and trucking, premises liability, first and third-party personal injury, insurance coverage, and contractual liability. Stephen earned his undergraduate degree at Louisiana State University and received his J.D. from the Louisiana State University Law Center.

 

 

Thomas C. Naquin -- Bienvenu Bonnecaze Foco Viator -- Membership Chair, Practice Group Liaison (Environmental)


Thomas C. Naquin is a litigator who joined Bienvenu Bonnecaze in 2019.  He practices in a number of areas, including general litigation, construction disputes, personal injury, products liability, premises liability, property damage, toxic tort, asbestos, occupational disease litigation, and contractual defense and indemnity.  Thomas also has experience with master service agreements with a focus on risk, loss allocation, indemnity, and insurance.  Thomas graduated Order of the Coif from Louisiana State University law school in 2019 where he was a member of the Louisiana Law Review.


 

 


 

 

District 2

Erica M. Ducoing -- Thomas, Soileau, Jackson & Cole, LLP -- Communications Chair

 Erica M. Ducoing joined Thomas, Soileau, Jackson & Cole, L.L.P. as an attorney in 2019 after serving as a law clerk to Louisiana’s 26th Judicial District Court. Ms. Ducoing is a civil litigator practicing primarily in the areas of insurance defense, workers’ compensation, and personal injury. She received her Bachelor of Science from Louisiana State University and her Juris Doctor and Graduate Degree in Comparative Law from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University. During law school, Ms. Ducoing served on the Trial Advocacy Board, earned her certification as a Qualified Child Custody and Visitation Mediator, and was heavily involved in the Public Interest Law Society, earning over 100 hours of pro bono service.

 

Luke Whetstone -- Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway -- Committee Member

Luke Whetstone is an associate attorney with Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway.  He joined the firm in 2018 and primarily represents and advises corporate and insurance clients in civil litigation matters.  He received his law degree from the LSU Law Center, where he was selected to the Moot Court Board.  Luke is an active member of the bar and has served in various capacities, including President of the Shreveport Bar Association – Young Lawyers Section.

 

 

 

 

Joseph B. Odom -- Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway - Committee Member

Mr. Odom received his Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana Tech University.  Mr. Odom received his Juris Doctorate and Graduate Degree in Comparative Law from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University.  Prior to attending law school, Mr. Odom served in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and completed two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the rank of a Sergeant while serving in the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment.  Mr. Odom was honorably discharged from service in March 2013.

 

 

 

 

District 3

Jared Nelson, Liskow & Lewis -- Secretary, Practice Group Liaison (Environmental)

Jared Elijah-Akeem Nelson is an Associate in the Lafayette office of Liskow & Lewis, APLC, where he practices in areas of Energy and Environmental litigation. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Government from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia (2008); Master in Public Administration from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (2010); and his Juris Doctor from the Southern University Law Center, cum laude, (2018). He was admitted to practice in Louisiana in 2018. Prior to joining the law firm, he served as an Assistant Attorney General for the Louisiana Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, handling torts and civil rights litigation for the State of Louisiana. Prior to practicing law, he served as a Probation and Parole Officer for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Division of Probation and Parole, for seven years. Jared has a passion for serving the community, the profession and the bar and exemplifies this through his service on numerous organizations and committees. Jared currently serves on the following committees and organizations: Louisiana State Bar Association’s (LSBA) House of Delegates, representing the 15th Judicial District; District 3 Representative on the LSBA Young Lawyers Division Council; LSBA Diversity and Criminal Justice Committees; Institute of Energy Law, (IEL) Young Professionals’ Committee (YEP), Law Student Outreach Vice Chair, IEL YEP Programs Subcommittee Co- Vice Chair; and the Lafayette Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section. Jared was a member of the 2019-20 Leadership LSBA Class, Co-Chair of the 2020-21 Leadership LSBA Class, 2021-2022 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinders Program and the 2022-23 IEL Leadership Class. As a result of his continued involvement with the bar association and various legal organizations, Jared has been recognized for continued excellence in the profession. He was awarded Liskow & Lewis’s Diversity Champion Award, which recognizes an attorney who makes substantial contributions to the advancement of diversity within the firm. Additional awards and recognition includes being selected by the National Black Lawyers Association as a Top 40 under 40 Lawyer in the State of Louisiana in 2020-2023; being selected by the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel and Young Lawyers Committee as the 2022 Frank L. Maraist Award Recipient, which is awarded to a young lawyer who demonstrates professional excellence, service to the legal profession and the bar, commitment to pro bono work and community service, and contributions to furthering the ideals of the legal profession; being selected by the Louisiana Super Lawyers as a 2023 Rising Star; and being selected by his peers to be included in Acadiana Profile Magazine’s 2023 Top Lawyer listing for Acadiana. In his community, Jared is a lector at St. Benedict DeMoor Church in Duson. He is also a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. He and his wife, Joelle Mary Nixon, have been married for ten years and are the parents of one child.

 

Clare Roubion, Louisiana Legal Ethics, LLC -- Social/Special Events Chair

Clare Roubion graduated cum laude from Louisiana State University in 2011, and magna cum laude from Louisiana State University Law Center in 2014, where she was inducted into Order of the Coif and served as a member of the LSU Law Review.

 

 

 

Allison Johnson, Gold Weams -- Committee Member

Ms. Johnson joined Gold Weems in 2015, and is a Shareholder of the Firm.  Before joining Gold Weems, Allison had the privilege of clerking for the Honorable Leslie H. Southwick, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Allison received her B.A. in Political Science, magna cum laude, in 2009 from Centenary College and her J.D., summa cum laude, in 2014 from Mississippi College School of Law – graduating first in her class.  In law school, Allison was the Chief Executive Editor of the Mississippi College Law Review, a member of the Moot Court Board, and received the best paper award (given for achieving the highest grade in the class) in 18 classes.

 

Alex Mouhot, Stockwell Sievert -- Practice Group Liaison (Medical Malpractice)

Alex Edward Mouhot was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana on September 21, 1991. He grew up there, graduating from Alfred M. Barbe High School in 2009. Alex received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts, with a concentration in Disaster Science & Management, from Louisiana State University in 2013. In May 2017, he received his Juris Doctor and Diploma in Comparative Law from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU, graduating cum laude. While at LSU Law, Alex served as a member of the Ethics Committee. He was also a member of the LSU Journal of Energy Law & Resources, serving as Senior Editor his final year, and was a recipient of the CALI award in Federal Courts (an award granted to the student with the highest grade in a respective class). In his spare time, Alex enjoys cheering on the LSU Tigers, traveling, running, playing various sports, and spending time with family and friends.

 

 

District 4

Katelyn W. Harrell, Jackson Lewis P.C. -- Practice Group Liaison (Labor and Employment)

Katelyn is an associate at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP. She is a member of the firm’s Class Action and Mass Torts and ERISA and ESOP Class Action Teams. Katelyn’s practice focuses on defending employers, plan sponsors, plan administrators, individual fiduciaries, and independent trust companies against fiduciary claims in ESOP cases. Katelyn has represented ESOP clients in Department of Labor investigations and litigation, as well as class action litigation brought by private plaintiffs. Recently, Katelyn served as second chair in an ESOP class action trial.

In addition to litigating ERISA-based claims, Katelyn also handles general employment litigation and counseling on preventative strategies in employment matters, and defense of management in labor arbitrations. She has represented employers in Family and Medical Leave Act cases, discrimination claims relative to age, sex, disability, race, religion and sexual harassment, and handling EEOC and NLRB charges and other administrative complaints through the administrative and judicial process.

Katelyn has argued in front of the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as well as federal and state district courts. As second chair, Katelyn has tried three bench trials in state court as well as a federal court jury trial and a federal court class action trial.

 

Trinity Morale -- Liskow & Lewis -- Community Initiatives Chair

Trinity is a litigator in the firm’s New Orleans office. Her practice involves representing global exploration and production companies and general commercial clients in a range of matters, including “legacy”/environmental, royalty, and personal injury matters, as well as contractual disputes. Trinity’s litigation experience includes trial and appellate work, and she has represented a range of clients before state and federal appellate courts. She has been recognized for her practice by The National Black Lawyers’ organization as a National Black Lawyer Top 40 Under 40. Trinity received her Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, and her Bachelor of Arts from Duke University, cum laude. She was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project at Yale Law School and a Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholar and a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow at Duke University.  

 

Stephen Butterfield -- Lugenbuhl, Wheaton, Peck, Rankin & Hubbard -- Vice Chair

Prior to joining Lugenbuhl, Stephen was a law clerk for Presiding Justice Jess Dickinson at the Mississippi Supreme Court and was proud to be an Adjunct Professor of Legal Writing at Mississippi College School of Law. Currently, his professional accolades include being a member of the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel and the Defense Research Institute. He is a trial attorney with a wealth of experience in insurance coverage, casualty defense and trial and appellate litigation.

 

 

 

 

District 5

Laura L. Pousson -- Duplass Zwain -- Committee Member

Laura represents product manufacturers, contractors, insurers, engineers, new business ventures, and trucking companies in product liability, construction, personal injury, and labor and employment matters. She graduated summa cum laude from McNeese State University and went on to receive her Juris Doctorate and a graduate diploma in comparative law, cum laude, from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Louisiana State University in 2019. She was a recipient of the Chancellor’s Scholarship and Phelps-Dunbar Scholarship and was honored as a Dean’s Scholar each semester. While in law school, Laura was Managing Editor for the Journal of Energy Law and Resources, a member of the Public Interest Law Society, took part in the Dean’s Cup Appellate Advocacy Competition, and served as an LSU Law Ambassador. She externed with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office and with the Western District of Louisiana under Magistrate Judge Kathleen Kay.

 


Ivana Dillas -- Blue Williams - Practice Group Liaison (Medical Malpractice)

Ms. Dillas was admitted to the bar in 2016. She graduated from Loyola Law, at the age of 23, as the meritorious recipient of the Dean’s Scholarship for Academic Excellence. Ms. Dillas was elected Vice President of The Student Bar Association by her graduating law school class. She was selected for two prestigious judicial internships, including serving as judicial extern to the Honorable Susie Morgan, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Ms. Dillas served as an assistant attorney general for the state of Louisiana in the area of healthcare litigation defense, where she was a trial attorney and traveled the country conducting physician expert depositions. Before joining Blue Williams, Ms. Dillas worked in a defense firm and her practice focused on claims in the federal circuit. Ms. Dillas has represented healthcare professionals consisting of physicians, dentists, podiatrists, nurses, and nurse practitioners. Ms. Dillas is trilingual and is a first generation American and New Orleanian. She lives in the French Quarter.

 

Travis J. Beslin -- Hebbler & Giordano -- Committee Member

Travis J. Beslin was born and raised in the heart of “Cajun Country” in the small town of Rayne, Louisiana. He attended Notre Dame High School in Crowley, Louisiana and then the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. He obtained his Juris Doctor from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. While at Loyola, Travis was elected as Vice President of Sports for the Sports and Entertainment Law Society.Travis has been practicing law since 2015. He joined the firm in February of 2023 and his diverse practice focuses on civil litigation, insurance defense, insurance coverage, personal injury, automobile liability, and premises liability. He is a skilled litigator with a proven track record of a successful motion practice, including multiple successful Motions for Summary Judgment at the trial and appellate levels.

 

 

Past Chairs

Amber Barlow - Deutsch & Kerrigan LLP

Amber Barlow is a partner in Deutsch & Kerrigan’s Toxic Tort and Environmental Group. Amber represents manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and premise owners in complex litigation matters, including environmental litigation, toxic tort litigation, and premises and products liability. She handles all phases of representation from initial case assessment, pre-trial discovery and depositions, motion practice, mediation and negotiations, through to trial.

While in law school, Amber served as Managing Editor of the Law Review, President of the Women’s Student Bar Association, Vice President of the Mississippi Defense Lawyer’s Association-Student Chapter, Law Student Bar Association Senator, and Mississippi College School of Law Honor Court Justice. She was awarded the Am Jur Award in Trial Practice taught by Presiding Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Jess Dickinson as well as receiving the Mississippi Defense Lawyer’s Association’s Outstanding Leadership Award. While in law school, she clerked for the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Staff Attorney’s Office and the Honorable Neil P. Olack, United States Bankruptcy Judge for the Southern District of Mississippi.

 

Valerie E. Fontenot – Frilot LLC

Valerie Fontenot joins Frilot, LLC as an associate after working with Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer and as an assistant attorney general for the Louisiana Department of Justice – Civil Litigation Division. Her practice is based in litigation of civil matters, particularly the trial and appeal of health care matters, including medical malpractice defense and regulatory and compliance. Valerie also has significant experience in the litigation and appeal of general liability cases in an array of areas, including high value motor vehicle accidents. Valerie’s areas of experience have provided her numerous opportunities to interact with many expert fields including medical causation, vocational rehabilitation, life care planning, bio-mechanics and economics. Valerie is originally from New Roads, Louisiana. She received her law degree cum laude from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center and her B.A. from Tulane University. She earned her Master of Public Health magna cum laude from the LSUHSC School of Public Health. Outside of the courtroom, Valerie is perfecting her practice of choosing, cooking and eating good food. She also enjoys traveling, reading and playing tennis. You can also find Valerie in the classroom, as she currently serves as an adjunct professor of civil litigation at Herzing University.

 

Natalie Taylor – Bradley Murchison Kelly & Shea

Natalie J. Taylor is a partner in the New Orleans office, where she enjoys a broad based commercial law practice. Ms. Taylor handles a wide range of legal issues for clients, including real estate, corporate formations and reorganizations, corporate governance, commercial lending and compliance issues. Ms. Taylor also represents clients in the formation and negotiation of commercial agreements, construction agreements, and natural gas contracts, including master services agreements for pipeline construction and related services. In addition, Ms. Taylor has experience in handling land acquisitions, oil and gas title examinations, and real estate closings. Ms. Taylor is also a licensed title insurance producer in Louisiana.

 


 

Click here to view a full review of the YLC member duties.

For information on joining the Young Lawyers Committee email Kimberly at [email protected].

 

(Updated August 2023)