Cohen, David M.


First Name

David M.

Last Name



Cohen, David M.

Business Name

Cohen Dispute Resolution Services, LLC





Zip code


Primary Phone



Location, Practice Areas and Additional Professional Services


Delaware County, Fayette County, Franklin County

Practice Areas

Business/Commercial, Consumer/Supplier, Environmental, Family Business, Foreclosure

Advanced Information

Practice Description

Cohen Dispute Resolution Services, LLC, assists businesses in arriving at a mutually agreeable resolution of conflicts/commercial disputes either before they become the subject of litigation or before a final judgment is required. This process provides a forum for the parties to be heard and treated fairly and with dignity, with a goal of reducing both risk and long-term expenses. For further information, please visit or LinkedIn.


David M. Cohen was an in-house counsel for American Electric Power for 32 years. During that period he provided legal advice, drafted and negotiated contracts, and managed litigation and complex transactions. Prior to working at AEP he was in-house corporate counsel for a small insurance company. During his career, he has represented AEP in mediations, as well as conducted mediations. As an in-house counsel, David has a strong understanding of how business works and how parties develop their negotiation positions. He understands the strain that parties feel when disputes are pending and the legal and other costs associated with litigation. More than 90% of cases are resolved prior to a final court decision. Settling earlier saves stress and costs.

Education / Training

David has a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration, degree from The Ohio State University and a J.D. degree from The Ohio State University College of Law. He has completed Mediation Training, Foreclosure Mediation Training, and Advanced Mediation Training from the Capital University Law School Center for Dispute Resolution. Since January 1, 2010, he has conducted over 450 mediations,  including mediating cases in disputes before litigation and cases pending in  the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the Franklin County Common Pleas Court, and the Franklin County Municipal Court. David serves  as a Mediation Specialist for the Community Mediation Services.


When Business Relations Sour: Is There A Reasonable Alternative to Litigation?

By David M. Cohen, Cohen Dispute Resolution Services, LLC

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever they can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses and waste of time” Abraham Lincoln, July 1, 1850

When the parties are unable to resolve a dispute, their first thought is to litigate, prove that their position is correct and acquire the remedy provided by law. They are focused on how they have been wronged and not on the pain associated with litigation. As we know, litigation involves us, as in-house counsel, and our clients waking up many times in the middle of the night contemplating strategy, wondering if your trial attorney has considered this or that, thinking about money being spent to pursue your case, spending days traveling and preparing our clients for depositions, sometimes being ourselves subjected to depositions, and being frustrated about cancelled hearings and long unexpected delays. You think that the other party must not be getting the message and really doesn’t understand your position. You may spend a lot of time and money to prepare interrogatories and wait months for a response that is so vague or full of objections to the questions that you posed to make the response worthless. You get to talk to your client about why they have to produce documents that they don’t want to produce. Depositions are conducted in which the answers given are not helpful or the parties just answer that they don’t know. In the end you get a decision that isn’t what you expected and get to explain to your client how that happened. You just want way out of this mess.

When people think of alternatives to litigation, they generally first think of arbitration. Rarely, but on occasion, the parties consider mediation. For whatever reason, mediation is only beginning to be more popular in commercial matters. This is not to suggest that arbitration and mediation are mutually exclusive. Parties can agree to mediate a dispute and, if the mediation does not result in a settlement, then the dispute could be resolved through arbitration or litigation.

Litigation tends to strain relationships. Tactics taken by one party in litigation can offend the other party and lead to or increase distrust. While parties can maybe live with that if they had a “one-and-done” contract, it doesn’t help in cementing a long-term relationship that would benefit all parties. Often parties have ongoing relationships and need to continue those relationships long after the litigation is over.

Mediation can be particularly helpful when relationships need to be preserved. Mediation is a process by which the parties and their counsel (assuming that they elect to have counsel) voluntarily meet with an independent third party (the mediator) who is trained to assist the parties in resolving their disputes. Unlike litigation or arbitration, mediation does not require presenting testimony or hiring expert witnesses. Also, unlike litigation or the other forms of alternative dispute resolution, in mediation the neutral party works with the parties to reach a mutually agreed upon solution. The mediator does not reach a decision. The focus of mediation is not to decide which party has the best legal position. It is to work with the parties to reach a mutually agreeable, and hopefully a winwin, resolution. As we know, there are no iron-clad cases. Do you really want to risk a judge deciding this matter? More than 90 percent of the cases eventually settle. It is generally a question of how much the parties are willing to go through before they settle, not whether they will settle.

In litigation, the judge is restricted in his decision-making. For example, if a party buys equipment from a second party and is unsatisfied, he may sue the seller. The judge may or may not decide in the buyer’s favor. If he does, he can order the seller to pay money to the buyer. The amount that the judge orders the seller to pay may or may not be satisfactory to the buyer.

Litigation has other inherent problems. At times as in-house counsel, I have seen the client believe strongly in their position. Outside counsel, eager to represent us, agrees. Then, as discovery continues and the trial date is closer, outside counsel has more doubts. No one wants to go back to the client and say that the case no longer looks like a sure winner. Outside counsel may think that doing so jeopardizes their image. A mediator, as a neutral party, can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of a party’s position without concern about repercussions.

In litigation, information is filtered through the attorneys. The client never hears the other party’s position directly from the other side. In mediation, each party, and not just the attorneys, have this opportunity. The mediation may be the first and only time when the businessmen get to listen to the other party. I, and most mediators, strongly prefer that at the mediation the client, and not counsel, present the facts related to the case. Sometimes this gives an “ah ha” moment, where a party finally determines the real reason why there is litigation and then can form a basis for a resolution. The client also has the opportunity to vent — although while still being respectful. You will need to prepare your client that the other party may need to vent in order to move on and to deal with that occurring.

There may be a better alternative to anything that the judge could order. At times an apology is part of the resolution. Another part of the resolution could be having the seller offering something that is deemed more valuable to the buyer than it is to the seller. For example, there could be equipment that is in inventory and the seller no longer wants but that the buyer needs and the buyer would accept in lieu of the seller paying money to the buyer. Both parties may be happier with this result. Yet, the judge would not order such a remedy. In mediation, the parties would explore various settlement options and could develop such a compromise, a “win win” solution.

Mediation focuses on what can be done to fulfill the interests of the parties, rather than who is legally correct. Of course, this requires counsel to develop a different approach. Just saying “we think we have a great case,” doesn’t get the case settled.  Each party needs to analyze what is important to the other party and see how it can meet those interests in a manner acceptable to both parties.

Litigation is only one way to settle disputes. Given the expense, uncertainty, and time involved in litigation, it is time to consider other alternatives.

David M. Cohen is a former in-house attorney for American Electric Power, where he specialized in contract law, business law, mineral law and transportation law. He is now providing mediation services as Cohen Dispute Resolution Services, LLC (website © 2012 David M. Cohen


Mediation Is Alternative To Litigation By David M. Cohen

BLACKLICK, OH.-The oil and gas business, like many others, is largely about relationships-relationships between oil and gas lessors and lessees, between the industry and regulatory agencies, between oil and gas producers and equipment suppliers, between the industry and environmental groups, and between the oil and gas producer and the producer’s customers. Of necessity, most of these relationships will need to last for many years. A positive relationship is better for all parties. There are many forces pulling apart many of these relationships. Among them is the perception that there is a lot of money to be made and the producers want to make it, that the oil and gas lessees want to collect much of it, and that environmental concerns are largely being ignored. Then there is the problem of trying to fit an almost square peg into a square hole. Older oil and gas leases were not drafted by parties contemplating hydraulic fracturing to remove shale gas from formations more than a mile below the surface, the need for millions of gallons of water, large water impoundments, and 10-acre well pads. There are the other issues inherent in the standard oil and gas lease: • What surface facilities can be constructed and where can they be located? • Are operations being conducted such that the lease term can be extended? • Did the operations affect the potable water supply? • Is the lessee diligently developing the reserves? • What property is contiguous? • Is the royalty being calculated properly? • Was nonperformance the result of force majeure? • In those areas where coalbed methane is present, does the deed or lease grant the coalbed methane to the oil and gas producer? All these are areas for potential disputes and, while at times it must occur to one or more of the parties that they would like to simply fix a particular problem and walk away, practically, that isn’t an option. One party can’t just terminate a long-term lease. Suppliers don’t want to lose customers. Environmental and citizen groups can’t just be ignored.

Problems With Litigation When there is a dispute, the first thought is to litigate. Each party believes that it has a sound legal position and will prevail. In more contemplative moments, each party also may realize that relying on a judge’s decision is risky, and taking the litigation course may leave the parties stressed, unsatisfied and bitter. Litigation tends to push the litigants apart, which is not good for a long-term relationship. If the oil and gas lessee isn’t getting along with the lessor, the lessor can create difficulties that can affect the smooth functioning and profitability of the operation. It is preferable if the parties can discuss the issues and come to a resolution. However, for various reasons it may become apparent that isn’t likely. The parties may have come to the point where one of them refuses to talk to the other. An attorney, in an attempt to be supportive of a client, may have given the impression that the client can’t lose, and the client then concludes that it would be foolish to settle. An attorney may have tried to tell his client that his case is not iron clad, but the client refuses to hear this and discuss settlement, or a client may wonder if his attorney is being too aggressive and hurting the possibility of settling. More than 90 percent of cases settle before a judge issues a decision. Litigation involves many hours of work and expense, none of which help productivity. Discovery requests go back and forth. Each party likely will need to acquire the information to respond to interrogatories, and prepare for and attend depositions. Each party’s executives may well spend a large portion of their free time pondering litigation strategy and thinking about how they seem to be wasting their time. It is time to explore options to litigation-generally known as alternative dispute resolution.

Dispute Resolution Increasingly, the form of alternative dispute resolution parties are turning to to help settle their disputes is mediation. With mediation, a trained neutral meets with the parties to work toward developing a mutually acceptable resolution. The process is voluntary. If the parties reach a resolution, then an agreement is drafted and executed by the parties. Unlike arbitration-another form of alternative dispute resolution-there is no person or panel that makes a binding decision. Also, generally unlike arbitration, there is little or no discovery. Evidence is not submitted. In mediation, the mediator probably will request each party submit a position paper in which each party simply sets forth its position. The parties may attach relevant documents. While the position paper and documents provide the mediator with background information that may help as he works with the parties, they are not part of any formal written record. The goal of mediation is to help the parties reach a settlement, not to determine who is legally right. The parties can disagree on who is legally correct and still reach a settlement and put the matter behind them.

Benefits Of Mediation There are a number of benefits to mediation. It can be confidential, if the parties desire. While the mediator will commit to treat the matters discussed as confidential, the parties may or may not care about confidentiality. As provided by the law of most states (including Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Wyoming), except in very limited circumstances, a mediator cannot be compelled to testify in court about the mediation proceedings. With the help of a mediator, parties can craft their own solution, whereas a judge is limited in how he can decide a case. The judge can order the payment of money. However, maybe a better solution would be paving a lessor’s driveway or relocating a pipeline to a mutually acceptable location, or providing another service or item that would provide considerable value to one party and minimal expense to the other. Reaching a settlement eliminates the risk associated with litigation. Each party will have to compromise to reach a settlement, which means that it will not get all that it wants. However, there won’t be a verdict against a party. Many times when parties review a judge’s decision, at least one of them will feel the judge did not understand its position. An example is found in Hupp v. Beck Energy Corporation, in which an Ohio Common Pleas Court ruled that a lease that provided for delay rental payments constituted a lease in perpetuity, and was void and unenforceable. This decision may be appealed, but it illustrates the risk of not settling. The parties to mediation can determine the time and location of the sessions, and can select the mediator. While one may have to wait months or more for a trial date, mediation can be scheduled whenever and wherever the parties and the mediator agree.   Litigation can continue for a decade or more. The Texas case of Coastal Oil & Gas Corp. v. Garza Energy Trust et al began with a 1978 action over the ownership interests in real property. After those issues were resolved in 1982, certain owners sued in 1988 and then 1995. Those cases were resolved in 1999. Meanwhile, in March 1997, the trust sued Coastal for breach of implied covenants to develop and to prevent drainage. The case proceeded through the trial court, the court of appeals, and the Texas Supreme Court. In an August 2008 decision, after three decades of litigation, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that Coastal was entitled to a new trial. Parties tend to be more satisfied with their attorneys and the legal system, and may be willing to comply with an agreement if they participated in developing the agreement’s terms. Unlike court proceedings, in mediation, the parties, as well as their attorneys, participate and have an opportunity to see, talk and listen to the other parties in a controlled setting. Mediation does not require the expenses associated with expert witnesses or acquiring evidence. Again, the goal is to reach a settlement, not determine the legal validity of a position. The parties can go home knowing that the matter is concluded. They don’t have to wait months for a decision and then subsequent appeals. Even if the mediation session does not result in resolution, it gives each party an opportunity to open-or to reopen-dialogue between the parties and an opportunity to hear firsthand the views of the other party. This can then lead to a more amicable long-term relationship. Also, the parties will have a greater understanding of the issues and the positions of all involved, which often provides the basis for a later settlement.


Selecting A Mediator  As mentioned earlier, the parties select the mediator. There are no licensing requirements for being a mediator. A minority of states have certification programs for mediators, meaning that the mediator so certified may represent that he has state certification. However, a certification is not required in order for a person to represent himself as a mediator. Also, many courts have requirements that must be met by a mediator in order for him to mediate cases referred by those courts. Mediators can be found and their credentials reviewed at state mediation association websites, at state bar association websites, or at There are mediation associations in many states, including Colorado (Mediation Association of Colorado,, Ohio (Ohio Mediation Association,, New York (New York State Dispute Resolution Association,, Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Council of Mediators,, and Texas (Texas Association of Mediators,, where member profiles may be reviewed. Many mediators have pages on Linkedln and their own websites, where one can learn more about them. Different mediators have different approaches. It is important to talk with a prospective mediator to determine that he will be doing what the client is expecting. Some mediators will work to facilitate discussions, but do not believe it is appropriate for them to voice their opinions. Other mediators believe it is important for them to express their views, generally in private. Still others-often former judges-believe the parties want their opinions on how a case will be decided. Since the mediator does not decide the winner of a dispute, subject matter expertise may not be important. The parties have the opportunity to educate the mediator. In most cases, it is more important that the mediator is proficient in working with parties to resolve disputes than in having subject matter expertise. Remember, if a case isn’t resolved, the alternative is for it to be presented before a judge, who may not have subject matter expertise, but will decide who wins. •

DAVID M. COHEN David M. Cohen provides mediation services as Cohen Dispute Resolution Services LLC. He is a former in-house attorney for American Electric Power, where he specialized in mineral, contract, business and transportation law. Cohen received his B.S.B.A.from Ohio State University and his juris doctorate from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

Below are a dozen ways to position yourself for a successful mediation: 1.  Analyze your and the other parties’ end goals. Realize that positions don’t necessarily reflect interests and goals. For example, a party’s position may be that it is entitled to $50,000 because your company failed to deliver certain equipment, such as a truck. The other party’s ultimate goal may be transporting its product to market. A resolution could be that your company provides transportation services at an agreed-upon rate, or provides other transportation equipment that may be more suitable to the other party. The parties can work toward a “win–win” solution. 2.  Have individuals with authority to settle present at the mediation. One of the major advantages of mediation is each party hearing the other’s position face-to-face, unfiltered. Ideally, the negotiators should come prepared with pre-approved fall-back positions. Calling back to the main office to get approval may be necessary in certain cases, but the person on the other end of the phone can’t get the full impact of the presentation, as they aren’t there to hear directly from the other party, or to pick up on their various cues (voice inflection, body language, etc.). Also, being present provides the decisionmakers with the opportunity to see what they are up against, which may encourage settlement. If you must rely on an absent authority for certain decisions, meet with the individuals that you will need to contact prior to the mediation so they fully understand the issues, the views of the parties, and the best and worst alternatives to a settlement. You don’t want the other party to the mediation being frustrated about your inability to get a response from the home office. Arrange in advance for the approver to be (a) on-call at the time of the mediation, and (b) prepared to make a timely decision. 3.  Be realistic. Hopefully, you are going to mediation because you have decided that reaching an agreed-upon solution is preferable to going to war. Most likely, no party is going to get everything they want. Each party needs to weigh the benefits of a proposed settlement against the possibility of success in litigation, and the costs (including the costs of your company’s personnel having to devote the time associated with litigation) of litigation. 4.  Develop a strategy, but be flexible. Mediation is a process that is difficult to shortcut. The other party will be thinking that you have something yet to offer. If your maximum settlement authority is $50,000, you don’t want your first offer to be $50,000. Try to develop creative solutions and be open to solutions offered by the other party. 5.  Determine what you want from your mediator and discuss it with them prior to the mediation. There are generally considered to be three types of mediation — transformative, facilitative and evaluative — although they are more of a continuum than three distinct methods. If you are expecting a mediator to promote a dialogue between the parties, but do nothing more, this needs to be explained to the mediator. As is discussed in the sidebar, you need to discuss your vision of the mediation with prospective mediators and question your prospective mediator. If you don’t, you may find yourself in a mediation that leaves you and your client disappointed and unsatisfied. 6.  Carefully select the company representatives to attend the mediation. Although personal attacks are not helpful (see item 12), one of the benefits of mediation is to provide a forum for individuals to vent in a controlled setting. The parties often say that the dispute is about the money, but it is often about more. Even in commercial disputes, it can be about one party feeling that they were treated unfairly. After the venting is done and the party feels heard, they may be more open to listening to possible solutions. Your representatives and attorneys need to be prepared to hear statements from the other party that they find offensive, but still listen respectfully in order to move toward a resolution — not the door. You may wish to conduct a brief prep session with your company representatives before the mediation, not only to prepare the substantive positions but also to emphasize the benefits of active listening and composure.

DAVID M. COHEN is a former in-house attorney for American Electric Power, where he specialized in contract law, business law, mineral law and transportation law. He is now providing mediation services as Cohen Dispute Resolution Services, LLC. He received his BSBA from The Ohio State University and his JD from the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. He can be contacted at davidcohenmediation

If you believe that it would be beneficial to require mediation before going to litigation or arbitration, then you may want to add a clause such as the following to your initial contract: “Before commencing litigation, each party agrees to notify the other party of any dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement, and to attempt to resolve any such dispute by negotiation. If the parties fail to reach a resolution within thirty (30) days of any such notice, the parties agree to endeavor to resolve the dispute through mediation. A party may commence a mediation proceeding by a written notice to the other party or parties. The parties agree to utilize good faith in selecting a mediator, scheduling the mediation and participating in the mediation. Expenses of the mediation, excluding legal fees, shall be divided equally by the parties.” Sample Mediation Provision

ACC Docket 78 September 2012

Determine the role that you want the mediator to fulfill.  Do you want a mediation in which each party presents their positions, with the mediator insuring that each party is heard and understood, but with little or no input by the mediator? Do you want a mediator to play the “devil’s advocate” role and quiz each party about the soundness of their position? Do you want a mediator who is willing to express his opinion on the positions taken and offer possible settlement options? Do you want a mediator to provide his opinion on who will prevail if the parties would litigate the issues? This may be more like a less formal non-binding arbitration. s Determine whether you want a mediator with a particular expertise. Remember that the mediator does not make a decision. He controls the mediation process and works with the parties to develop a voluntary, and thus mutually agreeable, resolution. Mediators will often ask each party to send them a position paper prior to the mediation setting forth the party’s explanation of their positions, including an explanation of their position on legal questions, and then telephone counsel to receive any clarifications that they believe would be helpful. As a result, in many cases, particular expertise may be unnecessary. If the issues concern very specialized subjects, such as patent rights or issues that would make knowledge of building construction techniques helpful, then you might want a mediator who is an expert in those fields. Mediators come from various backgrounds. You might settle on a mediator who is an engineer, but not an attorney, or both an engineer and attorney. s Determine the training and experience of the mediators that you are considering. Mediation is much more than the parties sitting in a room and rehashing their positions. Most states do not have “mediator requirements.” Thus, there are people who advertise their services as a mediator, but have no mediation training. As a result, they might not be knowledgeable about the mediation process. s Start your search by contacting other in-house counsel, and outside counsel, for recommendations. If you do not have recommendations of mediators, then you could start with an internet search. Many mediators belong to state or other mediator associations. Each mediator will probably have a short description of their mediation philosophy and experience at the association website. Also, many mediators are listed in, and you can view prospective mediators’ websites and LinkedIn profiles.

s In the event of pending litigation, check to see if the applicable court maintains a roster of mediators.  If so, what are the court’s requirements for being placed on the roster? Also, some courts have mediators on staff or have their magistrates act as mediators. If you are considering using a court mediator or magistrate, there may be no charge to the parties for the mediation. You should discuss how the staff mediator or the magistrate conducts mediation, and determine how the parties will view the mediator. Parties should be free to provide confidential information to the mediator that will be shared with the other party or parties. Could the magistrate that will conduct the mediation also hear your case? A court mediator or magistrate may be unwilling to offer suggestions or play “devil’s advocate” out of a concern of being viewed as biased. A party may think that if they do not accept a magistrate’s suggestion and the dispute goes to trial, the magistrate might hold that rejection against them. s Talk to the mediators and evaluate how you believe your client will view and interact with the mediator.  Like many business relationships, the ability of the parties to trust and establish a rapport with the mediator is important. If you or your client doesn’t trust the mediator or believes that the mediator is biased against your client, it will be difficult for the mediation to be successful. s Check references. A mediator should be able to provide you with references, who can give you additional information about how the mediator conducts mediations. s Review the terms of any proposed contract. The mediator should be able to provide you with the terms of a proposed agreement, including any required deposits, cancellation fees, hourly fees and travel charges. Ensure that the mediator’s availability will meet your schedule and determine an agreeable location for the mediation. Generally, the contract will provide that if the parties reach an agreement prior to ending the mediation, the mediator will draft an agreement incorporating the agreed upon terms, incorporate any changes to the draft agreed upon by the parties, and request that the parties execute the agreement. If counsel and the parties prefer a more complete document, the agreement may contain a provision that one of the counsel will draft a further agreement consistent with the terms of the agreement drafted by the mediator, and provide it to the other party’s counsel within a specified time-period.

How to Select a Mediator

ACC Docket 80 September 2012

7.  Carefully select which of your counsel will attend the mediation. An aggressive attorney may be what you want in court, but not in mediation. Being overly aggressive can be destructive to mediation. Therefore, you want counsel who can help develop creative solutions and not be offensive to the other party. Counsel should be of assistance to, and not an impediment to, reaching a settlement. 8.  Consider an apology. As mentioned, sometimes disputes are largely about one party feeling disrespected or otherwise offended. A sincere apology costs nothing and can go a long way toward resolving a conflict. 9.  Focus on the future, not the past. Each party has their view of what has happened. Chances are, no matter how long the mediation lasts, a party is not going to change their view. Unlike litigation, the past doesn’t matter. All that matters is what the parties will agree to do going forward. 10.  Focus on solutions, not legal issues. Yes, each party will probably say that they believe that they have a strong case and will win. Saying that once is fine. Continuing to say that does not move the parties toward settlement. Again, this is not litigation. It makes no difference whether you think your side has the better legal position. Preserving a business relationship between the parties is probably more important than having the superior legal position. While your view of your case will affect what you will agree to do, the validity of your legal position is largely irrelevant for purposes of crafting a settlement. 11.  Determine what roles counsel and the business representatives will play. I find it preferable for one of the company representatives, rather than counsel, to explain the facts and the company position. Counsel can explain any legal positions. In the end, it is the company representatives who decide whether or not to approve a settlement. As mentioned above, one of the benefits of mediation is that it provides a forum for the clients to speak, vent and be heard. As a result, if the business representatives fully participate, they are more likely to view the mediation favorably. 12.  Avoid personal attacks. As mentioned above, allowing a party to vent is one of the benefits of mediation. That being said, personal attacks do not help to promote settlement. You can explain what happened without them.

Mediation provides the parties the opportunity to voluntarily resolve disputes for their mutual benefit. More than 90 percent of the cases settle. So, why not settle sooner?∑

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Reprinted with permission from the Association of Corporate Counsel Copyright 2012

Professional Association Memberships

Ohio Mediation Association – Board MemberColumbus Bar Association – Chair, Committee on Alternative Dispute ResolutionEnergy and Mineral Law Foundation – former officer and member of the Executive CommitteeOhio State Bar Association – former chair, Natural Resources CommitteeAssociation of Corporate Counsel