‘Comparing Notes’: Miami Litigator Takes On Defense Counsel Leadership Role in Pandemic
Miami litigator Spencer Silverglate took over as president-elect of the
International Association of Defense Counsel when this month’s live
meeting in Chicago was switched to a virtual gathering. The challenge
now is to help lead an international trade association from the depths
of a global pandemic and recession.
Miami litigator Spencer Silverglate took over as president-elect of the Internationa
Association of Defense Counsel when this month’s live meeting in Chicago was
switched to a virtual gathering.
So how much of a challenge is it to lead an international trade group from the depths
of a global pandemic and recession?
Newly installed president Andrew Chamberlain of Ellis & Winters in Greensboro,
North Carolina, carries the biggest burden. But Silverglate, president of Clarke
Silverglate, is right there with him.
“I think all organizations are going to be challenged to be relevant and not just grow
the membership but to retain members when we can’t meet in person,” he said.
“We’re coping pretty well, and we’re doing a good job of delivering value as an
The IADC has transitioned to virtual formats, including a regional meeting Tuesday
for members in Asia and Australia and the first executive committee meeting of the
new board Wednesday.
“On some things, we actually get more involvement remotely than we would have
gotten in person, so maybe that’s an idea whose time has come,” Silverglate said.
With 2,500 members in 54 countries, the invitation-only association for corporate
and insurance defense attorneys and insurance executives is accustomed to
farflung operations including virtual meetings, but those programs have expanded
“I’m amazed in general about how well things have progressed, not just in this
organization” but in daily work,” Silverglate said. “If this pandemic continues, we’re
going to get really creative.”
He gives Zoom and other video platforms plenty of credit. “It’s great, it’s a godsend,
and it’s enabled us to be productive during the pandemic.”
Florida is closed to trials, but some state courts including Miami-Dade Circuit Court
have been assigned to test a combination of remote and in-person civil
trials. “People said that couldn’t be done,” he said.
But in a world where only 2% of cases reach trial, other work predominates.
Silverglate said his billable hours have been consistent, “and that’s been pretty true
The coronavirus pandemic has forced people to separate. And at home, “there’s not
a lot of distractions other than Netflix and the refrigerator,” but attorneys are not
working in a bubble.
“From a business standpoint, one of the main things that the organization does is it
educates its members, so there’s meeting after meeting,” now mostly exploring the
how-to’s of remote depositions, mediation, arbitration and hearings, he said. “A lot of
it is comparing notes, discussing best practices, discussing things that have worked
and haven’t worked, so the organization has been a lifeline.”
Clarke Silverglate reopened its office in mid-June, but it’s still sparsely
populated. Silverglate has been heading to the office about three days a week, but
this week is all at home.
He considers the lightly staffed office one of the safest places to be in Miami,
Florida’s COVID-19 hotbed, with no more lunchroom chairs and many other
precautions. “We have way more space in my office than people,” he said.
His 10-attorney litigation firm defends major companies ranging from Avon to
Walmart in products liability, commercial, insurance and employment litigation.
Referrals from IADC members in other jurisdictions feed client recruitment. After 20
years, the worldwide network is responsible for most of Silverglate’s work.
And some family togetherness as well. The family traveled to IADC meetings around
the world, and Silverglate said his son grew up in the organization starting at age 5.
With his son heading into his second year at Yale Law School, Silverglate has a
real-time perspective on the state of legal education and remote versus in-person
classes. He isn’t involved in any tuition refund litigation and seems torn about the
“I think they need to reopen in order to stay in business,” he said. But as far as the
litigation challenging online-only classes, he said: “I get that. It’s not the same
Through the years, Silverglate and other IADC members formed deep friendships
despite their geographic separation, including attending the pre-pandemic weddings
of members’ children.
With travel and most trials stilled, the group has been “great for everyone’s sanity.
It’s been great to reach out to a network of attorneys that you care for,” he said.
“This too shall pass.”