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Dyanna is a first-chair trial attorney who has practiced law for over thirty years, primarily representing defendants in the areas of products liability, toxic torts, medical malpractice, personal injury, and premises liability. She has tried numerous cases to verdict in courts across the country.

Her practice has included the defense of matters involving asbestos, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, pet food, and various other products. She is currently the Firm’s CFO and has also served as the Firm’s CEO.

Representative Cases

  • May 2017: Trial attorney securing defense verdict in a mesothelioma case in Jackson County, Missouri. Plaintiff was a welder who alleged work exposures to asbestos. Jury returned a complete defense verdict.
  • October 2016: Served as lead trial attorney securing a defense verdict in a mesothelioma case in Cook County, Illinois after a nearly 3 week trial. The plaintiff was a 47-year-old father of three who alleged exposure to asbestos while working as a diesel truck mechanic. The jury determined that the client was not responsible for the plaintiff’s mesothelioma.
  • February 2015: Served as lead trial attorney securing a defense verdict in a lung cancer case in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City after an 8 day trial. Plaintiff alleged that exposure to asbestos, silica, and second-hand smoke at the client’s facility caused her lung cancer. At the close of plaintiff’s case, the judge granted the defense team’s motion for directed verdict as to second-hand smoke and punitive damages. Plaintiff’s counsel sought $9 million in damages. But the jury agreed that the client did not cause the plaintiff’s lung cancer and returned a complete defense verdict.
  • July 2016: Lead trial attorney in asbestos case in St. Louis State Court. Client dismissed before beginning of evidence.
  • June 2016: Lead trial attorney in asbestos case in Madison County, IL. Client dismissed before beginning of evidence.
  • October 2015: Lead trial attorney in asbestos case in West Virginia State Court. Client dismissed before opening statements.

Presentations

  • Defense of Take Home Exposure Cases, Las Vegas, NV, June 2015
  • Game of Conflicts, Las Vegas, NV, June 2016
  • Practical Trial Insights: Recent Research Applied to Everyday Litigation, University of Missouri-Kansas City, June 2016
  • Game of Conflicts, NITA—Defending Depositions, Cleveland, OH, March 2017

Trial experience.

Dyanna brings first chair trial experience and a proven record of winning trials. Trust Dyanna and RDM’s team of trial attorneys and litigators to deliver results when you face a judge or jury.

Education

  • University of Kansas

    Juris Doctor

  • University of Kansas

    Bachelor of Arts

Admissions

  • State of Missouri
  • State of Kansas
  • State of Illinois
  • State of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Missouri

Honors
& Awards

  • Top 5 Missouri Defense Verdicts
    2017

Memberships

RDM's Knowledge Blog Posts by Dyanna Ballou

The venus symbol, celebrating women in law on International Women's Day 2021.

On International Women’s Day, Rasmussen Dickey Moore associate Holli Dobler and member Dyanna Ballou sat down to talk about what it’s like to be women in the legal industry, particularly at small or mid-sized firms.

Last month, RDM attorneys Justin Ijei and Nathan Lindsey looked at the challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion that small and mid-sized firms face. These challenges include recruiting, retaining, and promoting women attorneys more effectively and equitably.

While the number of women lawyers has steadily increased over the years, women still only account for about a third of all practicing attorneys. Among younger lawyers, gender parity is catching up. But as age increases, women attorneys find themselves far less represented, and the earnings gap between men and women widens. Furthermore, women only account for 19.5 percent of equity partners at the big law firms, and the income disparities between men and women at large firms is stark.

Dyanna Ballou has extensive experience as a first chair trial attorney, in addition to having served as our firm’s CEO and currently serving as our CFO. Previously, Dyanna was a partner at one of the largest firms in Kansas City and has witnessed firsthand the differences in terms of diversity and firm culture in general.

Holli Dobler just recently joined the RDM team, and although she brought with her significant skill and several years of experience, she is among the younger attorneys at RDM and in the legal profession. Like Dyanna, Holli also came from a larger firm.

With their years of experience and unique perspectives, Holli and Dyanna have some suggestions for women seeking a foothold in the legal industry. While the legal industry is still dominated by men, especially in the upper echelons of the profession, women have new opportunities to make their mark on the legal world.

Be Confident

Dyanna has seen many women attorneys quit or move on from trial work over the years. “I think that often the underlying reason is a lack of confidence.” In fact, she believes she was less successful early on in her career because of her own lack of confidence. “It took going through some personal struggles outside of my legal career to make me more resilient and ultimately a better lawyer when I re-entered the legal practice.”

It’s also important for women to surround themselves with other attorneys who will make sure to support their peers and younger attorneys. A healthy firm culture will recognize the good work being done and help their attorneys, in particular women, to develop the confidence they need to have a successful legal career. Likewise, it’s important to make sure you’re also supportive of your colleagues.

“One of the ways I have found success in building my confidence over the years is by forming relationships with senior associates and junior partners as well as my peers,” Holli says. Get to know everyone on your teams to take advantage of their varying levels of experience with both clients and other attorneys. “I received invaluable insight about client, partner and judge idiosyncrasies that empowered me and provided the confidence needed to speak up.”

Be Authentic

“Don’t try to model yourself after other trial attorneys,” says Dyanna. “Find what works for you and how best to present yourself.” Authenticity goes hand in hand with confidence.

As a young attorney, Holli was expected to wear skirt suits and a wedding ring. “I was encouraged to present myself so that I fit a certain mold when in front of a judge or jury so that my appearance would fit the expectation in their mind of what a trial attorney is supposed to be.” However, in recent years, these traditional norms have started to break down. Judges and jurors look for attorneys they can believe in and trust, and the easiest way to be believable is to be your authentic self.

Women are frequently told how to present themselves, especially with respect to jury trials. But one of the best female trial attorneys Dyanna knows goes against all the rules regarding what to wear and how to look. Her authenticity and resulting confidence present as strength in court and lead to successful outcomes for her clients.

At trial, some language or strategies that have been in practice for years have only been put in play by male attorneys. “Unfortunately, what worked for men won’t always work for women,” says Holli. “There are some lines that were written by older, male partners that I simply can’t deliver and appear authentic.” Recognizing those differences and finding your own voice is a struggle given the lack of female trial attorneys to look to for guidance. However, as more female trial attorneys continue to chart the path and take on leadership and partner roles, that issue will become obsolete.  

Be Prepared

When women find themselves in group meetings or on calls with other attorneys or clients, make sure to come prepared to add something to the meeting. Don’t accept a passive role, or you’ll find yourself left out from future opportunities. Be assertive and bring confidence to the table.

“When I’m well prepared, and I know that what I have to say can potentially add value to the conversation, I’ll find a way to make myself heard,” Holli says. Follow up an in-person meeting with an email or stick around after a meeting when there is a different setting to share your thoughts. “If what I had to say did in fact add value or showed potential, it was rare that at a future meeting I would find myself being talked over or ignored.”

Recognize Your Value as a Female Attorney

Clients seek diversity when they’re searching for attorneys. “This is one of the best times to be a female trial attorney,” Dyanna says. More clients are setting diversity goals for law firms to ensure that their legal work is done by diverse attorneys. This presents an opportunity for diverse attorneys to take on new responsibilities. 

Additionally, many clients and other attorneys feel that women are more approachable and easier to work with. With women finding themselves in more prominent positions in the corporate world, they often want to see themselves represented when their business seeks counsel. Women attorneys offer a different perspective to their clients and their work.

Actively Pursue a Mentor

A trusted an effective mentor is invaluable for women attorneys, particularly younger women in the field. “But don’t expect a mentor to just fall in your lap.” Dyanna insists that young attorneys bring their best at all times, showing initiative and excitement for the work. When an attorney shows her potential, opportunities follow.

All of Dyanna’s mentors have been men. And all of them, including RDM founding member Kurt Rasmussen, gave her opportunities that drastically changed the trajectory of her career. “I approached Kurt shortly after starting with the firm, and I asked if he needed assistance with his upcoming trial.” Dyanna assisted with trial prep work and ultimately found herself putting on witnesses at that trial. After her success at that trial, Dyanna and the client developed a relationship that brought significant new business to RDM.

Holli considers herself fortunate to have had a strong, female, trial attorney mentor at her first job. Her mentor was also the managing partner at the firm. “She gave me several opportunities that allowed me to prove my abilities to her and ultimately, when we had a very high-profile case with the firm in which the client requested a female associate, I was asked to join the team.”

Like Dyanna, Holli also had several male attorneys that served as great mentors and provided opportunities, including trial work and client exposure, early in her career. “Without their mentorship and guidance, I would not have had the depth of experience and confidence at such an early point in my career.”

Dyanna has repeatedly advocated for younger women attorneys who need alternative work schedules because of family responsibilities. “As the mother of two (now adult) children, I understand the difficulty of balancing a family with the demands of a legal career.” She understands the pressure women feel to do it all in a way that most male colleagues cannot comprehend.


While women of course still face challenges in the legal profession and in business in general, there are growing opportunities for women to demonstrate their skills and growing demand by clients for across-the-board diversity. Women attorneys will only become more prominent in the field. Women who succeed in the profession empower those who come after them and help to ensure equitable opportunities now and in the future.

The Novel Coronavirus.

Like everyone else, I was thrilled by Pfizer and BioNTech’s joint announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine that is 90% effective. That made me wonder what exactly is involved in developing and—most importantly—proving that a vaccine works and is reasonably safe. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is in Phase III trials. What does that mean?

The Food and Drug Administration’s process for new drugs normally is complex and lengthy. It can easily stretch out for years and create reams of data. But the FDA can shorten that time when the need is especially great, which certainly is the case with COVID-19 vaccines.

There are several stages to vaccine development which involve exploratory research, multiple rounds of pre-clinical and clinical review, tracking side effects, manufacturing, and quality control. Clinical development has three phases:

Phase I: Small groups take the vaccine to test for safety, efficacy, and to determine the correct dosage.

Phase II: Hundreds of people with different characteristics (such as age and health status) take the vaccine to further understand how it works and whether it is safe.

Phase III: Thousands of people are given the vaccine.

All three phases are tightly controlled and monitored. The FDA reviews the results and may require additional testing or tracking of participants before it approves the vaccine for widespread use. Under various fast-track rules and other programs, the FDA can—and has—changed some of the three phase requirements, including how many people must participate and how long the trials last.

Pfizer and BioNTech will ask the FDA for emergency authorization later this month with just two months of data. The FDA has the authority to allow unapproved medical products to be used in an emergency when there are no adequate or approved alternatives.

As a citizen, I want an effective vaccine as quickly as possible. As a lawyer, I wonder what litigation will inevitably follow with claims that approvals were rushed or wrong. What if vaccines are made mandatory, as the New York Bar Association recommended just last week? Should drug manufacturers receive protections from suit to encourage COVID-19 vaccine development? Like everything this year, so much remains unknown.

Healthcare law.

RDM’s Healthcare Law team works with medical practices and professionals to develop risk management strategies.

Learn More

President Donald Trump and Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett at the White House. Photo courtesy of the White House.

Much of this week’s news cycle has been dominated by Supreme Court news including Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing and possible attempts to expand the Supreme Court beyond the current nine members. I also came across an interesting article in Bloomberg BusinessWeek discussing Congress’s ability to strip the Supreme Court of its powers in order block judicial review of legislation.

I was taught that one of—if not the—bedrock of our democratic system is three equal branches of government asserting checks and balances on each other, so the Bloomberg story surprised me. How can Congress strip a co-equal branch of government of its powers? If that is the case, are they co-equal? Does that put the lie to what I learned in school?

The argument is based on Article III of the Constitution which states:

“The Supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.”

This “exception” clause has been accepted as giving Congress the power to remove appellate review from the Supreme Court. But Congress can never remove the Court’s original jurisdiction over disputes between states, actions involving various public officials, disputes between the United States and a state, and proceedings by a state against the citizens or aliens of another state. The sanctity of original jurisdiction was enshrined in the famous Marbury v. Madison decision in 1803.

Jurisdiction stripping is not a new idea. Congress stripped the Supreme Court of the power to hear specific cases as early as 1869 in Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. 506 and continues to do so.

The McCardle case is surprising to me. During Reconstruction, newspaper publisher William McCardle printed articles opposing federal Reconstruction laws. After being jailed by the military, he requested habeas corpus review in the Southern District of Mississippi. The District Judge sent him back to jail. He appealed to the Supreme Court. After oral arguments, but before a decision was issued, Congress suspended the Court’s jurisdiction over the case under Article III. Chief Justice Chase, writing for a unanimous court, upheld Congress’s withdrawal of the Court’s jurisdiction. While I am not an expert on this complex area of the law, I am sure Mr. McCardle was shocked that Congress could block court review of his jail sentence. How is a citizen to be protected from Congressional retaliation?

So, jurisdiction stripping is real. A recent example is the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which attempted to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over appeals from Guantanamo Bay detainees. There is no reason why it could not be used to avoid court review of politically divisive issues ranging from health care to gun control to gay rights, giving enormous power to Congress to sidestep judicial review.

While the current focus is on its use to control a conservative Court if Democrats sweep the 2020 election, it could just as easily be used by Republicans. So why has it not been used more often? Likely because weakening another branch of government would be politically unpopular and hard to explain to an electorate who—like me—believes in the importance of co-equal branches of government.

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Science!

The 2020 Ig Nobel prize winners, awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research, were announced on September 17th. 2020 marked the thirtieth anniversary for the yearly ceremony, which was held virtually this year.

In this time of great stress, RDM member and CFO Dyanna Ballou takes you through some of the highlights. We hope you get a kick out of this year’s winners, each of whom gets a cash prize of a 10 trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe.  Stay tuned for Dyanna’s favorite at the end.

And the winners are…

Acoustics: Stephan Reber and his team for inducing a female Chinese alligator to bellow in an airtight chamber filled with helium-enriched air.

Psychology: Miranda Giacomin and Nicholas Rul for developing a method to identify narcissists by examining their eyebrows.

Peace: The governments of India and Pakistan for having their diplomats ring each other’s doorbells in the middle of the night and then run away before anyone had a chance to answer the door. (My girlfriends and I did this in junior high at the houses of cute boys.  That didn’t advance my dating life either.)

Physics: Ivan Maksymov and Andriy Pototsky for determining what happens to the shape of a living earthworm when it is vibrated at high frequency.

Economics: Christopher Watkins and colleagues for quantifying the relationship between different countries’ income inequality and the amount of mouth-to-mouth kissing.

Management: Five professional hitmen in China who contracted to murder each other with none of them actually carrying out the crime.

Entomology: Richard Vetter for collecting evidence that many entomologists (scientists who study insects) are afraid of spiders, which are not insects.

Medical Education: The leaders of Brazil, the United Kingdom, India, Mexico, Belarus, Turkey, Russia and our own U.S. of A for using the Covid-19 pandemic to teach the world that politicians have a more immediate effect on life and death than scientists and doctors.

Materials Science: Metin Eren and his team for showing that knives made from frozen human feces do not work well.

And Dyanna’s personal favorite (“Which I suffer from—just ask my husband!”)

Medicine: Nienke Vulink and team for diagnosing a long-unrecognized medical condition of misophonia, the distress at hearing other people make chewing sounds.

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The US flag at half mast in fromt of the Capitol following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo by Ted Eytan.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was given the honor of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol after her death on September 18th. She is the first woman and the first Jew to be given this honor. RDM member and CFO Dyanna Ballou was surprised at that fact, which lead her to research the history of lying in state.

Two types of honors involve the ceremonial presence of remains in the Capitol: “Lay in state” and “lay in honor.” Per the Architect of the Capitol, only government officials or military officers may have their remains lay in state. Private citizens are may have their remains lay in honor.

Henry Clay was the first person to be lain in state in 1852. Since then 34 American officials, judges, and military leaders, have lain in state. U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings was the first Black American given the honor of lying in state in 2019. Only four people have lain in honor, including Rosa Parks.

There are no criteria for who is chosen except Congress’s approval and the deceased family’s consent. Not all those entitled to the honor have it accepted. The families of Presidents Truman and Nixon declined the honor.

Interestingly, those who have lain in state are placed on the catafalque used at President Lincoln’s funeral. Those who have lain in honor are placed on other biers.

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