Speakers' Gallery

Cris Brasuell

Cris M. Brasuell, AR-CCR, Brasuell Reporting, LLC

Speaking at 8:30 on Thursday: Help Me Help You - The Making of an All Star Record

Cris has been a certified court reporter for the State of Arkansas since 2012.  Prior to her court reporting career, Cris was a paralegal for civil, domestic, and bankruptcy law firms for over 20 years. She is currently Vice President of the Arkansas Court Reporters Association and Chair of the Association's Legislative Committee. 
Cris is a dedicated court reporter, mother of two beautiful kids, and married, of course, to a lawyer. 

Roby Brock

Speaking at 12:45 on Friday: One-on-one with Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd 

Roby Brock is the CEO of Natural State Media, parent company for Talk Business & Politics and The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. Brock is the host and executive producer of Talk Business & Politics, a 19-year old multi-media news organization reporting on business and politics in Arkansas. Under Brock’s direction, content is driven through many channels such as the Talk Business & Politics TV show, which airs Sunday mornings at 9:30 am on KATV Channel 7, 10 am on KAIT’s NBC affiliate, and 10:30 am on KFSM Channel 5 in Northwest Arkansas. Brock also moderates radio programs on NPR affiliates statewide and a daily digital newscast at TalkBusiness.net. In partnership with Hendrix College, Talk Business & Politics conducts statewide polling on political and business issues throughout the year. TB&P also reports through a subscription magazine, daily e-newsletters and web reports featuring state business profiles, industry developments and current political discussions. In September 2016, Natural State Media acquired the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal and is expanding its coverage in this region of the state. In March 2018, Talk Business & Politics will launch a new print publication in Northeast Arkansas.

Dr. Larry Burd

Speaking at 9:30 on Thursday:Determining the Severity Level of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD): From Foster Care to Inmates on Death Row

Larry Burd received his PhD from the University of Manitoba Health Science Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba in Community Health Sciences.


Dr. Burd currently is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Director of the North Dakota Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Center and FAS Clinic.  Dr. Burd has been with the Pediatric Therapy Program for 40 years where he has evaluated over 18,000 children with birth defects, developmental disorders and mental illness. Dr. Burd has conducted research in 41 countries around the world. He has ongoing longitudinal studies of linked cohorts of subjects with Tourette syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol syndrome and infant mortality risk that are in their 28th consecutive year of data collection. He published over 220 professional papers on topics dealing with development and behavior in children and adolescents. He has had clinics for children with developmental disabilities and mental health disorders on Tribal Nations for over 30 years.

Valarie Flora

Valarie Flora, FCRR, AR-CCR, TX-CSR, United States District Courts,  Eastern District of Arkansas, President Arkansas Court Reporters Association

Speaking at 8:30 on Thursday: Help Me Help You - The Making of an All Star Record

Valarie Flora is a Federal Certified Real-time Reporter working in the United States District Courts, Eastern District of Arkansas where she has been since July 2021, working with all six district judges. In her career, she has worked as both a freelance deposition reporter and an official with the 4th Division Circuit Court in Saline county. She holds certifications from Texas, Arkansas, and National Court Reporter Association.

Laura Mack Gilson

Laura Gilson, General Counsel, Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System (moderator)

Speaking at 8:30 on Wednesday: Q.D.R.O. Q-dro, Quad-ro, I dunno…

Laura Mack Gilson is General Counsel of the Arkansas Public Employees’ Retirement System. Prior to practicing retirement law, Ms. Gilson served as staff for the governor and legislature. She serves on the board of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys and is chair of the Arkansas Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program Foundation Board. Ms. Gilson received her law degree from the Bowen School of Law (1984) and B.F.A. Theater from Arkansas State University (1981). She also is a fitness instructor for the Athletic Clubs of Little Rock, so if this attorney thing doesn't work out, she has the two cycling classes.

Dicky Grigg

Speaking at 11:30 on Wednesday
PLENARY Speaker Dicky Grigg

Guantanamo: It Is Not About Them - It Is About Us


Dicky Grigg received his undergraduate degree from Texas Tech in 1970, but could not get into Tech Law School.  He swallowed his pride, took second best, and attended law school at the University of Texas, graduating in 1973.  Mr. Grigg is board certified in Car Wrecks and Sore Backs and has dedicated his legal career to determining which car entered the intersection first.

Grigg was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas. He attended Texas Tech University for his undergraduate work, where he also played defensive tackle for the Red Raiders football team. Indeed, his original plan was to be a football coach, following in the footsteps of others in his family. But after choosing law school over business school, he was quickly lured by the challenge of trying cases. Anyone who knows Grigg knows that he is the penultimate storyteller, both in and out of the courtroom.

He attended the University of Texas School of Law, and Grigg hit the ground running, trying cases in the courtroom as he started his career in the Lubbock County District Attorney office. Early in his career, he moved to Austin, still focused on trying cases in the courtroom, and now has spent over four decades in civil trial practice handling hundreds personal injury cases at the prestigious law firm of Spivey & Grigg in Austin, Texas. Most often, he’s representing “the little guy.”

His self-effacing humor belies the fact that he is the recipient of many prestigious awards over his storied career: State Bar of Texas, Litigation Section, the Excellence in Litigation Award and the Luther Soules III Award for Outstanding Service to the Practice of Law; State Bar of Texas, Leon Jaworski Award for Law Teaching Excellence; Austin Bar Association, Distinguished Lawyer Award; American Board of Trial Advocates, TEX-ABOTA Trial Lawyer of the Year and former President; Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers; Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers and former President; Member of the Tonahill Society; recognition as one of The Best Lawyers in America; and recognition as a Super Lawyer, Texas Monthly Magazine.

But, in his career, as Grigg will tell you, the most meaningful work he has done has been in the public interest and pro bono sector, representing “the little guy” even when the “the little guy” is an Afghani detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba who speaks only Pashto. In 2005, Grigg was attending a legal seminar and answered the call for help from the Center for Constitutional Rights to assist in the defense of the approximately 770 terrorism suspects housed at Guantanamo Bay. None of them had legal counsel nor had their cases been reviewed by an impartial court. Grigg volunteered to represent three Guantanamo detainees, filing habeas corpus petitions in their behalf in federal court in Washington D.C. His work involved several trips to the detention center and appearances at hearings and status conferences in D.C. Personally, he spent nearly $50,000, primarily on travel and interpreters—which is a small figure in comparison to the value of his time and expertise spent working on these cases. Two of his clients were released, and the third was represented by military attorneys before the Military Commission.

William H. Henning

William H. Henning, Professor of Law, Texas A&M University

Speaking at 2:00 on Thursday: The UCC Amendments

In 1994, Professor Henning was appointed to Missouri’s delegation to the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), and he served the ULC as Executive Director from 2001 to 2007. Today, as a ULC Life Member, he serves as vice-chair of the Committee on the UCC, emeritus member of the Permanent Editorial Board for the UCC, and co-chair of the Study Committee on Implementation of the Hague Judgments Convention. He previously served as a member of the drafting committees that developed the 2022 amendments to the UCC and the 2010 amendments to Article 9, chair of the drafting committee that developed the 2004 amendments to Articles 2 and 2A, and a member of the ULC’s Executive Committee.

Professor Henning is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association, and he is a Fellow of the American College of Commercial Finance Lawyers (ACCFL). He is a member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Private International Law and has served as a U.S. delegate to both UNCITRAL and UNIDROIT. 

In 2002, Professor Henning received the Spurgeon Smithson Award, presented annually by the Trustees of The Missouri Bar Foundation for outstanding contributions to the legal profession by a member of The Missouri Bar; and in 2021, he received the ACCFL’s Homer Kripke Award, recognizing a career of noteworthy leadership and a history of exceptional dedication to the improvement of commercial finance law and practice.

Anton L. Janik, Jr.

Speaking at 1:00 on Thursday: Your Client’s Protected Data: What to Know, What to Do When Things Go Very, Very Wrong, and What Controls to Draft Before that Happens 

Anton Janik is an experienced attorney with a specialized practice in complex litigation, tax controversies and information security and privacy.  Anton advises businesses and individuals on tax controversies, investigations and corporate compliance, employee privacy, data protection and social media.  He is a Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) and a Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe (CIPP/E). He also leads the Tax Controversy and Litigation practice area and co-leads the Information Security & Privacy practice area. Anton previously served as a Trial Attorney with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

Matt McCoy

Speaking at 1:00 on Thursday: NIL and the Arkansas Student-Athlete Publicity Rights Act

McCoy oversees the legal affairs for the University’s Athletic Department and provides legal and strategic advice to the Chancellor, Athletic Director and senior administrators related to intercollegiate athletic matters.  He is an advising member of the department’s Senior Staff, but also provides guidance to other UA System attorneys working with athletics departments at other UA System campuses.
McCoy started in the University of Arkansas System in January 2009, before moving to the Fayetteville campus in December 2015. As a trial lawyer for nearly two decades, his primary practice has included education, athletics, employment, contracts, licensing, gaming and constitutional law and litigation.  As a former Assistant Attorney General and as an attorney for the UA System, McCoy represented numerous public officials, agencies, colleges and universities in federal and state trial and appellate matters.  He successfully fought constitutional challenges to the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, Oaklawn and Southland Park’s games of skill, and overturned precedent with regard to the State’s tax and suit immunity.  As the State’s lead counsel in Arkansas’s largest and longest-running, class-action lawsuit, he secured the Supreme Court’s declaration that the State’s public education system is constitutional.
McCoy initiated the UA System’s annual legal seminar and campus training program, reformed many of its employment and contracting practices, and spearheaded the drafting and implementation of its Title IX policies and education initiatives.  He served on the Attorney General’s Legislative Affairs Team, advised the House and Senate Joint Education Committees from 2006 to 2008 on matters related to education policy and adequacy, and regularly presents at legal education seminars and conferences around the country on higher education issues. Prior to his service in the Attorney General’s Office, Matt was a litigation attorney with the law firm of Hilburn, Calhoon, Harper, Pruniski & Calhoun.McCoy was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas and has been a life-long Razorback.  He is a 1997 University of Arkansas graduate, receiving his BS/BA in International Business and Economics from the Sam M. Walton College of Business.  As an undergraduate, McCoy was Vice President of the Associated Student Government and President of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity.   He also received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2001, where he met his wife, Summer.  Matt and Summer have two children, Parker and Cannon.

Jennifer Liwo

Speaking at 8:30am on Wednesday: Q.D.R.O. Q-dro, Quad-ro, I dunno…

Jennifer graduated from the William H. Bowen School of Law - UALR in 2011. Following her graduation, Jennifer served as law clerk to Judge Wendell Griffen. She is currently General Counsel for the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System. Before joining ATRS, Jennifer was employed as a legislative drafting attorney with the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research and, before that, as a staff attorney for the Arkansas Department of Education.

Speaker of the House Matthew J. Shepherd

Speaking at 12:45 on Friday: One-on-one with Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd 

Matthew J. Shepherd is the current and longest-serving Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives serving his third full term as Speaker. He represents District 97 which includes El Dorado and portions of Union County. He is serving his seventh term in the House. Shepherd lives and practices law in El Dorado at the law firm of Shepherd & Shepherd, P.A.

He was born and raised in El Dorado and graduated from El Dorado High School in 1994. Shepherd went on to graduate Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in History and Political Science from Ouachita Baptist University in 1998 and received his J.D. from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 2001. He is a member of the Union County, Arkansas, Louisiana Bar Associations, and is licensed to practice in the state courts of Arkansas and Louisiana; the United States District Courts for the Western and Eastern Districts of Arkansas, and the Western District of Louisiana; and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Shepherd is the former two-term Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and is a member of the Joint Budget Committee, the House Public Transportation Committee, the House Agriculture, Forestry & Economic Development Committee, and the House Management Committee. Additionally, he serves as Chairman of the Arkansas Code Revision Commission. Shepherd has received a number of awards and recognitions for his legislative service. Shepherd is a member of the First Baptist Church of El Dorado, where he is a Deacon and Sunday School Teacher. He is currently a board member of the Arkansas Baptist Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of El Dorado, and El Dorado Fifty for the Future, and serves as President of the El Dorado Boys & Girls Club Alumni Association and the Murphy USA Classic football game. He formerly served in the Arkansas Bar Association’s House of Delegates, and on the boards of Union County Habitat for Humanity, Hope Landing, the Union County Community Foundation, the United Way of Union County, and the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, and is a former member of the El Dorado Civil Service Commission, the El Dorado Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Union County Election Commission.Shepherd and his wife, Alie, have three children.

Brian C. Smith

Brian C. Smith, Friday Eldredge & Clark, LLP

Speaking at 8:30 on Wednesday: Q.D.R.O. Q-dro, Quad-ro, I dunno…

Brian C. Smith is a partner at Friday, Eldredge & Clark and practices in the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Practice Group. His practice includes experience in the design, implementation and administration of tax-qualified retirement plans including defined benefit pension plans, profit-sharing plans, 401(k) plans and ESOPs. He also works with nonqualified deferred compensation plans and health and welfare plans for financial institutions, regular business organizations, professional corporations and governmental and non-profit organizations.

Brian assists plan sponsors and fiduciaries with regulatory compliance with ERISA, with state and federal tax issues and with local legislation affecting retirement and welfare plans. In addition, he acts as counsel to plan sponsors and fiduciaries with respect to ERISA controversies and litigation.

Cathy Underwood

Speaking at 8:30 on Friday: Legal Research with Fastcase & ArkBar

Cathy L. Underwood is a legal editor and college instructor from Little Rock, Arkansas. She has served as a consultant to the Arkansas Bar Association for over 30 years, editing the Association’s handbooks and providing Fastcase and ArkBar Docs training to the membership. She is co-author of Arkansas Legal Research, 2d edition (Carolina Academic Press 2016). Ms. Underwood is a 2002 graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. She is a member of the Arkansas Bar Association, the American Association for Paralegal Instructors, and American Mensa.

Kimberly Wehle

Kimberly Wehle, ABC News Legal Contributor, Professor of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law, and Counsel at Levy Firestone Muse

Speaking at 11:00 on Thursday: PLENARY  Speaker Kimberly Wehle

How to Think Like a Lawyer–and Why:

A Common-Sense Guide to Everyday Dilemmas


Kimberly Wehle (pronounced “Whale-ee”) is a tenured law professor and has been teaching law full-time since 2006. She is also an author, lawyer and former CBS News legal analyst. In addition to her scholarly work, she writes regular columns for Politico, The Atlantic, The Bulwark, and The Hill. She also provides frequent legal commentary for CNN, MSNBC, NBC, BBC, NPR, and numerous other media outlets. At the University of Baltimore School of Law, her teaching and scholarship focuses on the separation of powers, administrative agencies, and civil litigation. She is a 2020 recipient of the prestigious Board of Regents Faculty Award for the University of Maryland for excellence in scholarship, research and creative activity. She is also a former Assistant United States Attorney; Associate Independent Counsel in the Whitewater Investigation; and author of the books What You Need to Know about Voting—and Why, and How to Read The Constitution—and Why, and How to Think Like a Lawyer—and Why: A Common-Sense Guide to Everyday Dilemmas, with publisher HarperCollins. Follow Professor Wehle on Twitter and Instagram @kimwehle. She has a Youtube and Instagram IGTV series called #SimplePolitics with Kim Wehle.

Megan Wells

Megan Wells, Hilburn & Harper, Ltd.

Speaking at 8:30 on Wednesday: Q.D.R.O. Q-dro, Quad-ro, I dunno…

Megan Wells is a partner at Hilburn & Harper, Ltd., where she has worked first as a law clerk and later as an attorney since 2014. Megan practices primarily in the area of Domestic Relations and is a certified attorney ad litem.

Justice Rhonda K. Wood

Speaking at 9:30 on Friday: A Conversation with Justices of the Arkansas Supreme Court

Justice Rhonda K. Wood is in her seventeenth year on the judicial bench.  She served six years on the trial bench, two years on the Court of Appeals, and is in her ninth year as an Associate Justice on the Arkansas Supreme Court. In January 2023, she began her 2nd eight-year term on the Supreme Court.

Justice Wood serves many legal organizations. She is Certified Faculty for the National Center for State Courts, a Henry Toll Fellow, and serves on the American Bar Associations’ Appellate Judge Education Institute’s Education Committee.   Justice Wood is Chair of the Supreme Court’s Commission on Children, Youth, and Families. She founded and is co-host of the appellate podcast Lady Justice: Women of the Court with two other state supreme court justices from other states.

Justice Wood earned her B.A. with distinction in politics, magna cum laude, from Hendrix College, and her J.D. from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law with highest honors. She was the 1st recipient of the Dean’s Distinguished Certificate of Service. She also received the highest score on the Arkansas Bar Examination. Prior to becoming a judge, Wood practiced law with the Wood Law Firm and Williams and Anderson, PLLC. She was an Assistant Dean, Bowen School of Law. 

Judge Wendy Scholtens Wood

Speaking at 8:30 on Friday: A Conversation with Judges of the Arkansas Court of Appeals

On January 1, 2023, Judge Wendy Scholtens Wood began her first term serving as a judge on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. For the prior sixteen years, Judge Wood served as a law clerk for Court of Appeals Judge Larry Vaught. She began her legal career in private practice at the Barber Law Firm working as a trial lawyer from 1996–2006. Judge Wood graduated from the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law in 1996 and received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University in 1991, where she was an All-American basketball player.

Judge Charles A. Yeargan

Speaking at 3:30p on Thursday: Mediation-Practice Tips and Pitfalls; Views from the Bench

Charles Yeargan is a life-long resident of Pike County.  He graduated from Glenwood High School and attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration in 1973 and a Juris Doctor degree from law school in 1976.

He was admitted to the Arkansas Bar in 1976 and engaged in private practice in Glenwood until he was elected Circuit Judge in 1996. He was re-elected six times and completed twenty-four years of service. He was a member of the Arkansas Judicial Council and served on the Judicial Retirement committee, the Arkansas Supreme Court Criminal Model Jury Instruction committee, the Criminal Law Practice Committee to the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Judicial Education Committee. He also presided over the Ninth West Judicial Drug Court.

Prior to being elected Circuit Judge, he served six years as Pike County Municipal Judge, ten years as Pike County deputy prosecuting attorney, nine years on the State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission, and seventeen years as city attorney for Glenwood.

Judge Yeargan is married to Donna Kay Steel and together they have three children and five grandchildren.  They currently reside in Glenwood. Since his retirement in 2020, he has continued to serve as judge on special assignments by the Supreme Court and as a mediator.