Ironman David Daggett: ‘Every Crisis Conceals An Opportunity’

April 01, 2020   |   Amber Nimocks

By Amber Nimocks

Here’s a COVID-19-informed update of our profile of attorney, community leader and Ironman athlete David Daggett that offers a look at how Daggett Shuler is addressing the challenges of the pandemic, how the firm’s signature Safe Sober Prom Night works in a season without proms, and how his Ironman training is going now that pools are strictly off limits.

When I interviewed Daggett last fall for a profile in the Winter edition of Trial Briefs, he was looking forward to celebrating the 30th anniversary of Safe Sober Prom Night this spring. His Winston-Salem firm started the program, which has reached 600,000 kids with its message of safety and responsibility during its three-decade run.

Then came COVID-19. Undeterred, Daggett powered ahead, setting up an awards ceremony for the winner of the program’s annual T-shirt design contest in late March — where everyone stood six feet apart. And though prom night is postponed, possibly cancelled, Daggett has promised that students will get their Safe Sober Prom Night T-shirts, which have become a popular totem of the community’s high school experience.

David Daggett
Daggett Shuler
Attorneys At Law
NCAJ member for: 34 years
BA in Economics from Indiana State University, law degree from Wake Forest University Law School.
Three children: Annecy, a junior at William & Mary University; Emmaline, a freshman at Swarthmore College; and Riley, a junior at Richard J. Reynolds High School. Daggett and his wife, Cynthia, live in Winston-Salem.

That trademark optimism has fueled Daggett’s career as the managing partner at Daggett Shuler, where he has practiced as a personal injury attorney for more than 34 years, and his daunting athletic achievements. As a triathlete, he has compiled an impressive set of statistics: 195 triathlons completed, including 29 Ironman competitions. He has finished the Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championship eight times and last year qualified for a ninth trip to the elite, rigorous race.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Safe Sober Prom Night, but there may be no proms. How are you adapting to deliver the message this year?

We think it is important to continue the tradition. Briefly, we had the Mayor, Chief of Police, Sheriff, Chair of County Commissioners and other dignitaries (with proper spacing) at our office for a press conference and filming. We will use the film clips to keep the message alive.  And, we have to keep the program going some way, some how for at least three reasons:

  • This is a tradition that the students look forward to. Over 30 years this has gone from nerdy to cool, and we are not going to let the students down. It has become way  bigger than just proms . . . it is leadership, guidance, and direction for our young people. They look forward to it and need it
  • The message of awareness is always needed – for them, their friends, and their families.
  • Peer pressure is the strongest force there is, and we need this to keep it positive.

As things evolve we do not know exactly when and how we will get the pledges and T-shirts to the students, but I promise we will figure out a way.

What precautions is the Daggett Shuler firm taking to stay safe from COVID-19?

First, we have repeated the following incessantly and have signs all over the office for the past three weeks and continue to:

  • Please do not come to the office if you are sick, or if someone in your family is sick.  additionally, if you or your family are not practicing 100 percent social distancing you are putting us all at risk.
  • Maintain six feet distance from all other people at all times.
  • Please wash your hands frequently.

We sure do hope everyone is doing this.

Next, we basically eliminated all in-office appointments. Everything is done electronically, by phone, or even drive-up, hand-off in the parking lot.

We may have been the ones who caused the shortage of Lysol and hand sanitizer. We have it everywhere.

Have you had to change your physical training routine?

For 35 years I have gone swimming first thing every morning. What a huge change that has been, although my complexion has seemed to improve. I am in great biking and running shape and can’t wait to unleash it in the 60+ category. Swimming comes back fast for me.

Has the 2020 Hawaii Ironman World Triathlon Championship been postponed due to the pandemic? How do you deal with the challenge of having a training goal change after you’ve been working toward it for so long?

My summer Ironman race in Germany (a warm-up of sorts) was just canceled today. Hawaii is still on, and I promise I will adapt. If that changes, there will be a silver lining somewhere and I will find it! “Every Crisis Conceals  an Opportunity.”

Why did you decide to become a plaintiff’s lawyer?

A passion for care and respect and to help individuals was instilled in me at an early age. This was reinforced by school, church and community involvement and activities. At some point there was a confluence between academics and these instilled values that pointed toward law. Of course, representation of and service to individuals was a natural extension into my professional career.

Is there a case that stands out as particularly memorable, one that made you feel proud to practice law?

War stories are a bit endemic for lawyers, and boring to others … and I have many of them. However, truly the most memorable are the almost daily thank yous and hugs from good, decent people who we were able to help … that is the best story of them all. Was there someone in your life who inspired you to pursue a career in the law? It was a group effort! Lots of coaches, teachers, family, friends’ parents, folks at church and in the community encouraged me and supported me to pursue my education and then on to law school. It took a village, and I am grateful for the leadership and direction I received.

What career accomplishments are you most proud of?

Perhaps my greatest accomplishment(s) is the integration of law, family, faith, and fitness in a very fulfilling life. On a large scale, our Safe Sober Prom Night program has reached more than 600,000 high school students. This resulted in being presented an AAJ Trial Lawyers Care award. On a smaller scale, [I’ve been] coaching high school wrestling and working with the Down’s Syndrome Association, for which I was presented a Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. All of this has gone together to create a law firm that delivers superior performance, makes a distinctive impact and has lasting endurance.

How does it feel to have finished your 195th triathlon?

Thirty-eight consecutive years of competing in triathlons, and I’m just getting started! Racing is simply the reward for a lifestyle of fitness.

How do you keep going — as an athlete and a lawyer? Get up and get rolling! Just like an Ironman on race day, the key is to keep putting one foot in front of the other and never give up. Consistent execution over time always produces positive results. The key is to muster the motivation to just keep going. What advice would you give a lawyer who just passed the bar this year? Dream big. No excuses. And never give up! Pursue passion. Health is your most valuable asset. Make a difference to others and it will make a difference in you. Anything is possible if you establish a worthy goal, are willing to work hard, and never give up!

How does your membership in NCAJ make you a better lawyer or support your practice of the law? Ironman racing is long, tough, and takes commitment. It also takes encouragement and support to get you o the finish line. Likewise, the NCAJ provides professional encouragement and support — particularly when the road gets long and tough. NCAJ supports our collective commitment to individual rights and justice. For more than 34 years the NCAJ has gotten me to the finish line!