In today’s blog post, Miller Friel attorney Bernie Bell introduces a two part series on Issues to Consider When Selecting an Insurance Recovery Law Firm. In some ways, Insurance Recovery law is not unlike other specialized areas of the law. Experienced lawyers are generally capable of delivering better results. Yet, with insurance recovery law, not all experienced lawyers are playing on a level field. Law firms that defend corporate litigation, generally need to be approved as insurance company panel counsel to accept that work. Insurance companies, as a quid pro quo for permitting law firms to accept their money, oftentimes impose rules to restrict the effectiveness of advocacy against them. That way, if one of “their” law firms elects to pursue a claim them, they can be assured that nothing bad will happen. This approach may be one of the most brilliant risk minimization strategies ever devised as it seriously impacts the amount of money insurers pay on corporate insurance claims.
The issue for corporate policyholders is that their go-to law firms, law firms that are highly competent in most practice areas, may be crippled when it comes to pursuing corporate insurance claims.
In this video, Bernie addresses two questions that should be asked of any prospective insurance recovery law firm. Please watch the video to learn more.
We have included a transcript of the video below:
Selecting an Insurance Recovery Law Firm (Part 1)
Does your law firm serve as panel counsel for liability insurers? The reason that this is important, it may not be technically a conflict, but your firm is earning revenue from liability insurers.
The second question and related question is, does your outside law firm have agreements, whether they’re formal or informal, with liability insurers that restrict when, and under what circumstances you can sue, the law firm can sue its insurers.
If your law firm serves as panel counsel for a liability insurer or otherwise earns revenue from that insurer as a result of their defense of product lability claims or securities claims or environmental claims, they may have an understanding and it may not be written, it may be informal, that restricts the circumstances under which they, the law firm, can sue the insurer that is paying other partners in the firm for what, and one example would be bad faith.
These understandings are important from a client’s perspective. It may be permissible if they consent to it but the consent should be informed and therefore it’s an important question for clients to ask of their perspective lawyer.
A law firm that is on a panel becomes interested in not running afoul of the insurer that’s paying their bills and the perverse dynamic that that sets up is that the insurer is not hesitant to exert pressure on the law firm not to sue it if the insurer is paying the law firm’s bills.
Now, as a technical matter, it’s true that being on the panel does not render the insurer a client of the firm and there is no technical conflict, but there is business conflict in many circumstances where the big global law firms find themselves under increasing pressure to pull their punches in coverage matters.