AS stated in Law 360 as recently as Sept 18:
“Law360 (April 17, 2020, 1:06 PM EDT) — UPDATED September 18, 2020, 11:51 AM EDT | The spreading coronavirus pandemic has upended the legal industry, forcing firms to cut salaries, lay off attorneys and make changes to summer associate programs.”
Have you noticed in these difficult times, bigger is not always better. Big law is struggling.
So this begs the question, Who Has Your files?
Big law is struggling with their significant overhead from the big rent for premium space, staffing and high salaries. Their office setup is not conducive to protection from COVID whether it is bullpen cubicles for staff and too many people per square foot. Once a COVID case hits, there is quarantine and office shutdowns.
They probably will not tell you the number of positive cases in their firm. Nor will they tell you how many layoffs they had to do and what case reassignments were done, thus overloading the remaining attorneys and paralegals. They will not tell you if their attorneys and staff are scattered to the winds working from home.
Have they been reassigned? Has there been significant reduction in bodies? Are they only able to work from home or even from another state? Will the firm tell you their exact status.
Smaller firms can run lean and work aggressively while having a safer environment to work from and significantly better protections from COVID.
The insurance and carrier industry is becoming more challenging.
While adaptation is key and good settlements are the goal, the ultimate deciding factor for the insured and the safety and/or claims department is trial.
- There are plenty of insurance companies and carriers that can “provide” coverage or have a large SIR, but struggle on the claims side.
- There are plenty of defense firms that can “handle” cases, but have not tried cases to juries.
I base these observations on not just legal news, but on discussions within the community and with people in the industry as well as my experience.
Trial lawyers with actual trial experience are becoming an endangered species. What should you look for in an attorney/firm to have done your due diligence?
- Board Certification
- A complete trial list upon request
- References from both risk managers, claims personnel and insureds
- Familiarity with the judges in the area
- Knowledge of the demographic population and jury pools
- Provide consistent and reliable legal services to carriers and their insureds in all counties
- Actual and deep experience with 24hr. emergency response for accident investigation
- Adequate E&O limits ($5 million)
This is the type of experience that provides the backstop for the claims department and the insured.
By way of example, I’ve tried 75 jury trials to verdict in 35 years, including death and serious injury cases. Having a Board Certification in Personal Injury Trial law and actually trying cases means real experience. This level of experience is becoming the exception rather than the norm.
However, it is also essential to getting good settlements. For example, in mediation, a good philosophy was best expressed by Harry Truman, “If you are going to tell someone to go to hell, you better have the power to send them there”. Thus, the other side knowing you will go the distance will make them more realistic. This is especially true when your reputation is known in the legal community.
Having a trusted and experienced legal partner in the early stages of your new company will make a positive difference.