What Do Insurance Companies Want from Outside Counsel?
I went to a client’s panel counsel meeting several months ago. The presentation the client gave was focused on what outside counsel could do to help the claims adjusters and management team handle their claims more efficiently and effectively. Of course, any time a client is taking the time to tell you, “Here are the things you can do to make my life easier,” or “These are the things we consider when we’re evaluating our relationship with you,” you had darn well better be listening.
While I’ve written on some of these topics in the past and will certainly extrapolate posts from some of these notes later, I wanted to share with you what my client (and I expect to some degree, many of your clients) are looking for from outside counsel:
- On the insurance side, the claims adjusters own the file. Outside counsel needs to provide information and resources that help the adjusters look good. Particularly, outside counsel should lend their expertise, jurisdictional knowledge, and judgment.
- Written communication should focus on substance over form – “Substantive communication beats following the form every time.” A report that doesn’t provide new information or insight doesn’t do anyone any good.
- Timeliness and candor in your communication are critical to the client.
- Consider the financial exposure when crafting a litigation strategy, and make sure your strategy and proposed budget align with the risk.
- Litigation is no big deal for lawyers, but it’s stressful and takes mental and emotional capitol for insureds.
- Early resolution is a huge benefit to your client … when it makes sense.
- Outside counsel should work collaboratively with the claims adjuster to identify the most efficient way out of a case.
- Craft a strategy and position a case to take the first, best exit, which may sometimes be early resolution and other times may mean trying a case.
- Depending on venue, particular facts, and the insured, the “value” of a case may be different than what it takes to actually resolve a case. Be sure to identify this disparity to your claims adjuster.
- Outside counsel are most valuable when they focus their efforts on:
- Professionalism, both with the client and outside counsel
- Dual expertise, in handling cases and managing the relationship with the client
- Clear, concise communication
- Flexibility with reports and communicating resolution strategies
- Early assessment of information, especially regarding discovery
- Meaningful settlement and verdict ranges
- Effective, communicative relationships with opposing counsel
Sometimes clients make it easy for outside counsel to know what they need and expect by laying it out for us. All we need to is implement their “suggestions” into our daily practice. So much of this can be boiled down to providing regular and meaningful communication and content to your client within their prescribed timeframes, which will result in a happy client and a strong relationship.
Photo by Marja van Bochove.