Best Practice: Expanding law practice into insurance defense
By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC Q. I am an 11-year attorney practicing at a small firm on the west coast. We currently focus on business litigation, employment litigation, corporate formation, bankruptcy, wills and trusts, and personal injury. We are trying to expand our practice into the area of insurance defense. To that end, I have been sending out correspondence to insurance companies offering my services in defense of general liability, property/casualty, and employment practices claims. My goal would be to develop a regular stream of business from these types of cases, and to cross-market our other services to clients that come through insurance defense referrals. I am not sure if I am going about this the right way, and would like to seek your counsel. A. In all honesty, I have more firms asking how to diversify out of insurance defense into more self-insured and direct representation work. If you want to pursue this market you will need to become part of the club and do more than just dabble in this area. You will have to get on the "approved lists" of the various insurance companies. Once you are on these lists you have to entice claims manager to use you as opposed to other law firms that are on their approved lists. In other words, establish relationships with numerous claims manager throughout the company. This is harder than it used to be due to policies that many companies now have prohibiting various forms of networking such as dinners, gifts, ball games, etc. Now days it seems that educational venues is one of the few formats that is not frowned upon. You may also find that some companies reluctant to work with a firm your size. I have been advised by insurance companies that they like to see a certain level of bench strength (backup). The firm does not have to be a large firm but often the insurance company likes to see a minimum of four or five lawyers in a firm. You will have to have a track record of success, understand the business, and be able to accommodate the unique billing (including electronic LEDES billing), case management, and reporting requirements that insurance companies require. Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Become involved in every possible organization that involves insurance claims, ACCA, and other such groups.
- Join and become actively involved in these groups.
- Offer to give speeches and presentations to these groups.
- Develop relationships with news reports and have an effective public program that insures that you get all the PR you can when you have successful outcomes in your cases.
- Speak at ACCA and RIMS (Risk Insurance Management Society) conferences.
- Form alliances with bigger regional and national insurance defense firms.
- Research target companies and make application to get on their approved lists.
- Obtain listings in Best and Martindale.
- Have a quality website that demonstrates expertise and a e-newsletter that provides information that will help claims managers and adjuster be more successful.
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- Click here for our article on insurance defense practice strategies