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Author Topic: Insurance Defense Work  (Read 9029 times)

woomen

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Insurance Defense Work
« on: January 31, 2010, 09:48:06 PM »
Thinking about joining an insurance defense, but I've heard it's "shitlaw"?  I appreciate any perspective from people who have gone into ID or knows of people who have.  Thanks!

Alamo

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2010, 11:32:38 PM »
I haven't practiced with such a firm, but clerking, I've seen a few cases come through.  My impression is that the typical car/fire/life insurance gig pays well, and the work is complex enough to make it somewhat intellectually engaging, but it can be soul-crushing. 

Sometimes, you're probably fending off frauds who are looking for a quick payday; that would be gratifying.  But most of the time you'll be across the table/aisle from someone who just had something terrible happen to her -- and you'll be telling her that, for X reason, you're not going to pay.  And, before that, you'll have searched through her policy to find any clause, and and her file to find any action, that would render your client's coverage inapplicable.  Sometimes, you might even string her along for a while, making her think you'll settle, then, as soon as the statute of limitations runs, you either hang that over her head and make her settle for a fraction of what her case would've been worth, or litigate and pray the judge doesn't find a way around enforcing the time bar. 

Thus, my impression is that it's "make you feel like *&^%" law.  But to each his own.  I'd take it over domestic relations work any day of the week.
I must admit that I may have been infected with society's prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God . . . and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.  I don't believe such doubts make me a bad Christian.  I believe they make me human . . .

BikePilot

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2010, 07:53:09 AM »
From what I've seen most ins companies are quite fair and do pay out when they should - most of the litigation ends up when someone wants a benefit they never paid for is is doing something shady like burning their own house down for the ins payout. Also there's a huge range of ins defense from auto liability to D&O to general commercial liability.
HLS 2010

Jhuen_the_bird

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2010, 11:16:41 AM »
Run awaaaaay!!

haha, no, not really ... but I've clerked at an insurance defense firm for a year and a half (I'm in my last semester of law school) and I would NOT want to work here as an attorney - insurance defense seems like a billable hour nightmare.  At least at this firm - it's 2000 hr requirement for the firm, and hours get kicked back ALL the time!  It seems really stressful since the clients are pretty sophisticated.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2011, 12:02:53 AM »
From what I've seen most ins companies are quite fair and do pay out when they should - most of the litigation ends up when someone wants a benefit they never paid for is is doing something shady like burning their own house down for the ins payout. Also there's a huge range of ins defense from auto liability to D&O to general commercial liability.

I work with property and casualty companies every day.  I can't divulge much given that I still make my living this way, but suffice to say that my impression of property and casualty insurers is 180 degrees different than yours. 

I also am a person who was against litigation most of my life until I was hit by a woman in an SUV who made a left turn while oncoming and knocked me from my bike.  The insurance company was so uncooperative and unwilling to offer a reasonable settlement, I ended up hiring a PI firm. 

I think a lot of people have good interactions with insurance companies that pay fairly and promptly.  However, there are enough cases that I've personally witnessed where nothing of the sort happened, that I absolutely don't look down at PI attorneys anymore.

john4040

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2011, 11:26:13 AM »
Alamo hit the nail on the head.  What he described are the types of cases that often come across my desk as a judicial law clerk.  Instead of settling, the insurance defense attorney will try to find any clause that would allow his client (the insurance company) to weasel its way out of paying the claim or to enforce the terms of a grossly one-sided contract.  Generally, when the contract is even the slightest bit ambiguous as to coverage, courts will find in favor of the insured.

FalconJimmy

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2011, 12:19:30 PM »
At least at this firm - it's 2000 hr requirement for the firm, and hours get kicked back ALL the time!  It seems really stressful since the clients are pretty sophisticated.

Wow, I don't have direct experience in insurance defense, but this is so familiar it actually is giving me chills. 

I have heard that the upside of insurance defense work is that you're essentially guaranteed a nonstop stream of work. 

On the flip side, I've heard that they negotiate lower rates for the hourly billing rate (totally consistent with what I see insurance companies do every day.)

Then, to add the point you made: that they kick back on the billed hours is also absolutely consistent with what I've observed with the way they do business, everywhere. 

They're essentially negotiating thousands of transactions every day.  They know how far they can go when pushing a relationship and they're darned sure going to do it.

Now, in the final analysis, nobody is forced to work for them.  I know of one person in particular who specialized in insurance defense a long time ago and he's truly wealthy, now.  Works long hours, earns every penny, but never has to wonder where his next billable hour is going to come from.

However, I can see how this could be horribly frustrating work.  You're representing Goliath, trying to help him beat the snot out of David, and when you succeed, he quibbles about your bill after you already gave him a discount on the rate to begin with.

I'm really glad you guys brought this up.  It would never have occurred to me how unappealing this sort of work can be if you had not. 

Not saying I wouldn't do it, or that I'd rule it out, but just saying I'd examine any prospects in this line of work with my eyes wide open.

barond

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2011, 12:04:21 PM »
I'm sure an insurance company is a much better client than most for obvious reasons.

john4040

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2011, 12:11:09 PM »
I'm sure an insurance company is a much better client than most for obvious reasons.

Because they can pay (although they typically refute the bill) and provide you with a solid stream of work?

MikePing

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Re: Insurance Defense Work
« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2011, 12:17:47 PM »
Quote
Sometimes, you're probably fending off frauds who are looking for a quick payday; that would be gratifying.  But most of the time you'll be across the table/aisle from someone who just had something terrible happen to her -- and you'll be telling her that, for X reason, you're not going to pay.  And, before that, you'll have searched through her policy to find any clause, and and her file to find any action, that would render your client's coverage inapplicable.  Sometimes, you might even string her along for a while, making her think you'll settle, then, as soon as the statute of limitations runs, you either hang that over her head and make her settle for a fraction of what her case would've been worth, or litigate and pray the judge doesn't find a way around enforcing the time bar. 

Insurance defense work comes after litigation is filed.  Rarely, will you be dealing with policy provisions as an out.  The typical situation is one where you have liablilty against your client, but the damages are disputed.

Insurance companies carefully look at their bills.  "kickback" occurs when you spend too much time on a project, or doing "unnecessary"  work.   

The work, however, is steady.  It isn't glamerous for a young lawyer.  Expect to spend about 2/3 of your time drafting or responding to motions or discovery.  1/3 will be fact witness depositions.  Partner will handle everything else for several years. 

Its the kind of job that is easy to leave at work.

Good luck!!!