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The Marketability of Insurance Attorneys [ Jennifer McKee] There are two different kind of insurance attorneys - insurance defense and insurance coverage. Is one more marketable than the other?

Question

by a third party-typically, an action alleging

As an insurance attorney, what kind of job

that the insured has caused the third party to

market is available to me?

suffer bodily injury or property damage. The

If there are no coverage issues, the defen-

parties to the action typically are the insured

dant’s insurer will appoint counsel to defend

Answer

and the third party claimant. The legal issues

the insured in the action, and will attempt to

We are frequently contacted by attorneys

revolve around whether the insured defen-

resolve the claim for bodily injury and prop-

whose practices focus on insurance law.

dant is liable to the third party, and if so, for

erty damage, by settlement or otherwise. The

The relative marketability of these attorneys

how much.

legal issues will be fairly straightforward-

brought by the other driver.

-how did the accident occur, what was the

depends on the specific nature of their practice. Insurance coverage attorneys are highly

In contrast, the parties to insurance coverage

proximate cause of any resulting injuries

marketable, and can transition to challenging

actions generally are the insurer and the

and damage, and what is the monetary value

new positions with top law firms with relative

insured. The insured is seeking to recover

of the injuries and damage suffered. If the

ease. On the other hand, those who practice

under a policy of insurance, and the central

insured is found liable, or agrees to a settle-

insurance defense find it more difficult to

legal question is whether the insured’s

ment within policy limits, the insurer will pay

make an upwardly-mobile move, notwith-

policy covers the loss or liability. Insurance

the tab.

standing their often excellent litigation skills.

coverage actions also may involve complex issues-including disputes between insurers-

But if there are coverage issues, the insurer

What then, is the difference between insur-

relating to matters such as primary/excess

may refuse to cover the damages suffered

ance coverage and insurance defense, and

coverage, time-on-the-risk, or reinsurance.

by the insured and the third party, and may

why do attorneys in the former area have an

Such actions also may involve first party

refuse to defend the insured in the lawsuit

easier time making a lateral move? While

claims for coverage (e.g., for a loss suffered

brought by the other driver. In that event,

a detailed explanation of all of the nuances

by the insured, rather than by a third party,

coverage litigation may ensue-instigated by

of insurance law is beyond the scope of this

such as fire or earthquake damage to the

either the insured or the insurer-in which

article, the following is an explanation of the

insured’s home, or theft of the insured’s

the operative question will be whether the

basic differences between the two types of

personal property) that are never at issue in

insured’s policy covers-or potentially cov-

practices. Also included is a discussion of

insurance defense.

ers-the loss or liability resulting from the automobile accident, thereby entitling the

how insurance defense attorneys can best position themselves to make a lateral move

Automobile insurance provides a fairly

insured to a defense and/or indemnity. The

to a top law firm.

straightforward example of the difference

legal issues involved in such a suit will not

between insurance defense and insurance

focus on whether the insured is liable to

AS A GENERAL RULE, INSURANCE COVER-

coverage. Imagine that an insured driver

the other driver. Rather, they will focus on

AGE CASES INVOLVE MORE SOPHISTICATED

is involved in an automobile accident with

matters such as whether the policy was in

LEGAL ISSUES AND ARE MORE LIKELY TO

another driver. As a result, both cars are

effect at the time of the accident, whether

RESULT IN BINDING CASE LAW THAT WILL

damaged, and the other driver is injured. The

the driver of the vehicle was in fact insured

DIRECTLY AFFECT FUTURE CLAIMS

other driver sues the insured for the injuries

under the policy, or whether the insured’s

and damages allegedly suffered. The insured

liability arises from an excluded risk (such

The phrase “insurance defense” refers to

therefore seeks coverage for the other

as situations where the insured intentionally

situations where an insurer hires counsel to

driver’s injuries and property damage, and

caused the accident).

defend its insured against an action brought

asks the insurer to defend him in the lawsuit

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WEEKLY RECRUITER SPEAK

Thus, insurance defense cases tend to focus

clients.

strong package.

on the facts of a particular incident or occurrence. Insurance coverage cases tend to focus

INSURANCE DEFENSE ATTORNEYS CAN

A final thought to keep in mind is that conflicts

on the language of the policy and the case law

MAXIMIZE THEIR MARKETABILITY TO TOP

can be a major concern in insurance cover-

construing the policy language. Such cases

LAW FIRMS BY FOCUSING ON INSURANCE

age work. While some firms represent both

can have a much more dramatic impact on the

COVERAGE WORK TO THE GREATEST EXTENT

insurers and policyholders, most focus on

insurer’s bottom line, because they can estab-

POSSIBLE, AND HONING THEIR LITIGATION

representing one side or the other. A firm

lish precedent that will apply to future claims.

SKILLS

that represents only policyholders may be

INSURANCE DEFENSE LAW FIRMS ARE LESS

Many law firms that focus primarily on insur-

has represented insurers, simply as a matter

LIKELY TO USE LEGAL RECRUITERS THAN

ance defense work also do a fair amount of

of firm policy, or due to actual or perceived

FIRMS THAT HANDLE INSURANCE COVERAGE

insurance coverage work. Attorneys who work

conflicts of interest. Your job search should be

WORK

at such firms can maximize their market-

tailored accordingly.

unwilling to consider hiring an attorney who

ability to top law firms by handling as much While insurance defense cases sometimes

insurance coverage work as they can get their

Any of our BCG recruiters would be happy to

involve high-dollar claims, the practice

hands on. Attorneys who have done so (includ-

discuss your insurance practice with you to

generally tends to be high volume/low value.

ing this author) have been able to leverage

determine how you can take your practice to

Because insurance defense work tends to be

themselves into better-paying positions at

the highest level.

high volume, insurance carriers often assign

more prestigious law firms, where they have

a lot of cases to a particular firm, but pay a

handled more sophisticated and satisfying

Jennifer McKee is a recruiter for BCG Attorney

fairly low hourly rate. Insurance coverage

work. We have had success marketing such

Search based in Los Angeles, and she can be

cases, on the other hand, can be quite large

attorneys to top law firms by focusing on the

reached by calling (213) 895-7300 or by e-mail

scale, with multimillion dollar claims that

strong, hands-on litigation experience that

at jennifer@bcgsearch.com.

take years to litigate (for example, claims

they have gained through their insurance de-

for coverage of liability for environmental

fense work, and the exposure to sophisticated

contamination that allegedly took place over

legal issues that they have gained through

decades, thereby implicating numerous poli-

their insurance coverage work.

cies). Carriers generally are willing to pay a much higher hourly rate for these types of

Such attorneys should approach a potential

cases, because as a general rule, the work is

lateral move with considerable thought. Some

more sophisticated, and, as mentioned above,

individuals in hiring positions have a bias

more likely to result in binding case law that

against insurance defense attorneys, perceiv-

will apply to future claims.

ing them to be less careful in their work and to have less sophisticated experience than

Firms that handle insurance defense work

other candidates. To address any such bias,

tend to pay their attorneys salaries that are

a candidate should ensure that his or her ap-

below market. They are often unwilling to

plication is as well-presented and informative

recruit lateral attorneys through recruiting

as possible. The application should highlight

firms-which can entail a substantial fee-

any insurance coverage experience-includ-

preferring to hire candidates directly. On

ing a description of the specific nature of that

the other hand, many of the top law firms

experience (e.g., first-party or third-party,

in the country handle insurance coverage

types of coverages/claims, etc.)-as well as the

work. Some handle such matters on behalf

extent of the candidate’s hands-on litigation

of insurers, and some handle them on behalf

experience. Many insurance defense attorneys

of well-heeled corporate policyholders. In

have substantially more experience than their

either event, such firms are able to command

counterparts at more prestigious firms in

very respectable hourly rates for their work,

handling depositions, oral arguments, arbitra-

and generate a healthy revenue stream in

tions, and trial. This experience can be very

the practice area. Many such firms are our

attractive to firms when presented as part of a

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The Marketability of Insurance Attorneys