Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Insurance Defense Panels

Hi, I am practicing plaintiffs' personal injury law, but ambulancechaser201305/10/17
Flame. No one wants to transition to ID. mrtor05/10/17
I know of 3 ID firms in my state. Either the clients are inh vohod05/10/17
Politics for municipal work. sjlawyer05/10/17
My friend's husband works in ID/workers' comp defense. Equit bucwild05/10/17
Funny, I've heard the opposite. There's a lot of money in ru trickydick05/10/17
P.I. mills tend to be closely run businesses. Some do not e ambulancechaser201305/10/17
I see. I have seen a number of attorneys who used to practic ambulancechaser201305/10/17
I think if you want stable clock-pubching income with little vohod05/10/17
This is an interesting perspective. I'm a 6th year associat jd4hire05/10/17
Thank you for the insight. The main reason I am consideri ambulancechaser201305/10/17
My only remarks is geared towards reason four. I was in hou jd4hire05/10/17
The carrier job you described would be a great fit for me. ambulancechaser201305/10/17
I am staff counsel for a large ins company and my experience associatex05/11/17
I have friends at other carriers who love it. I was at one jd4hire05/11/17
That stinks about turnover. I agree it really depends on who associatex05/11/17
Can some of you guys get me on a panel? lolwutjobs05/11/17
Can someone speak as to different types of in house counsel shikes05/11/17
Your description is dead on and why I only lasted 5 months. jd4hire05/12/17
It's all going toward in house. The whole point of ID is tha orgdonor05/11/17
ambulancechaser2013 (May 10, 2017 - 8:54 am)


I am practicing plaintiffs' personal injury law, but have often considered making the transition to insurance defense. My goal would be one day to bring in business for the firm, not just be an associate (I know how difficult that is, so please read on).

I am interested in hearing from those of you with ID experience how long, what does it take, etc. to successfully get on a panel and have that panel start giving you cases. I have read the threads on this site and they generally say that creating a book of business in insurance defense is very difficult, much more so than with corporate (non-insurance) clients, but I am interested to know how it works.

Is it a "I went to law school with the VP of claims 25 years ago" or "he/she used to be a partner at our 25 lawyer firm and is now VP of claims at so and so carrier" or "we are in the same country club/go golfing every month." I am very interested. Thank you in advance.

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mrtor (May 10, 2017 - 9:03 am)

Flame. No one wants to transition to ID.

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vohod (May 10, 2017 - 9:23 am)

I know of 3 ID firms in my state. Either the clients are inherited from old lawyers or you go through something like a request for proposal stage and "bid" on the work. It is possible you can get work based on knowing the right person but its beyond my knowledge/socio-economic class.

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sjlawyer (May 10, 2017 - 10:15 am)

Politics for municipal work.

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bucwild (May 10, 2017 - 10:32 am)

My friend's husband works in ID/workers' comp defense. Equity partner. He's been in it since he graduated law school 13 years ago. He says he only got business b/c he "inherited" the client from the old retiring partner at the firm, and he just happened to get in at the right time at a small ID shop that grew exponentially. He says it generally takes years to get on an Insurer's panel, and that it involves a lot of marketing, schmoozing, and luck. And, there's only so many clients (big insurers) to go around. So if you get one or two, that's great. But if you lose them, your career is over.

Defense work sounds like a low reward, high risk scenario. There is likely more $ for you in plaintiff's work. For what it's worth, I've never heard of anyone transitioning from plaintiff to ID. They all start on defense, learn how to practice on the insurance company's dime, and then head off to greener pastures (more $, no billable hours) of plaintiff's work.

The question you need to ask is what happens to associates in ID firms who never develop business and make partner? It must be more common than making partner. Do they get fired? Do they just stay associate forever? Are they in career purgatory (not enough business to be partner, get paid too much to hired elsewhere)?

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trickydick (May 10, 2017 - 1:53 pm)

Funny, I've heard the opposite. There's a lot of money in running a mill for insurance claimants but most plaintiffs' firms don't pay new associates as well as insurance defense firms. Early on a lot of defense attorneys I met told me that everyone starts out on claimants' side and moves to insurance defense to make better money. Reminds me of that Far Side cartoon where a man is crawling through a vast desert dying of thirst and runs into a camel coming from the direction where he's headed who is also dying of thirst.

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ambulancechaser2013 (May 10, 2017 - 2:03 pm)

P.I. mills tend to be closely run businesses. Some do not even have any partners, only one owner who rakes in whatever is left after the considerable expenses. I am sure, I don't have to tell you that trickydick.

I think basic ID pay is better and you have the chance to make partner.

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ambulancechaser2013 (May 10, 2017 - 11:07 am)

I see. I have seen a number of attorneys who used to practice applicants' workers' comp go to defense workers' comp. Maybe it's because comp is more fluid.

In terms of PI, I think the business model is tough unless you have the money necessary to advertise, hire one really skilled legal assistant and float an office for at least 12 to 18 months until the cases settle. You need about 100 cases, if each settles for maybe $15,000.00. Considering $5,000.00 in attorney's fees, workers' comp insurance, GL insurance, office space, your legal assistant, advertising which will be at least $7,500.00 a month

In California, the minimal auto insurance liability policy is only $15,000.00/$30,000.00 and those MIST cases (minor impact soft tissue) cases are not easy to "pop." Natter of fact, they are pretty tough. I recommend reading a book on this subject called "Delay, Deny, Defend" it's about how auto insurance companies have changed their settlement practices since 1993 with the advent on the Colossus adjusting computer system. But, that's really getting into the weeds. I have a case that I filed on because I was offered four thousand less than $15k and I have yet to even have the Defendant's attorney make a better offer after almost 6 months of litigation.

ID is more stable and more secure. And until driveless cars come out, auto defense is secure.

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vohod (May 10, 2017 - 1:20 pm)

I think if you want stable clock-pubching income with little concern for high salary, ID associatedship can be good if its not a sweatshop. P's side associateships are volatile based on my LinkedIn feed. Partnership and client generation is a different story.

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jd4hire (May 10, 2017 - 11:37 am)

This is an interesting perspective. I'm a 6th year associate at a good ID firm in my region. Bringing in carriers is a tough nut to crack and differs significantly dependent upon the carrier. For instance, when I was staff counsel at a firm, I could normally select the defense firms to send a matter to where I had a conflict on representing two insureds.

I recently signed up a med mal carrier, but got that to happen solely through luck and the fact that a friend of mine works at the carrier. I'd say the best path to success is inside connections. Carriers like AIG are tighter than Fort Knox and they continually drive down rates, reject bills, etc.

I'm young in my career but am trying to bring in carriers to secure a path to partnership. My general plan is to obtain my CPCU (1-3 year process), join all of the CPCU and other BS groups, network, and hope I can get some to fall in line. I'm taking the CPCU track as few attorneys are CPCUs. I'll then probably get the claims certification. Those certs get you access to their societies. Ideally, I'll be involved in the groups, get to know some of the decision makers and charm them into sending me business. Half the difficulty is identifying the individual who can make those decisions.

I concur with the above notes though, a lot is passed down from retiring partner to their favorite associate. It's somewhat messed up, but the named partner at my firm brought in a lot of work and handed it down to various individuals who have no become equity partners from inheriting her work. She now has seen her equity share decrease year over year. She is vocal about this bothering her. Per the partnership agreement, she'll be of counsel in a few years though.

And as a concluding note, if I could switch to high value plaintiff's work with a firm that has a great reputation, I'd do so in a minute. I pray to god that I am not tracking my day in 6 minute increments for the rest of my working career. While I'm gonna put in the work for CPCU and what not, I have to find a way to transfer out of ID. I hope the CPCU would help me go in house for litigation management/ risk roles. I WOULD NOT leave for high volume, low value cases.

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ambulancechaser2013 (May 10, 2017 - 11:51 am)

Thank you for the insight.

The main reason I am considering ID is because I am doing high volume, low value PI work with no real upside to increase my pay or get real litigation experience past written discovery, some meet and confer letters, and defending a lot of auto and premises depositions. I also do a great deal of pre-litigation negotiations and letter writing to carriers.

The options I am looking at are: (if I get these...):
1. Better PI firm where the cases are larger, and I could take some depositions, do more motion work, be able to try some cases in 5 years maybe.
2. Smallish ID firm. Preferably, auto and premises, though I know most auto work is now in house and has been so since the mid 2000s.
3. In house auto shop at a carrier. This would be the best option in my opinion as it would be stable work and from what I hear, read, am told, there is actually the opportunity to try cases.
4. Start my own PI shop. I do not feel I have the experience or more importantly the capital to do this at this time. I would need 2-3 years experience and an experienced legal assistant.

In any case, thanks for the advice.

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jd4hire (May 10, 2017 - 12:29 pm)

My only remarks is geared towards reason four. I was in house and only lasted 5 months. I immediately knew it was a bad fit. My caseload was 120 and was confined to terrible rear end cases and stupid trip and falls. The adjusters held all of the power and I was running around, terribly unprepared (I could have been, but would have had to work substantially more and wasn't getting paid enough to do so), from useless deposition to arbitrations where the cases should have settled pre-suit. I did get a ton of deposition, motion practice, and ADR experience. I definitely would have had a trial if I stayed, but it would have been on terrible cases with terrible facts.

Legit, I had upwards of 10-15 "events" per week. An event was a depo, ADR, motion hearing, or other random litigation related task. I was spending tons of time in my car driving from courthouse to courthouse. The work was easy though and no one cared about my results or the work product. I was told that I could lose trials and that it wouldn't be an issue as long as the verdict was less than a million.

The job can be great if you are a good fit. It wasn't a good match for me. I was embarrassed by what I was doing and did not want to be associated with it.

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ambulancechaser2013 (May 10, 2017 - 12:54 pm)

The carrier job you described would be a great fit for me. Problem is, it has never been offered. I guess it's that competitive.

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associatex (May 11, 2017 - 10:16 am)

I am staff counsel for a large ins company and my experience has been the opposite of what jd4hire has described. It really depends on the company, I guess. I am w/ one of the big places (ie AIG/Allstate/State Farm/Liberty Mutual/Farmers/21st Century, et al) and I've been here almost 10 years now and plan to work toward my CPCU designation so that I have a path toward management positions in the future (my boss recently completed his so its just a matter of time before the senior attys at my place take this too).

In house ID, I think is the way to go - unless you feel you want to be your own boss and hang up a shingle and go plaintiff-side. We've had a few attorneys here do that, and some did ok while others left to do other things like FINRA arbitrators or whatnot. Getting on a panel is very very hard. At my company, we had a management shake-up some years ago and they axed 80% of their panel cansel overnight, and opted to take everything in-house to save costs. Many other carriers are following this model. Our office just went paper-less and now we were told last week that by 2018 all attorneys in the Auto and General Liab (GL) practice groups can work from home 1-2 days a week. Until driver-less cars become the norm, the gravy train will still chug along for PI/ID work in the auto litigation field.

The key is to find out now what you want to do career-wise so you can start tailoring your experience toward those goals. I've no plans or desire to go to another ID firm (WEMED can offer me $200K, I refuse to work there), or change practice areas. I have a good set up as it is w/ salary/benefits/vacation time. Hard to leave now - even if my day to day can be awfully dull and repetitive as its mostly (auto) No-Fault and UM/SUM work. Time will tell.

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jd4hire (May 11, 2017 - 11:31 am)

I have friends at other carriers who love it. I was at one of the carriers you listed...

Just curious, how is your salary at ten years. My pay and bennies were very good, but the way they were forcing me to practice was untenable. We had a lot of constant turnover.

And they were axing panel counsel non-stop, but they started getting a lot of kick back from their large accounts with SIRs as the in-house team was not living up to the insured's expectations. There were good attorneys at my office, they just had a caseload equivalent to a PD and had zero time to prep.

CPCU stinks as well. Not difficult at all, but finding motivation is tough. Let me know if you come up with a good study method.

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associatex (May 11, 2017 - 12:41 pm)

That stinks about turnover. I agree it really depends on who's managing the firm. I've been fortunate that the last 2 attorneys who've managed our office in the NY/NJ/CT region are super laid-back and our current boss is flexible. Since announcing we can work from home, the pressure to bill hasn't been as intense - many tasks that were tedious (discovery and boilerplate motion practice) are now done by paralegals but we still retain ability to bill for full completion/revision. Our cases now are trending toward Arbitration in lieu of litigation, so the stress level has dropped considerably by half. Salary has been in the $110-150K range depending on what bonuses I get a particular year, been fortunate that its been good some yrs (started in high 70s almost 10 yrs ago, and biggest raise was 13%) - more important for me is health/vacation as I need to monitor my health routinely and can't afford to lose coverage or switch health plans.

CPCU - ugh not looking forward to preparing for that. My boss supposedly did it all in 1 year. I haven't reviewed the materials yet, may look into it for the summer once my personal life gets more settled (recently took a bunch of vacations w/ the hubby, bought a house, working on upgrading my car, pets, etc - just general life craziness). My throaway email is [email protected] if you want to exchange study tips/resources, etc. I do want to get this done sometime before I turn 45, lol.

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lolwutjobs (May 11, 2017 - 1:05 pm)

Can some of you guys get me on a panel?

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shikes (May 11, 2017 - 9:53 pm)

Can someone speak as to different types of in house counsel at insurance companies?

I know staff counsel is basically 80-100k, handle 100-150 cases at a time and just running around doing stupid events non-stop. But there has to be higher end in house that deals with contractual issues, or very large cases only etc.. The staff counsel I met that do minimal limit UM/UIM cases seems extremely overworked and sloppy. I deal with them as co-defendants and at every dep or pleading it seems like they have no clue what the case is about or even looked through docs.

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jd4hire (May 12, 2017 - 10:03 am)

Your description is dead on and why I only lasted 5 months. At my carrier, the big cases are farmed out to outside counsel.

We were not "in-house." The carriers do have very robust in house counsel that deals with all sorts of things. From my brief experience, litigation is a small piece. My understanding was that those positions are much more lucrative. I know at my carrier, staff counsel was not near as impressive credential wise as those in the in-house law department. There was little ability to make a jump from staff counsel to the corporate law department.

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orgdonor (May 11, 2017 - 11:05 pm)

It's all going toward in house. The whole point of ID is that it is just practicing law - right? No sales.

My idea is to get an out of region carrier - see if you can network with a smaller co from say Georgia, when you live in Colorado. They may not have anyone near you. But the case is almost always filed where the acccident happens. Obviously this defeats the purpose somewhat. Since you would t get too many case referrals. And they may just hire WEMED. But it's an idea.

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