This post is a result of three different ideas that have been swirling as I imagine different methods to re-invent myself and my law firm’s efficiency. Our seventeen lawyer firm will hold a meeting in early October where these issues will be discussed in depth. First, I have been frustrated by one corporate client simply not using my talents and experience to quickly add value to their situation. Their executives seem to believe they know it all and are better than the hired help. This is not uncommon in some corporate environments. Second, there is one person with a very small claim who obviously wants to be a client of our firm. We keep turning her down or sending her to other firms that take smaller cases but settle for pennies on the dollar rather than fight for maximum value. Third, I keep thinking about a remarkable speech by Barry Schwartz entitled, Talks “Barry Schwartz on Our Loss of Wisdom.” If you think this post does not apply to you, do yourself a favor and click to Schwartz—it is very meaningful. As a matter of fact, to shorten this post, everybody should click on Schwartz and then come back to here.

The first two practical steps to using an insurance coverage attorney wisely are the following:

  1. A written detailed chronology of everything that has happened from the time the policy was purchased up to the current time with names, addresses, phone numbers, facts and quotes—it cannot be too detailed because every little fact may be used by the experienced and creative insurance coverage counsel.
  2. A binder with anything and everything that relates at all to the insurance or the claim—these binders cannot be big enough or have too many documents.

Analyze the situation with your attorney. And then ask the most practical question of your insurance coverage attorney:

What would you do if you were me?

The truth is that I do this every time I represent a client. Some attorneys are not trained that way. I think that is a mistake. To do this job right and act as a fiduciary, I think you have to. Attorneys may make a lot less money by doing so, but this is the only method I know to resolve a client’s problem for his or her maximum benefit.

The selection of your counsel makes a difference on what will happen and what your recovery will be. If you hire a law firm that simply settles cases and operates as a business shop that advertises well and maximizes profits by settling lots of cases en masse, and then advertises how many people they have represented and the amount of money they have obtained to make others feel falsely comfortable, you are probably nothing other than “cattle going to slaughter.” You should stop reading if you are one of those clients with “advertising for profit attorneys,” because this post will not apply to you. I do not dislike advertising, but many of my colleagues know that some in our crowd are simply providing service “en masse,” that does not maximize recoveries and provide justice. The bottom line: choose the best attorney you can trust and not the advertisements from those that are short term profit seekers with little in the practice of law other than making money. This is probably good advice for everything in life.

If you are like most clients where the attorney cares, the issue is what to do on your case. While I think I know because of some “Merlin” powers, the truth is every case and client are different, and this is where you have to listen and generally approve what your attorney says you need to do. And, please make certain you provide your counsel with all the information you know to help make the right strategy.

However, the greater the experience and more knowledgeable the attorney, the more you should let the attorney creatively make things happen for you.

This is very difficult for some in-house general counsel and executives. They are typically “A” personalities and want to control things because what they control usually works. Law is not an exact science, and creativity is extraordinarily important.

So, once you have done these things, I suggest:

Unleash your counsel, but monitor exactly what is happening.

Clients who always think their attorneys are out to “rip them off” will hate this advice as well. And, I cannot help those of you who are so suspicious of people trying to take advantage of you. Go hire the attorneys that advertise more and will give you less. You deserve each other. Each of you can bicker about the other. The rest of us of know because many of those “professionals” really are not at the level of others. Consumers who want a “deal” hate paying for the cost of professional service and love to talk about the great deal they made keeping costs down. This same make–believe attitude surprisingly applies in the corporate world with much more at stake.

Keep it Real

How much experience does your counsel have on your exact problem?

Have you provided your counsel with everything you know in a format that is easy to follow and reference?

Do you trust your counsel? If not, meet or hire new counsel.

Let them do what they do and follow up right away. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil” is a phrase that makes a lot sense. Most great attorneys want to perform. While we are pushed with demands, we love helping and enjoy the client interaction. It is human nature to push and push our staffs to take care of those we hear from more often. And the result is usually better and faster, which is good for both.