What if you received an invitation to attend a “hands on” public insurance adjuster seminar where you would be asked to handle a large commercial hurricane claim from start to finish? Experienced public adjusters would give a short lecture and demonstration about each phase of the adjustment process. After each of these presentations, you would be asked to perform that task. This process would be repeated for each phase of a typical claim, including preparation of a scope, estimates, reports, communicating with the insurer, presentation of your claim, settlement negotiations and appraisal. You would be videotaped throughout the entire process. After you complete each step of the process, a panel of 4 to 6 experienced public adjusters would critique your work product. You then would take the video tape to a room and view it with another experienced public adjuster who would review the critique comments with you and discuss ways you may be able to improve your claims handling techniques.

How many of you would take 5 days out of your practice, work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day preparing and performing, and pay $1,000, plus food and lodging, for the privilege of participating in this process?

That’s exactly what six of the Merlin lawyers will be doing in May. The Trial Lawyers Section of The Florida Bar and the University of Florida College of Law put on an Advanced Trial Advocacy Program in May of each year. I have served on the faculty of the Basic and Advanced Trial Advocacy programs several times in the past and am looking forward to serving again this year.

The participants are provided with court papers, deposition summaries, expert reports, photos, etc., relating to a lawsuit. A faculty of very experienced, Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyers and trial judges give lectures and actual demonstrations of each phase of a trial. The participants then are assigned different roles and, over the course of 5 days, will try the case from jury selection to verdict. Every presentation is video taped and the participant is critiqued by a panel of experienced trial lawyers and trial judges. A mock jury is selected the first day and at the end of the trial actually deliberates until reaching a verdict. The deliberations are video taped and then shown to the participants at the end of the program. The old saying, “you don’t want to watch sausage being made” definitely applies here! The things that jurors find important and their views on lawyers and lawsuits are sometimes shocking, but always educational.

Every member of the Merlin Law Group is committed to being the best they can be. We believe that being better trial lawyers makes us better at handling claims and lawsuits even if they do not go to trial. We learn to develop an appreciation for the “equities” of a case – those things that motivate a jury to find in favor of our clients and against an insurer – and to be better focused on the important issues in a case.

The course is intense and involves a lot of hard work, but pays off as the experience makes us better lawyers.

Anyone out there want to start an “Advanced Claims Adjusting” course??

-Woody Isom

(Woody Isom has been a member of The Florida Bar since 1975, a Florida Bar Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer since 1983 and a National Board of Trial Advocacy Certified Civil Trial Advocate since 1988.)