Ask yourself this question, the next time you post one tenth of an hour to a file: “Did the work I just did, the phone call, the e-mail, etc., move this file closer to early resolution?” If the answer to the question is “no,” you have wasted your client’s money.
One of my partners sent around this message to all of the litigation team, yesterday.
Just had a lengthy conversation with an [XXX] adjuster. He indicated that they are under intense pressure to reduce litigation costs. They are looking for early and efficient resolutions to their claims, and want to avoid defense costs, IMEs, etc. where possible.
Someone, in response, commented that the insurer should never interfere with our ethical handling of the file and protection of our clients. That wasn’t the point of the message, although always a good reminder. The plea from the insurer can be translated into this:
Just had a lengthy conversation with [XXX] adjuster. He indicated that law firms that recognize that we are spending lots of unnecessary money on litigation expenses that often do nothing to aid in claim resolution and, as a result, seek to resolve claims quickly and efficiently will be rewarded for their understanding of our business goals with more work. Those that do not, are destined for the dust bin.
My late senior partner and mentor, Shelly Hurwitz, used to say: “Close one file quickly and two will follow.” How right he was! We, now, pass that message down to young lawyers. Clients want files closed, efficiently, effectively and as soon as possible. That does not mean you should be unethical. That does mean you should act outside your client’s best interests.
More than 95% of civil cases settle, certainly the “smaller” cases resolve, almost without fail, before the jury renders a verdict. The cases that young lawyers are assigned are almost certain to settle either by agreement of the lawyers and parties, or by some form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (court annexed or private mediation, arbitration, etc.).
So if you can close the file this week rather than two years from now, you have truly protected your client and given him/her/it peace of mind (that lawsuit isn’t hanging over my head anymore) and the insurer that has asked you to represent that insured has saved thousands of dollars in defense fees and expenses and has cleared it reserved.
It’s truly a win-win situation.
Think that rule applies only to “little” files, think again.
The United States District Court for the Western District of New York has a mandatory civil mediation program. With very few exceptions, every civil case filed in the WDNY must go through mandatory mediation just after the case is filed, NOT after discovery. Mediators are trained and certified (Ann Evanko, Mike Perley and I have been certified as neutrals and mediators in this District). The success rate of this program is absolutely outstanding. Over 75% of the cases that are assigned to mediators settle before discovery starts. Why? Because in most cases, parties know about 80% of what they will even know when the litigation commences. They know the facts, they know the law, they know the risk, they know the challenges. What they learn in the next two to three years of litigation is the next 10% and some of it will help them and some of them will not. What they will learn when the jury comes in, is the remaining 10%—did they correctly evaluate the facts and law they knew from the beginning?
Close the file. Be known as the young lawyer who can close a file early and efficiently and you will become a file magnet.