How to market an insurance defense firm

Aug 22nd, 2011 | Law Firm Marketing

Every insurance defense lawyer would like to be able to charge higher hourly rates. Over the decades nearly every insurance defense law firm marketing plan we’ve written has included this as a goal.

It makes sense to represent former commercial insureds directly, or in matters where the client has a self-insured retention and control selection of counsel. Seldom must you deal with a bill auditing service, complex case management guidelines, and reporting and budgeting requirements are not burdensome.

However, most firms we’ve represented have been unable to accomplish this goal.  At a recent meeting of insurance defense law firms, literally more than two dozen of them from around the country,  I learned this goal is elusive not only for my clients but for most every defense firm.

Why?, I asked.

I looked back at the marketing plans for insurance defense firms we’d written. They included firms focused purely on liability defense files and several firms with practices devoted solely to coverage, or with coverage departments.  I called several marketing and managing partners at insurance firms we know and revisited the issue. This included talking with both current clients for whom we are implementing marketing plans and those who are implementing plans we helped them write.  And, I asked the partners at the national meeting, where I was teaching sales skills for lawyers and effective attorney personal business development planning.

The insurance defense law firms successful at developing direct pay non-insured files, or work under self-insured retentions, are highly methodical about quickly identifying potential desirable commercial clients they are representing on behalf of the insurance carrier. They routinely evaluate the litigation and other legal needs of desirable insureds they are assigned to represent.  Often they have a special committee that does not nothing but review new potential insureds for direct work.  They create plans for asking for subsequent direct-pay, higher-rate files from valid prospects.

In short, they’re strategic and committed to a process.  They know the insured’s industry dynamics and history, litigation and other legal history well before the initial matter is closed. They identify decision-makers controlling the desirable subsequent work early on, as well.  The firms who have less success at getting ongoing, higher-paying work directly from insureds commonly say they are just “too busy” with the volume of defense work they have been assigned. They just don’t get around to doing this, despite knowing they should, despite being reminded to do it.  It’s easier to wait for the next assignment from the insuror, they admit.   Pressed, they also say that researching a potential new direct-pay client, chasing down the decision-maker, and making numerous pitches to potential direct-pay clients is unappealing to them.

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