What Happened to “What” – Law Departments and the Advent of the Four W’s

When I started practicing law more than a quarter century ago, law departments at insurance companies and corporations only cared about one “W” when they engaged outside law firms – the “What.”  What results were delivered?  What was the outcome?  What was the verdict?  What deal was negotiated to settle?

The days of the single “W” are long gone, however, and now, General Counsel and the legal departments they shepherd are looking for answers to four  W’s (and one H) — who, what, when, why, and how.   The outside lawyers and firms which answer all of those questions most to the OGC’s liking are the lawyers and firms who will continue to garner business and new assignments.

Results still matter, of course.  But they no longer matter in an absolute vacuum:  a good result delivered by overstaffing (who), delivered too late (when),  delivered  inefficiently or against the client’s  larger mission (why, how) will simply not be considered a good result.

Good outside lawyers and firms keep an eye on all of these elements – and strive to provide value from  all 360 degrees:

  • Legal Project Management (LPM) – including action plan, budgeting, and forecasting;
  • Continual analysis, communication, and refinement in a dialogue with the client about changing goals and needs;
  • Flexibility, including in agreeing to alternative fee deals at the beginning of a matter, and even to modify the arrangements should circumstances change;
  • Demonstrating an understanding of the Legal Department’s goals, the company’s goals which they serve, and attempting to align legal representation with those goals.
  • Innovation, helping your client see a need for new models and arrangements before they may see the need.
  • Getting to the best result sooner, cheaper, better, and more efficiently.

The modern, outside law firm can survive on providing an excellent What anymore — they must also satisfy the legal departments for whom they work by meeting or exceeding expectations as to  Who, Why, When and How as well.

 

-UPDATE- Reconsideration Denied; Summary Judgment for Harleysville Upheld In Bad Faith Case

READING, Feb. 2 – The Berks County Court of Common Pleas has denied Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration on the same day the motion was filed regarding the case discussed in this prior post.

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Reading, Pa., Jan. 19Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote attorneys C.J. Haddick and Christine Line have won a dismissal in a bad faith case in favor of client Harleysville Insurance Companies.  The Berks County, Pa.  Court of Common Pleas on January 19 granted the motion for summary judgment filed by Haddick and Line in a bad faith suit arising out of a commercial property coverage dispute over an alleged van theft and fire involving business personal property.  Haddick and Line are members of the firm’s Insurance Law and Litigation Group.

Harleysville did not dispute it owed coverage for the value of the van, substitute van rental expense, and for the value of certain business personal property under an inland marine policy.  It did contest, however, the Plaintiff’s claimed entitlement to a variety of other sums for towing, vehicle storage, loss of business income, and claims for tool losses in excess of the policy limit.  The Court agreed that the additional claims were unsupported by the policy language.

The Court also agreed with Harleysville’s position that regardless of the outcome of the several coverage claims, the claims decisions made were made with reasonable legal and factual bases.  As a result, the Plaintiff’s bad faith claims were dismissed as well.

For additional details on  the ruling, or suggestions  how to have your coverage and bad faith claims decided faster and more favorably with greater cost control, contact us at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800

Rogers Flooring Co. v. Harleysville Ins. Co., Berks County No. 14-674 (Sprecher, J.)

Bad Faith Case Based On Hailstorm Claim Dismissed in Lousiana

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 28 – A Federal Judge in New Orleans has dismissed a statutory bad faith suit against an insurer arising out of a hailstorm property damage claim, finding that the insured failed to establish any genuine issue that the insurer acted arbitrarily or capriciously in the handling of the claim.  In Dubois v. Southern Fidelity Ins. Co., Judge Ivan Lemelle granted Southern Fidelity’s motion for partial summary judgment, dismissing the insured’s claim for statutory penalties.

In granting the motion, Judge Lemelle, found the insurer’s failure to pay the hailstorm property damage claim arose out of a genuine dispute about the cause, nature, and extent of the property damage.  The Court went on to note that the insured’s initial claims were both filed after some delay, and were initially unclear, making reference to both damage caused by the hailstorm, but also Hurricane Isaac.  This,  and the plaintiff’s failure to properly identify any facts tending to prove bad faith on the part of the insurer, warranted dismissal of such claims under F.R.C.P. 56, the Court held.

Dubois v. Southern Fidelity Ins. Co., E.D. La. 2016 (Lemelle, J.)

Editor’s Note:  This opinion contains a concise review of Louisiana law regarding insurer bad faith, including review of the applicable statutes, and the bad faith standard of arbitrariness and capriciousness.  The ruling also demonstrates that while the precise language of the bad faith standard may differ from state to state, in large measure they all articulate the same standard, i.e., the lack of a reasonable basis on the part of the insured in handling the claim.