Uncovering the Hidden Costs of Good Legal Service

Back in my staff counsel management days, I sometimes got a complaint from claims managers about having to use staff counsel over outside counsel.   It was not because the claims managers felt they got better results from outside counsel (and we had the statistics to prove otherwise).  Rather, it was because they felt that outside counsel gave them “better service” than staff counsel.

When I asked for examples of “better service” that outside counsel gave, I was invariably given examples of things that outside counsel did for the claim file handlers the file handlers should have been doing!

What was happening was very clear.  We in staff counsel management were taking very seriously and managing to the claims department’s own litigation guidelines that stated that “tasks to be done in a litigation work plan that can be done by a non-lawyer should be done by the claims handler.”  Obviously some claims managers were not taking this part of their own litigation guidelines as seriously.

I invariably see a lot of this same thing happening in the legal bill reviews that I currently do.  It is not hard to tell which insurers are lax in allowing attorneys (or more likely, their paralegals) to do tasks to carry out the litigation work plan that could have been handled just as competently by the claims file handler.

Think about this for a moment.  Do you really want a $100+ an hour paralegal looking up witness addresses or getting a police report or taking photos of accident scenes?  Keep in mind when considering who should do these and other similar tasks that there are really very few things the law says that only a lawyer must do other than going to court to represent a client or giving advice to a client.

To find out if you are paying extra for “good service,” try asking your litigated file handlers to list the top attorneys they work with by the “good service” the attorneys provide with “good service” being defined as something other than just being timely in their work assignments and communications.   Then do some file reviews and you may find that good legal service sometimes does comes with hidden costs.

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