The comments on last month’s post about small law firms were uncommonly good. Readers shared valuable insights and information about life beyond Biglaw, including discussion of the pluses and minuses of working at a small — or smaller (size is relative) — law firm.
One commenter — after pointing out that non-Biglaw firms come in many shapes and sizes, making it hard to generalize — had this excellent suggestion:
You know what would be really helpful? A variety of open threads on different types of small firms. Do one or two threads a day getting people’s input on salaries in boutique regulatory firms, other types of transactional, plaintiffs firms, insurance defense, class action boutiques, whatever.
As someone that’s focusing my search primarily on small firms, it’s been really difficult trying to get a sense of what my salary demands should be. Short of asking my friends how much they make, the information really doesn’t exist in any useful form. A variety of open threads focusing on specific practice areas and what people can expect for salaries and benefits would probably be really beneficial to many readers.
Salary demands? How about just hoping that you have a salary?
But we like this idea for an occasional series of open threads, focusing on small firms with different specialties. Today’s topic: firms that practice INSURANCE LAW.
If this interests you, read more after the jump.
In the comments to the small-firm post, there was some debate over whether insurance law is a desirable field. Here are a few representative comments:
25 – If you go to small law, try not to get pigeonholed in a crappy practice area, like insurance coverage.
55 – [I]f you ever have hopes of breaking (back?) into biglaw, avoid (low end) insurance defense and (low end) personal injury.
121 – just don’t do insurance defense. that shitlaw practice is monkey work and offers no opportunity to go ANYWHERE.
140 / 141 – Recently (5 months ago) laid off at mid-size litigation firm where 90% of my work was commercial. Took job at small (55 atty) litigation firm doing 80-90% insurance defense. We deal mainly with large policies (large for insurance policies) and defend large private clients and government. Several people have commented that insurance defense is bad. Please explain why? I am learning a great deal by hands-on experience, much more so than at the other shop.
161 – I have a bit to add to the whole insurance defense discussion. While I certainly agree that insurance companies are awful clients (unless it’s reinsurance and then they pay million dollar bills without a thought), the experience can be great for a young attorney when it’s higher level ID. As a 2nd year, I’ve drafted dispositive motions on my own and been given some files to manage myself. And I work mostly on class actions with very little to no grunt work.
Some responses about why insurance defense can be problematic, from other commenters:
146 – [I]‘s the low-end of insurance defense that’s truly toxic. Although the billing pressure from insurance companies can cause ID attorneys to underprepare, much the same way the PI firms do. If you’re not the type (or weren’t trained) to fret over a single document for multiple hours, you won’t be breaking back into biglaw.
154 – Large scale insurance defense isn’t much different than a lot of other litigation. You can bill a lot of hours on a multi-million dollar construction where two or three parties are indemnified to each other or defending high dollar personal injury cases (IE seven figure single cases and or class actions)….
The problem with even the large scale litigation is that, moreso than most companies, insurance companies are particularly controlling clients. Most large insurance companies wield sufficient market power to tell law firms “this is what we pay, this is what you can bill for, and you will bill it using our system.” It makes insurance defense as a subset of litigation a particularly low paying specialization.
About two years ago, we did a similar open thread on insurance law opportunities. One of our sources drew this distinction:
The dumb ones end up doing insurance defense (hired by insurance company to defend slip and fall, med mal, etc). The smart ones do insurance coverage (represent the insurance company which denied coverage).
How about postings where we can compare salary info? Salary info at these firms is much more guarded. I have no idea what anyone else makes.
Here’s the requested open thread. Please share information, in the comments, about insurance defense and insurance coverage work — what it entails, your hours, your pay, opportunities for advancement, etc. Thanks.
Earlier: Small Law Firms: Is the Grass Really Greener?