Perspectives from a former insurance defense attorney | Allen and Allen

Perspectives from a former insurance defense attorney

The below post was originally written and published for the American Association for Justice. Due to the membership-only status of their website, the firm is sharing the post here, so that this insightful personal essay will reach a wider audience:

Jennifer CapocelliWhen I graduated from law school, longer ago than I care to admit, I did not make a conscious decision to begin my career doing insurance defense work. I was hired by a firm and immediately put to work doing insurance defense.

Specifically, workers’ compensation insurance defense. The horror stories you hear about billable hours are mostly true. I lasted two years before taking an in-house job with a major insurance company where I stayed for 18 years. While the in-house billable hour requirement was not as onerous, there was not much job satisfaction.

Four years ago, I started questioning if I wanted to stay on the same career path. While I was not miserable, I certainly was not happy. I wanted to be part of something more. I wanted to be able to help people who genuinely needed my help. That is when I started thinking about switching sides to become a plaintiff’s lawyer. Given how long I had done defense work, most people were shocked that I would make such a change.

I was lucky enough to get an opportunity with the largest personal injury firm in the state of Virginia. I was given the chance to start a new practice for the firm representing injured workers. Since I started, my job satisfaction continues to grow with each client I help. Achieving a good result for someone who truly appreciates the effort is even more rewarding than I imagined.

Now that I am on this side of workers’ compensation practice, I understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of delays by the insurance company. I have had clients call me in a panic because they have not received their weekly check and their rent is due. The lack of urgency on the part of the insurance company is maddening. To the insurance company, my client is just one of hundreds. It is my job to humanize each claim so that the insurance adjuster understands that his or her actions, or lack thereof, has a ripple effect.

One of the best things about switching sides is the collegiality of the plaintiff’s bar. I have been welcomed into this practice without complaint. Other plaintiff attorneys have offered me advice, practice pointers, and guidance any time I have asked for it. As plaintiff attorneys, we are all bound by the same goal, achieving the best results for deserving clients. That common goal means that we all strive to make each other the best we can be as attorneys. Because, in the end, that means our clients win.

Making the switch to this side has been far easier than I had hoped. Some of that is due to the firm and people that I am honored to work with every day. Part of it is because of how the plaintiff’s bar is a team striving towards the same goal. But most of it is because of the clients I get to help every day I walk into my office. Plaintiff’s practice is not perfect. But for me, it is far closer to perfect than defense work ever could be.