Michael Carroll spent the last 27 years insuring and protecting lawyers and law firms. He is considered a specialist...
Jared D. Correia, Esq. is the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law firm business...
If there’s an industry that understands the value of CYA, it’s the legal industry. Yet many lawyers are grossly under-informed when it comes to their own insurance coverage. In this episode of Legal Toolkit, host Jared Correia talks with insurance expert Michael Carroll to explain the intricacies of professional liability insurance. You’ll learn the criteria that determines your rates, how different practice areas are evaluated by insurers, and what riders you need on your policy to best protect yourself.
Michael Carroll is president and founder of Insuring Lawyer, author of the book The Naked Lawyer and host of The Naked Lawyer Show Podcast.
The Legal Toolkit
Demystifying Malpractice Insurance Be Confident You’re Protected
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm, with your host, Jared Correia.
You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Welcome to another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit Podcast here on the Legal Talk Network.
If you are looking for the backup key, it’s inside of a fake rock by the door. No, that’s real rock, and so is that one.
If you are a returning listener, welcome back. If you are a first-time listener, hopefully you will become a longtime listener, and if you are Dave Dombrowski, clearly you don’t give a damn about bullpens.
As always, I am your show host Jared Correia, and in addition to casting this pod, I am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com.
I am also the COO of Gideon Software, Inc., which offers chatbots, a first to market Chatbot Builder and predictive analytics created specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal.
You can listen to my other, other podcast, because I don’t enough to do, that’s called The Lobby List, it’s a family travel show, I host with my wife Jessica and that is on iTunes. Subscribe, rate, and comment, please.
But, here on The Legal Toolkit we provide you twice each month with a new tool to add to your own Legal Toolkit, so that your practices will become more-and-more like best practices.
In this episode, we are going to talk about one of my favorite subjects, Malpractice Insurance, and that’s probably the case because I don’t practice law anymore.
You know you have to have it, but you are afraid to talk about it; fortunately, we’re not. But, before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors.
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My guest today is Michael Carroll, who is the President of Insuring Lawyer, which he founded in 2002.
Michael is a featured speaker at many national events for lawyers. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, ‘The Naked Lawyer’. He is also the host of The Naked Lawyer Podcast and television show. But I think right now he’s wearing clothes.
Welcome Michael to the big show.
Michael Carroll: I am actually clothed.
Jared Correia: Yes.
Michael Carroll: You better believe it. It’s pleasure to be here, Jared. Thanks for having me.
Jared Correia: I know we’ve done podcast before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had you on the show which is a travesty, so I’m glad we’re fixing that.
Michael Carroll: Amen.
Jared Correia: So, let me start out. We start off with an icebreaker question, so let’s talk non-legal stuff first. So, I’m not ashamed to say that I think you might be the biggest Boston sports fan I know, which is almost shameful to me because I actually live in Boston and you don’t. So I need to confess something to you.
2018-2019 Celtics season, not a fan. I can’t wait for this season to be over, and I almost don’t care if Kyrie Irving leaves in free agency, like the only guy on the team who hustles is Jaylen Brown, so I say make him the captain and run it back next year with the version of the team that made to the Eastern Conference Finals last year.
So, am I wrong? Can you talk me off the ledge and tell me what the Celtics are going to look like in 2019-2020? Please help me.
Michael Carroll: Remember, I am a native New Englander. I was born in Bangor, Maine.
Jared Correia: Give me credit for that.
Michael Carroll: So my roots are there, my heart is in New England, but yeah, the Celtics or the Cs as they are affectionately known to the Boston diehards are – they are a mess, they are a mess. You are talking about one of the 10 best players on the face of the earth in Kyrie Irving and when he’s on the floor there were worst team, and it just seems to be this cosmic or chasm or whatever it’s called divide between Kyrie and the young Bucks, and that’s of course Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Hayward just looks like the complete — the land of the misfits. He just fits in nowhere, he is better when Kyrie isn’t around, but it’s one of those deals where I agree with you, Jared, that Kyrie, it’s going to have to be one or two things.
The Cs are going to have to trade Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and another draft-picker too down to New Orleans to get Anthony Davis. Then of course Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving are pals and then Hayward might be able to feel better as the third wheel, if you will the third option and that may work.
Danny Ainge obviously was sitting in a position of power when the season began. Now it looks like he’s in a position of weakness and there’s a lot to do. So that team in New Orleans would love to make that trade because when you’re talking those two core guys, the young forwards being again Tatum and Brown, that’s a team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. These two young guys are only going to get better and New Orleans would be just licking their chops to do that.
Anthony Davis is greater players he is and Kyrie Irving is greater players he is, the two of them haven’t won anything. And if I’m not mistaken Davis won in college. So recall if I — but if you recall, so did a guy named Carmelo Anthony, and 00:06:20. He has been a flub, I mean, he is going to make the Hall of Fame. He’s a great forward.
Jared Correia: Yeah — no, I get you.
Michael Carroll: His career is going to — yeah, his career is ending like garbage. So the Cs —
Jared Correia: I don’t know if you are making me feel better.
Michael Carroll: No, I think here, here’s — here’s what it is, it’s like anything. It’s like, it’s the unknown, right? It’s the old — Al McGuire used to always say, the legendary Hall of Fame coach Marquette, hired in national champion. He used to say — he said, I want either yes or a no, it’s the maybe I can’t stand, and there is a Celtic fan listening.
Right now we live in the maybe. We just — it’s so confounding. It’s so frustrating. It’s a big picture of life, it doesn’t matter, we get it. We understand. This is just our selfish pleasure. It’s spoiled Boston fans. If we win championships like most people change their drawers, we end up at this point, we win championships, that’s what we do in Boston, but my point is very simply that the Cs we — there has to be a change either bye-bye Kyrie or young guys do a reset of bringing Anthony Davis.
So, it’s going to — it’s going to be one or the other. Just let’s get this season done, let’s get beaten the first round by Indiana, maybe get lucky, win that first round. Go play the Bucks and get beaten four or five, maybe even six games. Definitely the Bucks eliminate them and let’s get to the off-season, let’s figure this out. It’s just amazing. I want to be wrong. I want it to make it all the way to the finals and beat our words. So we’re being recorded, hopefully it’s a reverse psychology, Jared. So, how’s that? How’s that for a short answer?
Jared Correia: I like that. Maybe like, maybe the new team slogan could be like “We Live In The Maybe, #weliveinthemaybe.
Michael Carroll: That’s it.
Jared Correia: Just like that.
Michael Carroll: Good for me, that’s right, yeah.
Jared Correia: All right.
Michael Carroll: And change the GE logo to maybe.
Jared Correia: All right, let’s talk about more pleasant subjects, like legal malpractice insurance, which you’re an expert at. Starting out generally speaking like, I think this is a topic that attorneys don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about, don’t necessarily feel like they have enough knowledge about. So can you tell me like very generally speaking, what should attorneys be thinking about when they are choosing a malpractice insurance policy?
Michael Carroll: Well, that’s an excellent question and you’re absolutely correct. So most law firm owners, they come on, they think of malpractice, lawyers professional liability, whatever you want to call professional liability all the same thing. And there’s a misnomer out there especially in the 1 to 10 lawyer-sized firm, Jared, that no one wants to work with that audience and that is — there is some truth to that, and it’s kind of the forgotten stepchild as I date myself, that’s a tone you don’t hear about much in today’s society. But, if you are over the age of 50, which I am, that was a common thing that means you are treated as second rate, if you will.
And so the point is that is the first thing that it will be critical is to find someone who’s an expert. Obviously it’s self-serving for to say, I am, I’ve earned that reputation.
Jared Correia: I can vouch for that.
Michael Carroll: Well, thank you, yeah, and it’s — I’ve got — we have 2,900 clients, law firm clients, not lawyers but separate law firm clients and it’s a situation where social proof, but find someone, find a broker like myself who specializes. It’s like anything. If someone you love became very ill were they pro-athletes, when they tear their knee, when they hurt their arm, whatever sport you’re talking about, they all tend to end up down in Birmingham, Alabama to see Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews has got to be in his 80s now, but they still go see him because he’s considered to be the leading orthopedic surgeon.
And it’d be the same thing if someone you loved had, heart issue. You wouldn’t just go on, again, I’ll date myself, you wouldn’t finger through the phonebook or just jump on a search engine, and look up cardiologist. You would start calling people you respected or your family physician, if you had a great relationship with them and you would research to find the best cardiologist if someone you love needed to have open-heart surgery or very serious surgery or brain surgery or cancer or whatever it may be, you would find, you would research every nook and cranny to every corner of the earth until you found the best possible surgeon that you could afford and you would sell everything to help this loved one out.
And it would be one of those deals where it’s the same thing with malpractice for professional liability for a law firm-owner because if you get dragged into the fray, and you’ve got inadequate either due to an amateur or someone who doesn’t specialize, a non-expert, let me rephrase that, a non-expert who doesn’t specialize in law firms, you are going to have too low of limits where you’re going to have exclusions because remember insurance companies are in business to make a profit and they do not want to pay claims and that is not some they are dirty or they are bad people or whatever but they want to offer the minimum amount of protection for the maximum legal allowable premium.
So the point is when you’re working with a non-expert, good enough is not good enough and in professional liability cases, it isn’t, but to get an expert who understands all the exclusions to fill those, which might cost most in the hundreds of dollars a year, not a month, not a quarter, a year, plug those what I like to call fatal gaps, now suddenly you have something that is worthy. Therefore, if something goes wrong, you’re protected properly.
Jared Correia: Yes, right, this notion is something that I want to follow up with you about is this idea of like going to a local agency. I think that’s really important. I have like strong feelings on this. Any insurance I get, I like to have a local agent because I think it’s really helpful to have somebody that I could like call up or in the case of like my auto insurance, I could drive like five minutes to go talk to somebody if I have an issue.
So one part of this which I agree with is that you want somebody who’s not just a general insurer but somebody who specializes in legal malpractice insurance, but could you talk a little bit about some of the benefits of having like a local agent as well or also doing like an agency versus like going directly to an insurance company, I guess, it’s part of the question also.
Michael Carroll: Absolutely, so in professional liability that’s always going to be written. There are always exceptions to the rule, but you’re not going to have the ability like you or I or anyone listening to go straight to GEICO for their car insurance or your basic auto insurance.
You can do that if you’re of that ilk and you like to — you want to do it online, great, if that works for you, that’s an option and that is a product, the spawn of that was that my peer group, the insurance aging community was usually your Country Club champion. This is someone who built up a book of business and didn’t go to work too often and had Myrtle and Bertha, they’re manning the phones while he or she could be her owning an agency worked on their short game at the local Country Club.
So, good guys, good gal, friendly and all that, but the point is that there were a lot of over-satisfied as the cliché goes fat, lazy and happy, not fat shaming just is a figure of speech fat, lazy and happy that didn’t do that. Now, that’s how you got the direct company thing.
There are a lot of disadvantages that you don’t get someone who knows you, you don’t get someone who understands what your risk is and all that. So anytime you can get a local agent and you want to work with someone who works for you. See when you are dealing with someone who’s either A works for a direct writer not to take on anything but this isn’t so much in the professional liability but it will be on your office business insurance, it will be on your workers’ comp. But, for example, State Farm, nothing against State Farm, I’m saying that.
Jared Correia: They are not a sponsor, go ahead.
Michael Carroll: Yeah, exactly, there you go, but I’m saying the individual works for State Farm, the insurance agent works for State Farm. So they are going to – they are an employee of State Farm, they are going to take State Farm’s interest over yours. An independent agent in turn works for you, they’re not beholden, they’re not — the independent insurance, their lineup, they don’t say you need to be in our office, we are having a quarterly meeting next Thursday at 3 o’clock be there in a tie and a suit.
No, you don’t have that. They work for you which ultimately because my job is to work for the listener, the law firm owner and what have you. Now, in the professional liability world, there aren’t that many local agents. If you spread out amongst the country, sure in the big cities, there’s going to be enough just through pure numbers there’s going to be enough people that gavel in it if not or experts in it in Miami, in Boston, in New York, in Detroit, in Columbus, Los Angeles, Phoenix and on and on and on Seattle, everywhere throughout the country. But when you live in Bucyrus, Ohio, yes, that’s an actual place, ladies and gentlemen in Toledo, Ohio.
Jared Correia: I learned something.
Michael Carroll: It’s a place in between – yeah, it’s spelled bucky-russ but Bucyrus, it’s how it’s pronounced, there is no local agent who specializes in professional liability, but there are probably 20 law firms in the Bucyrus area. So what do they do then?
So, on professional liability that is such a — it’ll never be an Internet offer product, it does not renew unlike your office business insurance renews and your workers’ comp renews and your personal car insurance renews and your homeowners insurance. That renews as long as you pay your premium and you don’t have a bunch of claims where they can’t see you.
Professional liability in turn, Jared, and everyone listening, it expires and it’s like you reapply every year, it doesn’t renew because things change, your area of practice may change by 5%. You may add two lawyers in the course, one of counsel and you hire one or you may have to let go of two lawyers.
So, there’s so many moving parts in that that it needs to be basically like you’re applying new, does your length of time with the company help, sure, when you have a claim but ultimately, it’s like a new application. So on the professional liability side, absolutely, if you have someone who is an expert in your area where you’re in great shape because there’s no better thing than being able like you said, Jared, to go over and see and touch and feel and what have you. We certainly have our strongest present is I built this empire in a 50-mile radius of the Toledo, Ohio area, but now we do.
We have over 400 law firms in Florida. We’ve got 250-plus in California, again just sheer numbers in those states where they’re densely populated, but yeah, does that answer your question, I hope?
Jared Correia: No, that was great, very interesting. So, I think we were going down this road a little bit, but I think this is kind of mystifying to attorneys as well. What are some of the major criteria that go into setting rates for law firms in terms of malpractice insurance policies?
Michael Carroll: Yeah, absolutely. Well, there are a bunch, it’s got to deal with, do you have prior protection? So every law firm that doesn’t have protection, they call this seven-year period what it’s known as Step Rating, just like stairs on a — snaking steps up the stairs.
So what that means is if you’re listening, you’ve been in business, you own a law firm for two or three years, you’re like, I heard it’s like 7500 minimum premium; that would be false. If you are doing revenues of — if you are just a criminal, criminal say low — anyway, I’ll answer questions 00:18:15.
Jared Correia: That’s why we can get to some specifics.
Michael Carroll: You got it. The step rating is the insurance industry gives you a break, they give you a discounted rate under the premise that they’re going to raise the rates over the next seven years because otherwise you coming in new, the assumption is you’re just hanging a shingle today and they know expenses, you’ve got rent, you’ve got equipment here, everything is piling on, everything is going out, you’ve either taken a business loan and you drain your saving.
The insurance industry says, hey, we don’t want to pile on, we believe you’re going to grow and you’ll grow far more than the increase in premium and then they have step rating. So that’s one.
If you had coverage for seven years and you pass that, if you switched in the fourth year from Company A to Company B, if you’re working with broker Bob or Billy Gene and Tuscaloosa, Alabama and you decide to come do business with insuring lawyer in my team for example —
Jared Correia: Step up to your big lease.
Michael Carroll: — yeah, you got it. You would still have three years of the step rating. So, that’s going to follow you, you can’t beat that, but — so that’s one in step rating.
Two, area of practice; so if you’re an intellectual, the five or six bogeymen within the legal community, if you’re any of these, you’re going to pay the highest rates, intellectual property, patent, entertainment, securities, class action lawsuit-type firms and then the last one are collections.
So, if you’re any of those six as your main area of practice, you’re going to pay far more than someone the low end is criminal, immigration, those are going to be your low end.
Personal injury in the middle, estate, family law, divorce, estates and all that in the middle, so that’s — so anyway, the second variable is area practice.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Michael Carroll: The third variable is geography. So, there are places in the country. Miami is a very litigious type area so that geography pricing, it’s no different than car insurance, if you live out in the country, your car insurance is less because there are less cars, less driving. If you live in a big city whether Chicago, Miami, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, even drives a car in New York but my point is that if you’re driving in the big cities so many more accidents, just due to sheer numbers and what have you, so you’re going to pay for that.
So, anyway, geography is the next one. Number of lawyers, so whether it’d be off counsel; off-counsel is considered a part-time rate, so that said, but it’s the number of lawyers. So if you have one lawyer in your Bucyrus, Ohio and you’re doing criminal you might pay for, and the last variable is going to be the limit of protection, and how do you determine that?
This is one of the biggest foe pause, I see my peer group and/or law firm owners still.
Jared Correia: Okay.
Michael Carroll: When they first start, they open their law firm, Jared, and it’s the last piece to your question, they might be doing revenues of, projected revenues of for example a hundred thousand a year. So they might only need a hundred thousand in protection in year one, but then they really knocked the cover off the ball, they start working with you or like Richard James or John Robbins, all tremendous, tremendous.
I mean, you’re at the top of that list, the other two, 1, A, B, and C, I mean all tremendous men, first-class pros, right? And the point is very simply that suddenly in a year or two, you’re doing a quarter million. So now you need to raise your professional liability to quarter million.
It’s not rocket science here, folks, because what you do in revenues is what you can be collected over time. So you want to protect that. Then in year three, you keep working with, Jared, now you’re doing a half a million in revenues. So you want to up your protection to a half a million.
I can’t tell you how often I see a law firm doing 1.2 million in revenues and they’ve got a $250,000 professional liability. They need a million dollars minimum preferably too because you want to protect your interest. So the last part of it is, of course, what your revenues are is going to dictate what limits you need.
And if you’re doing 1.2 in revenues, and you get a million dollar limit, the difference between a quarter million depending again, location, number of lawyers, geography, area of practice, all the variables I just discussed, the difference is going to be nominal compared.
I mean the difference between 1.25 million and 250,000 is obviously a million dollars. Your premium might be 900 more or 1400 more, but you’re making a million dollars more, it’s all relative. So even though you might say holy smoke, that’s a lot more premium, no, it isn’t compared to what you’re earning in revenues.
So, those are the variables that determine rate.
Jared Correia: That’s helpful. My local insurance agent is telling me we need to take a break, so here are some of the things you should buy.
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Jared Correia: Thanks for sticking around. You made the right call. I’m here talking with Michael Carroll of Insuring Lawyer and we’re podcasting about malpractice insurance.
So, Mike, we talked a little bit about this in the last segment which is like which areas of malpractice insurance cost more, which cost less in terms of practice niches, I’m talking about. So, let’s say you’re in a practice area where it’s tough to get a policy and some of those you mentioned like patent law, for example, it’s tough to get a policy or you have to pay a lot of money for that policy.
How can lawyers go about getting policies in those practice areas in a way that provides enough coverage for a reasonable rate? Is there anything under the lawyers’ control then they can do to affect that?
Michael Carroll: Sure, so I mean the easiest answer is just take two weeks off and then quit.
Jared Correia: There you go, all right everybody.
Michael Carroll: You can add a little levity to it. No, at that point — so if you’re in one of the six like I like to call it the bogeyman securities, intellectual property, patent, entertainment, pro athletes, entertainers and such, collection and mass tort where you’re suing a big group. If you’re in any of those areas of practice and you’re starting out, it is going to be — there’s limited capacity so maybe ten insurance companies will write for those areas of practice and use poor grammar, it ain’t cheap.
But what you can do is based on you can negotiate. Again, if you have an expert, you can negotiate a rate down, you can create your own separate because most of the companies that are writing for those areas of practice or what it’s known as non-admitted companies and you’ll get into this in the professional world, where a lot of lawyers will get maybe or law firm owners I should say, will get a little bit of information, which is dangerous.
You’re a lot better off and like with no information or all the information. It’s a little bit of information that drives us all nuts and I being married for 30-plus years. I’m usually best when I know nothing. If I know a little bit, it drives me nuts. So if anyone’s trying to stay married a long time and I am an impossible guy to be around, let her do her, and just know nothing.
Jared Correia: Yes, that is the key strategy to be married. Look, this is a great podcast. We’re all over the place. You want marriage advice, here we are.
Michael Carroll: We’re giving marital advice and everything. The divorce lawyers are saying, shut up, we’re trying to get more business. You are healing marriages, stop this, stop it. Anyway, enough of my silly humor.
What it comes down to is now you want to at this point the non-admitted companies are able to — they’re not bound to the same rigidity that an admitted company is, and by that I mean that the admitted companies and that again can be the big known companies have filed state rates, they can’t do anything, they can’t change their forms, their forms are filed with the State Department of Insurance and they can’t add things to it, but non-admitted companies can add. They can manuscript and they can deviate from rates, so you can negotiate that where it’s like, look, this individual came from this big firm, where he or she has been practicing patent law for the last seven years and she was the star, blah, blah, blah, she’s been awarded, she’s graduated in her top 10% at Cleveland State or in Harvard or wherever. It could be an Ivy League, it could be Alabama, which is a top law school.
Everyone thinks Alabama is where people go to make the NFL and play — no, they actually have a top tier of law school down in Alabama but — in it obviously a championship football program but great law school. And the point is these are all things that again an expert can go back so you can now work with the insuring company to say in these tough areas of practice, hey, let’s work with me, let’s grow, let’s create our own plan tailored to who I am and what my history has been and you tell a story.
No one likes — no one, if you were trying to woo a woman or a man, you wouldn’t walk up, hi, I’m Jared, hi, I’m Mike, I’m 6’6”, I weigh 241 pounds, I like to eat Cheerios for breakfast, I’m Catholic, I go to Mass every — people say what, what — is this a joke, is this like you are doing a TV show.
My point is you should go up, you tell a story, hey, I’m Michael Carroll, I was born in Bangor, Maine. My father was a fighter pilot, my mother is from Sicily, blah, blah, blah and you start telling a narrative story, in people, it’s a lot more interesting, whether they are interested or not, people are still entertained by this story format. It’s really how we communicated through generation to generation to generation. So it’s the same thing in your marketing. Here we go, a little marketing lesson, always don’t make your marketing features and benefits, tell a story because that is what resonates, people make decision based on their heart, okay.
It’s the emotional which will get them to buy, so it’s the same idea here that with an insurance company do not play their game of sterility where it’s all about — if you play that game with them, they’ll beat you all day long. And see, remember, I work for you law firm owner, I know how these folks take. Underwriters are the enemy and if there’s an underwriter listening they’ll hate me for saying that.
And most underwriters are actually very nice people in their first cause prose but they are very sterile and rigid when it comes to — they just want to look at numbers, they want to look at you in the most sterile way possible and if you run a pristine law firm that’s been in business for a long time and it’s had no claims, well, you’ve earned that right.
You are going to look perfect as far as the numbers go. It’s all put in the bag, you mix it up and it’s beautiful. But a lot of law firm, when you are talking about, your question Jared, to put it together, tell the story, the expert will then go to the underwriters and you can work that down.
So yes, your point is well-taken. It’s an excellent question. Yeah, yeah, it can be done. It can certainly be done, yeah.
Jared Correia: All right, so one thing you talked about in the first part of the show is coverage gaps and I kind of want to address that a little bit, but also talk about writers. There are different policy writers available for malpractice insurance, including business interruption. So if your firm gets shut down for a period of time, you are covered.
I know that there is now data breach insurance available, which is essentially if you suffer a data breach, you can get insurance coverage for that, because that can get expensive with state notice requirements. What do you recommend to people in terms of different writers that they should at least consider and to what extent do those fill coverage gaps you were talking about previously?
Michael Carroll: Sure. So on professional liability, there’s two that come to play, and again, everyone listening, law firm owners listening, there is more to your protecting your practice than professional liability you offer. So many law firm owners think okay, great, I have got the professional liability, that’s wonderful, I commend you for that.
But then there is the office business insurance, where you can have driving liability, because if you think about it almost every law firm owner has got staff or themselves, the owner, who is driving to meet clients, to go to the airport, to go to a seminar, to go locally to a seminar, to go to the post office, to do this, to do that, you are always driving and your personal auto will be primary. But if you have something above that, it’s catastrophic, especially if you have staff, how do you know if your staff, the boyfriend and the girlfriend are fighting, she left, then the insurance didn’t get paid and now you have got — or he left and she is driving around with no car insurance. She gets into an accident, going to pick up lunch for the office, your firm is getting named in that, and if you don’t have coverage, then they are going to garnish your future wages. So I mean there’s a whole litany of things. So there is an example.
But let’s start with professional liability. One, you should have an endorsement called FDD, the acronym FDD, First Dollar Defense. What that means is this, if you get a meritless lawsuit brought against you, the only time you would pay your deductible is if you are determined to be wrong.
So someone at your office goofed, whether it be you as the law firm owner, one of your staff, you just made a mistake, okay, there was a mistake made. Of course it wasn’t intentional. Most deductibles, 5,000 is the average sum or 2,500, as well as 1,000; some of your bigger firms will be 10,000, 25,000, depending on the size of the firm and how many lawyers, because it becomes a self-insured and a premium savings type mentality.
But let’s use 5,000 as the average deductible. If you don’t have that endorsement known as First Dollar Defense and some disgruntled client who owes you 20% or 30%, you want 40-40, you go to get 20 at the end and they refuse to pay. And you are owed $4,000, for example, and they refuse to pay and you continue to send them bills until you finally threaten to take them — to litigate to get your rightfully deserved last 25% in a case. You know what they will turn around and do, they will file a malpractice or professional liability claim against you, saying the reason I am not paying this bum is because he or she or they didn’t do a good job, I ain’t paying them.
And that’s where you get — now, they sue you for that as a defense to skate out of that last 20%, and if you don’t have that First Dollar Defense, you just expose yourself to another five — not only are you not going to get your four grand, but now you just incurred $5,000 of expense. So the point is that you want to get what is known as First Dollar Defense, that’s one of two.
The other one is — the acronym is CEOL versus CEIL. Claims Expense, CE, Claims Expense, I is Inside, O is Outside Limit. So CEOL is what you want. Claims Expense Outside Limit. What that means is this, that if you have a million dollar limit and you have got CEIL, Inside Limit, and you get brought — litigation is brought against your firm on a professional basis, professional liability basis and you incur a quarter million dollars of legal costs during this and you are found to be negligent and you get a million dollar suit, you think hey, I have got a million dollars protection, I am good.
Wrong. That quarter million dollars, if you have got CEIL, Inside Limits, is subtracted from your million dollar limit, you don’t need to be a math genius to figure out, that only leaves you 750,000. Guess who is paying the other quarter million? You are, out of your own pocket.
So in this case, when you get Claims Expense Outside Limit, that is going to give you the — match the limit of liability that you have, so your liability limit is not eroded, Jared, and that’s a huge deal.
And then moving along, as you said, the office business insurance, I talked about the driving liability, the two other things that should be on there are going to be data breach. Now, if you are a bigger firm or you have got great worries about viruses, you can get a standalone cyber liability policy. But if you are a smaller firm, for a couple of hundred bucks a year you can put 100,000 on there and get data breach to protect your clients, it gives them credit repair and all that.
But if you are a firm that you are doing revenues, let’s say, I always like to use a half a million or more; Beazley writes a policy, you can’t buy it on the Internet, you have got to get it through — obviously we sell it. But for a million dollars of protection, it’s $1,010 a year. It’s the best contract. It’s written specifically for law firms. It’s a beautiful thing.
Now, bigger firms that have bigger exposure, the premium is greater, but for anyone who is doing under million-and-a-half in annual sales, it’s going to be $1,010 a year. It gives you virus protection. It’s only $1,000 deductible. It’s the best thing going. And anyone who is doing over a half a million to let’s say one — any amount, but you could be 20 million a year, the Beazley policy is the best. You have got to get through, if you like, a local broker, they can’t even screw that one up even if they are not an expert in this. That’s a 10% commissionable product.
I mean we write it all day long. We have got hundreds, if not thousands, of those written. I would love to earn your business leading with that. We do it all day long. It wouldn’t be an inconvenience, we love it, but again, if we are — 10% commission, if you want to work with your local broker who you like and you see at mass or temple or whatever, country club, neighborhood, whatever, I totally get it and I won’t be offended. That’s why I am gladly sharing these tidbits.
Jared Correia: No, this is really interesting. I have never heard of this policy or this broker before. I thought you were talking about Pam Beesly from The Office for a little bit, but clearly not.
Michael Carroll: Oh yeah, Pam Beesly, oh yeah, yeah.
Jared Correia: This is different.
Michael Carroll: You are going to remind me of the Kevin episode after she had the baby.
Jared Correia: I love The Office.
Michael Carroll: If you are an Office fan, you will get that; if you are not, you will think that Jared and I are crazy.
Jared Correia: Only people who like The Office listen to this podcast.
Michael Carroll: That’s what you said.
Jared Correia: Beautiful. It is our policy, unfortunately, to pause before we come back for Part 3 of this show.
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Jared Correia: Hey, thanks for coming back again. I hope you enjoyed your eggplant parm. I don’t. I hate eggplants. Let’s get back to our conversation with Michael Carroll of Insuring Lawyer, who is talking to me about malpractice coverage, what do you need, how do you get it, let’s find out more during this last segment of our show.
I think one of the most vexing questions about insurance generally is how much coverage you should get and we have talked a little bit about this, but like I always try to blow off my policies, just whatever, auto insurance, professional insurance, just in case like there is another meteor strike that kills the dinosaurs or us in this case, but I always have this nagging feeling that I am paying too much for insurance.
So we talked a little bit about this and kind of danced around it, but as an attorney, like how can you feel comfortable about the coverage limits you have and that you are also paying enough but not too much?
Michael Carroll: Excellent question. So the first thing you always want to do, let’s face it, law firm owners, you are never going to meet anyone who is destitute. You may have some that are into what I will term the doctrine of misery, where they want to give away free legal advice, allow people to extend credit within, don’t collect anything and they are grinding out a living, working 80 hours a week, their marriage is suffering and life is just generally bad. I don’t think there will be a lot of people listening.
If you are one of those people, get with Jared ASAP, your life will change overnight. That isn’t the way — no law firm that I speak — my oldest son is in law school and —
Jared Correia: I didn’t know that.
Michael Carroll: Yeah, yeah, he is at Cleveland State, he is a first-year law student, so he is reading his eyeballs out, but he is doing well, he is in the top 30 of his class and he is not happy with that; he wants to be in the top 10, he is a competitive kid.
Jared Correia: Good, good.
Michael Carroll: Yeah, yeah, he likes it a lot though and he is excited. But it’s due to the Jared Correias of the world that my son wanted to get into law school and my experience protecting law firm —
Jared Correia: That’s good.
Michael Carroll: I mean, that’s a true story, true story, and he said, when the NFL was not in his future, injuries ruined his college career, he said dad, what am I going to do with my life, I spent my whole life thinking I was going to make the pros, a fine dream for any young star athlete coming out of high school that earns a scholarship, playing college, but the odds are against that. But you don’t want to ruin a kid’s dream. Someone has got to be the next Tom Brady, why shouldn’t it be my son? But my son was a tight end, so the next Rob Gronkowski let’s say.
And what it came down to is I said, there is not a better profession or a better collective community group of people than law firm owners. I said nothing against people who work in corporate law, but you have seen the life of an entrepreneur with me. And he said, I want to be that dad and he said law sounds like it for me, and he said insurance, dad, I love you, don’t take this the wrong way, but man, that seems boring. No one ever — and you will never hear me, someone who loves it, and 32 years and it’s made me a wealthy man and it’s my thing, if you will.
Jared Correia: Yeah, yeah.
Michael Carroll: But the point is very simply that it isn’t sexy and it isn’t glamorous, so I am good with that. I am not offended by any stretch. And law is exciting and it can be great.
So ultimately what it comes down to is, back to your question, the first thing we need to do is you need to say this is not going to lead with price, because as a law firm owner I have worked my tail off to get where I am and I cannot risk anything out of my control taking one penny away from that. So I need to — if I need to cut going out to lunch once a month or whatever it may be, I must protect it.
And again, we talked about that earlier, we danced around it, I will be crystal clear now, whatever your revenues are, you want to — that’s just a basic 101 type insurance and you should have more, but just cover it, at least you will be protected to the same limits.
So you do a half a million in revenues, get a half a million of professional liability or malpractice, whatever you like to call it. If you are doing a million, do a million. If you are doing 750, go up to a million, because they sell it in increments of 100, 250, 500 and then a million. There are a few companies that do 750, but rare and few and far between and not national companies. And then you can go 2 million, 3 million and right down the line. But my point is that — so that’s number one.
Number two is then when you are working with an expert, there is pricing disparity, so you want to say, someone like insuring lawyer, that’s us obviously. We have got a contract, we have direct contracts, we have an exclusive program with Hanover for all those Boston diehards, that’s right there in Worcester, for the rest of the country Worcester, but Worcester as they pronounce it in the Boston area, and also home of Holy Cross, The Crusaders and Tommy Heinsohn and Bob Cousy, but now I am really dating myself.
Jared Correia: Absolutely, yes.
Michael Carroll: But my point is that we have an exclusive contract with them and there are companies out there that are very, very price competitive and if you have got a broker, an expert in that industry, like I am for law firm owners, if price is a consideration, I have got some companies, but their claims may be a little less responsive. Not that they are not going to pay your claim, but it comes — some law firm owners want the white glove, elite, all-inclusive, Hanover writes a contract like that, their claims — they will come out and they will wash your car and shine your shoes. I mean that has nothing to do with your professional liability claim, and they are willing to pay.
And they are actually — their market price, they are slightly above average price-wise. But then there is companies out there like Imperium that just give it away, but then how long are they going to give it away and their claims aren’t as good, as a compliment to Hanover, okay, not a cut on Imperium, their claims aren’t as responsive and you don’t get the white glove and this and that. So it’s really — when it comes to that.
And sometimes we — I have owned a business for 32 years, any business owner that doesn’t say at some point in their career, like holy smokes, payrolls on Friday, what in the world am I going to do is a liar or someone who is independently rich.
I mean we have all been there at points in our career and it’s usually toward the beginning than down the road, but my point is very simply, there’s ways to do that, but yeah, it’s just to really have a broker who has wide access, someone who specializes with law firms, who has access to really all the legitimate players out there, from the lowball, to again, it’s you want to — if you are going to buy a Bentley, you are going to get the ultimate ride or a Benz or a Cadillac, whatever floats your boat, as far as Rolls-Royce, as far as fancy cars.
But if you are going to buy a Hyundai, which is an excellent car, it sponsors the National Basketball Association, they are their big sponsor. I mean they are not garbage cars, but there is a little difference between the two and they both get you from A to B. It’s just what do you want your buying experience to be.
Jared Correia: All right. So I get this question a lot from people, so I want to ask you. Can you tell folks what tail coverage is and why it’s important to have that?
Michael Carroll: So tail coverage is, and it’s a big misnomer. People think that when they switch from Company A to B, they have been with Joe or Jane broker for 12 years and they are like I haven’t heard from Jane or Joe broker in 10 of those years, I am not even sure if they are alive. I will hear that. And then they hear me at an ABA event or they hear me at on this podcast with you Jared or at an RJon Robins, How To MANAGE a Small Law Firm event, or Richard James, whoever, all these great people; you at the top of that list, and they hear me and they are like I like this guy, I have read his book, he wrote the book on it, then they think I have got to get tail coverage when I switch.
So when you switch from Company A to Company B, your prior acts state can go back to day one. So if you began your professional liability on April 1 of 1987, it just continues on, okay? You don’t need to go from Company A and B and B to C and C to D in that 32 year period, going 1987 to 2019, you don’t need tail coverage. But tail coverage or the technical term is known, the acronym is ERP, Extended Reporting Period.
What that is, is when you wind down your law firm, whether you would be retirement, whatever the case may be or you are closing in, you are enjoying another firm, you are creating a new firm, but you wind it down and what that is, you want to get to me, I would get the unlimited and it’s based on like if you get a one year, they are going to charge you one year’s premium. If you get two years, they are going to charge you like a year-and-a-half’s premium. If you get three years, they are going to charge you like two years premium. Then if you get the unlimited, they are going to charge you three years premium. And they allow you to define it.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Michael Carroll: Yeah. So if you and I Jared own a law firm and we were personal injury guys and we killed it, we made —
Jared Correia: That would be an amazing law firm.
Michael Carroll: –tens of millions of dollars. It would be. We would be — we would own it.
Jared Correia: We would crush it.
Michael Carroll: Yeah, you got it. We would be doing it. We made tens of millions and now we want to become — invest in — we buy the Celtics, okay, and we are going to get rid of Kyrie.
Jared Correia: I like where this is going.
Michael Carroll: We are going to get guys that can play with him or whatever. The point is very simply that we would wind down our law firm and we would buy — if we were paying 20,000 a year, if we were doing it like that, premium probably would be a 100,000 a year, but we would get — it would be three years times the premium.
But it’s just simple math. If you are paying three grand a year and you want to get the unlimited, you would have 9,000 premium, they will let you finance it, and that’s that. But it is critical because you don’t want that to follow you into your retirement, then you get a suit and they personally can collect. Yeah, it’s not a good idea at all.
Jared Correia: That’s right. That’s one of the better explanations I have ever heard on that.
Now, I have one last question for you. So I was on TripAdvisor last night and they told me that the best thing to do in Maumee, Ohio, and I hope to hell I am pronouncing that right, is to take a trip to the Toledo Museum of Art. Do you agree or disagree?
Michael Carroll: I am a meathead, so of course I am going to disagree. To me, it’s all about — of course, the listeners have figured out, this guy is a big meathead that loves sports. You are correct. I am not a complex guy, pretty easy to figure out. So I would say I mean the Toledo Museum of Art is superb, it is a nationally known — I mean it’s well received or known in the country, but I just can’t sit still that long and art is not my thing.
But the Toledo Zoo is considered to be one of the top three or four zoos in the country; with I think like the San Diego Zoo and maybe the St. Louis Zoo. So the Toledo Zoo is a big deal, and Maumee is a suburb, it borders. Like I am talking from my home office in Toledo, down River Road, but 2.2 miles down River Road is my office in Maumee, Ohio. So the Maumee border is — so Toledo, Maumee are the same. It’s a small community. The Toledo Mud Hens used to play in Maumee, Ohio.
Jared Correia: Oh, right, yeah.
Michael Carroll: Yeah, the Lucas County Rec Center, but now they are in downtown Toledo, like most cities they have made a big comeback. Both cities have made a big comeback. So the Mud Hens play in downtown, it’s at Fifth Third, the big bank. It’s a family type thing.
But I worked, by the way, six years as a kid, Toledo Mud Hens ground crew, so from 16 to 22.
Jared Correia: I didn’t know that.
Michael Carroll: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I got to meet — it was a great job for a meathead because I got a basketball hoop so I could work on my game, keep sharp, and I got to play with Danny Ainge when he was with Syracuse and Kirby Puckett.
Jared Correia: That’s really cool.
Michael Carroll: The only kid I ever met from the Hood in Chicago who couldn’t play basketball, God rest his soul. He was the Hall of Fame baseball player.
Jared Correia: Terrible basketball player.
Michael Carroll: The worst basketball player I have ever seen. I mean my college roommate Kelvin Upshaw played about 10 years in the NBA. Every kid from the South Side of Chicago can hoop, not Kirby Puckett, he couldn’t, he is the one guy — but I will tell you what, what he lacked in basketball, he made up in baseball. I mean first guy as Hall of Famer, and God rest his soul, but just a neat job as a kid.
So anyway, you went on TripAdvisor to Maumee, Ohio.
Jared Correia: Toledo Art Museum and taking a Mud Hens game, that’s great.
Michael Carroll: There you go.
Jared Correia: Sadly everyone, we have reached the end of yet another episode of The Legal Toolkit Podcast. This was the podcast about malpractice insurance and Boston sports and we have been talking with Mike Carroll of Insuring Lawyer.
Now, I will be back on further shows with insights into my soul, the soul of America and the legal market, but if you miss my dulcet tones at any point, feel free to check out our entire show archive at legaltalknetwork.com.
So thanks again to Michael Carroll of Insuring Lawyer for making an appearance as my guest today.
All right, Michael, can you tell everyone how they can find out more about you and about Insuring Lawyer.
Michael Carroll: Absolutely. Thank you again Jared for having me and —
Jared Correia: That’s been fun.
Michael Carroll: Anyone, anytime, you want to get in touch with me, my direct number of my office, it rings directly to me is 419-469-6886. My email is [email protected], and of course the website would be insuringlawyer.com.
And then when you go to the website, everyone listening, I will gladly mail you a copy of my book, and this isn’t an e-book, it’s a real live, hard copy, you will be able to read it in a couple of hours and you will enjoy it. I haven’t had anyone say it’s stupid, except for an underwriter, and when an underwriter said it was stupid, I knew I had hit a home run.
So law firm owners have found it to be useful, what have you, but you can get a copy of ‘The Naked Lawyer’ by going right to the website insuringlawyer.com. Please request a copy, I will mail it. You will enjoy it and I would love nothing more. I will take the time and expense to do so, and that’s everything.
And again, what a pleasure it is to be a guest on your show, Jared, and I can’t thank you enough, and law firm owners out there listening, be relentless.
Jared Correia: Yeah, I like that, get that book too. So Mike, I just want to talk about one more thing. I think that you do a tremendous job every year with the Cancer Research Fundraiser that you put on. And I am not sure about the timing of the release of this show, whether it’s going to be out before the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, but you do great work with this and I just wanted to give you a second to talk a little bit about that as well.
Michael Carroll: Thanks. Yeah. As a young man I was actually — the first time I met Coach Valvano, I was at Holy Cross Basketball Camp, where my father is graduating, 56. His roommate and dear friend to this day was Tommy Heinsohn, and again, Boston people know Tommy of course, he is an all-time great Hall of Famer as a coach and a player, considered to be one of the 50 greatest players ever. But I was in the sixth grade, I was the MVP of that thing, and there’s these two high-energy pythons, and remember I have shared, my mother is from Sicily. So I have been looking more — even though Michael Patrick Carroll is as Irish as they come, my father is 100% Irish, I look more Italian than Irish, so they came up and they said, hey, are you Italian? I said my mother is from Sicily. Yeah, get out of here, this and that.
Well, the two guys were none other than Dick Vitale, Dickie V and Jim Valvano and Dick Vitale was at the University of Detroit at the time where he had great success, and of course Jim Valvano was at Iona, where he had great success, and he went on to win a championship at NC State. So that began a relationship with Coach Valvano.
I wasn’t good enough to play in the ACC, which back in the day was like the NBA. I mean it was the top league, but even though I wasn’t good enough to earn a scholarship, there was a situation where we ended up staying in touch, and so when coach got sick and died, that was very personal to me, and that was 1993 when he passed and he had that great speech a month or so before he passed at the ESPYS, to me, you have got to give it away to keep it. It’s important to give back. So I said, I love basketball, both pro and college, what greater way to do it then during the basketball tournament.
So we have done it. The website, if you ever want to start a charity, everyone listening, it isn’t that hard, and you just — you pray about it and you put your heart into it, but the website is Jimmy V, like Jim Valvano, jimmyvmarchmadness.com, and the event, we do it the Sweet Sixteen week and we do a big shindig. I get many clients and people that donate throughout the country, what have you, but a lot come locally, some fly in for the event, but our goal is to raise 100,000 every year, and this will be our 19th year and we have raised — we will be sneaking up on — we have got to be sneaking up on close to a million dollars.
Jared Correia: That’s fantastic.
Michael Carroll: We started small and we have grown, so yeah.
And then, one last thing, ironically enough, three years ago my wife Cheryl contracted breast cancer and who would have ever thought, beautiful, works out, no predisposition, nothing in her; I am not being kind. I mean she looks like she is in her 30s at 53 and she contracted it and isn’t that the irony. So then it became crazy personal, but Coach Valvano, I knew at some level, but I mean this is the mother of our children, the kids and everything. I mean that’s a very sobering thing for those of you that have had to watch someone you love with all your heart go through that.
And it’s just cancer is — there are so many great causes, whatever you do, and the V Foundation will partner with you, your local community, they are leading researchers, $0.93 of every dollar goes towards cancer research.
So if you love sports and you want to give back and you feel a calling to do something bigger than yourself, I would highly suggest, I will put you in touch. Reach out for me. I love the V Foundation for the aforementioned reasons, and you will just get a better quality of life, even though it’s a lot of work, it’s not a lot of work. I never get bummed out. I never get worn out. I never think man, that’s the last year I am doing this. This is getting me out of control. I have just added more board members and we have just grown.
And even though I am still considered the founder, it becomes — I have got younger men and women who are now stepping up, the next generation; I am 55. I am not planning on going anywhere, but bring others into it, let them share in the greatness of giving back, and it’s been the most gratifying thing I have done on a selfless basis other than being a parent and such and a husband I guess.
But yeah, you can bring Cheryl back to see how selfless I have been as a husband. I think she would say selfish, but that’s another stuff for another day.
Jared Correia: I have done podcasts with my wife before, not a great idea.
No, but that’s great, I love seeing money go to cancer research, the more the better. What was that website again?
Michael Carroll: jimmyvmarchmadness.com, visit it, if you want to start the charity, I will give you all the time in the world and tell you. I will send you my Playbook, the whole thing, and it’s all for the right cause. And you can do it for autism, if you have got a family member, Alzheimer’s, it’s the same concept. I don’t know who the big organizations are in the autism or in the Alzheimer’s world, but it’s the same concept of how you can start an event and do something that’s going to have a legacy beyond you, because that money is going to help find a cure for whatever is near and dear to your heart and you will leave the world a better place.
And that to me, as corny as it sounds, it’s the truth, and that’s been, like I said, the most gratifying, selfless thing I have done in my life, and I was told you have got to give it away to keep it. My folks told me if you are going to do well in life, you have got to turn it around and spread the wealth in that and do something that isn’t about making money, do something to make the world a better place; not that making money is a bad thing or an evil thing, nothing wrong with being successful, but then take the time to give back to people who are suffering or less fortunate.
And some people live a lifestyle where they are going to cause cancer to themselves, but most people don’t. It could happen to any of us, and when it does happen to someone you love and care about, like I have had a front row seat with Cheryl; the good news is she is kicking cancer’s tail, I mean she is. If you Google Cheryl Carroll, you will say there is no way that that woman had cancer; she looks like a Kardashian, and to all the guys out there that like pretty woman, just go see her, that will be worth your time. And the fashionable women, you will like seeing her, because she is a fashionista, but she is a superstar in her own right.
But women like her and men like her that had fought and survived cancer, it’s beyond courageous. And guys like Stuart Scott from ESPN and Jim Valvano, they didn’t lose to cancer, they just lied down to rest, and it’s up to people like us to carry on that fight, so therefore we will eradicate the world of cancer and all the cynics, oh, they will never find a cure, it’s a game system. I mean it is like chasing ghost, cancer is extremely frustrating, but you know, what are you going to do, just not try? I mean, come on, we have got to keep — there is so much greatness and brilliance out there that I believe in my heart of hearts that people are going to find a cure for cancer and I believe in those geniuses and those intellects in the world of research that they — they have found many cures and I believe they are someday going to find a cure for them all. So we will keep busting our buns to get that done.
Jared Correia: That’s a good note to end it on. I think your wife is going to be very happy about that.
So thanks again to Michael Carroll of Insuring Lawyer. Finally, thanks to all of you out there for listening. This has been The Legal Toolkit Podcast, where we are only renewing our HBO NOW subscription so we can watch the last season of Game of Thrones.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Legal Toolkit, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join host Jared Correia for his next podcast covering the current business trends for law firms.
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