As Canada’s litigation funding and insurance market grows, truly independent brokers will become more important for lawyers seeking the best deal for clients, says Nick Robson, managing director of JusticeRisk Solutions (JRS).
Robson tells AdvocateDaily.com that some players in the burgeoning sector are better described as agents since they only sell products originating with one provider.
“We’re not tied to one carrier. We search more than 30 different insurance and funding markets to bring the most competitive product to the lawyer,” Robson explains.
As more providers enter the Canadian market, that roster will likely grow, he adds.
Until its recent merger with U.K.-based TheJudge Global, JRS focussed mainly on litigation insurance and funding for personal injury cases. Without limiting itself to one provider, Robson says JRS is able to shop around to find the product that best fits a law firm, based on client needs.
“There are huge differences in policy wordings and the way programs are run. One insurer is not necessarily going to be good for two different law firms,” he says. “We tailor the program to a law firm’s specific business model.”
Robson says it’s even possible to pick and choose elements of coverage from different providers so that one law firm is covered by two or more insurers.
“If you have one covering disbursements and another for trial risks that might pop up, it can work out to a better deal for the law firm,” he says.
The merger with TheJudge now allows Robson to bring the same flexibility to Canada’s After-The-Event (ATE) insurance and funding market, which offers adverse costs insurance and disbursement funding to plaintiffs in complex commercial litigation and class actions.
Matthew Amey, a director at TheJudge’s London headquarters, says some lawyers may be tempted to survey providers directly, but he advises against it.
“Our job is to keep up to speed on the relevant products, policy changes, and market conditions. Lawyers are never going to be able to do that on their own, operating outside their comfort zone. They have enough work on their plates doing their own job, without keeping an eye on the minutiae of ATE insurance policies,” Amey says.
Lawyers could also hamper their search for any type of coverage by approaching underwriters individually, he says.
“If you say the wrong thing or the presentation goes badly, you can quickly get rejected, creating a prejudice for your client. You’ll then have to disclose the fact that one underwriter has turned you down when you go to the next one, which makes it less likely that they will want to do business with you,” Amey says. “At the very least, you have to search simultaneously.”
In the more developed U.K. market, he says that TheJudge’s longstanding involvement in the area, combined with competition among providers, also gives it a considerable amount of bargaining power in negotiations with insurers.
“We place so much business with them, that they’re going to be more willing to be flexible or help us out than an individual lawyer bringing a case to them,” Amey says.
“We’ve had to use our clout a few times,” adds Robson. “Sometimes when there’s a change of guard at an insurance company and their risk profile changes, you have to stand up for your clients.”