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The Adjuster’s Advocate
I n 1985, I left a promising career as a property insurance defense lawyer and started the Merlin Law Group. My first word-of-mouth referrals came within the first weeks of starting my firm, and those referrals were from public adjusters. My first public speech as a policyholder attorney was at the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters convention in June 1985. I owe a debt of gratitude to public adjusters. I am still friends with and blessed to have relationships with those same public adjusters more than 34 years after first meeting with them. A lot of the pleasurable aspects of our legal practice come from developing lasting and meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues in the business. Today, we have over 60 attorneys in our firm and have grown to a national practice with 13 manned offices. We talk with public adjusters every day and learn from their problems and issues because public adjusters are involved with claims where the rubber meets the road. Insurance companies’ practices and attitudes toward paying their customers’ claims are reported to us every day from public adjusters. Since we are national in scope, it helps us identify trends, so we can dig deeper for the benefit of policyholders. Property insurance law is inherently a nerdy business. Those involved have to spend countless hours reading insurance policies line by line and then reading treatises, case law, regulations, and statutes to truly understand the various meanings and purposes of the product sold to policyholders. Experience means a lot. Often, the insurance claims professionals working for the insurance industry are not as dedicated or lack the historical knowledge to understand what they are adjusting. I love speaking with older public adjusters about their historical knowledge, and I also love learning from newer public adjusters who may have recently left insurance companies and have actual knowledge of current insurance industry views and practices.
One of the things I preach to our attorneys is to remain humble; being a lawyer does not make us better than anybody. We just have a certain job to fulfill, and we must listen to our clients and be willing to learn from anybody that will help us win the policyholder’s case. The only way to do this is to have positive relationships with clients and public adjusters, so the flow of critical information occurs. Being part of a group of attorneys who are dedicated to doing the best job they can in this specific field of law helps a lot. We are constantly sharing information and ideas with each other. We collect critical knowledge and pieces of evidence that would go unnoticed without working as a group. We practice one area of law and do not get involved in other matters, like personal injury cases or whatever else may bring money in the door. We believe that attorneys can become much better at what we do if we master just one rather than being master of none. Education for public adjusters is important. Our attorneys are constantly giving speeches all over the country to public adjusters. We don’t want these lectures to be boring. Who wants to listen to lawyers talk about the law? Rather, we try to make them practical to what is going on in the field and the everyday issues facing public adjusters. Lately, we have been pushing education on estimating issues and OSHA workplace safety considerations. We will even give specialized instruction to public adjusting firms. A public adjuster asked me 20 years ago what my goal was as an attorney. I told him: “To be the best first-party property insurance lawyer in the United States.” I am not certain how I am doing on that, but I do know that we have a number of the best property insurance lawyers in the United States working at Merlin Law Group. I take a lot of satisfaction in that, and our goal is to be the best.
Raising the Bar
“One of the things I preach to our attorneys is to remain humble; being a lawyer does not make us better than anybody. ”
– Chip Merlinmerlinlawgroup.com
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