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September 19, 2019 Departments

Profile: TIPS Staff Counsel Committee: Intersecting with Multiple TIPS Committees and Task Forces

By Marc Lapp

The Staff Counsel Committee, as part of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS), was founded in 2002 as a home for staff counsel and other insurance defense trial lawyers. Staff counsel are lawyers employed by insurance companies for the purpose of defending liability suits against policyholders. Most major property and casualty insurance companies in the United States utilize staff counsel for a large volume of their insured loss litigation. Our expertise includes personal, commercial, and professional lines cases. Staff counsel lawyers also handle worker’s compensation defense and insurance company subrogation. The Staff Counsel Committee respects the broad reach of insured loss litigation by facilitating relevant programming and leadership opportunities for our members.

Because of the breadth of insured loss litigation, staff counsel practice intersects with the subject matter of nearly every TIPS general committee, standing committee, and task force. That presented an incredible opportunity for great programming collaboration for this year’s TIPS Section Conference. For the Fifth Annual TIPS Section Conference in New York City in May, staff counsel and other committee leaders “raised the bar,” offering nearly 24 CLE hours on relevant tort trial and insurance practice topics that included mastering courtroom presentation, learning trends in new insurance coverages, optimizing management of retained counsel, and exploring emerging issues in the profession.

Annually, the Staff Counsel Committee sponsors a regional CLE program at a local law school featuring panels of insurance company executives, trial lawyers, and local judges. This year, with the cosponsorship of the Litigation and Trial Practice, Self-Insurers and Risk Management, and Insurance Coverage Litigation Committees, we presented an exciting program at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, “Why Should We Select Your Law Firm? Becoming and Remaining Counsel of Choice.”

In conjunction with our regional CLE programs, we take the opportunity to extend ABA outreach to law students on issues of social importance. This year, in partnership with Washington University School of Law’s Women of Color Law Society, the Staff Counsel Committee facilitated a “Social Action Awareness Morning” featuring Lynne M. Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision of 1857. Following Ms. Jackson’s presentation, our members were privileged to accompany the law students on a tour of the Old Courthouse, the site of the first two trials of the Dred Scott case in 1847 and 1850. Several of the law students attending formed a great personal relationship with Ms. Jackson and are now involved in her various board and charitable work.

In addition to our in-person programming, the Staff Counsel Committee partnered with TIPS’s Automobile Law Committee on a recent webinar, “Automotive Data on the Docket: Legal, Ethical, and Consumer Issues,” and published two joint newsletters on topics of common interest, including issues arising in self-driving vehicle accident litigation.

Many of our members are leaders on other committees, such as Law in the Public Service and the Special Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Through those associations, staff counsel members eagerly and regularly participate in the various food drives, animal shelter opportunities, and middle school outreach programs conducted in the various communities that host TIPS’s meetings throughout the year. We also look forward to our group dinners out on the town, which give us an additional opportunity to network and socialize.

The Staff Counsel Committee presents great opportunities for professional collaboration, learning, and fun and is proven to be fertile ground for moving on to leadership roles in TIPS and in the broader ABA community.

To find out more about the Staff Counsel Committee and to join, please visit our committee page on the website or email me at [email protected].

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By Marc Lapp

Marc Lapp is the director of Quality Assurance, Ethics, and Training for Nationwide Trial Division in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the chair of TIPS’s Staff Counsel Committee and a member of TIPS’s General Committee Board and Insurance Institute Task Force. He may be reached at [email protected].