Welcome to the Inside Insight podcast presented by CR Solutions. At Consolidated Risk Solutions, we are taking our expert knowledge of the insurance world and using it to innovate the industry using technology, groundbreaking thinking and a personal touch. Join us as we talk to masterminds both inside and outside of CR Solutions about how the world of insurance is changing, and how we can be sure to grow along with it. If you have to manage insurance in your work, then you can benefit from the interviews, conversations and insights we’ll be exploring to elevate your business’s success.
INTRO (00:42 – 02:59)
Beau Lunceford: Welcome back to another episode of Inside Insight. I am one of your hosts, Beau Lunceford, and I am so excited to be joining you here today. Now, today we are bringing in some content that has been very eagerly requested by people in the insurance industry listeners that we have even people here at CR Solutions are dying to hear this conversation.
Today we are joined by Will Bennett from SDV Law. Now, SDV Law is a huge giant in the insurance industry because of their specialty in insurance law. Some of you may remember Will from Trevor and I’s interview with SDV Law, CR Solutions and the hard market in the webinar that we did covering the CG forms. Now, this conversation that Trevor and I have is our least favorite way to do an interview. I’ll be honest, we’re recording this call over zoom. And so of course, there is a little bit of that Zoom audio that you kind of have to bear with us on this. So today we’re asking for a little bit of your grace as we go into this conversation with Will because it was just too good to not share.
So a little bit about Will. Will Bennett is a partner at SDV in a season career coverage law attorney. Will started as a summer associate in the firm’s Northeast office, and now he is spearheading the SDVs West Coast office in California. Will has been a relentless advocate for policy holders and has extensive experience covering all facets of insurance and risk transfer making him a go to resource for clients navigating the complex landscape of coverage over the course of his career, Will has played a pivotal role in securing hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance money for policyholders across diverse lines of coverage. Will’s expertise extends to General Liability, property cyber pollution, professional product recall and many, many more. Will is not just well versed in traditional policies, but is intimately familiar with non-traditional variations such as additional insured coverage, self-insurance, captive insurance, and many more.
So today, we are thrilled to dive into this conversation with Will. Giving you guys an overview of who SDV Law is whether you’ve heard of them before or whether you are jumping in new to meet them for the first time. We think that there’s something for everyone in this episode of Inside Insight. So like Trevor says, let’s get to it.
Interview (03:01 – 22:18)
Trevor Casey: All right, everybody. We are back again with another Inside Insight episode. And we are here with our special guest and our friend Will Bennett from SDV Law. How’re you doing, Will?
Will Bennett: Doing well. Thanks for having me.
Beau Lunceford: Will, we are so glad to have you. This has been a very hotly requested topic and concept. So we are really, really excited to really hear more about what SDV brings to the table, the value add that you guys are and where you guys have come from? We’re just excited.
Trevor Casey: I mean, it seems like the market is just craving SDV Law content, whether it’s webinars or just posts or articles that you guys are writing. So we’re really excited that you took some time out of your busy day to speak with us. So, Will, pass an interview to you. Give us a little bit of rundown about Will Bennett and SDV and kind of where you came from?
Will Bennett: Sure. So SDV celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. So we’re 26 years old. And it’s come a long way. It’s come a long way in my time there and it’s coming even longer way in it’s history. It really started off as just a few lawyers breaking off from a firm called Anderson kill, which was sort of the hotshot policyholder coverage firm of the big environmental case era. So originally broke off from them. Got some footing in the construction space of coverage with a couple of the bigger GC’s out there who really helped get that traction going. And it kind of just snowballed from there to the point where now I believe the latest counts, we have 52 lawyers. Every single one of us has an insurance coverage lawyer really entirely. And every single one of us is pretty steeped and versed in the construction side of insurance coverage? If not basically dedicated to that, at the very least had their hands all over that as they were learning the subject.
Beau Lunceford: Man talk about a specialty.
Will Bennett: So that might be what makes us a little different amongst insurance coverage firms. First of all, a lot of coverage firms are embedded within firms that do other stuff. That’s not the case here, we’re all doing the same thing. You can talk to literally anyone in the firm at any time about what’s going on, and they’re going to understand what you’re dealing with, they might have seen the issues before, you’re going to have a lot of collegial conversations like that. And then the construction specialty is pretty unusual as well.
Trevor Casey: That’s awesome. So talking about you guys and 50 plus lawyers, do you guys have a specialty per state, or is it regional? Or how do you kind of break out the nuances in insurance? Because I know every market can be so different, especially in the construction space? Looking at New York, that’s a completely different animal than Nebraska may be?
Will Bennett: Sure. And yeah, that’s absolutely true. And that’s partially a matter of subject and what the case law says in different jurisdictions, it’s also partially just a matter of scale. A lot of those issues you see in New York, you would see in Nebraska, you’re just seeing them with much lower value bodily injury claims, a lot of times those general contractors are just not counting on getting any risk transfer from their subcontractors, because the trade pool in Nebraska, not to hate on Nebraska, that’s not what I’m trying to do here at all. Just take any small American market by comparison to New York, the trade pool is just not going to have as high quality of coverage. So how do we break it down? We have our Connecticut office, or Florida office or California office, we’ve got people in New Jersey, and we’ve got some people in other various places. Another thing that makes us a little different, we don’t work in teams. So we do have people sort of cross pollinating across all those offices, partners working with people all the different offices across the country. But it’s only natural that California people tend to see a little more of the California work in the West Coast work, New York people tend to see a little bit more than New England stuff in New York City, or Connecticut people. Florida people see a lot of the Florida stuff, obviously. The labor guard program, which I know you guys are well aware of over at CR Solutions, which is one of our big subcontractor insurance review programs in New York. That’s been a great training tool for the whole firm, especially on the younger lawyer level, getting your hands on that volume of subcontractor policies, spotting the problems and then working with the trade contractors, brokers to fix those things. There’s so many valuable lessons for younger lawyers in that and just learning the subject matter, learning how risk transfer works, learning how risk transfer breaks down, learning how the industry side how the brokers believe it works, and then really teaching them in a lot of instances why their perception of it isn’t quite and what they need to do to fix that. Having lawyers in their first couple years of practice doing that is another differentiator. I think something that pretty unusual, and pretty practical hands on experience.
Beau Lunceford: And it’s such a knowledge powerhouse thing, that SDV is. It makes sense that y’all would be the same way internally as well, that y’all are doing a lot of training and developing and making great lawyers in addition to sharing that knowledge and that information with people on the outside. So that all tracks with y’all is culture and the value add the upbringing?
Will Bennett: Yeah, absolutely. The training internally is formal to some extent, and also informal just the bad idea that all of us do the same thing. We’re really all nerds over here. Every conversation in the office is bound in some way to turn into some coverage discussion about some interesting issue that somebody’s dealing with. So in a way, honestly, every day there’s just built in training from that.
Trevor Casey: That’s incredible. One of the things I was going to ask is, so a lot of the clients that you guys who work with, are they more on the broker carrier side or do you get down to the general contractors and are you offering kind of that training per se? Like, what to look for when you’re looking at a policy, like how does that work?
Will Bennett: We’re policyholder side true and true straight through. We do not work for carriers. That being said, I do think we take a different tact to that to that policyholder coverage firm approach than that many firms do. And that is because we work closely with the broker community. We have quite a few brokers that we’ve partnered with in many different capacities over the years. So that gives us a little bit more of a finger on the pulse of what the market, and do is doing or wants to do. So we’re really involved in sort of a soup to nuts coverage firm, like we’re involved in placing policies, writing manuscript language for policies, making sure that the full program being placed is gapless and is seamless. And then either somebody comes to us late or there’s some unforeseen problem and there’s a claim down the line, we’ll litigate the claim also. But as a matter of policy, we do not sue insurance brokers, which is a fairly unusual thing for policyholder coverage firms. And there’s two reasons for that One, there are partners, obviously. Two, but it really makes from our perspective that makes the coverage case look weaker. If you’re standing there in court saying this is covered. If this isn’t covered, it’s the brokers fault. You’re not really saying this is covered. You’re saying maybe this is covered, but maybe it’s not. And if it’s not somebody else’s, so we tried to just avoid that dynamic altogether. We just stick to it’s covered.
Trevor Casey: That’s great. So SDV has been around for 25 years? How long have you been with SDV? And what’s your background personally?
Will Bennett: I’ve been here 10 years. So I started in the Connecticut office, I came straight out of law school. I did a law clerk year here, loved it. Stayed on, did a couple more years in Connecticut. And then when they decided to open the California office, I hitched my wagon and I came out here and opened up California with Jeremiah. And even that has been kind of wild to watch. There were two of us and at the time of paralegal, Karissa, who has since gotten her MBA and now as head of our marketing business development. But two of us and her at the time, and now we’re 25-ish people out here and putting more in the pipeline.
Trevor Casey: Wow, that’s incredible.
Beau Lunceford: So as your team is continuing to grow, what kind of specialty are your people graduating with that brings them to SDV as compared to going to another firm or another specialty?
Will Bennett: So I like to say, fill in the blank for the number of lawyers we have at the moment, so we’ll go 52 right now. We have 52 lawyers. 51 of them had no idea they wanted to be an insurance lawyer.
Beau Lunceford: Insurance is perpetually the career that people feel like they fall backwards into. But, golly, the opportunities that exist in insurance are just uncapped. So that’s just interesting to think that exists across the board.
Will Bennett: No, you’re not wrong at all. So shout out to Bethany Barista, one of our partners here. I think she was the president of the UConn Insurance Law Journal in law school. And I believe that’s the one that knew she wanted to be an insurance lawyer. A lot of our lateral lawyers have come from totally different things. Jeremiah out here was a med mal lawyer back in the day. Tracy did a variety of litigation, and other things bankruptcy unrelated to coverage, or now we realize they aren’t really related to coverage because everything’s related to coverage. But at the time, I think seemingly unrelated to coverage, my Pepe was a construction lawyer. That happens sometimes. There’s a little bit of crossover for us there, obviously. But by in large, we just focus on hiring smart people. We like to hire people straight out of law school because they haven’t gone and formed habits and other firms that we don’t necessarily love. That said, that doesn’t work, but we’d like to be able to mold them from the beginning. And we just tried to be competitive from a metric standpoint with what other firms are offering them so we get good people and we find that many of those people love it here, excel here. And, in many cases, wind up here for the long haul. We’ve got Greg Polack in Florida. He was a summer associate. He’s the managing partner there. Teresa Garden in Connecticut was a summer associate, she’s been managing partner. I was a summer associate, I’m a partner here, there’s quite a few stories like that.
Beau Lunceford: Wow, what a tapestry of success. It sounds like a bringing those people in.
Trevor Casey: That’s great though.
Will Bennett: It’s pretty cool.
Trevor Casey: So when you talk about coverage lawyer and insurance and all that, do you guys only do the construction side of insurance? Or do you break out and do medical insurance or malpractice insurance or really is that just your bread and butter staying on the construction side of things?
Will Bennett: No, it’s not just construction, we do a lot of construction. And that’s sort of a derivation of our origin story. A lot of our early big clients were construction. And then as you know, people move around the industry and they take people with them. So we’ve got a lot of that, obviously, many of us presented earlier every year, etc. But it’s definitely not just that, it might be the construction and the sort of appurtenant stuff like real estate and things like that energy, which has a lot of construction going on to but that’s probably a majority of our work, majority of our revenue, but there’s probably a solid 30-40% of our work that’s not touching that industry at all. And that can be everything from, I’m representing a guy who manufactures like off road fire trucks for the back country to food supply, to property owners for storm coverage you name it.
Trevor Casey: That’s interesting.
Beau Lunceford: That’s a higher percentage than I thought it was going to be.
Trevor Casey: Yeah, really some of that stuff is just so unique. I would love to learn more about. I don’t have time right now. It’s super, super cool. So if anybody was looking for some more resources from SDV that you guys had put out there or just wants to learn a little bit more about it, is there a place that you guys have resources available to the public? Is it something that they need to reach out to you personally for or hire you for, or how does that work when you guys are sharing that knowledge with outside sources?
Will Bennett: That’s a multifaceted answer for sure. Our website has a lot of content on it. So I’ll plug that first. There’s a great webinar that I did with CR Solutions in the hard market, which I’ll plug that second. But beyond that, just stay tuned on the website and the LinkedIn, we do a pretty good job of posting when people are going to be doing webinars, we are going to be doing CLA’s, we are going to be presenting at conferences. Most of the risk conferences, we’ve got at least one person they’re presenting at any given time. We probably could be a little bit better about putting out webinars ourselves, but we do wind up partnering a lot and featuring on webinars pretty frequently. Beyond that, if there’s something specific you want that you’re not seeing, reach out to me, and I’m sure that through somebody here, I could find some iteration of whatever it is you’re looking for that we’ve already done. And we’ve done trainings for people as well, sort of more bespoke sort of things where a department wants training on a particular thing, and we work something out and we’ll go in house and put on a training or Lunch and Learn or whatever it is you’re looking for. I’ve actually done that for insurance companies, sort of what are they doing on the other side kind of thing.
Beau Lunceford: So what would you say right now is one of the more popular resources that you have available that people seem to be really just eating up right now?
Will Bennett: People love our 50 State service. I’m constantly getting asked about our 50 State service. They are a great resource, it’s a tremendous amount of work to keep them up to date. So I’ll just say use them as a starting place. Don’t bank on it. It is the all end by all. We are always in the process of updating it, but it takes a lot of work. We’re putting out our case alerts that we put out and legislative alerts that we put out get a lot of traction, a lot of hits. Those are the main things that bring traffic.
Trevor Casey: Those are good ones. Anything else that you want to add, Will? I think we kind of hit the overall bubble.
Will Bennett: We really got some great stuff out of that. Did you ask me just, I really appreciate you sharing all that insight and all that history and all that? That was just really great stuff? Anything else that you want the people to know?
Beau Lunceford: Let’s see. I don’t think so, I need a couple of answers but I need to get a kind of question.
Trevor Casey: And clog your personal Instagram, follow you on next.
Will Bennett: I feel like it’s pretty weak to say, follow me on LinkedIn. Just check me out on LinkedIn, I guess I don’t know.
Beau Lunceford: Will, we’ll include your email, the website and your LinkedIn all in the show notes for this. So people will have direct access to reach out, to connect, and to get some more information if they’re looking for it.
Will Bennett: I guess what I’ll say is your insurance carrier, broker, general contractor, architect, owner, subcontractor doesn’t matter. If you just want to just chat about a coverage thing, I’m happy to talk to you. I think most of us are. And I’m honest, obviously not fielding a lot of calls from insurance carriers. But like I said, like I have done trainings for insurance carriers. And I think we’re little more practical than some of the people that do what we do. So you might be surprised, even if you are an insurer, you might get a perfectly level conversation from us about some issue, as long as we’re not hired to represent the other side of the specific case that we’re dealing, that issue on.
Beau Lunceford: Great, Will. Thank you so much. This has been so enlightening and so, I don’t know, I’m trying to think of another word for how great it was.
Trevor Casey: Insightful maybe?
Beau Lunceford: Insightful, perhaps.
Trevor Casey: Thank you again, Will. We really appreciate it. We hope that people reach out and are looking for specific information so that we can plug some more webinars and content in the future. But we really appreciate your time, we know that this is a super busy season for everyone. So thank you again.
Will Bennett: Sure. Have a good day.
OUTRO (22:21 – 23:34)
Beau Lunceford: What a great conversation with Will. No one is shocked by any means. Will is a great guy. We have really enjoyed getting to work with him and getting to know him better. And I’m glad that you all know him now too. Like, Will said, if you have any questions for him, please do not hesitate to reach out all of his contact information is going to be in the show notes for this episode, his LinkedIn, his email, you’ll be able to find him if you need him. We’ll also have links to the resources that we talked about here today, the SDV Law website, the link to the hard market webinar that we did with Will and SDV. Anything that we talked about, please make sure that you check those out. Those resources are available to you and they want you to use them. So definitely check those out. We are excited to announce that we do have some more conversations from the SDV Law team coming your way soon. So be sure and keep your e peeled for more SDV Law content, more conversations coming your way from some of the best minds that we know over at SDV. That is it for today’s episode. So happy holidays everyone. Enjoy your new year. We will see you guys in 2024. Until then, stay covered.
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