Referral of Assignments to Counsel
New assignments are made, at the discretion of The Hartford, to the Firm or a specific attorney. Assignments are typically made by the claim professional responsible for the direct handling of the matter.
Acknowledgment of New AssignmentsBack to Top
New assignments should be acknowledged by Counsel, in writing, within 24 hours. The acknowledgement should:
Counsel shall promptly advise The Hartford of any potential conflict of interest (whether at the time of assignment or as may be determined at any other time), and it is within the sole discretion of The Hartford whether any conflict of interest can be resolved by disclosure and waiver, or whether the matter should be re-assigned to other counsel. Counsel should not seek waiver of conflict by a prospective insured/client without agreement by The Hartford, with particular sensitivity to positional conflicts arising out of Counsel’s past and current representation of adverse interests.
Counsel should promptly advise the insured of representation upon referral by The Hartford. While initial contact may be made by telephone due to circumstances of the particular matter, the representation should be confirmed by appropriate introductory correspondence that provides the insured/client with contact information. Initial contact with the insured is expected within 3 days of assignment.
Role of the Lead AttorneyBack to Top
Each assigned matter should be under the management and supervision of a single Lead Attorney. At the time of acknowledgement, the Lead Attorney assigned to the matter should be designated and identified. It is within the discretion of The Hartford at any time to designate the Lead Attorney for a matter.
The Lead Attorney should have the requisite experience, skills and acumen to properly handle the assigned matter through resolution in the pending forum. It is generally expected that the Lead Attorney for each matter be a partner in the Firm (or comparable position depending on the structure of the Firm). It is also expected that the Lead Attorney for each matter will remain assigned through final resolution.
The Lead Attorney should advise The Hartford of proposed staffing for the matter to include other attorneys and paralegals, and staffing should be a matter of agreement between the Lead Attorney and The Hartford. Staffing for each matter should reflect the factual and legal complexity and anticipated professional work for successful handling. Each case should be staffed economically and efficiently. Duplication of work should be avoided, and delegation to subordinate attorneys, paralegals and other staff is encouraged to achieve efficiency and cost effective handling without compromise to overall quality. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and matched to individual experience and qualifications. The Hartford should be notified of changes in staffing on assigned matters.
The Hartford will not pay for time needed to accommodate changes in staffing. Assigned attorneys and paralegals should have sufficient knowledge of the law and background applicable to the matter. The Hartford will not pay for time spent educating junior lawyers or support staff.
The Hartford should be notified immediately of any proposed change of Lead Attorney, and no change should be made without consultation and agreement by The Hartford. In the event of Firm changes including by example, attrition or turnover that will result in change of the Lead Attorney, The Hartford should be consulted and will determine whether the matter should remain with the Firm or transferred to different counsel. Each assigned matter should be under the management of a single atty....
Staffing of AssignmentsBack to Top
Counsel will staff legal files economically and efficiently. The Lead Attorney will have primary responsibility and accountability for all aspects of file handling, including efficient staffing. Duplication of effort within the firm must be avoided. Staffing decisions should be made based upon the complexity of the individual legal file. Systematic or standard staffing decisions or procedures performed without proper analysis of the needs of the individual legal file are not appropriate.
Efficient and economic staffing means assigning work to partners, associates or paralegals whose experience and capabilities will allow the work to be performed in the most efficient manner. The use of a senior partner at a higher billing rate, for example, is appropriate if the expertise of that partner permits him or her to spend less time, and consequently less in legal fees, on a given matter. Conversely, the use of a paralegal billing at a lower rate generally is appropriate for matters requiring less professional expertise.
Using attorneys or paralegals to perform clerical tasks is generally not efficient. The Hartford expects Panel firms to employ qualified and competent legal secretaries capable of performing tasks such as scheduling, docketing, filing, organizing files or exhibits, locating missing files or documents, entering information into computer files, indexing, taking messages, copying, transcribing dictation, and other tasks that are clerical and non-professional in nature. Firms may choose to use attorneys and/or paralegals for clerical tasks, but such tasks are not billable as professional time regardless of who performs them. Firms must be cognizant of tasks that are truly professional in nature – requiring legal education, experience, and expertise – versus tasks that are suitable for a competent secretarial staff. Non-professional tasks, although certainly necessary in litigation, are a component of a law firm’s overhead and regardless of necessity are not to be billed as professional time.
Staffing a file with multiple attorneys or paralegals often leads to an increase in legal expense by virtue of the necessity of each billing professional to acquire and maintain knowledge about the case. The Hartford expects the Lead Attorney to possess sufficient knowledge of the law and background applicable to the matter. Firms should minimize the number of professionals working on each file to meet the essential needs of the file. While time conflicts may require the occasional handling by an attorney other than the primary attorney, The Hartford will not pay for an attorney new to the file to become familiar with the case. Similarly, it generally is not appropriate to staff a file with numerous paralegals and associates.
Use of ParalegalsBack to Top
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations has defined a Paralegal as a person, qualified through education, training or work experience to perform substantive legal work that requires knowledge of legal concepts and is customarily, but not exclusively, performed by a lawyer. This person may be retained or employed by a lawyer, law office, governmental agency or other entity or may be authorized by administrative, statutory or court authority to perform this work. Substantive shall mean work requiring recognition, evaluation, organization, analysis, and communication of relevant facts and legal concepts.
To the extent the use of paralegals or legal assistants is governed by state law or ethics opinions, counsel is required to comply with these rules. Where state law does not regulate use of paralegals, the definition and standard of paralegal services defined by the National Federation of Paralegal Associates is adopted by The Hartford.