Senior Vice President
DUAL North America
Past employment includes–partner, Kirkland & Ellis
JD DePaul University College of Law
BA Middle Tennessee St. University
From law to litigation funding to liability insurance
On taking control of your career
On the insurance industry for transitioning lawyers
On the litigation funding industry being a great place for litigators
Listen to interview:
EXJ: Hi Daniel. Thanks for making the time to talk today. We really appreciate it. Where are you today?
Daniel Bond: I’m at DUAL’s office in Chicago. We have a loft in the West Loop, and I can usually get a bit more accomplished here when my kids aren’t in school.
EXJ: Please tell us what your company does and about your role there.
Daniel Bond: DUAL serves as a managing general underwriter for insurance carriers that are interested in participating in specialized insurance markets. Some insurers don’t have the ability or the desire to build internal underwriting functions for “niche” insurance placements but are interested in participating in those risks. We serve as outside subject matter experts who can identify and underwrite specialty insurance risks on behalf of the insurance consortiums that we represent.
I specifically work in DUAL North America’s Transactional Risk Group, which focuses on representations and warranties insurance for M&A deals, tax liability insurance, and contingent liability insurance. I head our contingent liability practice, and broadly speaking, we offer a variety of insurance products that enable interested parties to insure against either positive or negative outcomes related to legal risks involving litigation, arbitration, regulatory actions, and potential exposure based on issues with state and local government. If a company or individual has a legal risk, we can assess and price that risk and potentially offer insurance. Insurance like this offers a wealth of benefits to customers beyond its risk allocation function. Increasingly, contingent liability insurance is serving a key role in how a variety of companies allocate, manage, and finance litigation risk on their books.
EXJ: Very interesting. What is it about the insurance industry, Daniel, that attracts so many attorneys who are no longer practicing? There seem to be so many different roles.
Daniel Bond: Yeah, there obviously are a lot of different kinds of roles in insurance that can potentially cover almost any background in private practice. Fundamentally, in the insurance business, regardless of what product line you are in, it is all about assessing and pricing risk and structuring around risk. Whether you’re a transactional attorney or a litigation attorney, I think you are flexing a lot of the same muscles when you are advising clients or when you are managing litigation as you would be in conducting risk assessment exercises in the insurance industry.
For litigation attorneys, the most common point of entry is usually in claims, the people who represent insurance companies when claims are made against policies. For transactional attorneys, there are a massive range of roles available that can align with almost any private practice background. The insurance industry is large and complex and has a role in just about every aspect of modern business.
EXJ: So, either a corporate attorney or a litigator can fit in well in the insurance industry?
Daniel Bond: In my group alone, our reps and warranties insurance practice is staffed largely by former transactional attorneys, people who are used to working on M&A deals. Our tax department is headed by somebody who handled tax advice and dispute work in private practice. Our claims work is managed by a former litigator. I was a litigator for many years before I joined the insurance industry, and there’s a role for me, too. There are a lot of different positions in any insurance business that can align with the core competencies you develop in private practice. You exercise judgment and make practical commercial decisions based on risk assessment for your clients, which is what pretty much every law firm attorney is doing every day. And this is just on the carrier side of the business.
There’s an entirely separate space in brokering insurance transactions as a representative for the potential insured. I don’t think law firms do a good enough job sometimes of preparing young associates to really go out and generate business. They aren’t great at empowering newer lawyers to generate the kind of business and client relationships that tend to let one achieve and maintain a long-term partnership role. But I also think a lot of the same skills you develop in transactional and litigation practice naturally prepare you for work in insurance broking. You assess the client’s needs, consider potential solutions for the risk they are facing, and try to find the right insurance market to place that risk. You serve as sort of the insureds’ intermediary in the transaction as well.
EXJ: Between the time you took this position and when you left Kirkland & Ellis, you worked for a litigation funder. Can you talk a little bit about that experience and how it compares to where you are right now? You know, many in our audience will look at or are looking at litigation funding as a career alternative.
Daniel Bond: I think litigation funding was a spectacular first opportunity for me to have coming out of private practice. If you spend as much time as I did as a litigator at a law firm, you can sometimes feel that the options you have if you decide you want to leave private practice can be somewhat limited by the fact that you’ve been a litigator. Conventional wisdom says that people who work on the transactional side just have an easier time. And I think. by and large, most people who are litigators assume that if they’re going to transition out of private practice, their only real option is either going into government and doing disputes work or going in-house and essentially managing a whole lot of people who are doing the job that you are doing now.
Litigation finance is a really interesting field because it offered me, as somebody with a substantial amount of diverse litigation experience, a chance to take the knowledge that I had developed, and the judgment that I had developed, in analyzing cases, identifying their strengths and weaknesses, understanding not just the weeds of the legal and factual analysis, but also sort of the bigger picture of how strategy and narratives can really drive outcomes. Understanding the range of different ways that litigation can go the right way or completely go off the rails and having the knowledge and judgment you acquire in litigation were really put to good use in the litigation funding field. That skill set enabled me to make fundamentally sound commercial decisions.
EXJ: It sounds like your litigation experience really positioned you for success in the litigation funding field.
Daniel Bond: It did. I applied my judgment in advising on which cases we’d want to invest in. If it’s a case we want to invest in, what are the terms we’d require to make that investment? How do we manage the relationships with our counterparties once we do invest in cases? All of that gave me the ability to refocus on what I had already learned in new ways and to develop commercial judgment. That lined up nicely with the skills that I had built up in many years of private practice. What I’m doing now is very similar because my job running a contingent liability insurance practice is to assess and price legal risk.
EXJ: Can you take me through the thinking behind contingent liability insurance?
Daniel Bond: Fundamentally, it’s the same thing I was doing in litigation funding. I look at the case in front of me, the legal and factual merits, and other factors that help give me a sense of what the range of outcomes might be. I assess what I think the risk levels are, and then I identify whether there’s a price at which we would participate in a commercial trade related to that litigation risk. You know, the biggest difference is I do it with a much more
conservative sort of capital than I used to. Litigation funders will generally want to believe that there’s sort of a 70% chance that they’re going to reach a result where they have a guarantee of receiving several multiples on the capital they invest. And that makes sense because you’re investing in a single case. A single case, even a very good case can lose, and bad cases win. And litigation is, I think, predictable on an aggregate basis, but it is sometimes hard to predict on an individual basis.
We as insurance companies are in the business of receiving premiums in the hopes that there’s never a claim that materializes that we have to pay. As you can imagine, since we don’t charge 3 to 5 X on our money, we’ll be a little bit more conservative in what we will do because our capital is inherently more conservative. But I also think that’s what’s exciting about contingent liability insurance. There are some legal risks out there that may be able to use insurance to access cheaper costs of capital to support litigation, monetize legal risks that a bank doesn’t know how to price, and help structure around defense-side risks they face. There are so many applications for a product like this, and it is exciting to be a part of helping to build new ones every day with my team and our broker partners.
EXJ: Would there be an opportunity for let’s say a second- or third-year associate in a law firm at companies like yours or would that person first need to have the kind of seasoning that you had at a litigation funder or some other experience before moving to business.
Daniel Bond: The vast majority of people working in contingent liability insurance typically do not come with the background that I have. Very few of them practiced as long as I did. Very few of them were litigators in their former life. And I think there’s nobody, at least on my side of the fence, the underwriting side of the fence, that has any experience working with a litigation funder. On the brokerage side, there are a few people whose CVs look more like mine. But I’m not aware of anybody in the insurance space who has the precise CV that I have, which is one of the things I really liked about the opportunity. I think I have a slightly different perspective than people from the other markets that may make me well suited for some transactions that others might have a harder time really wrapping their head around.
EXJ: When do you think is a good time for a newer lawyer to look to enter your field?
Daniel Bond: I think that third-to-fifth-year associates interested in insurance are at a pretty good time to look for a job. I think the conventional wisdom that I have generally found to be true is that when you’re considering a move out of private practice, you have a few “peaks” in your commercial appeal. At three to five years out, you have real experience and you’ve demonstrated you’ve got the ability to survive and, hopefully, thrive at a good law firm. At that point, you’re in a position where there will be a lot of junior jobs in other industries, in-house environments, and the insurance environment that you’re well suited for. You’re still early enough in your career that you really have time to grow into the role.
I think that there’s sort of a second “peak” at years seven through eight before partnership decisions are made. That’s a point when you’ve got your next chance to go for a job in another industry, hopefully at a slightly higher level of seniority because of the experience that you’ve developed in private practice. When you reach the partner level, maybe there’s a chance to do it as well.
EXJ: Any other advice for landing that first insurance job?
Daniel Bond: You need to intentionally build your career in a way that makes you more valuable than somebody without the firm experience you have. I think firm experience is absolutely a good jump start to almost any related career in the insurance industry.
EXJ: We’re a couple of months away from formally launching ex judicata as we are doing this interview. But I suspect that if we were having this interview and we already had our audience assembled, you would be getting a lot of notes and a lot of CVs from attorneys. This sounds like a really good way to go. If you’re young, a litigator or corporate lawyer, you can make that pivot, as you said.
Daniel Bond: The contingent liability space is still, I think, somewhat in the earliest stages of its development. But I’m confident that with every passing year it’s going to be a bigger and bigger part of insurance business. And I think there’s going to be a real need for people down the road that come with a different perspective than the corporate attorneys who, for a variety of reasons related to how this product line developed, tend to come from a corporate background that’s not necessarily as well suited to the underwriting that we do.
EXJ: Can you speak for a moment to the differences culturally between being at a powerhouse law firm and a top corporation? From a personality standpoint, chain of command standpoint?
Daniel Bond: I’m lucky that I am now in an organization that, while it is large and part of an even larger international insurance conglomerate, is still very much driven by business unit level management. I’ve got a president that I report to. My president hired me to do a job and he has consistently done everything he can to empower me to do that, to offer me guidance and feedback where he can, but also to recognize that he hired me for a reason, which is that he thought that I had good judgment and a good understanding of this market. He does his best to empower me to execute on the things that led him to hire me.
I think that once you get out of a law firm, obviously it very much depends on what organization you join, where things are going to be similar, and where things are going to be different. I think the good news is that if you’re able to spend several years surviving or more hopefully thriving in an intense law firm environment, I would say the vast majority of
jobs that you enter afterward are going to still expect hard, high-quality work, but are also going to have a fundamentally different worldview of what it means to work hard.
EXJ: How about workload? How does the workday stack up to that typically at a law firm?
Daniel Bond: To be clear, it’s not like I have a class “9 to 5” where I clock in, and I clock out and I take an hour lunch break and I never think about my job on the weekend. But I do think once you get out of private practice, because there is less focus on just sort of pure billable hours and pure production, you tend to have an ability to do better and deeper work on a smaller number of things than you do in a law firm environment where you’re just kind of constantly juggling knives and hoping one of them doesn’t get you. This is not to say that I don’t have a lot on my plate. I mean, as of right now, I’m at various stages of review of probably 20-plus submissions for insurance, and I’m a department of one, which means those are all my responsibilities. Ultimately, any organization where you can do good, sophisticated work is going to require a higher level of commitment than a job where you just go in and play a functional role. There’s a balancing act as you develop your career of deciding what you want out of it.
Personally, I’m not interested in a job where I just punch the clock, but I’m also not interested in the job where, if I’m working anything less than 70 plus hours a week, people are wondering what’s wrong with me and why I’m not doing my part to keep the business afloat, you know? And so, I’m willing to take a job where I don’t just sort of check-in and check -out where I have real responsibility and ownership over the work I’m doing because that’s the price that you pay. If you want to have a role with some authority and you want to have some control over the work that you do and who you work with and how you work with them, I don’t think that there’s one right answer for everybody. A lot of it is about what you want out of your career. I am profoundly grateful for the time that I spent there. I made a lot of friends and had a lot of mentors. A lot of the mentors at that firm have continued to be strong influences throughout my career. And I think my time at Kirkland prepared me incredibly well for the career I’ve been building since I left.
EXJ: Were any of those mentors helping when you were thinking about leaving law practice?
Daniel Bond: When I was trying to decide whether to leave the practice the most important conversations I had were with Dave Callahan, who’s now at Latham. He was a mentor that I met the first week I was at Kirkland & Ellis, and even after he lateraled to head Latham’s IP practice, he continued to be a guy that I knew would always shoot straight with me, a guy who I thought had great judgment and who was willing to lend an ear. I mean, the fact is I met him the first week I entered a firm, and 14 years later, he is one of the most important people for me to speak with. When I was sanity checking this opportunity, I talked to Dave. It just goes to show you if you make the most of your time in private practice at a firm like that, it’s going to yield dividends above and beyond just the resume value for you over the rest of your career. I’m extremely glad I am no longer in private practice, but I’m also extremely proud and happy that I decided to spend my time in practice at Kirkland & Ellis.
EXJ: That’s the profile of the people that we’re trying to reach at ex judicata. We want to connect with the people who want to make a transition out of the practice, help them realize the benefit of having law firm or law department training, and, finally, help them go into business. What’s the best advice you can give a young associate to three years out who just isn’t sure whether to continue practicing law and maybe become a partner or just leave to go do something else?
Daniel Bond: The first thing I would say is, look, people make partner every year at every law firm. It happens. You know, I think starting a couple of years into your career you have to take ownership of your goals and the most important drivers in your long-term satisfaction. There are plenty of people who devote their entire law firm lives to making partnership, and when they cap out at senior associate level that’s the first time, they’ve even considered what else they might want to do. If you’re being reactive instead of proactive, you’re not going to be able to build the best possible career.
From day one at a law firm, you have a responsibility to yourself, not just to sort of think proactively about what the path looks like for continued success in private practice, but also the kind of things that interest you and the kind of things that you like the most about your job. Then you must find career options, either in private practice or in an alternative career, that put you, not just to your highest and best use, but the one that you’re going to get the most personal satisfaction from. I think a lot of people in private practice who are sort of unhappy are so focused on just surviving day to day that they don’t necessarily put thought into what else might be out there thinking that what else is out there can find them. No one else can do that for you.
EXJ So, basically, you’re saying to be proactive early on in evaluating your career and long-term objectives?
Daniel Bond: Yes. I mean, sometimes a recruiter picks up a phone and gives you a call and that’s great. But if you don’t already know sort of the things that you want to do, if you aren’t proactively reaching out to learn more about what kind of opportunities are out there, you’re just not going to have the tools that you need to make an informed decision about whether you want to be in private practice long term or if you want to explore other alternatives that could scratch the best itches for you but in a different way.
I was connected to my prior employer, the litigation funder, via a recruiter. But one of the reasons I was well-positioned to sort of take that call when it came was that I already knew litigation funding was something I was interested in. I knew a lot of people who’d been working in the industry. I had done my homework.
EXJ: Thank you so much, Daniel, for all your time and insight. We’ll keep you posted on the progress of ex judicata in our role helping lawyers transition to business.
Daniel Bond: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s definitely stay in touch. I’m really interested in what you guys are doing, and I love just seeing how excited you are about it. I’ll be happy to be a resource for you guys. I’m looking forward to watching all this develop.
EXJ: Thanks again.