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Advance Your Professional Standing By Working With Lawyers


When life insurance advisors know how to work with lawyers, the relationship can lead to success in the advanced markets. Let’s expand on some of the aspects of what you need to know to be successful working in cooperation with the legal profession.


Networking With Lawyers

Establishing networking relationships with lawyers helps you grow your practice and provide better client service. These professional relationships provide you with a number of advantages.

Associating with lawyers enhances your position and professional reputation in the advanced markets.

Networking with lawyers is a way for you to obtain no-cost input to refine your sales proposals for specific prospects. In that respect, most top producers have relationships with local lawyers they can call free of charge to ask questions about developing prospect proposals. Lawyers are willing to cooperate in this way because it can mean business for the lawyers as well. That is because advisors are not prohibited from soliciting business the way lawyers are. As an advisor, you are in a position to act as a catalyst in approaching prospects and getting them to recognize and agree to act on their problems that may require legal services for which you may recommend the lawyer.

In addition, you can be a resource for information to the lawyer about life insurance products and their uses. On the other hand, it should be noted that it is unlikely that you will receive referral business from a lawyer. This is because by the time a lawyer sees a client, that client usually has a relationship with an advisor, and the lawyer is not in a position to direct the client to another advisor.


The Right Stuff

When selecting a lawyer for a networking relationship, look for the right characteristics.


•                     Quality: Choose the best, brightest and most professional lawyers you can associate with. When dealing with extremely complicated legal and tax issues, you need to know that such matters will be handled correctly.

•                     Accessibility: You should select lawyers who will return phone calls promptly and be accommodating on short notice.

•                     Trust: You must be certain you can trust the lawyers you choose, and you should feel comfortable with the lawyers’ motives and good judgment.

•                     Specialist: Choose a lawyer who specializes in your areas of interest. The laws pertaining to the advanced markets are so extensive and complex that a general practitioner is not likely to be an effective legal resource.


Finding Suitable Lawyers 

If you do not know local lawyers who meet your criteria, ask other lawyers, accountants, trust officers and bankers for recommendations. In addition, you should interview those who are suggested and get to know them as much as possible in both business and personal settings. Further, you should not hesitate to check the lawyer’s credentials. 

When contacting lawyers about establishing relationships, you should not go “hat in hand” as though you are asking them to do you a favor by agreeing to do business with you. Rather, you should approach the situation as an established professional who is looking for a mutually beneficial professional relationship. This might begin with inviting lawyers to breakfast or lunch for a meeting at which you may discuss the advantages to both parties in establishing relationships.


Grow The Relationship

To work with other professionals successfully, you must also be perceived as a professional. The first step is acquiring the necessary credentials. This means obtaining professional designations as well as joining industry associations. In addition, self-study, industry seminars, agent study groups and membership in interdisciplinary associations are advisable. All these activities will provide the knowledge you need and give you a professional identity and credibility with those you serve and work with. To grow your relationships with lawyers further, you also should do the following:


•                     Communicate regularly: Meet regularly with lawyers to talk about business and developing mutual clients. Further, it is a good idea to try developing a personal relationship with lawyers by inviting them to social functions, sporting activities or just dinner as a sign of appreciation of your relationship. This personal side is important because people simply prefer to do business with people they like.

•                     Keep each other informed: Each party should keep the other informed of technical and business developments that are important to their mutual interests. You should inform the lawyers about new products and new or unusual uses for existing products. The lawyers, on the other hand, should inform you about legal or tax developments that are important to the advanced markets.

•                     Brainstorm: You and the lawyers should act as brainstorming partners in developing solutions for those you jointly serve.

•                     Boost their image: Each party should look for ways to help enhance the other’s image within the community. One example is by conducting seminars together.

Working With Your Prospect’s Lawyer

Serving clients in the advanced markets is a cooperative undertaking because of the diversity and complexity of disciplines involved. Defining roles is, however, the key to successful cooperation with the lawyer. In that regard, here are the roles of the advisor and the lawyer.

Advisor: Recognize insurance needs and motivate the prospect to take action. Provide all the insurance services required.

Lawyer: Review the advisor’s proposal, taking into consideration the legal and tax implications as well as the prospect’s objectives. Prepare legal documents.

Your prospect’s lawyer generally should be brought in immediately once you have presented your prospect with a proposal and your prospect has agreed to take action. This puts the lawyer in a timely position to counsel the prospect on your proposal.


Inquiring About Your Prospect’s Legal Representation

You always should tell prospects that input from their lawyer is welcome. Further, if your prospect does not have a lawyer and asks for a recommendation, you may make a recommendation, but you must be able to explain why that lawyer is being recommended. This means being familiar with the lawyer’s qualifications and knowing something about what the lawyer charges for various documents and services.

You must tread carefully if your prospect has a lawyer and you decide to recommend a different lawyer who specializes in the field. In such a case, you emphasize the specialist’s qualifications and avoid implying that your prospect’s lawyer is not qualified in that area. Further, you should be clear that you are recommending the specialist only for the purpose of implementing your proposal and no other. If your prospect prefers to use their own lawyer, you should ask whether the prospect would object to your meeting with the lawyer in advance. You and your prospect should be aware that the lawyer might send the prospect a bill for the time that you spend with the lawyer.


Meeting With Your Prospect’s Lawyer

Prospects have different levels of involvement with their lawyers. Some consult with their lawyers very little, while others will not make a move without the lawyer’s advice. Consequently, before going to see your prospect’s lawyer, you should try to get a feel for the nature of the relationship between your prospect and their lawyer.

Most importantly, you must remember to ask your prospect to call the lawyer to say you will contact them to arrange a meeting. This will make it much easier for you to set up the appointment. When meeting for the first time, you should assure the lawyer that their input is welcome and nothing will be done until they agree it makes sense.

When preparing a proposal to show the lawyer, you should base it as much as possible on information obtained from your prospect. You should not look to the lawyer for information that can be obtained from the prospect. This is because you must appear able to help the lawyer serve your prospect. Possessing key information about your prospect will give you credibility with the lawyer. Having that key prospect information is evidence that your prospect takes you seriously. As a result, the lawyer will be more inclined to take you and your proposal seriously. 

Lawyers have different degrees of expertise on various subjects. As a result, you must understand that the lawyer may not be very familiar with the subject of your proposal. You should be prepared to talk technically and present illustrations of what you are proposing.

It is important that your meeting with the lawyer take place without the prospect being present. This is because it is much easier for the lawyer to admit they are unfamiliar with something when their client is not present. Further, you should always present the proposal in a way that shows the proposal is flexible enough to adapt to the lawyer’s input.


Avoiding Problems With The Unauthorized Practice of Law

It is appropriate for you to recommend the type and amount of life insurance needed for a given situation. For example, in an estate planning case, you may gather data regarding the size of the prospect’s estate, estimate the tax due under varying assumptions and project the likely tax and liquidity needs.

However, when it comes to recommending ownership of the insurance, beneficiary designations and settlement options, you should tell your prospect these issues should be discussed with their lawyer. That is because such issues can have a dramatic impact on the results and consequences of the proposal. Further, the lawyer is authorized to draft legal documents or give tax and legal advice. You are not and must not attempt to do so.


Louis S. Shuntich, J.D., LL.M., is director, Advanced Consulting Group, Nationwide Financial. Louis may be contacted at [email protected] [email protected].

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