Civil justice is only as impactful as its players. That not only goes for trial lawyers, but also legal service providers, like us, whose work supports theirs.
Milestone’s trademark is finding ways to strengthen civil justice through innovation. As a trusted partner of law firms nationwide, we see it as our duty to identify areas where we can lead. The resulting solutions have created deep, intrinsic, and significant value for trial lawyers and their firms. For example, in response to the predatory practices in the litigation finance space, we developed an ethical, nonprofit solution that lifts vulnerable plaintiffs up when they need help most. When we recognized the inherent value of the qualified settlement fund, we conceptualized the firmwide QSF for trial lawyers.
As we have continued to work with more firms on QSFs, we have identified the lien resolution process as an area that needs improvement. Lien resolution is a pain point for many trial lawyers. It is necessary for large dockets to resolve, but currently it lacks high-end customer service. As QSFs became more widely adopted, large lien resolution companies became “one-stop shops” to also include QSF administration. At first glance, it sounds like a great way to streamline two parts of settlement. However, consolidating these two important jobs removes the necessary checks and balances at settlement. And without much competition in the space, there’s no emphasis on client service within these large companies.
For these reasons, lien resolution and QSF administration need to be distinct and separate engagements.
There’s an inherent conflict of interest when one administrator resolves the lien docket while managing and distributing settlement funds. Every administrator has a financial interest in how long it takes to distribute funds – the longer the process takes, the more money the administrator makes. When commingled with the lien process, this sets up a financial incentive for an administrator to spend more time investigating and resolving liens. But no other party wants to drag out the end of a lawsuit. By separating the fund administrator from the lien resolution administrator, law firms eliminate this conflict of interest.
Regarding client service to the law firms, when a lawsuit is wrapping up, who really cares whether vendors are providing great customer service? Aren’t firms just trying to get through settlement efficiently and in a timely fashion?
Here’s why it matters. By selecting an independent QSF administrator whose role is management of the funds and distribution, the parties on the plaintiffs’ side gain access to a sophisticated accounting team who are responsible for the correct and timely distribution of funds. These professionals solely handle the business processes of settlement distribution – which are completely different tasks than those involved with lien resolution. They can tailor their specific service offerings to fit the needs of each participating firm, while providing everyone with peace of mind that the settlement proceeds and attorney fees are handled correctly.
This team is also there to verify the work of the lien resolution administrator (LRA). An engaged QSF administrator will uniquely know whether the LRA is performing well, providing transparency to lead counsel around the performance of the LRA. This oversight, for no additional cost, is an important selling point to any law firm operating in this space.
There’s also the next step of settlement planning for both the plaintiffs and their attorneys. Companies that primarily specialize in lien resolution typically cannot advise lawyers on their fee deferral options or plaintiffs on their settlement planning needs. By working with a dedicated QSF administrator that focuses on settlement, law firms can receive financial tools that maximize their revenue streams and grow their practices. At the same time, plaintiffs have access to settlement planning experts who can help protect and grow their funds, keep their government benefits, and secure their financial futures.
Litigation is complex enough. Trial lawyers should expect a high standard of care from all their legal service providers, and the settlement administration step is no different. If you are interested in discussing the benefits of separating administrators, we welcome you to contact Milestone.