Reviewed by Megan Hottman
Originally published in the June/July 2019 issue of Trial Talk, the bi-monthly magazine of the Colorado State Trial Lawyer's Association.
The book I wish I’d owned ten years ago … this interesting, inspiring, how-to-guide to writing your best, most effective demand letters was hard to put down. I mean that. Even the introduction had me hooked. From there, I was challenged to sit down and do some of the exercises in the early chapters—exercises designed to make me as a human consider what kind of money I would consider accepting to have my life forever altered—the exercise that stood out most to me was the one asking me to assign a dollar amount to live the rest of my life unable to do the thing I love most to do—the thing I do in my free time, and spend my free moments thinking about. That thing for me is cycling—and this is the first time a legal publication ever forced me to consider what my own non-economic damage appraisal might be if I were my own client.
The timing of my receipt of this book—and my reading of it—just weeks before the Rowleys came to Boulder and presented their first-ever Trial by Human conference (TBH), which I attended, was perfect. I got to read the book, digest its concepts, and then see it played out in the exercises and presentations at the conference. Trust me folks, once you read this book, you will never go back to your old ways of demanding policy limits or of seeking noneconomic damages in your cases again.
There were so many good takeaways in this book that I stopped bending down the top corner of pages to refer to, because the entire book is a reference. It sits on my desk at work now, and I’ve copied and used the demand letter templates already with incredible results. The biggest takeaway for me is to create chaos between the insured/defendant and the insurance company. Sending a copy of the demand to the named defendant and suggesting they hire their own private counsel to advise them, since their insurance company is making its decisions based on other factors … it is brilliant. This individual deserves to know they will face an embarrassing trial if their insurer doesn’t pay policy limits.
This book is truly a game changer—not just in demands but in how we set up our cases now and how we frame them.
One of my favorite quotes from the book is,
Another way to look at compensation is to ask ourselves this: Is $10 million an unreasonable amount for negligently injuring a man and taking away 25 years of the love, protection, companionship, and moral support that he was giving his wife and children? Really sit down and think about it. Imagine the pile of money sitting there at the doorstep of the family home the morning before he was injured and left the house. Imagine that when he crosses that money, there is time to press a button, stop it, and change time, but the money disappears. Is $10 million unreasonable? Or is it reasonable if money is the only form of justice available to him…
Early in the book, the Rowleys present a client’s version of events from failed settlement and pre-trial, through trial. Although the lawyers got the client a good result at trial, when asked in this book if she’d do it again, the client wrote,
Would I again expose my physical and mental self to my peers for judging? Sit through the attacks? Present myself with injuries no one could see, that aren’t respected? All for the percentage of the verdict I received? … The answer is an unhesitant, “NO!”
Reading a client’s side of events was a good reminder of what we are doing here, after all. The lawyers’ advice to get to know our clients, spend time in their homes and in their lives, and to always remember and remind them that they are honorable people really hit home for me. The book began by putting things back into perspective. I plan to copy pages 3-21 and give them to my staff to help them remember what it feels like to be our client.
The book repeatedly brings the focus back to why we do what we do, and for whom.
That said- the book is also a literal how-to guide on writing KILLER demand letters. The Rowleys include sample demand letters in the appendix and they also explain the how and why behind them:
- Why we work to open policies,
- What happens when we don’t get a response by the deadline (answer: the offer number goes up),
- Why we don’t back down,
- Why our letters go to the decision-makers in the insurance companies,
- Why we email demands to the adjuster, and more.
This book belongs on the desk of every CTLA member—and not just as a resource but as a reminder—to play big, hold firm to deadlines and offers, and always, always (always) build towards trial, from day one, with the way we work up damages.
I’ve already seen a difference in the responses we have received to the demands that I have sent using this new Running with the Bulls format. I recommend you read the book and then attend a TBH conference to practice some of this in action.
Running with the Bulls by Nicholas Rowley and Courtney Rowley