While it is somewhat self serving to report on an event that I had an integral part in organizing and was a featured speaker at, I think what the 468B and QSF seminar in Phoenix last week achieved was a modest step toward the future of the settlement profession.
First of all, the attendance was excellent, with the room being sold out and filled with a mixture of attorneys, settlement professionals and others interested in learning how 468B trusts and qualified settlement funds can work in new ways to manage litigation. The location near the Phoenix airport was a good call, the meeting started on schedule, kept to schedule and covered all of the ground promised in the pre-meeting materials. The attendee firms was a who's who of the settlement profession with EPS, Ringler, JMW, Brant Hickey, Millennium, Summit, SPI, James Street and others represented.
The feed back i've recieved so far has been very good, with the primary follow up requests being for more information on how to move the 468B to the front of litigation, one of the creative ideas put forth in the meeting and demonstrated through many of the active cases currently being worked in that fashion. The one negative i've heard is that the Q&A dwelled a bit too much on the single claimant issue, but that was to be expected given the 7+ year history of contention on that matter and the necessity to clarify the tax and legal issues about single claimant qualified settlement funds.
To summarize the events covered:
1. How to move the QSF to the front of litigation and why that is so important in multi-claimant type cases.
2. The importance of installing a "financial quarterback" into the trust language and powers to assist in the coordination of hiring a sufficient number of qualified settlement and financial professionals to assist the trust members in planning.
3. The importance of the settlement industry working to standardize language and practices around an open platform that prevents the unhealthy and unproductive practice of excluding brokers from either side of the transaction, but instead creates an open platform.
4. The need to bring life markets and casualty companies to the table at future seminars to discuss their concerns and raise awareness of the growth of this market.
5. The huge opportunity in non-qualified structures and structured legal fees that the QSF and 468B trust market opens up to settlement professionals.
The bottom line is that this concept is gaining traction and the settlement industry needs to embrace it and work to adopt standards that allow for it's use on both sides of the profession. It is an invaluable tool in multi-claimant cases and those who choose to embrace it will reap the long term benefits in their settlement or planning practice. I expect this seminar will "go on the road" over 2009 to various cities in different regions to continue to educate settlement professionals and trial lawyers on it's use.
Also, the full 5 hour DVD will be available for purchase soon from Attorney Rob Wood and the Tax Institute if you want to pick up the full flavor of the event. The emphasis was on cooperation, joint work and establishment of industry standards and practices. For a profession stuck in a rut and struggling with various business models, I believe this offers a clear path to professional success if more firm educate themselves and embrace the opportunity to grow.