Looking to leave a govt job for a junior attorney role in a small workers comp defense firm. I have no experience in workers comp. How easy is it to learn the work and make 1850 billable hours? What future opportunities does this experience give?

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I contemplated a move from the claimant's side to defense recently. Ultimately decided against it, but here's some of what they told me.

Your job is basically to find reasons to deny benefits to injured workers. While I don't think much about that sounds emotionally fulfilling, I was told that mom and pop type businesses can really be devastated by workers' comp claims, and they're extremely appreciative when those claims are resolved. In terms of learning the work, the basics aren't overly complicated, but you'll probably be frequently researching case law. Especially on the defense side, there's a ton of case analysis and trying to predict how a judge will apply existing law to your case. There's also an opportunity to create some new law. There are so many cases with weird and unexpected facts that you'll likely find you occasionally have issues of first impression.

I've never had to bill hours but was told they bill in six minute increments. Thus, it can sometimes be possible to double bill minutes. One of my concerns when I interviewed was that I'd be inclined to under-bill. I'd worry I'd taken longer than I should have to do something. I was told it's important to avoid that mindset and simply bill however long any particular task actually takes you. Generally though, they told me that billing 1800 hours (their annual expectation) came pretty easily working 40ish hour weeks. So assuming they weren't totally full of it, I think you could bill 1850 and have a solid work-life balance.

In terms of future opportunities, you'll get solid litigation experience. Defense attorneys are in court more often than claimant's counsel, so you'll have hearings fairly regularly. You'll probably write some appeals. Lots of depositions. Lots of mediation/ADR. So if you're using it as a stepping stone job, you'll be attractive to any employers seeking those skills.

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A wise retired work comp judge told me when I switched from claimant’s to defense “your job is to make sure your client pays what they owe and not a cent more”. It’s not about denying benefits. It’s about finding resolutions before the claim gets out of hand and limiting exposure. That’s my two cents.

In terms of billing, once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard as long as your bill as you go. Most people who have trouble with billing do so because they fail to follow that one simple rule. If you have to go back a week or a month to capture the time you spent you will miss out on something whether it was a call with the client or research on a particular issue.

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Not hard but it's fun if you like analyzing cases. If the salary is OK then it's fine. You can make it. More then 2k billable might not be possible with a family

No future though you get pigeon holed into insurance defense work

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